Monday, Jan. 25, 2016 | 8:57 p.m.
Four words: No. More. Leg. Kicks.
That’s the takeaway from a startling piece of news broke over the weekend on the celebrated media platform of Zowie Bowie’s Facebook page. Zowie Bowie, in the person of founder Chris Phillips, is parting with Station Casinos just a few months shy of his 10th anniversary at Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort.
Phillips also is leaving Sunset Station’s Club Madrid, where he performed Saturday nights since last fall.
“Nobody is more shocked that I’ve done this than me,” Phillips said in a phone conversation today. “I make good money. The crowds have been great ... But I am tired of doing the high-leg kicks and having a job that is all about making people dance and buy alcohol. I’m so over all of that, and I’m the kind of guy who needs to be hungry to make something happen.”
As noted, the idea is Phillips’ own. He wants to go for broke — artistically speaking, although he’s losing a pretty healthy paycheck by cutting loose from Station. Phillips just this month juggled his lineup to include guitarist James Caselton and bassist Toney Carboney of The Rockie Brown Band, both topnotch musicians.
The act’s female lead remains Nieve Malandra, and keyboardist Dan Walker, who has been with Phillips for much of his stage career, is still in place. The drummer is Earl Campbell, a fantastic player who has backed Sheena Easton for nearly a decade.
Phillips says he wants to be “a real freaking show,” adding, “Unless I jump off this cliff, I know I’ll never do it.” He has not specified where he’ll land, saying, “I have no room and no show yet.”
His final performance at Rocks Lounge is Friday at 11 p.m. — or “11 p.m.-ish,” in the ZB Time Zone. His cleaving of that relationship ends a partnership that began in 2006, when Station Casinos reps lured Marley Taylor and him from Scottsdale to open Red Rock Resort.
In a statement, Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson, who holds the distinction of having introduced me to Phillips, said: “We are very proud to have brought Chris Phillips and Zowie Bowie to Las Vegas a decade ago and wish him and the band the best as they take this next step on their musical journey.”
Nelson confirmed that the decision to leave was Phillips’, and he said that he notified the resort company on Tuesday in the aftermath of David Bowie’s death, which he indicated was a flashpoint that he should try to expand his career.
“It’s not that I’m such a huge David Bowie fan, necessarily, but I’d already been thinking about this. I turn 50 this year, and I want to be something other than be a dance cover band,” he said. “I would like to do something where I can show everything I know how to do — rock, big band, go back and play the drums, sing country, do all of it.
“All of my buddies, people like Frankie Moreno and David Perrico, they have people come to see them and enjoy what they do. I want to be able to do that after 31 years in this business.”
As Phillips moves out, Station has announced its lineup at both venues, of particular interest Brown herself — with a different lineup than the one who recorded her debut CD, “Brand New Day” — under the title “The Rock Show.”
This is a project of Las Vegas producer Jason Tanzer’s entertainment collective and now performs at Rocks Lounge on the first Friday and Saturday each month beginning Feb. 5 (Brown also is onstage Saturday nights at Mandarin Oriental, a particularly groovy hang on the 23rd floor Mandarin Bar). Phillips introduced Brown from the stage during Friday night’s set, his penultimate appearance at the venue.
The remaining schedule at Rocks Lounge is The Jone$ on the second Friday and Saturday of every month, Empire Records on the third Friday and Saturday and The New Retros (love that name, which reminds of The New Originals from “This Is Spinal Tap”) on the fourth Friday and Saturday.
At Club Madrid, American Voodoo is the first and third Saturdays, and Empire Records is the second and fourth Saturdays.
All shows are doors at 10 p.m., performances at 11 p.m., no cover, and give it up for the entertainment team at Station for keeping live music alive for locals. We’ll see all these acts, over time. Brown, especially, is a real gem of an artist in this city.
Meantime, Phillips’ departure from Rocks Lounge marks the end of a fun-filled era in Las Vegas entertainment. I well remember him showing up a decade ago with the buxom Taylor, all blond and bronzed and full of bling.
“I have to say, Station Casinos has been great to me. This isn’t because they put up a wall (a reference to the glass partition at Rocks Lounge added to the venue last year) or anything like that,” Phillips said. “My crowds at both places have been great. We’ve been packed since New Year’s Eve.”
Phillips is a good-natured guy and always brings the party, but he also is a seasoned performer who yearns to advance his act. He wants to be taken seriously, in short. Moving out of the comfort zone of Rocks Lounge gives him that chance.
“I don’t have a clue,” he says when I ask about his future in Las Vegas. “But I am going to put together a show that will entertain you for two hours. I’ll rehearse it — and I haven’t done a rehearsal in 20 years — and make it happen.”
Situated at the entrance to Red Rock Canyon and minutes from the world-renowned Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa offers five-star luxury in a modern property, built in 2006.
The casino features features 3,000 slot and video poker machines, 60 table games including blackjack, baccarat, craps, poker, roulette, a 206-seat Race and Sports Book with a 96-foot video wall a 20-table smoke-free poker room open 24 hours a day, a 600-seat bingo hall with separate smoking and non-smoking sections, open 7 days a week with sessions running every other hour from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., a 20-seat keno lounge and a private high-limit room.
A recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award since opening and named one of the world's best new hotels by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, Red Rock redefines casino resort architecture by incorporating natural light, a convenient layout and the comforts of a modern lifestyle.
The centerpiece of the property is the three-acre pool complex with 19 cabanas and swim-up gaming. Its location allows for balcony views from several of the property's restaurants and Cherry Nightclub. Aside from Cherry, guests can grab a drink at Onyx or Lucky or listen to live music in Rocks Lounge.
Dining spans the globe at Red Rock with more than 10 restaurants, including the Italian food of Terra Rossa, the Japanese fusion of Hachi, the Mexican spices at Cabo Cantina or a bit of everything at the Feast Buffet.
Unlike some resorts in town, Red Rock has activities for the whole family, such as a 16-screen movie theater and an arcade. The 72-lane bowling center features a VIP area and carpet that glows in the dark for after hours at Cosmic Bowling.