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July 28, 2014

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Neon Reverb Friday recap: The Knew, Dude City, Crystal Antlers and more

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Spencer Patterson

Crystal Antlers at the Bunkhouse.

5 thoughts from Friday night's Las Vegas Weekly Neon Reverb showcase at the Bunkhouse:

1. The alternating indoor/outdoor stages. Reverb has done this before, but I’ve never seen it work so smoothly. Inside for Reverend Red. Out back for Lovely Bad Things. In for The Knew. Out for Dude City. And so on. Moments after the music finished on one stage, it started up on another. More of this one-venue/two-stage setup in future, please. (Friday night’s perfect temperatures also deserve some of the credit for the idyllic setting.)

2. The surprise highlight of my (and a lot of other folks’) night: Denver rock four-piece The Knew. They kept one foot on the fog machine and another on the accelerator, earning a roomful of new fans with their ace musicianship, sharp melodic changes and layered, earthy sound. “I’m liking them on Facebook as soon as I get home,” Dreaming of Lions singer-songwriter Chris Leland announced as the set finished up. You and me both, brother. Click.

3. Boulder City’s Dude City rolled back into Southern Nevada a couple hours before playing Friday night, fresh off a two-week tour—the longest in leader Jack Johnson’s years as a performing musician. If he was tired, he didn’t let it keep him from leading his latest four-piece lineup through a slew of raw and rowdy rock songs reminiscent of Exile on Main Street-era Rolling Stones (thanks, in large part, to the presence of piano). It also didn't stop Johnson from coming up with something extra to celebrate the release of fresh-from-the-plant new album Leavin’: high-flying fireworks during the four-piece band’s final number. Ka-boom.

4. Nice to see Neon Reverb co-founder James Woodbridge dancing like a wild man during a pair of Ramones covers by the Bangups. It’s been a trying year for Woodbridge, who 1. nearly saw his UNLV philosophy department go extinct, 2. has been working to secure professorial tenure and 3. found his music festival facing unexpected competition this weekend. None of that seemed to be on his mind Friday, as he bounced joyously near the foot of the Bunkhouse’s corner stage.

5. The headlining Crystal Antlers opted to move indoors for their performance, preferring the smaller stage’s crowd proximity. Unfortunately, they sacrificed sonic clarity to get that intimacy, most notably frontman Jonny Bell’s vocals, which came across murky at their best. Still, seeing the bass-playing Bell—highly intoxicated, by his own admission—stumbling through the audience was memorable, as was closing number "Parting Song for the Torn Sky," which hovered for nearly 10 minutes in a sludgy Nirvana/Black Sabbath space. Bell also gave a shout-out to Reverb co-founder Thirry Harlin, remembering that Harlin had brought the Antlers to the Bunkhouse for their first show outside Long Beach several years back.

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