Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Lucky Cheats, the Sand Dollar Lounge, Wednesday November 28, 2012

The Sand Dollar has returned from its relatively short-lived career as the Bikini Bar and it looks as though it plans to return to its status as the Las Vegas blues club. It is a stand alone dive bar in the Chinatown district, so the location is a bit odd, but, being right off of the 15 Freeway, it is easy to get to from most of Vegas.

This night, the Cheats were opening for touring act Nikki Hill and with an incredibly reasonable scheduled starting time of 8:00pm, I thought that I'd be able to see some great music and still be home in bed at a sensible time, for a weeknight. Of course, things rarely turn out as planned, especially in Las Vegas!

The LC's did go on shortly after 8:00, but it turns out that they - to their own surprise, apparently - were scheduled to do two opening sets before Ms. Hill took the stage. So, they did a comparatively laid back, short initial set before taking a break and returning for a longer second round. As usual, these cats explored many variations on the blues, turning traditional numbers inside out with their own ideas ("King Bee" is almost unrecognizable musically, but in a good way - it becomes a dynamic stomper in their hands) as well as playing original tunes from their great CD, Sugar in the Tank.

I dig this band more every time I see them - the rhythm section consists of monster drummer Larry Raha and fluid bassist Luke Metz, accompanied by one of the best harp players around, Jeffrey Koenig and string-strangler Wade Braggs. As a guitarist myself, Wade constantly entertains and amazes with his talents - he truly has a great style and can infuse his solos with smooth sounds, biting edge and even a fun sense of humor. Once again, they brought up the lovely & talented Shanda (of the Shandaleers) for a few numbers, including a version of B.B.King's "3:00 Blues".

By the time the Cheats finished their second set it was almost 11:00 and I had hoped for the entire show to be over by that time, so I had to split before checking out Nikki Hill, who I have heard good things about and will be looking into further. Hopefully, when she returns, it will be on a weekend! Still, the Sand Dollar was packed when this old man left, so I'm sure she had a great audience. Kudos for DJ Lucky LaRue for setting up the gig and hopefully there will be many more!

(Sorry for the crappy photos - my phone does not like dark stages!)