For years I have wanted to go to Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, and this is the year that I was finally able to go. After four hectic press days at the New York Auto Show I hit the Las Vegas ground running Friday morning – I dropped off my suitcase in my hotel room, slathered on the SPF 30, got my wristband, and headed out to the car show.
Held at the Orleans Casino April 21-24, 2011, VLV features rockabilly and surf bands, pool parties, vintage and 50’s-inspired fashion shows, pin-up workshops, vendors, burlesque performances and more all weekend. No detail is left untouched, and rockabilly music is on constant rotation in the casino common areas. During the day bands perform on two stages within the casino, outside at the pool, and on the car show stage; bands play all night in the ballrooms. The gathering has grown from 1,200 attendees the first year to 8,000 this past year for the music – and an additional 10,000 come to the car show on Saturday. Those who purchase four day wristbands have the advantage of seeing the car show on Thursday and Friday, but tickets are available for the Saturday car show only.
The first VLV had about 12 classic cars. These days the car show is filled with over 700 pre-1963 cars and is sponsored by sister magazines Car Kulture De-Luxe and Ol’ Skool Rodz. A majority of the cars were already here on Friday – I had a 4-day wristband and was able to get a great preview before it got packed with people on Saturday. On Saturday the car show also features vendors selling everything from vintage clothing to pinstriped handbags, sunglasses to pomade, belt buckles to parasols. There is a wedding chapel where you can get married or re-affirm your vows with a crooning Elvis impersonator. You can even get coiffed or tattooed. Cult favorite Elvira was on hand signing autographs next to her spooky car, and you could get your photo taken in front of the Munster Koach built by the legendary George Barris. Girls and hot rods go hand in hand, and pin-up girls, burlesque performers, as well as attendees dressed to the nines in vintage clothing were all posing in front of cars. On the car show stage, the Lustre Kings, Dynotones, and the Blasters played great rockabilly; to end the day, Jerry Lee Lewis performed as the sun went down.
You can’t ask for better weather for a classic car show than an 80-degree, sunny Las Vegas Saturday. Three large parking lots were full of amazing hot rods, rat rods, gassers, and, to a lesser extent, motorcycles. The range of customization was phenomenal – great detailing, gorgeous finishes, and amazing craftsmanship. The atmosphere was festive as car owners set up tarps and sat with friends, and people milled around admiring and photographing the cars. I found that the rules regarding what cars are allowed in made for a focused show with consistently high quality rods. No modern t-buckets, no blinged-out street rods, no post-’63 low riders, no gang colors; while Japanese cars and VW’s are not allowed, it wasn’t limited to American cars – I did see at least one European car there. Quoting an email from VLV’s Ã‚Â Tom Ingram, “We have a vision for the car show and want to stick to it. VLV is a 1950’s music event so the car show has to reflect that.”
The Collins Kids were the headlining band for the first VLV held at the Gold Coast on The Strip. Since then, Mac Curtis, Curtis Gordon, Dale Hawkins and Chuck Berry have all headlined. It’s such a well organized and executed event, it’s no wonder that people continue to come year after year – and not just from North America; I met people who traveled from Denmark, the UK, Sweden, Australia, and even Japan.
Viva Las Vegas 15 will be held April 5-8, 2012. If you’re considering attending next year, you’ll want to make the decision quickly. Ã‚Â Reservations at The Orleans are filling up fast, and tickets went on sale May 14th. Don’t forget the sun block.