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Rock concert in Las Vegas the first of its kind since March

Updated October 23, 2020 - 11:45 am

Silver linings, silver tongue: The smooth talker on the mic pursued the former with the help of the latter.

“It’s a weird time, huh?” observed Jim Heath, frontman for rockabilly mainstays the Reverend Horton Heat, musing about the ancillary benefits of face coverings such as bandanas in the coronavirus era. “It’s pretty bad, but I do think some good will come out of this. I know I’ve always wanted to rock the Old West train robber look.”

Heath and company were four songs into their eagerly received set at the Fremont Country Club on Thursday night, guitars and heart rates racing in unison at the first rock show in a concert club from a national touring act since March.

Live music was officially back in Las Vegas.

“You have no idea how awesome it feels to be playing right now,” shared Zach Saucier, the exuberant, inked-up frontman for Vegas trio If They Love You They’ll Kill You, which opened the show with its harmony-laden, doo-wop-informed rockabilly, sharing a feeling clearly pulsing through the crowd seated in rows of folding chairs.

As expected, considering the circumstances, the experience was a little different.

Attendance was limited to under 250 people, less than half the venue’s regular capacity, which the Reverend Horton Heat has filled in the past (the band returns for another show Friday night).

Fans were admitted into the venue at specific, staggered times in three groups of 75-100.

Once inside, an usher escorted fans to their seats, with no more than six people allowed to sit together.

The bar in the main room was closed, with drinks available at the adjacent Backstage Bar & Billiards. There were also cocktail waitresses serving fans.

Triple B’s, where smoking is normally allowed, was turned into a nonsmoking venue for the night with a smoking patio out back to reduce crowd flow.

When not hitting the bar or going out to smoke, fans had to stay in their seats.

To wit, when a couple who had traveled from Los Angeles to see the show got up on their feet and started dancing to the last number of a fiery performance by Vegas’ bluesy, R&B-informed Shanda & the Howlers, a security guard quickly had them sit down again.

The show’s promoter, Danielle O’Hara of Nevermore Productions, equated the concert to a certain Kevin Bacon-abetted ’80s flick.

“I keep making jokes, ‘It’s going to be a like a “Footloose” show: no dancing,’ ” she said before the gig.

A veteran promoter, O’Hara has experience putting on concerts in the wake of life-altering events, even if she’s obviously never done so under these specific circumstances.

And so her first big show since COVID hit was all about adapting to these unprecedented times.

“I’ve been doing this since 2000/2001, so I had to deal with regulations from 9/11, and I got thought those hurdles,” she said. “Then I had to deal with 1 Oct. regulations — got through those. All this is, is adding another layer to safety protocols and regulations.

“We’re working with city,” she continued, “staying in contact with them on everything. With our staff, part of the requirement is that we have to read all the COVID regulations, the new rules and protocols, so our whole staff is getting educated.”

Though November and December are traditionally slow months for the concert industry, which tends to get going again after the holidays, O’Hara says she is fielding offers for more shows from national acts before the end of the year.

“It’s going to be a gradual start,” she cautions, “but I already have agents, who saw the moment I announced the shows, saying, ‘OK, let’s get this on the books.’ ”

Of course, it remains to be seen when concerts will be able take place at full capacity.

But for now, doing a show like this is a return O’ Hara’s roots.

She’s mining her past in order to move forward in the present.

“Everyone’s like, ‘Are you going to be OK?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I built my business on small shows,’ ” she says. “I already had that mentality back in March.

“We can step back to our grassroots and then rebuild,” she added. “We’ve done it before. We can do it again.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter and @jbracelin76 on Instagram.

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