By Frankie Tease
Band after band came onstage throughout the 15th annual, four-day Rockabilly Weekend held every year at the Orleans Hotel & Casino on Easter Weekend. There were eight stages in all and shows within shows continuously. Bands played tribute to the great inventors of Rock N’ Roll of the 1950s decade. If the solid tribute wasn’t enough, actual guitar and Rock N’ Roll legends also graced the stage in large numbers. Duane Eddy and The Ventures (ie: Nokie Edwards, Don Wilson, Gerry McGee) were among the most anticipated acts at Viva Las Vegas 15.
Inside stages held performances day and night for four-day-pass holders who bought ahead, and the one-day Car Show and Concert was open to day-of purchasers and was well-attended. Cars, vendors, music and pin-up girls such as Musuimi Max were presented outdoors in front of a huge area at the Orleans Arena, starting at 9am and continuing until well after 8pm. The weather was absolutely perfect for the Saturday show. Many local Las Vegas celebrities were spotted, including comedian-impressionist Robert Nash.
Topping the indoor stages came two UK sensations and first-timers to the Rockabilly Weekender: The Jive Aces and Si Cranstoun. Highly anticipated return Viva acts included Deke Dickerson, Big Sandy, The Big Six, and The Space Cadets. There were acts from Sweden, Brazil, and the UK as well as bands from the good ole’ U.S. of A. performing throughout the Rockabilly Weekender.
Music that has been dominating air waves and television themes was aired out and met with enthusiasm by vintage-clad audiences. Regular people were there in droves. The audiences for all of the musical performances were packed shoulder-to-shoulder, and although they showed signs of age, the legendary acts showed no signs of stopping. In fact, it was more like they were being reborn.
The VLV15 fashion show displayed the “preserve and create from the past” aspect of the Rockabilly lifestyle at a well-attended Friday 1pm show. The tribute to Mamie Van Doren was spectacularly carried out by returning host Debbie Dagger. An array of original vintage fashion came across the stage set to classic rockabilly tunes. What used to be an Orange County hobby has turned into a Rockabilly enterprise on an international level. The fashion show was sponsored by Secrets in Lace, who are the largest distributor of women’s nylons in the world.
One of the coveted titles to come out of Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender is the Burlesque Competition’s 1st Place or Miss Viva Las Vegas. Entrants must apply before December of the previous year and then online voting brings finalists to perform for live audiences who choose their winner. This year, the title was won by a Chicago entrant named ‘Jeez Loueez’ and produced by a Hollywood Boylesque star “Bobbie Burlesque.”
Attendees came from as far away as France, Italy, Germany, England and Sweden. There was also a huge California presence from Friday to Sunday morning as the organizer is based is Long Beach, California, a short hop away. The staff at the Orleans gushed about loving the annual event, one bartender even going so far as to say, “This is my Wrestle-Mania.” The crowd was also well dressed as burlesque host, Vince Drambui pointed out, “I’m enjoying all the people that know how to dress at Viva. I was on the Strip earlier, and it was all fanny packs and camel toes.”
Outdoor events included the vintage car show with vendors and bands on Saturday, two vintage swimsuit contests and the ongoing pool party all four days with record hops and hula girls. Indoor alternative events included “Burlesque Bingo” (she strips, you win), Viva Las Bowling, pin-up styling classes, vintage vendors, jive dance classes with Miss Wolff, and continuous jive dancing in the ballrooms to spectacular record hops playing the oldest and the newest. Dancing also continued with DJs until the wee hours of the morning.
You see, that’s what’s amazing about the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend: Not only will you see and hear quality rock n’ roll that is being made today but you also get to experience the origins of rock. It isn’t dead, thanks to people like organizer Tom Ingram and all the bands, vendors, and attendees that make this one of the richest vintage experiences that you could ever have. Even the Orleans Hotel played pre-1963 music only because, hey, it was Viva Las Vegas!
According to the Organizer, Tom Ingram, Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend 15 brought in 8,500 pre-paid wristband holders, 3000 of which were international. 12 music acts were international. The car show had 800 pre-1963 cars, and 15,000 people attended. Tickets are on sale for 2013 starting May 31st.
VLV15 was held at the Orleans Hotel April 5-8 of 2012.
VLV16 will be held at the Orleans Hotel March 28-31, 2013.