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ZZ top legend Gibbons to christen The Sand Dollar at Plaza

Updated May 3, 2022 - 9:28 am

The Plaza is doubling down on the Dollar. Billy F. Gibbons is dealing the hand.

Casino metaphors aside, ZZ Top’s legendary front man and a Vegas resident is headlining opening night at The Sand Dollar Lounge Downtown on May 26. Another rocking Las Vegan (a city native, in fact), Franky Perez, is backing him up.

In a text Sunday, Gibbons said, “The infamous Sand Dollar has continued serving up the finest in Las Vegas rockin’ revelry since ‘76, and I’ll be spankin’ the plank with all the blues you can use.”

“Spankin’ the plank” is a reference to playing guitar, which Gibbons does as well as any rock ‘n’ roller ever. And for more blues equity, harmonica virtuoso John Popper of Blues Traveler is also in the opening-night show.

“The Plaza is known for its vintage Vegas character and The Sand Dollar Lounge Downtown will be a perfect complement to the experience we offer our guests,” Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel says. “We are very excited to welcome The Sand Dollar Lounge Downtown, which will create a late-night destination for live music and craft cocktails unlike any other in downtown Las Vegas.”

The club will seat about 300 for shows in its 4,000-square-foot space just off the Plaza’s casino floor. According to a news release from the hotel, the new Sand Dollar will resemble the original club on Polaris Avenue and Spring Mountain Road with vintage-rock elements, chandeliers and dark-stained wood paneling.

The stage is larger than the original, the groove space (or, dance floor) is expanded, as is the club’s booth seating.

“The Sand Dollar has become known as an unpretentious good time for Vegas locals and industry employees,” Sand Dollar co-owner Nathan Grates says. “Now we’re excited to be able to bring that vibe to downtown and Las Vegas visitors.”

The Sand Dollar Downtown should bring a new element of hip to the Plaza. The last live show I saw at the place was a fully costumed ’70s-disco tribute act at the now-closed casino lounge. Fun time, but none of those folks ever opened for Jimi Hendrix. We’re looking forward to seeing Gibbons and the band loosen the lug nuts, which is another term favored by the guitar great.

Pop victory

The launch of The Sand Dollar Downtown arrives a few weeks after Michael Vakneen’s Pop Up Pizza won first place in the Las Vegas Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center in late-March. The Vegas restaurant won in the U.S. non-traditional category covering restaurants across the country. Vakneen also placed second in the international competition of 90 entrants from Italiy, Brazil, Argentina, Japan and other worldwide outposts.

The non-traditional category is essentially a freestyle competition. Vakneen took advantage of that freedom, creating a crust of crushed, raw pistachio nuts, turning the dough a pale-green color.

“It took me 10 to 15 times to figure this out,” Vakneen says. “We created a pure, sourdough pizza dough.” The chef added a lemon-garlic cream sauce, imported Italian mortadella from Italy, stracciatella di bufala cheese, fried mint, fresh basil and a pistachio brittle.

Vakneen’s pizza has been dubbed Pistachio Three Ways (the crushed nuts are in the dough, meat and pesto). The pie was the only entry from Vegas to win a category at the Pizza Expo.

“It was a triumph,” he says. This masterpiece was created for the competition, and will be available as a specialty item at the Plaza for a “special event” series Vakneen is working on. For now, it’s not available, but anyone who can create that pizza can be trusted with a Crispy Pepperoni, and that is on the menu.

Pop music

Two years ago, I chatted with David Perrico about the travails of the pandemic shutdown. His entire live-performance schedule had been pulled. That included his corporate and private bookings, which accounted for about 70 percent of business for his Pop Strings, Pop Retro, Pop 40, Pop Soul, Pop Latin and Pop Evolution bands

A year ago, Perrico was writing music for entertainers who had been booked on cruise ships and small-capacity shows, working on jingles, some new music and upgrading his website. He invested PPP and SBA money back into his company and kept industry professionals working. The process has included five CD projects, with a 60-piece Pop Symphonic project resurrected that had been latent during COVID.

Today, as we are well aware, Perrico leads the Raiders House Band. Wednesday, members of that collective played the pool deck of the Palms. Thursday through Saturday, Perrico’s crew threw it down at the NFL Draft Theater stage during the live selection telecast.

Tens of millions watched the broadcast on NFL Network. Tens of thousands turned out for the live draft. All of them know of Perrico’s band today.

“We came from having a big question mark about the future to this fantastic run,” Perrico says. “We’ve worked with the Raiders, which has been incredible, and now we’ve worked with the NFL side of it. We had four stage managers assisting me, for whatever we needed. The sound teams, incredible. The video teams, incredible.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who had also shared the stage with Criss Angel and Blue Man Group, is now a Pop Strings fan.

“He came over, multiple times, to tell us how much he liked the band,” Perrico says.” Everything about the experience was just topnotch.”

Drag it out

Frank Marino’s Red Carpet Brunch” performed four shows at the newly named Frank Marino Red Carpet Lounge on Saturday and Sunday. Marino’s lineup featured the familiar tributes to Cher (Steve Wayne), Bette Midler (Joseph Santellana), Diana Ross (Chris Woods), Tina Turner (Acy Hendricks), Liza Minnelli (Derek Hosterman), Celine Dion (Wayne) and Whitney Houston (Woods).

New to Marino’s lineup of divas is Taylor Swift (Jesse Tyler, who also performs the show-closing “What Makes a Man a Man). Marino was in top form Sunday, delivering some new shtick and donning classic gowns while still seizing on his Joan Rivers adaptation.

The food was great (Monte Cristo Sandwich for this non-Diva) and delivered before the start of the show.

It all felt like the start of something big, such as an ongoing residency in a swanky room. Not so fast. Marino is working on road dates and won’t return to the venue until at least July. Might be the fall. He’s due to leave “Legendary Divas” at Tropicana by October. What we saw this weekend was a showcase, with Marino and co- producers Alex Schecter andAlan and Kathi Glist conceiving a promising brunch and supper-club show. The creative team and hotel reps now need to follow through. July’s a long way away, on a showbiz calendar. October, even longer.

Cool Hang Alert

Stirling Club is establishing its “Night of Comedy” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at its Stirling Room, with host Barbara Brighton, featured comic Penny Wiggins (famous as Psychic Tanya with The Amazing Johnathan) and Michelle La Fong headlining. NO cover, go to 702-732-9700 for reservations.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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