Big & Rich want Route 91 music festival to return to Las Vegas

Firmly embracing the city’s recovery efforts after the Oct.1 shootings, Big & Rich returned to Las Vegas on Thursday ready to rock our world.

“We have seen one of the most tragic and sad things any of us have ever experienced,” Kenny Alphin, the “Big” of Big & Rich, said before hitting the stage for “Vegas Strong: A Night of Healing” at Orleans Arena. “Our hearts are pouring out, and we wanted to be here to show everything that is right about this great city.

“We are back in a city that is known as an entertainment capital, and a fun capital, all over the world.”

Big & Rich headlined a benefit show rapidly organized by Orleans owner Boyd Gaming and Beasley Broadcasting in Las Vegas, which operates the country station 102.7-FM The Coyote and also KKLZ 96.3-FM. The night included performances by country star Cam, Vegas emerging artist Sierra Black (who is the daughter of longtime Mesquite gaming magnate Randy Black), and an unbilled acoustic set from Rascal Flatts.

Big & Rich appeared prior to Jason Aldean’s performance at Route 91 Harvest festival the night of the shooting. The duo had finished performing about 90 minutes before Aldean took the stage (Jake Owen was next to perform before Aldean) and had cleared the festival grounds before the shooting started.

Nonetheless, the hard-charging country duo remained moved by the city’s Vegas Strong recovery efforts. They were defiant that the city would continue to serve as a leader in live entertainment and return to hosting such large-gathering festivals as Route 91.

“I’ll tell you this, the guys who put together Route 91 are the best in the business,” John Rich said, referring to co-organizers Live Nation and MGM Resorts International, which owns the 15-acre Village venue. “They are personal friends. There is a lot of of thinking going on behind the scenes right now, about how to avoid this happening again. Honestly, whatever those calls are, we’re fine with them.”

He then added, emphatically, “I will tell you, I’m sure there will be another Route 91 and I hope they invite us to play in it.”

Big & Rich also planned to perform “pop-up” shows late Thursday night and tonight at Redneck Riviera at Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally’s. Rich owns the second-level country hot spot that faces the Strip.

“I’m a local business guy in Las Vegas, too,” Rich said. “So I know there is a core of people who live in Las Vegas, and when times get tough they bond together. We’re going to raise some money for the Victims Fund. It’s just a small country bar, but …”

Big Kenny then cut in with, “We’re gonna rock your asses off!”

Before taking the stage at the Orleans, the duo met with Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who along with Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo,co-founded the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund gofund me charity campaign, which has raised more than $11 million since launching on Oct. 2.

Sisolak left his brief conversation with the duo to address the 7,000 or so in attendance in the arena, where 2,000 seats were set aside for first responders and their families. On his walk to the stage, Sisolak was asked if he expected to be consulted on use of that property, or if the Strip should again be the site of such large-scale festivals as Route 91.

“The use of the site will be a decision ultimately made by MGM Resorts,” Sisolak said. “I think the industry will get together and make those decisions in due time. Right now, we’re still healing and getting through it.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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