Neon Reverb has always been Las Vegas’ Little Festival That Could, and last weekend it proved it could do something new: come back strong. The pioneering indie-music gathering returned for its 11th edition after a three-year break, and though Downtown looks far different than when Reverb left the scene, the revived fest fit in much the same, presenting four nights filled with quality performances.
No longer way out on Fremont East’s eastern fringe, the anchoring Bunkhouse feels closer to Seventh Street’s Beauty Bar/Backstage Bar & Billiards/Fremont Country Club hub, and Reverb-goers seemed more willing to traverse the distance between, one reason, perhaps, organizers sold more all-festival wristbands (priced reasonably at $50) than ever before. Another: the strength of the Downtown Project/Zappos-funded lineup, topped by hot touring acts like Ty Segall, Neon Indian and Beach Slang.
Those three names sold well—Neon Indian most of all, filling 750-capacity Fremont Country Club on Friday—as did Sage Francis, Chuck Ragan and Moving Units. Others, like heavy-rock veterans Melvins, did not, a reminder that Reverb’s reach remains relatively small in a Valley of more than 2 million residents. And maybe that’s okay. Neon Reverb isn’t South by Southwest, and it shouldn’t aim to be. Good luck getting 10 feet from the stage for Beach Slang in Austin this week.
Kudos to those in charge for keeping Reverb’s shows on time, by and large, a bugaboo at past editions. More thought could be given, however, to staggering showcase schedules to encourage even more of the walking-tour feel from Saturday, when true music seekers toggled between venues and sonic styles all night.
Individually, Segall won the weekend for me, dropping a devastating set Sunday I’ll speak about for years. But my MVP award goes to the Vegas scene, for reconfirming its depth and diversity. In one weekend, I caught 17 local acts, from new-to-me bands like The Musket Vine, Special K and China to pillars like Same Sex Mary, Rusty Maples and the inestimable Mercy Music. Taking all that in, it felt like Neon Reverb picked the exact right time to relaunch.