Woke up late on Saturday, packed up my camera and I and my painfully chapped lips and headed over to the Viva Las Vegas Car Show at the Orleans Hotel. Other than my aforementioned chapped lips, I love the desert air in April and it was an almost picture perfect day for any outside activity. It’s been five years since I’ve attended VLV and as if further evidence of it’s tremendous growth and popularity over the years were needed, I present Exhibit #1… The Car Show, which this year in addition to the classic cars and hot-rods, featured dozens of vendors on site and a large festival stage with bands playing all day until sundown.
I finally hooked up with my buddy Alex Blue, from the Los Angeles band Normandie Blue who was hanging with our mutual pals at the Spitfire Interiors (Whittier, CA) booth. I’ve known the crew from Spitfire for years and they have some of the most unique punk, rockabilly and psychobilly type of merch I’ve ever seen and they were doing a brisk bit of business at VLV. When I arrived, their booth was so crowded I couldn’t fit inside and shoot at the same time. The guys were preoccupied just trying to provide change for the cash being shoved in front of their faces.
Most of the vendors, like Spitfire, were mom and pop entrepreneurs and artists plying their wares for an appreciative client base. Booth prices are relatively affordable so vendors have a good shot of not only promoting themselves but making a nice profit at events like VLV. As well they should, exhibiting at these events is a lot of work but for most, well worth it (not to mention, a more than little fun is had in addition to raking in all the cold, hard cash).
The cars were insane as always. My favorites are the ridiculously low riding cars with the narrow front windshields and the old timey, two-seater hot rods. Many cars are towed in from around the country on the backs of trailers but I saw more than a few driving in the slow/truck lane on the drive to and from Los Angeles on the way in and out.
One of the great things about VLV in general and the car show specifically is the diversity of unique fashion that’s on display. The ladies had their Sunbrellas out in force to fight against the high desert sun and most of the fashion reflected the tattooed lifestyle of rockabilly or psychobilly fanatics. But there were also plenty of punk and other types of fashion influences mixed in amongst the crowd of strolling pin up queens and retro enthusiast.
The live musical acts on the huge outdoor stage was a great addition to the event from when I attended 5 years ago. There were great acts throughout the day but one of the highlights for me was catching a performance by the legendary British band “The Polecats“, who are a great, high energy rockabilly band dancing and playing on the edges of the genre where it melds with punk and psychobilly.
After the Polecats gig and the car show wound down, I made my way back inside the Orleans. If for some ungodly reason the car show wasn’t your scene, then there was STILL plenty going on… VLV is like Rockabilly amusement park where only your body’s need for sleep (or your tolerance for loads of alcohol) can prevent you from feeling entertained every second of the entire 4 day affair.
In addition to another pool party going full blast, I discovered a couple MORE music venues I had somehow missed PLUS a whole separate vendor area featuring retro clothing and old remastered classic rockabilly CDs and band posters. Yep, VLV has gotten huge.. but unlike so many things that see this kind of success, it has only gotten better in the process of growing. Everywhere you went, PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) was on tap for a measly $3.
Finally, burlesque.. that oh so popular retro and relatively recently revived art form that, at VLV at least, often meant braving snakingly long lines to secure a pass to the sold out shows. You may know how I feel about lines, basically I don’t do them. So I felt pretty smug when I was able to waltz into Burlesque Bingo without standing in so much as a 2 person deep line.
Now I’m not a big bingo fan exactly, but the fact that I could roll right in armed only with my VLV armband and press pass, well then bingo was a great excuse to get up close and personal to some burlesque dancing. Ah dear reader.. the sacrifices I make to bring you the pics and the story. I sure hope you appreciate it!
I’m not going to explain how Burlesque Bingo works but lets just it’s not your typical church bingo, of that you can be pretty certain. The highlight of the event for me was the chance to see the reigning 2011 Miss Viva Las Vegas Burlesque Champ, Miss Inga Ingenue (AKA Little Blonde Bomb) perform… wow! ,
And for any of you with delicate gender political sensibilities, you should know this was not a room full of dudes ogling scantily clad performers, far from it. It was at least 50/50 male-female ratio with some of the most raucous applause coming from the ladies in the bunch, many of whom were there with their man.
Lets see… burlesque, bingo, bowling… fashion, art and hot-rods… tattoos, leather jackets and rolled up jeans, sun-brellas, tight dresses and high heels..
Pool Parties with Tiki Bars, Hawaiian Shirts & Hula girls… Pachucos with Zoot Suits,
Guys with Mohawks, Quiffs and Pompadours..Girls channeling Sophia Loren and Bettie Page…
Mexibilly and Hillbilly Billy music with sliding guitars!
Drinking PBR out of a bowling pin or a plastic cowboy boot…
Elvis in with a pink cadillac scouting couples for the wedding chapel…
Chuck Berry and Richi Valens blasting from hot rods…
Greasers and Car Clubs…Sophia Loren and Bettie Page lookalikes..
Torn Suicidal Tendancies T-Shirt guy next to a Johnny Cash look a like..
Fans from Japan, Romania, Scotland, England…
Guys in overalls looking straight up from the movie “Brother Where Art Though?” and I saw a tough looking dude in combat boots and a kilt!
ahhh.. silly, ridiculous Las Vegas… oh and lest forget…
great live music from all over the world.
This is Rockabilly… this was Viva Las Vegas 2012.
WANT MORE VLV?
For the complete set of photos from Viva Las Vegas 2012 visit our Flikr Page HERE!
and stay tuned for some video clips from Burlesque Bingo and the Polecats coming soon!