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October 22, 2014

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Jeff Bridges and The Abiders are ready to roll through Rocks Lounge

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Jeff Bridges and The Abiders are headlining Red Rock Resort’s Rocks Lounge on Friday and Saturday, June 20-21, 2014.

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ With Frankie Moreno

The cast of Million Dollar Quartet and guest Frankie Moreno thank the audience after their show at Harrah's Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Launch slideshow »

At this writing, the Kats Report Bureau is the food court at Caesars Palace, which is undergoing construction and renovation that has wiped out the coffee-gelato bar. Might seem a minor thing to you, but that little enclave was a favorite writing spot for the Kats Report, similar to how Hemingway used to settle into a booth at Le Deux Magots in Paris and await the muse.

It feels exactly like that, aside from all of the blaring slot machines and excited tourists ambling by. One person I just spotted walking past: Justin Shandor, who plays Elvis in “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s.

Shandor always seems to be in Elvis mode, especially with those bushy sideburns, and nobody does it better than he in “MDQ.” In fact, he’s the pre-eminent Presley tribute artist on the Strip at the moment, as “Legends in Concert” at Flamingo Las Vegas decided to lop its Presley character in favor of The Blues Brothers, a move that initially seemed insane, but we will give it a chance to work (or not) over the summer.

Onward:

• During a recent phone conversation with Jeff Bridges, I asked him a question that had been preying on my brain for several years: Is it true that whenever he comes across “The Big Lebowski” on TV, he watches at least until the moment when John Turturro (who plays the jumpsuit-clad bowling shark Jesus) licks the bowling ball? Bridges mentioned this in an interview a while back.

“That is true,” said Bridges, whose band The Abiders performs Friday and Saturday at Red Rock Resort’s Rocks Lounge. “That movie just hooks me, every time.” Not mentioned is the hook-bowling reference to the film.

As fans of the 1998 film understand, The Abiders are named for a line used by Lebowski throughout the story: “The Dude abides.” Lebowski Fests are held across the country (the next is set for Louisville, Ky., from July 10-11), as the film’s popularity only continues to blossom.

“It had a great story, a great script and an unbelievable cast,” Bridges said. “It was not a fluke that it has been so popular. I thought it should have been more popular when it was released, actually.” When asked if avid Lebowski fans might well turn into Trekkies and carry the film’s legacy across generations, he said, “That could be, that could be.”

The Abiders sprouted from Bridges’ role of downtrodden country-blues artist Bad Blake in his Oscar-winning turn in 2009’s “Crazy Heart.” Two years later, he released his first major album on Blue Note Records produced by multiple-Grammy Award winner T Bone Burnett.

Many of the songs hearken to the soundtrack of “Crazy Heart.” Bridges’ writing partners are Ryan Bingham (who wrote the Oscar-, Golden Globe- and Grammy Award-winning “The Weary Kind” from the film), Stephen Bruton, John Goodwin and Greg Brown. The Abiders sold out two shows at Red Rock last year, and these shows, too, are at capacity.

Playing music is not Bridges’ only objective. He also is meeting with Gov. Brian Sandoval and Nevada first lady Kathleen Sandoval to elicit support for his charity Share Our Strength (at NoKidHungry.org), which is a campaign to combat childhood hunger. As Bridges stresses, when poor kids are out of school in the summer months, they often are not fed properly.

Bridges said if you text “FOOD” to 877-877, you will receive information on his campaign and directives on how to feed children. Bridges says he has been impressed with the scope and passion of Three Square food bank in Las Vegas, but more needs to be done. He is looking for support from Sandoval, and we do hope the governor … abides.

Frankie Moreno's CD Release Party, Show at Stratosphere

Frankie Moreno's CD release party and show at the Stratosphere on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. Launch slideshow »

• In a remarkable coincidence, two Las Vegas headliners are appearing at the Hollywood Bowl on consecutive nights. The Stratosphere’s Frankie Moreno is among the performers in “Joshua Bell and Friends” on July 8; Cabaret Jazz resident headliner Clint Holmes is among the singers in the “To Ella With Love” performance July 9, part of the Jazz at the Bowl series.

Holmes is continuing to record at Capitol Records for his upcoming jazz album, which he plans to issue by October.

Moreno is still settling on a date to air his PBS concert film, which has thus far drawn more than $25,000 after it aired in Sacramento on May 31. That is a record for pledge-drive support for a one-hour show in that market.

• “Divorce Party” has closed at Windows at Bally’s effective Thursday night. Producers are saying that they want to take the stage show on tour and possibly return to Las Vegas. Meantime, officials who book shows at Windows were in the audience at BBR’s “encore” performance of “Alice” at Tuscany’s T Spot Lounge on Tuesday night. Show creator Anne Martinez is convinced that she will find a venue for this terrific production that presents staging challenges, as performers wade into the audience during many numbers.

Martinez also has an idea for aerialists and has said that the show presented at Tuscany is only about 20 percent of what she has envisioned. But whatever route Martinez and the show take, Tuesday may have been the last time to see that show for free.

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

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