Friday, June 14, 2013 | 10 a.m.
Would we like Cheese with that?
Always, the answer is, “Yes.”
Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine is back in VegasVille, pumping out a 90-minute pop standards set to swanky arrangements. Cheese and his three-piece backing band are at Sunset Station’s Club Madrid tonight at 8, performing their classic covers of familiar rap, rock and pop hits (ticket prices are listed $29, $39 and $49, absent fees; hit Ticketmaster for info).
For those unfamiliar, Cheese’s act is commonly compared to a graduated version Bill Murray’s Nick the Lounge Singer character from “Saturday Night Live” ages ago. But the Lounge Against the Machine show far more elaborate than any comedy skit. Cheese has worked over such contemporary music anthems as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the Beasie Boys’ “Brass Monkey,” Lady’ Gaga’s “Just Dance,” Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” and even Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In the Wall Part 2.”
Cheese and his bandmates are still playing razor-sharp renditions of these hep-cat covers, and donning the tiger-striped suits they wore when I first caught the act many years ago at the since-disassembled Venus lounge at Venetian 13 years ago.
Did Mr. Cheese (who has a real name, but for our purposes, there is no point in noting it) feel at the time that he’s be a long-running, nationally coveted live act?
“Honestly, no,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I guess it’s when you start something like this, you have no idea how long it’s going to last and the scope of what it can be. It’s like a long haul in a slow vehicle. Every time I hit a new city, I am wondering why I do this, but when we’re onstage it hits me. We’re still playing great music and we just keep adding songs.”
More than 100 tunes, to more exact, are available for the Cheese set list. “We Are Young” by Fun and “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. He plans to add a new number by Britney Spears, too.
Lounge Against the Machine has bounced around Vegas over the years, swankin’ it up at such haunts as Venetian, Hard Rock Hotel (where they closed AJ’s Steakhouse six years ago), Club Madrid at Sunset Station, Ovation at Green Valley Ranch, and back to Club Madrid.
Cheese, who allows that he is wary of overworking and “prone to naps,” has not made the move to franchise the Lounge Against the Machine act to create several versions of the band. Many themed, cover-generated acts have had a lot of success doing just that, but it’s not for Cheese.
“I don’t think it would be possible. I wish I could find someone else to do what I can do, and replacing my musicians is not possible,” Cheese said. “You might find other jazz musicians who are this good, but I doubt it. It’s just hard to replace everyone and have them play it as well.
“There is a great deal of soul in what we’re doing. We genuinely love swing music and lounge music, and we’re not just putting on the suits as Greg Brady did (as Johnny Bravo) in ‘The Brady Bunch.’ ”
Cheese recalls a gig several years ago at Showbox in Seattle. A guy was playing standards on piano in the multi-venue’s lounge, and Cheese caught part of his set. The next night, the artist had moved to another club.
“He was so good, after our show I went out and found this guy and watched him play instrumental songs,” Cheese said. “He was playing these Sinatra songs and was just so good.”
The guy is a genuine swing artist. Nothing cheesy about that.