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September 21, 2014

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Kevin Cronin ponders ‘Rocktellz,’ and non-country bands vie at Rockhouse for country gig

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Chris Farina/Top Rank

Manny Pacquiao, center, and his wife Jinkee are greeted by Edward Tracy, president and CEO of Sands China, as they arrive at Venetian Macao in Macau, China, on Friday, July 26, 2013.

The Kats Report has been running pretty hard this week. We’ve been heavy on the running and relatively inactive on the typing as we prepare for a trip to Macau next week.

The Kats Report Bureau will indeed be set up overseas for about a week as we navigate and investigate the landscape in Macau. Specifically, the Venetian Macau, where Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios are squaring off in a welterweight bout to air at 6 p.m. PT on Nov. 23 from Cotai Arena in an event dubbed “The Clash in Cotai.”

The latest news out of that bout is Pac-Man is dedicating the fight to typhoon victims in his native Philippines, where he is a national hero and serves as member of Congress. Pacquiao has not yet visited the devastated region, which is in the country’s northern region, as he trains in the southern Philippines. In a decision his handlers have called “wrenching,” Pacquiao won't visit the area, where at least 2,300 people were killed, until after the fight.

In a statement, the 34-year-old boxing great said: "I really want to visit the area and personally do what I can to help our countrymen who have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy. But I'm in deep training for a crucial fight, so I regret I cannot go. I will send help to those who need it the most, and I enjoin all of you to pray for our country and people in these trying times."

The Pacquiao-Rios fight is billed as the region’s most significant boxing match since the “Thrilla in Manilla” heavyweight title bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975 (that event carried a distinctive Vegas flavor as lounge legends The Checkmates sang the national anthem). Our charge is to take in the scene on the Cotai Strip and see how it does, or doesn’t, measure up to our own.

But before packing and bugging out (or bugging in, in this case), we rake away:

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REO Speedwagon frontman Kevin Cronin at Rok Vegas in the New York-New York on July 24, 2010.

• During an interview not so long ago, Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon said the band was in early discussions to appear in “Rocktellz & Cocktails” at Planet Hollywood. The distinction to open the series went to Meat Loaf, who closed his initial run Nov. 5. The second act or acts have not been finalized, but the singer from REO said the idea of following Meat Loaf to the P.H. showroom ping-ponged around the band’s camp.

“It’s funny, Meat Loaf is actually managed out of our office. They wanted us to be the second act, but I just wasn’t quite ready for it yet,” said Cronin, who appears with the Speedwagon on Friday and Saturday at the Orleans Showroom. “We had some ideas for it; it’s something that sounds interesting. It’s something that, eventually, we might be interested in. I know the people behind it (Adam Steck and SPI Entertainment) are music lovers and in it for the right reasons. We’ll see. It’s a lot of tickets to sell, and that’s what we really have to look at.”

No follow-up act or acts have been announced for the next set of dates for “Rocktellz,” which is expected to resume in February. Meantime, Steck stopped by Sin City Theater on Tuesday night to share musings about moving something production show-like into the comedy and music club operated by John Padon.

At the moment, Sin City Comedy & Burlesque is performed nightly in that venue on P.H.’s mezzanine level, followed by the venue’s “HiFi Vegas” music lineup of Franky Perez on Mondays, the Rumpus Room starring Tony Felicetta and Swingin’ Pedestrians on Tuesdays, Wonder Boogie (and I often wonder: Boogie?) on Wednesdays, and Purple Reign on Thursdays through Sundays. This Monday, Sin City Sinners (in a “Sin” overload) are playing Sin City Theater, where it seems no entertainment genre is left unturned.

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Adrian Zmed as Nick in "Surf the Musical" at Planet Hollywood.

• Speaking of Adrian Zmed (hashtag-badtransition) …

The Zmedmeister is checking in to remind us that his boys, who front the band The Janks, are continuing their ascent. To where? The toppermost of the poppermost, maybe. Featuring Zachary and Dylan Zmed, The Janks are back at Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel tonight at 11 (or were at Vinyl on Wednesday night if you are reading this after Wednesday night). We’re catching this show tonight and will check back. These guys are said to be quite good.

• On the topic of live music in Las Vegas, I appeared at Rockhouse in the Venetian on Tuesday night. Not to perform, but to judge. And not to judge patrons in any discriminate way but rather the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Battle of the Bands. The Top Two bands in the two-night competition (the next is Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.) are to play the Cowboy Corral at Cox Pavilion during the run of the rodeo from Dec. 5-14.

This judging gig was a very cool and — what? — loud experience. The evening served as a unique chance to observe four bands with Vegas ties play a nightspot on the Strip. Crossroad South, GorillaHead, Dinosaur Hypnosis and Jack and the B-Fish were the quartet competing. They all played for about 30 minutes, and the only band that approached the twangy tenor of the Cowboy Corral was Crossroad South. The others were, generally speaking, rock bands. Jam-like bands, hard-rock bands. The types of bands that might get Coors bottles thrown at them at the Cowboy Corral, similar to how The Blues Brothers were pelted (only to be saved by chicken wire stretched across the stage) at Bob’s Country Bunker.

They were all very good. But they were not all country, not in the slightest. Apparently there was a spate of cancellations from actual country bands, leading to the recruiting of bands that were of high caliber but that need not be country. I liked the email I received earlier from GorillaHead vocalist Chris Durnez, who thanked me for tweeting a photo about the band and saying, “We didn't know it was country until around 2 p.m. (Tuesday); hope we didn't throw off your night. Rock on!”

Aside from my ability to hear properly, nothing was thrown off. Rock on, indeedy.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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