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November 21, 2018

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Zowie Bowie leaves Station Casinos: ‘Nobody is more shocked that I’ve done this than me’

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L.E. Baskow

Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie entertains the crowd during Las Vegas Weekly’s Unscripted Party featuring Stifler in the Havana Room on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at the Tropicana.

Zowie Bowie Opens at Monte Carlo

Zowie Bowies Chris Phillips and Marley Taylor perform during the gala premiere of Vintage Vegas at the Lance Burton Theater at the Monte Carlo on Sunday night. Launch slideshow »

Zowie Bowie Red Carpet

Zowie Bowie's Chris Phillips and Marley Taylor on the red carpet for the gala premiere of Launch slideshow »

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.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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