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Neon what?

“We’re sponsored by Neon Reverb music festival,” says Lenny Fortunato, guitarist for Santa Cruz-based Los High Tops, during their set at Las Vegas Country Saloon. “So, thank you, wherever you are.”

A vague thank-you from the surf/rockabilly (surfabilly!) band is warranted. I see nothing here to suggest the venue is part of Neon Reverb. No festival banner. No sponsor signs. No fellow attendees sporting yellow wristbands like mine.

Suddenly: Hope!

A trio of drunken youngsters runs toward the empty dance floor. The ringleader, a charming lad in green, swings a reluctant girl around. Guy number two rips open his button-up shirt and spins in a circle. “That’s what buttons like these were made for,” he explains to me later. They’re younger and hipper than anyone else in the slow bar, just the type Neon Reverb attracts.

“Are you here as a part of Neon Reverb?” I ask.

“No,” replies guy number two, whose real name is Randy Kauffman. “What’s that?”

Turns out Kauffman and company are from Minnesota, basically tourists with enough Vegas acquaintances to know better than to hang out on the Strip. Kauffman is en route to South by Southwest, like some of Neon Reverb’s bands. He seems genuinely interested in the concept of Neon Reverb, which is great, but does nothing for my current quest to find a sense of the music festival at this venue.

With a shrug, I leave the Minnesotans to their beer pong and bull riding. Time to trod back to Beauty Bar and a packed house of hipsters. At least they know what they’re a part of there.

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