DAY 2 (My Day 1) – Viva Las Vegas
I love subcultures. At Viva Las Vegas weekend you get to experience a world flipped on it’s head where it seems almost EVERYONE is a rockabilly character from some 1950’s movie or I Love Lucy episode. When I drove up to the Orleans hotel I knew I was in the right spot before even checking the sign. There were James Dean greasers walking into the venue and crazy looking hot-rods out in the parking lot.
The Orleans is huge and with it’s over the top Louisiana cajun theme, it is the perfect locale for a rockabilly weekender. After 15 years, I would say the Orleans Hotel and Tom Ingram’s Viva Las Vegas have pretty much perfected the art of the event. And it is art. It’s packed full of activities from 10 AM on Thursday until the wee hours of the night on Sunday. When do the people sleep? From the looks of things… not much.
To the casual attendee, things sure seemed to flow along without a hitch. I arrived early afternoon to see an incredibly long line snaking it’s way through the casino floor. It seemed to have no end in sight. I panicked thinking I was going to have to stand in that line to pick up my passes. But not to worry, that was the line to pick up tickets for the popular Burlesque Show later that evening. That dear reader, would have to carry on without me.
Picking up my press wristband and pass was much easier and in a matter of 3-4 minutes I was good to go. I headed straight to the vendor area to see what kind of unique items were being offered this year. Underneath the rockabilly soundtrack and booming live band next door, I heard the faint buzz of tattoo needles where people were getting inked up. Next to the tattoo booth was a spot for Rockabilly girls to get a makeover.
There were of course old Rockabilly albums and photos of bands from back in the day, lots of vintage items including old movie posters from the 50s and 60s, plenty of booths with all kinds of unique clothing for guys and gals, customized knobs for the gearshift of your hot-rod and even a zoot suit booth for those who rock the pachuco look.
I think my favorite booth wasn’t so much of a booth but a little area called “The House of Jorge” run by, you guessed it George from Denver, Colorado. George had custom belts, some cool chain wallets and some really cool, really popular and yes, expensive ($75+) PBR belt buckles. The stuff was unique (and expensive.. though I hear he’ll cut you a deal if he likes you) because it’s custom, one of a kind and made by hand by George himself. George is not only a talented artist, he’s a nice guy. We had a good time talking about the end of social networking as we know it (what, you haven’t heard? well you heard it here first kiddies).
Next up was bowling. Now with bowling shirts so popular in this scene, it should, I suppose be no surprise that the “sport” of bowling is equally popular. The upstairs area of the Orleans has a kick ass bowling alley and for $5, VLV attendees received 2 games, shoe rental and a slice of pizza.
There was a constant supply of music everywhere in the hotel and it was all the right kind, rockabilly and old time rock and roll.
We also saw the Atomic Drifters from Denver and the Phantom Shakers from Detroit as well as our good buddy DJ Rockin Vic (Los Angeles) spinning classics for a packed and swinging dance floor. There was a cool pool party featuring the “kings of hulabilly”, “Hula Girls” and when I say cool, I mean literally cool, it was chilly in Vegas.
One of my favorite things the entire day was the VIP Screening of the documentary Bettie Page Reveals All.. a documentary years in the works that was officially authorized and narrated by Bettie herself. What an amazing thing to actually hear (but not see) the older Bettie Page telling her incredible life story just before she passed away.
Before the screening there was a red carpet and a Bettie Page look alike contest. BTW – A complete review on Bettie Page Reveals All is coming up later.
One of the many great things about VLV is that there is so much to do that you can’t possibly do (or in my case) cover it all. So you pick and choose your favorite things and if you are bored, well, it’s because you want to be. There are so many bands, so many different things to do you just have to relax, highlight your “Must Dos” and let the rest come as it may, naturally.
It’s sort of like a short vacation to another country, except in this case, it’s not only another place but a completely different era. You can’t do it all, so you do what you can and don’t let the fact that you can’t do it all stress you in any way. I didn’t see a lot of stressed people at VLV by the way, it seemed everyone was having a good time.
Which brings me to the question, if everyone is in the subculture, then is it a subculture anymore? While I don’t think there is any danger in rockabilly taking over the planet anytime soon… hitting the VLV at the Orleans hotel gives one a slight taste what life would be like if it did. And I have to tell you, so long as Elvis is around to be our president and roll around in his motorcade in a hot pink cadilac, I think it might be pretty cool.
MORE TO COME: Today we’re hitting the Car Show, seeing more bands and we’ll many, many more pics and videos up soon, so stay tuned.