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November 27, 2014

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Station Casinos scales back free live entertainment

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Mark Damon

Comedian Drew Carey, center, joined the Lon Bronson All-Star band onstage Aug. 27, 2009, at Ovation Lounge in Green Valley Ranch. Carey helped sing backup on the band’s final number of the night, The Monkees’ hit “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”

Station Casinos has long been a champion of live entertainment.

When major resorts on the Strip pared down free live shows over the past decade, Station steadfastly resisted the trend.

The lounges at most of its 10 major properties provide free entertainment — whether it’s the dance music of Déjà Vu, the classic rock of Yellow Brick Road or the funky R&B of the Lon Bronson All-Star Band. And the Boulder Blues series draws nationally known blues musicians.

But the harsh realities of today’s economy have forced the company, which has filed for bankruptcy reorganization, to cut back.

Bronson’s popular weekly gig at Green Valley Ranch has been reduced to once a month. The casino also dropped Michael Grimm’s 12-piece band’s weekend shows, although he’s still playing solo three nights a week at Hank’s steakhouse at GVR Tuesdays through Thursdays. Dr. Zhivegas played its last gig at Red Rock on Saturday and is being replaced by a disc jockey.

“We probably have delayed (cutbacks) more than in any other areas of our business,” says Judy Alberti, vice president of entertainment for Station Casinos. “We’ve made very few cuts, actually. Typically, weekdays are not as strong as weekends anyway, so that’s generally where we’ve made some cuts.”

The Boulder Blues night hasn’t been affected by the cost-saving measures, but the company aborted an attempt to expand the blues series to Fridays at Texas Station.

“We felt the show at Texas Station was diluting the audiences at Boulder,” Alberti says.

Station’s showrooms will continue to offer headliners — but those shows were never free.

“There’s not a big adjustment there,” Alberti says. “But we are going to be a little bit more selective.”

There are several entertainment shifts throughout Stations, but not for big band singer Jerry Tiffe, whose afternoon dance sets attract a huge crowd of older folks. He will continue to entertain at Palace Station (Tuesdays), Aliante (Wednesdays), Boulder Station (Thursdays) and Texas Station (Sundays) and the non-Station casino Arizona Charlie’s Decatur (Fridays).

Since the entertainment scene is rarely static, it’s best to check with the various venues to find out what entertainment is available on any given night.

Alberti highlighted some of the upcoming changes:

• Yellow Brick Road moves from every Wednesday to the first Thursday of each month at Green Valley Ranch and plays Fridays and Saturdays at Boulder Station.

• Echoes of the ’60s, formed by Danny Gans keyboardist Bill DeLoach, will perform on third Thursdays at Green Valley Ranch and on fourth Saturdays at Texas Station.

• The Texas Station Saturday night lineup also includes Déjà Vu, the Fab and Third Town.

• Rat Pack Fridays will debut at Texas Station’s South Padre Lounge on Nov. 13, with different Rat Pack-era entertainers, including Rick Michel, Andrew James and Doug Starks.

The musicians whose shows are being cut back seem philosophical.

“I knew it was going to happen at some point, or at least I felt it,” Grimm says. “You can’t be there forever. I was fortunate to work there as long as I did. I got to put my band together.”

Even with the cutbacks, Bronson says, Station Casinos is still the leader in providing free live entertainment.

“Overall, Stations is the only one that consistently has been giving free lounge entertainment,” says Bronson, whose band will play the second Thursday of each month at Green Valley Ranch. “Even with the cutbacks there’s 10 times more than Harrah’s and MGM (Mirage) have offered across the board.”

Bronson was disappointed that his nights at GVR’s Ovation Lounge were cut back, even though he initially proposed doing one gig a month there.

“We’ve really been rolling,” he says. “We were consistently doing really well every Thursday night. Originally I had the attitude that I didn’t know if wanted to do once a week. It’s a lot of work to put the show together, and every show is different. We always have guest stars. It’s a kicks thing, it’s not a money gig by any means.”

Bronson remains optimistic.

“We’re hoping our weekly schedule will be resumed sometime after first of year,” he says. “Regardless, I hope people don’t lose sight of the fact that although Stations is cutting back they still provide much more free lounge entertainment than any of the big dogs.”

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