Ashley Red: The Next Big Thing?

Ashley RedI really don’t want to like this band. One of their biggest claims to fame is that some spoiled sixteen year old brat had them play at her birthday party on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen back in 2007. The lead singer, Cass Cates, boasts in their promo materials that they are the next big thing. They’ve got a fresh style and a familiar sound. They’re edgy enough to draw a young crowd, but mainstream enough to appeal to the older generations. It all seems very planned and purposeful, and I don’t want to like it. But, I do.

Ashley Red performs a wide range of modern dance/pop covers like “Tonight I’m Loving You” by Enrique Iglesias and “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. If I’m honest, they nail each and every song… some songs sound even better than the original artist.

And then they do something else that makes me not want to like them. Cass gets on the mic and says “That was just karaoke.” Really? It seems to me that’s a bit of an insult to all the great cover and tribute bands that I love – and to the musicians (Hector Rios, John Kurimai and Thor Jeppesen) standing behind him. He probably doesn’t mean it that way, but that’s just the way it hit me. Then they go on to play one of their original tunes.

And I don’t want to like it, but I do. I just can’t help it. The band has a great sound. Their original songs sound just as polished and are just as catchy as anything on the radio today. They get the crowd into it. The lead singer will jump off the stage and run out into the crowd to get people dancing. The whole band seems to be having a good time. They get members of the audience to sing a few words. It’s interactive, its alive and it’s fun. When Ashley Red is playing it feels like a party.

The lead singer may be right. Ashley Red may really be the next big thing. Check them out while there’s still room in front of the stage.

  • Ashley Red plays at the Fremont Street Experience every Thursday night in June (free).
  • You can also catch them at Blue Martini in Las Vegas on June 26th.
  • If you like to buy your music the old fashioned way (on a disc in a case with art and stuff) I’ve seen Cass selling the band’s CD at their Fremont Street shows.
  • Contrary to my initial impression (from checking out a few videos on Youtube before deciding to go out and see their show) the band is actually very approachable.


www.ashleyred.com

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Fremont Street Stage Shows: Rock Candy Sticky Sweet (and friends)

Rock Candy Sticky Sweet LogoRock Candy Sticky Sweet is a rock’n’roll stage production sponsored by the Fremont Street Experience. Their show consists of multiple vocalists, dancing girls (this must be a theme around here), a drummer and a single guitarist. They perform powerful, fun rock songs like “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, and “Nuthin’ But a Good Time”. It’s all very polished and it sounds great.

Each musician gets a chance to strut their stuff, with solos by each vocalist, the guitarist and the drummer. Each of the songs has choreographed dance moves – sometimes by just one or two performers, sometimes by the entire troupe. It’s clear that these are well seasoned performers, and it’s clear that they are having a good time while on stage. It makes for a show that’s fun to watch over and over. See what I mean?

And if you spend a few nights in front of their stage that’s exactly what you will do. The show repeats itself a bit, but that’s the nature of a stage production. It trades variety for consitency and quality. Luckily, I haven’t yet tired of “Rockin” Renee’s rendition of Pat Benetar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” or “Hit Man” Hunter’s pitch perfect performance of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality”.

This solid group of performers is put together by Face Productions for the Fremont Street Experience. As far as I can tell, the show is exclusive to Fremont, and the troup of performers is employed (with some variations in cast) for a number of different shows on Fremont. Spend enough time at the stages downtown and it all starts to come together: Many of the performers you see as Rock Candy Sticky Sweet throughout the year are also in the Halloween shows “Frank and the Steins” and “Drac and the Vamps”. At Christmas, you’ll notice a couple familiar faces in “Candy and the Canes”. Each show is its own production, has different dancers and different songs are performed, but the basic lineup appears to be drawn from the same cast. Here’s “Frank and the Steins” performing this past October:

So, if you love these performers, but tire of seeing them play the same old songs, just check out one of their other incarnations. “Rock Candy Sticky Sweet” and “Frank and the Steins” are the most polished, have the most performers in common, and are my personal favorites, but all these shows are pretty amazing for the low low price of free. Here’s hoping that the Fremont Street Experience brings these talented performers back in 2013 with a few new tricks up their sleeves!

  • The Fremont Street shows are typically three hours long with three separate sets. Since these are stage productions that change little from night to night you can catch each hour of the show on a different night.
  • I could not find websites (or even Facebook pages) for Rock Candy Sticky Sweet, Frank and the Steins, Drac and the Vamps or Candy and the Canes to share with you, so watch for performances by them on the Fremont Street Experience Calendar, linked below.
  • If you know of other Face Productions shows that feature the same performers, or you know more of the backstory on these productions, please share in the comments.

Website: www.vegasexperience.com
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The Spazmatics (Las Vegas): Nerds Rock!

Spazmatics Logo (from FSE screen)Nerds: Coke-bottle glasses, crash helmets, suspenders, bow ties and all other manner of socially awkward. Rock: Sweet electric guitar riffs, bangin’ drums and righteous vocals. Mix them together and what have you got? Mix them together!?!

Mix them together and you get the Spazmatics. And the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Far greater. You don’t believe me? See for yourself:

That’s the Spazmatics schtick, and it works. They dress like nerds, they act like nerds, but they rock. I was dumbfounded the first time I saw them on stage. They cover a wide variety of music from the decade that brought us “Revenge of the Nerds”. For their revenge, these nerds crank out amazing renditions of everything from “Take on Me” by A-ha to “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol and draw cheering crowds beyond the wildest fantasies of actual nerds. Their repertoire is so vast and varied that it’s fun just wondering what they will do next. Sideways baseball cap? Maybe some Run D.M.C.? “Rusty” the guitarist stepping up to the mic? Could it be an AC/DC rock anthem?

Their show is polished, it’s campy, it’s unexpected (at least the first time), and it is highly amusing. In fact, they’re so entertaining that the original Spazmatics band has spawned numerous others around the country to keep up with the demand for their unique brand of geek-n-roll.

But which is the original? Will the real Spazmatics please stand up? Yes, on stages all over this fine city. The original S to the P to the A to the Z started in L.A., but Vegas is their home now. Catch them on Friday nights at Sunset Station (free), Saturday nights in the South Point Lounge ($5 general admission, $10 VIP) and throughout the year at the Fremont Street Experience (various days/times). Don’t be a Poindexter, get out and see a show!

  • If you’re going to South Point, go VIP. $10 VIP admission gets you into the short line, with two drink tickets and a reserved table and chairs. It’s well worth the $5 premium.
  • The shows on Fremont tend to be PG-13 (if the kids get the jokes it’s not the band’s fault), but their show at other venues can get a bit more risque. Leave the kids and the easily offended at home.
  • The various Spazmatics bands are managed by Perfect World Entertainment. If you’re not in Las Vegas there may still be one in your neighborhood. Check out their website and see.
  • The Spazmatics will be headlining NYE 2013 at the South Point Casino. Last year’s show was a sellout, so get your tickets early!

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Don’t Tell Mama: Where the Barkeep Will Blow You Away – On Stage!

Don't Tell Mama Las Vegas

Smack in the middle of Fremont East, at 517 Fremont Street, lies a dark door with a simple grey piano icon perched above it. While this makes it fairly obvious that inside the door lies a piano bar, it hardly prepares you for what’s inside.

Don’t Tell Mama is not your average piano bar. While the fun (but overdone) piano bar formula is to have two pianos, and two pianists dueling it out, there is only one piano here. Rather than have the pianists do all the singing, here patrons join in the action as well as the bar staff. Think of it as piano bar meets karaoke, but with better talent than karaoke typically draws. The action is on seven days a week, and if my visit on a Tuesday night is any indication, this place is a fantastic take any day of the week.

The highlight of my night at Don’t Tell Mama was a performance by Dre Whitt. Dre is one of the bartenders and also a crowd favorite performer. She has a strong stage presence, drawing in the crowd, getting everyone singing and clapping. During her rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, which included a medley of other “four chord” songs ranging from John Denver to Lady Gaga, she challenged the crowd to sing loud enough that the people across the street at “Insert Coins” would hear them. I’m pretty sure we did.

Recalling Dre’s performance is what lead me to call this section of the blog “Vegas Has Talent.” Luckily, I had the forethought to bring along a camera with some quality microphones, so you won’t have to take my word for it – check out an excerpt from her performance below.

Reasonably priced drinks and high caliber entertainment with no cover charge on a Tuesday night make this place one of the many reasons I love Las Vegas!

Tips:

  • Get there around 9-10pm and the party should already be swinging. (In fact, you might have trouble finding a seat.)
  • If you think you can sing (but you can’t) then don’t. There is no screen with words to hold your hand. Besides, with the talent that this bar draws – your out of tune, out of time, drunken crooning could be uncomfortably out of place.
  • The tip jar on the piano is for the pianist, many of the singers will accept tips on their person (and even if they say to tip the jugs – and some will, it’s not a strip club, so don’t get too fresh!)
  • Finally, if you don’t like the music, wait a few minutes, it’ll probably change. If the beer selection was as varied as the music, this could nearly be my favorite bar.

Don’t Tell Mama Las Vegas on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dont-Tell-Mama/177553105648460
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