Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Fest
The 16th annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend offered a lot of activities and entertainment for the thousands of patrons who came to The Orleans Hotel and Casino. There were vendors galore peddling all sorts of rockabilly memorabilia.
More than a thousand vintage cars from before 1963 lined up the parking lot for everyone to enjoy. Many different musical acts took the stage during the entire weekend. I was lucky enough to cover the three headliners on Saturday evening: Dick Dale, The Rockats and Little Richard.
Dick Dale, the undisputed king of surf guitar, offered a set full of sound and fury, signifying that this soon to be 76-year-old still knows how to rock and roll with the best of them. The left-handed axe man had his signature gold colored Fender blaring song after song of raw, unrefined greatness.
The highlights for me included the classic Link Wray song "Rumble," The Animals’ "House Of The Rising Sun" and of course his signature song "Misirlou." His three-piece band produced so much beautiful noise during the 40-minute set, that I am convinced that three 20-year-olds couldn’t have possibly produced as much sound.
It was probably a bit louder than a 75-year-old man should be playing. Due to the fact that he’s been battling cancer and diabetes for the past ten years, his doctors have repeatedly recommended him not to perform live music any more. Dick Dale hasn’t gotten the message and the thousands of people listening on Saturday were truly grateful. The feeling was mutual, as Dale commented to the crowd, "You are the reason why I am here. Thank you!"
He then took over two hours to greet anyone who wanted to meet him at the merchandise table following his set. It is obvious that the man still loves performing and it was an absolute treat to see this legend onstage.
1980s rockabilly outfit The Rockats also performed an enjoyable set. Legends in their own right, they have influenced acts such as Brian Setzer and The Stray Cats. This five-piece unit was a lot of fun to watch onstage. I especially appreciated the antics of the upright bass player, playing his instrument as if it were a normal electric bass, not to mention the numerous times he placed the upright on top of his head.
The Rockats had a fun, loud energy to them and the crowd was behind them every step of the way. Highlights from their set included the Eddie Cochran tune "Gotta Have My Way," as well as their originals "Rockabilly Dog," "Tattoo Lady," "50 Miles From Nowhere And 1000 Miles From Home," and "Downtown Saturday Night." All in all, The Rockats served as an excellent segue for the evening’s main attraction.
Little Richard took the stage a little after 7:30 p.m. with the crowd roaring. Having just turned 80, he is in rough shape, having to be wheeled out to his piano by his assistants due to a hip injury he suffered a few years ago. Even so, the man was still smiling, still gracious and still knowing how to play rock and roll.
The backup ten-piece band was full of energy, with the horn section offering many different dance moves during the songs. Little Richard played several of his signature hits, including "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "Tutti Frutti" and "Lucille." He also borrowed some classics such as "Blueberry Hill," "Old Time Rock And Roll" and "I Got A Woman." It was a surprising 90-minute set and the crowd enjoyed every minute of it. The legend that is Little Richard continues to rock on.
This was my first time at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There is plenty to see and do and I am glad to see it as part of the annual landscape in Las Vegas. I await with great anticipation the lineup of great musical artists they will have next year.