Open mic shines light on Las Vegas musicians, guitars

Patrick Genovese just might be a fledgling musician's Santa Claus.

Genovese, Vegas born and bred, is giving up-and-coming artists a chance to perform in front of a live audience while playing some of the coolest, most expensive guitars in the world.

About a year ago, Genovese, a Las Vegas-based entertainment relations professional for Gibson guitars, started hosting open mic sessions around town. He thought it would be a great way to support the local music scene while finding new artists to endorse Gibson guitars. Not surprisingly, that format was successful. Maybe too successful; the response was so great, he's had to make the sessions invitation only.

Still, Genovese has the same goal: to expose local bands to an audience, allow them to get some stage experience and let them play the newest gear that Gibson offers in guitars and basses.

"There's always been tremendous talent here, but you have to leave Las Vegas to get known," Genovese says. "This is a good time for Vegas to try and get on the national map."

The Las Vegas Gibson Artist Showcase is in its fourth week at the Louie Anderson theater at Palace Station. From 9 p.m. to midnight Mondays, three or four acts will perform a set. Frankie Moreno recently performed as did Nik Kai, a 10-year-old guitar phenom from Los Angeles; David J. Hartley; and Thrill Billy Deluxe. Most Thieves is scheduled to appear next month.

Genovese is constantly looking for new talent to invite, and he doesn't care what genre they cover. He's featured country, rock and even a little metal. Bands can perform whatever music they like but they must use Gibson gear provided by Genovese.

So far, that hasn't been a problem. Guitar lovers rarely turn down the chance to play instruments such as a custom 1957 Les Paul Black Beauty or Gibson Montanas. Many of them cost thousands of dollars. Genovese rotates the models. Since the performances are invitational, he can be more personal with his selections and provide guitars that fit a band's sound.

Admission to the show is free.