Twenty years ago, it would have been inconceivable to imagine local punk bands playing gigs in Reno casinos. But times change, and now there’s a summer concert series of local underground rock bands playing The Stage in Harrah’s Reno. The Gunner’s Daughter and Mary Jane Rocket play on June 15. Thee Indoors plays on June 16. Prescription plays on June 22. The shows are booked by John Ludwick, a local musician better known as the guitarist and vocalist for the garage rock band Cathedral Ghost. For more information, visit http://blvproductionsnv.com/
How’d this get started?
I got connected through the entertainment director over there, a guy named Tom Crist. My wife, Britney [Irwin], is working with the entertainment director over there, and she just put in her show [Persuasion] in Sammy’s Showroom with Tyzen, a hypnotist. [Crist] had some different ideas about what he wanted to do with the casino. He was trying to take the Zone 21 part of it, in the east tower, and make it more oriented towards a younger demographic. And he wanted to do live music, so she put us in contact, and I talked to the guy and got a feel for what he wanted to do. I told him that, as far as the music scene in town, I guess I get pigeonholed in the underground or the punk circle or whatever you want to call it, so I asked him if he was open to doing local bands of all types and he said, yeah. My one main stipulation for it was that I wanted to get local bands paid. … The ultimate goal is that bands will have more money to put out records and do those kinds of things. … [My wife’s] company is BLV Productions. That’s what the whole thing is contracted under, and just having me do the music. … The venue is called The Stage at Harrah’s, it’s an old cabaret room. The space by itself is pretty cool. It’s just kind of strange that obviously it’s attached to a casino, and I’m doing bands that I guess normally wouldn’t play in the casinos. We’re over there Friday and Saturday.
Tell me about some of the shows.
I did a show on Friday with The Shames and Los Pistoleros. The Shames are kind of like poppy punk rock ’n’ roll stuff, and Los Pistoleros is like psychobilly. And on Saturday I did the abomination known as the Pelvis Wrestlies, which is Clark [Demeritt] and John Lee’s band, which is kind of like Spitsy, Ramones-style rock. … Coming up, Thee Indoors are playing. They’re doing one set of Thee Indoors and one set of Nirvana covers. I’ve got Prescription coming up. … I also have some things that are a lot different. I’m trying to keep it varied. I have Milton Merlos, he’s the dude who used to do Sol Jibe. He’s going to be playing Spanish acoustic guitar. I’ve got some singer-songwriters in there and some more mainstream alt-rock. … Seas & Centuries is going to be playing there towards the end of the month, and Lucas Young & The Wilderness.
What’s the reaction been?
When I first got approached about this whole thing, I really didn’t know how to feel about it. I liked the idea that bands would get paid, but I was thinking that people would be resistant to the idea, because it’s in a casino, and it’s really weird. But when I talked to bands, 99-percent of the time people were into it because it’s weird and obviously they could get some money out of it. So that’s what prompted me to take it on. The first night, it was little bit weird for the casino. I probably should have tried to ease into it a little bit. … It was a little bit wild, because some of the security wasa little bit weirded out by the mohawks and, as they called it, “the moshing pit.” [Laughs.] But, at the end of the day, as long as there are people coming in, the casino will be pretty open to it. … And the bands have been pretty into it. The Shames were psyched. I’m not a sleazy promoter guy. I’m just a guy who plays in bands. … So overall the response has been pretty good. People are excited to have a new spot to play and just do something a little different, so you’re not just playing Holland [Project] or a basement or the same three or four venues that people generally play in town.