Spring is almost here, can you hear it?
’Tis the season when Las Vegas’ increasingly loaded festival schedule gets going in earnest.
Which fest is best for you?
Let’s break ’em down (Note: the Life is Beautiful festival is set to return to downtown Las Vegas Sept. 21 to 23 but has yet to announce its lineup):
Neon Reverb, Friday-Sunday, various venues downtown
For fans of: Well-curated indie rock; hipster spotting; dudes who were into your favorite alt-rock band before you ever heard of them, but don’t like them anymore because now people like you do.
The lowdown: Time to take to the streets of downtown for the 13th incarnation of this multi-venue hopscotch of awesomeness, which also doubles as the city’s best pub crawl. The Neon Reverb roster shines again with weirdo rippers No Age, lost-spaghetti-Western-soundtrackers Spindrift, electro pop square peg Jesika von Rabbit, indie folksters Mt. Joy and scads more. Plus, an all-ages show at Cornish Pasty Co. means everyone can get in on the fun.
Band not to miss: Wavves. Enhance your buzz with buzzing guitars when these San Diego garage pop mood-boosters bring the sun out at night.
Bender Jamboree, April 12-15, Plaza
For fans of: Tie-dye fabrics; dudes who can turn an apple into a smoking device; guitar solos that span leap years.
The lowdown: From the crew behind the Big Blues Bender comes the debut of the Bender Jamboree, which is geared toward bluegrass, roots music and jam band aficionados. The lineup is loaded, with headliners Greensky Bluegrass, mandolin master Sam Bush, Grammy winners Infamous Stringdusters and dozens more. Start socking away wads of cash for that Cheetos budget now: The munchies are a given here.
Band not to miss: Leftover Salmon. Definitely among the world’s top 10 “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass” troupes. Definitely.
Viva Las Vegas, April 19-22, The Orleans
For fans of: Pomade and Pabst; Rosie the Riveter look-alikes; yacht-sized hot rods built before 1964.
The lowdown: Viva Las Vegas turns 21! — finally, there might be a little alcohol consumption at the fest this year. The always-stacked roster of acts includes over 100 performers, including greats such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Duane Eddy, as well as burlesque shows, jiving lessons and the best-dressed festivalgoers in the city.
Band not to miss: Stray Cats. In Viva’s biggest score ever, these rockabilly icons will get back together for the first time in nearly a decade to “Rock This Town” inside out and such.
Las Rageous, April 20-21, Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
For fans of: Turbo lovers; rap-rockers in hockey masks; pounding beers on blocked-off city streets downtown.
The lowdown: Now in its second year, Las Rageous pairs mainstream radio rockers (In This Moment, Five Finger Death Punch, Hollywood Undead) with critically lauded alt-metallers (A Perfect Circle, Clutch) and assorted scene icons (Judas Priest, Saxon), providing a little something for everybody. What won’t be so little? The beer lines.
Band not to miss: Ghost. These Satan-lovin’ Swedes’ repertoire is what hell’s jukebox sounded like in the ’70s, back when the Antichrist was way into Blue Oyster Cult.
Las Vegas Death Fest, May 11-13, festival grounds behind Backstage Bar &Billiards
For fans of: Guttural vocals that register like buckets of battery acid being poured into the ears of the squeamish; impossible-to-read band logos; hugs.
The lowdown: For its 10th anniversary, LVDF continues to raise the bar for brutality by moving outdoors for the first time, which promises to be both awesome and perilous: Moshing on concrete? Hello, road rash. Gradually growing in size year by year to become an international draw, LVDF 2018 will be Vegas’ heaviest ever open-air fest, highlighted by Colorado grind subverts Cephalic Carnage, doom death heavies Incantation and a long-awaited showdown between Vomit God and Vomit Remnants for vomit supremacy.
Band not to miss: Dying Fetus. The biggest headliner in LVDF history should conjure a pit just as sizable.
Electric Daisy Carnival, May 18-20, Las Vegas Motor Speedway
For fans of: Bass levels capable of registering on Richter scales; a less-is-more approach to butt-covering fabrics; consuming Red Bull by the gallon.
The lowdown: To enter this alternate dimension of flesh and vertebrae-dislodging beats, where night becomes day and vice versa, is to suspend sleep patterns and one’s sense of disbelief simultaneously. EDC, which draws over 400,000 fans annually, can’t get much bigger, though fest organizers are always trying to make it better. The tastiest new addition to the experience this year: Camping. Meaning that once you enter this retina-widening world, you never have to leave. Until Monday.
Band not to miss: Black Tiger Sex Machine. These masked Montrealers are back to pummel EDC with winkingly demonic electro. Sweet dance moves, Beelzebub.
Punk Rock Bowling, May 25-28, Downtown Las Vegas Event Center and various clubs downtown
For fans of: Wearing denim jean jackets in 90-degree heat; sewing sweet band patches to said denim jean jackets; aging poseurs whining about what is or isn’t punk rock.
The lowdown: Punk Rock Bowling turns 20 with an excellent, albeit oddly polarizing lineup that’ll have plenty of old-schoolers crying in their Pabsts (Funny how punk rock was supposed to be about breaking rules and yet certain missing-the-point scenesters seem to be all about adhering to a self-serving orthodoxy). Their beef? The inclusion of more mainstream acts such as rockers Rise Against, who headline Saturday night, and especially prog-punks At The Drive In, who top Monday’s bill, alongside PRB returnees such as NOFX, GBH, Turbonegro and dozens more. The bemoaning of ATDI is especially egregious: They’re only one of the best bands the fest has ever booked, lame-os.
Band not to miss: L7. Get out of their way or these reunited femme punk badasses might “Shove.”
Psycho Las Vegas, Aug. 16-19, Hard Rock Hotel
For fans of: Black-light posters; Nevada’s relaxed marijuana laws; starting circle pits in the Hard Rock pool.
The lowdown: Year three for the mother of all heavy music fests is like one-stop shopping for devotees of the riff, gettin’ weird with strangers and everything louder than everything else, to borrow a line from the mighty Motorhead. Once again, the lineup is as deep as it diverse, boasting symphonic black metallers Dimmu Borgir, Italian soundtrack greats Goblin, reactivated hardcore standouts American Nightmare and industrial metal forebears Godflesh, to name but a few.
Band not to miss: The Hellacopters. “By the Grace of God,” these Swedish ragers have reunited and will play a rare U.S. date, mining albums such as their aforementioned fifth effort, one of the best rock albums of the aughts.
Contact Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.