Rockabilly music, fashion and culture returned to Vegas this weekend

BY: GRACE OROZCO

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Bettie Page haircut and pompadour donning folks took over The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas April 17 through April 20 or the 17th Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. The four-day music festival also featured a fashion show, a bowling tournament, a pin-up contest, vintage couples swimsuit competition, a tattoo showcase and contest sponsored by Sailor Jerry, burlesque shows and classes, jiving classes and performances by rockabilly music legends, newcomers and everything in between.

In an interview with MusicConnection.com, Viva founder and owner, Tom Ingram, talked about giving people what they want. “People who are into the 50s music scene are into 50s cars, 50s clothing and 50s culture, so it’s all part of what people want as a rockabilly weekend.” he said. “Viva Las Vegas is the biggest rockabilly festival in the world and it always looks good to be the biggest event.”

The rocking good times kicked off Thursday night with Kim Lenz and the Jaguars playing to an already crowded house in the ballroom at the Orleans.

One of Friday’s main events was the fashion show that featured clothes from shops all around the world, literally. Designers Sharon Hanley and Teena Borg brought their clothing line Retrospec’d all the way from Australia and featured vintage dresses, slacks and Hawaiian shirts all uniquely created with materials made in Australia.

Las Vegas’ own Amberjoy’s Vintage Closet was featured along with Melissa Squire’s “badass pretty clothing” from Canada, Swearing Parrot vintage inspired apparel from Texas and Lucy B’s vintage inspired lingerie and Good Looking Daddy clothing from California.

“I’m mainly here this weekend for the clothes,” Christina Martinez said. “I love to see what everyone is wearing, especially the girls.”

Imelda May and guitarist/husband Darrel Higham close out Saturday evening with a hits-filled set as well songs from their new album "Tribal" which is due to be released Monday, April 28.
Imelda May and guitarist/husband Darrel Higham close out Saturday evening with a hits-filled set as well songs from their new album "Tribal" which is due to be released Monday, April 28.

The attendance for the event was estimated at around 20,000 people, with the largest crowd attending Saturday thanks to its car show that showcased over 500 vintage cars and trucks pre-dating 1963. Best in show went to a sky blue 1959 Pontiac Safari and many cars on display were also available to be purchased from the owner on site.

Rock N Roll Hall of Famer Lloyd Price provided a cool vibe of rhythm and blues on the Viva main stage Saturday afternoon. The 81-year-old charmed the crowd and belted out hit after hit including his big million-selling hit “Mr. Personality.”

Irish singer-songwriter Imelda May graced the stage with her backing band and played into the evening as the sun set behind the Orleans Arena, cooling off the crowd with much needed shade.

Other acts included surf rock band the Trashmen, whose biggest hit was 1963’s “Surfin’ Bird,” Robert Gordon, Los Straitjackets, the Chop Tops, Lost Dog Found, the Rhythm Shakers, Furious, the Rockats and a surprise performance by Tim Polecat from the 1970s North London rockabilly band the Polecats.

This is only Mike Patterson's second year attending Viva but says that he is already making plans to come back next year. "I drove in from Arizona and met up with some buddies that live here in Vegas," he said. "It's the perfect event."

As the weekend wound down, Sunday was a day of relaxation until it was time to drive or catch a plane back home until next year. While some took in the sun at the Viva pool party, others stayed on their feet and took part in the jiving contest. The rockabilly weekend was officially over Monday, April 21 at around 7 a.m. when the last tunes were spun at DJ James’ Record Hop.

Tickets for the 18th annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly weekend are not available just yet, but rooms at the Orleans are already available to be booked. Next years event is scheduled for April 2-5, 2015 and information will be available throughout the rest of the year at vivalasvegas.net.