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Country acts performing for free during NFR

If you can’t see the forest for the cowboy hats, here’s a sometimes-overlooked highlight of National Finals Rodeo week: the return of the lounge act.

Not the Louis and Keely Vegas kind of thing, but at least the classic-Vegas tradition of seeing live acts for no cover charge during the National Finals Rodeo.

Example: Last year, Clay Walker fans bought a ticket to see him in a showroom at The Venetian. This year, he played for free in the Crown Royal Gold Buckle Zone, an area built just for the rodeo on the casino floor in front of Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” theater.

By doing that, the MGM was copying its corporate sister property The Mirage, which has drawn huge crowds for several years by putting up a temporary stage in its sports book.

Even the few places that still run actual lounge acts the rest of the year are getting in on the act. Peter Pavone is always at the El Cortez Thursday through Saturday, but he’s shopping a George Strait tribute and you can be sure he will be fine-tuning it in the lounge.

(On Friday, Pavone and his Johnny Cash impression make the jump to ticketed show as part of a one-night costumed tribute show, “The Stars of Country Music,” at Sam’s Town at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $15.)

Here are a few other live acts to catch before the rodeo wraps:

  • The reunited Trick Pony shares the MGM’s village stage with the Sammy Steele Band on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday it’s Sammy Steele Band and The Swon Brothers. Thursday through Saturday it’s Andy Velo and Randy Rogers Band.
  • The Mirage sports book offers the Britt Stokes Band and Kimberly Dunn on Monday and Tuesday, Frankie Ballard on Wednesday, Jon Pardi on Thursday, Craig Campbell on Friday and Randy Houser on Saturday.
  • Mizuya Lounge at Mandalay Bay this week is know called Cowboyville, hosting Las Vegas’ own Tony Marques on Monday and Tuesday, and Randy Brown Wednesday through Saturday.
  • WolfCreek mixes some Led Zeppelin and Journey songs into the country playlist Wednesday through Saturday in the Riviera’s Wicked Vicky Tavern.
  • The South Point offers Cody Johnson (“Nobody to Blame,” “Pray for Rain”) Monday through Wednesday, and Aaron Watson (“Honky Tonk Kid,” “Real Good Time”) on Thursday through Saturday.
  • The “Cowboy Baller” Luke Kaufman rocks the Tropicana’s lounge Friday through Sunday.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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