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My second visit to the new and improved Bunkhouse was for a Breeders concert on September 15th. The band was good, and Kim Deal had the sold out crowd eating out of the palm of her hand. Nothing surprising there. But I did learn a few things about how to tell the difference between hippy, grunge and hipster.

Nirvana was fantastic when they burst out on the scene way back when, but I didn’t care at all for any of the other grunge bands (especially not Pearl Jam). But for some reason I always thought of the Breeders as a special case, and not part of the grunge scene at all.

To me, Kim Deal’s spare and enigmatic songwriting style was hip like punk and smart like art. But I couldn't help but notice that a large portion of the audience that night was made up of grunge-rockers. What I first simply mistook for hippies turned out on later reflection to be nothing of the sort.

I’m not sure why the Kurt Cobain hairdos, plaid shirts and dirty sweaters didn’t immediately give them away. Perhaps it was the smell which brought me back, that unwashed hippy smell that I suppose could be easily duplicated by anyone making the trip from the west coast without the aid of deodorant.

At any rate, The Breeders didn’t disappoint (even if it was a little disappointing to realize they were grunge), but I do wish they'd work in a couple cuts off the
Title TK album.  The only time they let me down was when they decided to do a cover of the Beatles’ song Happiness is a Warm Gun.

When something’s as institutionally overrated as The Beatles, it worries me to wonder how many generations it will actually take before people let it be. As Genesis Breyer P’Orridge put it, “The Beatles we hated. We wanted rebellion that reinforced our cultural alienation.” I agree. Listening to The Beatles just makes me feel like a cowardly conformist.

Anyway, I was predictably in the minority amid all the grungers, or hippies, or hipsters, or whatever they were, when it came to my feelings about the Fab Four. Everybody still loves The Beatles, even if they have no clue why.

It used to piss me off that John Lennon said they were “more popular than Jesus”. This is not because I’m some sort of Jesus freak. It just made me think John Lennon was an asshole. Nowadays I do realize that he was probably just trying to express his own frustration at how utterly ridiculous the whole situation was.

But the biggest thing and most important thing I learned that night was that the Bunkhouse Saloon might actually have a good thing going. If the Bunkhouse Saloon was a woman, I’d say she’s going to look a lot better after the fancy new make-up starts to wear off.

She’s like a rock and roll party girl that caught the eye of some rich guy at the other end of the bar. She lets him buy her a drink, and eventually a pretty new dress, some jewelry and the rest. No big deal. It makes the guy feel important, and maybe even a little sexy, to throw his money around for awhile.

Eventually he’ll get bored, grow up, or just run out of pocket cash. So the rock and roll lady, back on her feet and doing what she loves best, will sell off the fancy dress, pawn the jewelry and squeeze back into her leather jacket.

In other words I think the superficial changes to the Bunkhouse will gradually wear off. Who really needs the dopey headphones hanging from the tree or the weird white-trash/soulfood menu? If it’s really all about the music, then you doesn’t really need anything else.

Luckily for Vegas, we’re starting to see some great venues pop up that can handle that wide open space between the corporate monsters dominating the Strip and the small folksy businesses that come and go Downtown.

It’s tempting to emulate the over-the-top models that have become mainstream in Vegas, but you'll notice that once the gimmicks get stale they’re ploughed over and replaced with the latest and greatest mindless distraction that money can buy. The small business owner simply can’t afford to do that every eight years like the big corporations can.

If you’re going to sustain a great music venue, then you’ll have to prepare for a time when all the shiny new bells and whistles wear off. Once the novelty is gone it just becomes a liability.

The Bunkhouse Saloon might come out of this downtown revitalization thing even better than before. Hopefully it’ll just stick to being a good solid live music venue. The reputation, and more great acts like The Breeders, will follow.




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