28 AUGUST 2014

Koocheekoo @ Bunkhouse Saloon

The Bunkhouse reopened on Monday, August 25th. On Tuesday I happened to catch a band called Koocheekoo, the new vehicle for Anais Thomassion (aka Penny Pibbets from Absinthe). I can only speculate as to why her old group Fish Circus disbanded but naturally I blame Las Vegas for not knowing a good thing when they hear it. Luckily, the very talented Anais Thomassion will probably stick around for as long as she’s got a great local gig with Spiegelworld.

When it comes to music, local fans and media have always managed to back the wrong horse. Weak contenders like Twin Brother and Pan De Sal (now both defunct I presume) get more exposure than they really needed. Kid Meets Cougar got so much undeserved attention that they had the audacity to play a set that was twice as long as headliner YACHT’s during a 2012 Neon Reverb Festival. When the Growlers played Artifice Bar that same year, a columnist chose to write about some twee local band that opened for them instead.

My advice to any Vegas band that wants it bad enough is to get the fuck out of town, no matter how much the local yokels love you (or don’t). It seemed to work for The Killers, Imagine Dragons and Panic! at the Disco. Being from Las Vegas actually gives you some marketable cache when you’re playing somewhere else. Maybe this town doesn’t deserve to have cool bands, but it’s still a great thing to have venues for them to play in when they come to town.

As for the revamped Bunkhouse Saloon - it looks pretty much like the old Bunkhouse Saloon, except they removed the video poker machines along with whatever real character the original bar had. They’ve managed to make some improvements on the sound quality as well, but seriously it would be almost impossible not to. Worst of all, the drinks are expensive. And the only bit of grunginess left in the place is perhaps the bartending staff. But frankly, when I’m spending nearly twenty bucks for a shot and a beer it doesn’t really make me feel any better when it’s served by someone with tattoo sleeves and a t-shirt with the seal of Baphomet on it. At least allow me to pay for a little class (or is devil worship supposed to be nouveau chic?)

The Fremont Street entrance is inconveniently separated from the parking lot, but I suspect this may have something to do with Tony Hsieh’s condescendingly Darwinian concept of “serendipitous collision” or some other horseshit. I also managed to check out the Gold Spike for the first time on Tuesday and I’m assuming this place must be another DTP-sponsored hangout. Nothing else could explain why there were grown men in the back lot playing games with giant chess pieces and tossing bean bags. I imagined I saw a couple chicks rolling their eyes at the whole “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us Kid” atmosphere of the place. I know I sure did.

But isn’t that the whole problem with Las Vegas, anyway? It’s just a giant playground where the experience goes no deeper than a cocktail glass and no wider than a stripper’s ass. The greatest thrill is to win a giant prize for playing a game that requires no skill. So maybe playing chess with life-sized pieces is an improvement. It’s hard to say. I’m absolutely torn about the whole downtown revitalization thing at this point. I appreciate the fact that there are so many new pieces to the puzzle, but I’m frustrated at my inability to like or enjoy any of them.

It actually caused me so much dismay and self doubt that it culminated in an unpleasant conversation with my spouse this morning. Perhaps starting this blog is my own desperate attempt at self analysis. I’ve been in Vegas a long time now and while I understand what great potential this city has, my disappointment is practically at an all-time high. Maybe it’s just me. I’m getting on in years, which means many of the current cultural trends are beyond my ability to appreciate them. I still remember the days when it wasn’t the toys, gizmos or “serendipitous collisions” that made an environment fun and exciting. It was the people and the energy they brought with them. Sure, the old mechanical pony at the Double Down was gimmicky and childish and the girls had to take their tops off to ride it. But if I hadn’t discovered that dirty little punk bar with its sometimes horrifyingly subversive porn televisions I probably would have lost all respect for Vegas.

So how did we get so politically correct so quickly? When did we get so boring that we needed master-planned fun-zones in order to have a good time? Even the Double Down has changed. The “fruit loop” even seems a little less fruity these days. And maybe it’s just a sign that I’m officially too old to “get it”, but events like the EDC and Life is Beautiful just look like giant cheese factories churning out a whole new generation of hopeless conformists. If a city loses too much of its seediness and its subculture, doesn’t it lose all of its character?  

In the process of beleaguering my poor wife with all of these depressing conclusions, I hit upon what I thought might be a revolutionary idea. What if I opened a venue downtown that had nothing in it at all? No music, no food, no alcohol, no tables, no couches, no pretty lights. Just a giant room with nothing in it, an escape from the sensory overload of the city. Of course there’s the possibility that no one would ever go in. Maybe no one would be willing to enter an environment that makes absolutely no attempt to cater to any of their infantile wish-fulfillment fantasies. Maybe people are no longer able to bring their own creativity with them wherever they go. Maybe it disappears after they upload it to a Facebook page. But then again maybe they would fill the empty room with some long-lost magic, a latent energy they’ve been too distracted to see.

Oh, I know it’s probably a stupid idea. How could you keep a place like that from turning into a homeless squat camp anyway? And how could you keep someone from taking a shit right in the middle of it? Maybe it’s just inevitable that someone would come along and ruin the experiment. And maybe that someone would be me. Maybe I’m just being overly critical of Las Vegas, downtown redevelopment and the rise of the prepackaged culture conglomerate. But it’s only because I really do care what happens here. So I apologize if I just took a dump in your shiny new punch bowl. But I have to admit I feel better. Maybe I’ll keep plugging away at this blog thing and save myself the expense of psychoanalysis.


UPDATE: Got my tickets for The Breeders @ The Bunkhouse Sept 15th ... one of my favorite bands of all time! What a treat to see them in such a small venue ...