Neon Reverb brings indie music, communal vibe to downtown Las Vegas

You knew it was about to go down when the dude went barefoot.

Lustrous pink toenail polish shining beneath strings of red lights, Anti-Vision bassist Alan Madrigal doffed his shoes on stage in back of Cornish Pasty Co. on Saturday night, standing adjacent to a large mural of three-eyed octopus ladies, martians and towering Doc Martens boots.

And with that, this quiet room instantly grew loud.

“The desert rats with baseball bats are here!” frontman Brendan Sellers bellowed in song, pistoning his foot up and down as if attempting to squash said rats, his long blond locks continually flying into his mouth as he led his band in fierce agitprop punk with intermittent ska underpinnings.

“It’s horrible,” Sellers noted of his inadvertent hair ingestion. “Gonna puke soon. I can feel it.”

The second band up in the Punks in Vegas lineup as part of the Neon Reverb indie music fest, which took place at various venues downtown Thursday through Sunday, Anti-Vision kicked out the jams hard enough to fracture metatarsals.

The all-ages showcase was the best, most-in-your-face new addition to this year’s Neon Reverb, Vegas’ indie rock institution, now in its 10th year.

Neon Reverb is defined by a communal vibe and sense of discovery, and this show embodied both.

Up next: Moon Blood, whose frontwoman, Sinead Kravetz, eschewed the stage to perform on the floor alongside the crowd.

Sipping tea between songs to soothe her scorched throat, the pink-haired badass literally hurled herself into her songs, her feminist calls to arms delivered with elbows-out physicality.

As the band lineups have been rolling out on the now-crowded festival circuit, plenty of them have been criticized for a lack of female-centered acts.

But not Neon Reverb, which boasted an abundance of them.

On Friday, surf rockers La Luz filled the night air with layered harmonies at Beauty Bar, where some enterprising and/or broke fans watched from atop a white van parked in the alleyway.

An hour or so later, U.S. Girls stole the show at The Bunkhouse ahead of headliners No Age. The recording handle of Canadian singer-songwriter Meghan Remy, U.S. Girls swells to stage-crowding proportions on tour, where the act’s funk-heavy noise pop was brought to roaring life by a big-lunged saxophonist who sparred with lithe bass lines and a bed of wah-wah guitar. Flanked by a backing singer, Remy celebrated menstrual cycles (“28 Days”) critiqued some of the policies of the Obama administration (“Mad as Hell”) and let everyone know that, “It’s not your time, it’s my time,” backing up those words with a performance as righteously audacious as her brilliant gold dress.

Oh, the boys had their fun too. Vegas MC Ekoh performed in front of a crowded Backstage Bar &Billiards on Friday, his tongue-spraining rhymes buoyed by unlikely cinematic call-outs (“I’m the only rapper you know who’s dropping ‘Princess Bride’ references in a rap song,” he boasted. Yup.).

On Thursday, the festivities began with an excellent bill curated by Bad Moon Booking, where Vegas indie rockers Dark Black brought swells of volume and dissonance before Arizona doomsayers Burning Palms crafted grand, slow-building crescendos of sound, their frontwoman Simone Stopford’s voice poised somewhere beauteous and foreboding. Then came Seattle’s Monsterwatch, whose Northwestern garage punk was delivered with such vehemence that it left some of them winded.

“I’m way out of breath,” their singer John Spinney acknowledged at one point. “Sorry.”

No apologies necessary, guy.

Outside, the streets were closed for Mint 400 festivities, off-road vehicles idling everywhere.

At first this seemed like a culture clash, but maybe not: Knobby tires and indie rock, both forever durable.

Contact Jason Bracelin at or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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