It was like the crunch of gravel beneath your shoes, the sound she made when chewing shards of her wine glass into the mic.
“I’m about to do something stupid for your entertainment,” announced freakshow performer Jenn O. Cide, the evening’s host, her get-up as black as the asphalt in the parking lot she was commanding.
And then she took a crescent wrench, smashed her drinking utensil to bits — but not before guzzling its contents in three impressive gulps — and ate its remnants.
“That’s how you get your remaining 70 cents of Pabst out of your glass,” she explained afterward.
It was a quarter to 6 on Saturday night, the Double Down Saloon was turning 25, and the fun had just begun.
It was like the iconic dive bar’s celebrated jukebox had come to life just outside its doors, such was the litany of punk notables — local, national and international, even — who took to the stage to celebrate the legacy and longevity of a gritty little joint that few would have predicted would have either when it first opened its doors in 1992.
That the festivities were taking place on Thanksgiving weekend was highly apropos: The whole night had the feel of a family gathering, with drunk dudes in mohawks in place of drunk uncles in khakis, a big, boozy bear hug to a little room that has long embraced just about everyone in return.
‘How punk rock is that?’
It was a night to remember.
“My memories are going away as we speak,” a bald-headed dude in a Turbonegro shirt said from the front of the stage, gripping a Pabst tallboy as Shaun Kama & the Kings of the Wild Frontier burned through a set of revved-up, ’50s-leaning rock and roll, its namesake hiking up his lip like an inked-up Elvis as he sang.
“All this for free?” Kama mused from the stage at one point, noting how the show lacked a cover, a Double Down signature. “How punk rock is that?”
About as punk rock as The Dwarves, who incited a feisty circle pit and some perilous stage diving from a dude rocking a Joe Dirt haircut. He evaded security just long enough to leap into the crowd, though he nearly got a mouthful of parking lot for his efforts as he came crashing down to Earth.
The Dwarves and the evening’s headliners, L.A. punk institution The Dickies, kick-started any beer-slowed heart rates with hook-heavy jams meant to get you on the balls of your feet.
Japan’s nattily attired The Heiz donned fedoras merely to shake them off in hair-flinging fits, their onstage peacockery the physical embodiment of knowingly precious songs about the joys of tacos, pizza and rock and roll. Salton Sea, California’s Throw Rag displayed a similar appreciation for Chuck Berry at times, though their hard-swinging songbook was delivered with more of a snarl.
‘The coolest place in Las Vegas’
Really, though, this night was all about the locals, and to this end, the festivities began with a pair of Double Down regulars, Vegas surf rock staples Thee Swank Bastards (“We’re playing here for the 576th time … this year,” guitarist Jesse Del Quadro quipped) and the first man ever to grace the Double Down stage, Dirk Vermin, who led his new band, Dirk Vermin and The Hostile Talent, in lean, mean punk shout-alongs occasionally fattened with meaty riffs.
Their first tune: “Time to Drink.”
“Twenty-five years … still the coolest place in Las Vegas,” Vermin said, looking out at the crowd.
He may as well have been gazing into a mirror, not because the audience members before him looked the same, but because here, everyone tends to feel the same, feel like they belong.
It’s an intangible thing, something that can’t be easily manufactured.
It just is, somehow, no matter how unlikely.
Kind of like the Double Down Saloon.
Contact Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.