It’s safe to say Las Vegas and New Orleans share a common propensity for booze-soaked debauchery. The sinful cities have all the prerequisites for the classic American lost weekend: drinks, gambling, great food, and strippers. But one area where Sin City noticeably falls short is in the music department. Sure you can hear world class DJs like Skrillex and Deadmau5 while lounging poolside, or catch one of the nostalgia cash-ins of past stars like Shania Twain or Celine Dion, but, as I found out during my trip last week, the options for authentic, modern live music are slim.
Clearly, I’m not the only one to notice the lack of live music options in Sin City. Enter Brooklyn Bowl. Since its founding in 2009, New York-based Brooklyn Bowl has been hosting great bands every night of the week, with an emphasis on booking the funkiest bands in the world (including New Orleans’ finest) for some legendary shows. Add the venue’s upscale bowling alleys and classic Coney Island carnival decor and you’ve got one of the best places to catch a show in the Big Apple. The management of Brooklyn Bowl clearly spotted a golden opportunity on the Vegas strip, and opened Brooklyn Bowl Vegas earlier this year. Since then, the stage has hosted everyone from The Avett Brothers to Galactic (who played a 12-night residency there earlier this year) while providing a completely different experience from the usual Vegas excess.
The Stooges Brass Band played two nights at the venue last week, injecting a much needed dose of New Orleans fun into a city that sometimes takes itself a little too seriously. After an exceptional set from The Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson got the crowd in a Southern state of mind, the Stooges announced themselves with a blast of raw brass power that caused more than a few gutter balls to roll into the adjacent lanes. The dancing mass on the floor instantly tripled in size as the partiers, bowlers, gamblers, and curious souls were all drawn to the foreign sounds that told them to drop everything and get down.
The Stooges got things started with “We Got That Fire” and put their engaging sound and personalities center stage. Frontman Walter “Whoadie” Ramsey worked the crowd with the confidence of a seasoned vet while the band backed him up with the hip hop influenced funk that defines modern NOLA brass. The Stooges kept their sound varied and modern with the addition of an impressive electric guitarist and keyboard player to the standard brass band lineup. This formidable combination proved irresistible to the Vegas crowd, evident when a band-led dance battle got the entire floor moving with ease.
As I gravitated toward the front of the crowd to join the serious dancers, I ran into some middle-aged guys proudly wearing their Tulane shirts along with the wide grins that accompany an unexpected encounter with authentic New Orleans music. This was the first brass show I’ve seen outside of New Orleans, so it was comforting to realize there’s a community of displaced NOLA locals everywhere, who, I suspect, might be able to ease the pain if I ever have to move away from this city I love so much. And while Vegas got a glimpse of how we do things down on the bayou, I found myself confirming what I suspected all along: when it comes to partying in style, New Orleans can’t be beat.