Friday, January 30, 2009

Emerging Artist: THE LAST VEGAS

The '80s are over. The days of needing little more than perfectly primped hair, a precocious pout and a pinup in a magazine to go platinum are long past. Likewise, the '90s are long gone. Quit whining about how miserable your life is, we've all got problems. I listen to music for a distraction, not because I need a two-by-four across the temple. The new millennium, meanwhile, has served us a forgettable array of dime-a-dozen basement brats that think all you need to get a record deal is a massive mound of MySpace friends. Too many people today think they're rock stars, and too many people today want to be treated like rock stars. But it takes more than that to truly be a rock star.

The Last Vegas have what it takes to be rock stars. Starting with the music, rooted in their pedigree, and sparked by their attitude.

Winners of the Guitar Center On Stage competition last November, their grand prize was a dream package for any rock and roll band. In addition to a $25,000 cash prize and $20,000 in gear, they got signed to a management deal with 10th Street Entertainment (Motley Crue, Buckcherry, Blondie), a recording contract with Crue bassist Nikki Sixx's Eleven Seven Music record label, and an opening slot on the current leg of Motley Crue's "Saints of Los Angeles" arena tour, which kicks off Monday in San Diego, CA.

Not a bad haul for the Windy City band that wasn't even supposed to be one of the finalists.

A bumper crop of 8,000 bands entered the open competition last fall and were narrowed down to 30 finalists, all of whom were flown to Hollywood and given a one-song chance to make their rock and roll dreams a reality. The six top bands then made it to the finals, where they would perform in front of Motley Crue at the legendary Whisky A Go Go on Hollywood's Sunset Strip. The Last Vegas didn't make the cut. Bassist Danny Smash - it's a safe bet he and frontman Chad Cherry aren't going by their birth names - didn't make excuses, instead saying that they had one chance to make a lasting impression with the judges, and they didn't. It was still a great experience.

What makes Smash and his band smarter than the next guys? They didn't make the same mistake twice.

When one of the six finalists was eliminated from the competition at the last minute, The Last Vegas got the call. Apparently they finished in seventh place, so the backdoor opportunity became theirs. "We had to go onstage first, and I was nervous as hell. I said to the guys, 'We're not getting another chance, this is it - we need to raise the bar so high, none of these other bands are going to be able to reach it...'" And that's exactly what they did. Smash says that after his band left the stage and returned to the balcony to watch the rest of the competition, Nikki Sixx gave him a wink and nod. He knew right then the bar was set.

The Last Vegas won, and it's been a whirlwind ever since.

Cherry, Smash, brothers Adam (guitar) and Nate (drums) Arling, and guitarist Johnny Wator had exactly one week from winning the contest to record their first single, but they got some help in the process, being joined in the studio by songwriting hit machine Marti Frederiksen and DJ Ashba, one of the main cog's in Motley Crue's Saints of Los Angeles writing wheel, and a guy who knows his way around sculpting a ball-breaking rock and roll track like Mario Batali knows his way around a kitchen.

"They took what they thought was one of our best songs, and did what they do best," says Smash. "It was so amazing to be a part of, I just sat there and took notes in my head the whole time, watching these two guys that are so great at what they do, work their magic on something that we did! I just tried to soak it all in - I knew that we were getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I wanted to make sure I took as much as I could from it to make myself a better writer and musician."

Wow. You don't hear that everyday. If at all. Most people will tell you how they hung out at all the Hollywood hot spots, got laid six times before the sun went down, drank till their liver bled and lived the dream, man. Not these guys. I'm sure they had their share of rock and roll excess, but they've been around long enough to know that their shot at immortality was only going to be what they made it once the door was opened for them. Nikki Sixx may be Willy Wonka in this equation, but The Last Vegas still need to make it through the chocolate factory intact.

They've got the chops, the presence, the smarts and the savvy, and that's more than enough to get my vote.

That song they had one week to turn into their first single? "I'm Bad" is a fist-pumping anthem so deliciously depraved, strip clubs are going to be owing them a percentage of their profits. "I'm bad, it's true, there's a little bit of me in every one of you..." squawks Cherry, giving the devil his vocal due. Guitars grind, the bass bumps, and the drums form a pocket so inviting, you want to curl up and spoon in it.

Remember what "Lit Up" did for Buckcherry? Brace yourself...

Motley Crue's Saints of Los Angeles 2009 Tour starts Sunday, with Hinder and Theory of a Deadman in direct support and The Last Vegas kicking the festivities off.

There's never been a better reason to get to an arena early.

# # #

The Last Vegas MySpace

No comments: