Las Vegas Sun

January 21, 2018

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Columnist Spencer Patterson: Little time for recess for School of Rock

Mike Connor and Stevie Roberts are both just 17 years old, but the young musicians have already learned an important lesson about planning a tour.

Don't book dates in Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle on successive nights.

"It's tough. Most of the time we're just sleeping," Connor, a bass guitar player, said from a bus rolling through Idaho. "But it's definitely rewarding."

Agreed Roberts, a keyboardist and vocalist: "It can be hard. We're all tired sometimes. But it's fun. You're basically living with 20 of your best friends on the bus."

Connor and Roberts are two of the 500-plus students in the Philadelphia-based Paul Green School of Rock, an after-school program designed to teach rock 'n' roll chops and impart the tricks of the trade to budding musicians.

This month 27 of the school's most experienced pupils -- ages 13-18 -- are embarked on a 16-day, 17-show West Coast tour.

The School of Rock bus rolls into Las Vegas for a pair of tour-capping performances tonight and Saturday at the Wild Wild West Casino, 3330 W. Tropicana Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $11 per night.

"We've gone on road trips to play shows before but never this many in a row or anything close to it," Green, the school's founder, said. "It's a learning experience.

"We've played to big, apathetic crowds, and to small, excited crowds. We played the Big Easy in Spokane, Wash., last night, which had the best sound and lights ever, and we've also played a coffee bar. So we've had a little bit of everything."

Green said the trip was designed to expose students to as many aspects of life on the road as possible.

"We're now teaching them how to deal with backline (stage equipment), how to eat and sleep well on the road, how to take care of yourself," Green said. "It's full-on, hands-on training in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle and the music."

Tonight the School of Rock crew will perform two sets of Frank Zappa music, with an assist from one-time Zappa cohort Napoleon Murphy Brock, a member of the traveling congregation.

On Saturday the group will tackle two sets of classic rock, playing selections by the likes of Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Queen.

Both shows are sponsored by the Las Vegas Jam Band Society.

The School of Rock concept should sound familiar to movie-goers. Last year comic actor and musician Jack Black starred in a film of the same name.

The movie's creators don't acknowledge Green's school as an inspiration, but the real-life rock 'n' roll professor says the band was indeed an influence.

"We were around for a while before the movie was ever conceived," Green said. "We were in Spin Magazine and on CNN and on NPR (National Public Radio) and things like that. And we've owned the Web site since before the film was made.

"But what am I gonna do? Get my whole grade school tied up in a whole bunch of litigation over it? It's better just to use all the press that came from the movie being out."

Along with his original School of Rock, Green has also opened several magnet locations in suburbs around Philadelphia. He said he intends to expand to New York City and San Francisco by January, with other cities -- including Las Vegas -- among potential long-range plans.

Music notes

Vegasmania: Forty years ago this morning four young rock 'n' rollers tried to slip into Las Vegas unnoticed, landing in secret at 1 a.m.

When the band's limo pulled up to the Sahara Hotel, however, they discovered about 2,000 screaming fans waiting for them.

The foursome, of course, were the Beatles. That night, they would make their only live Vegas appearances, a pair of 30-minute shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Tickets, priced from $2.20 to $5.50, sold out quickly, with 8,000 fans on hand for each set.

Dennis Mitchell, a DJ for KKLZ 96.3-FM and host of the station's syndicated Sunday morning "Breakfast with the Beatles" radio show, looks on the episode as an odd chapter in the city's musical history.

"When you take a step back and look at everything the Beatles did that year, it's really amazing that they ever stopped here," Mitchell said. "It was such a small place then."

Mitchell hypothesized that the Fab Four specifically requested Las Vegas be put on their 1964 American tour schedule.

"John (Lennon) was in love with the place. They all thought it was too cool that it was even here," Mitchell said. "My hunch is that they wanted to do everything American while they were here, and they felt Las Vegas was one of the strangest things America had to offer."

Local Beatles fans can celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band's Aug. 20, 1964, concerts by attending a pair of tribute shows in town the next two weekends.

Twist & Shout headlines "Beatles Anniversary Weekend" performances at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the Cannery. Tickets are $10.

American English plays the Congo Room at the Sahara at 10 p.m. Aug. 27 and 28. George Harrison's sister, Louise, is scheduled to appear with the band. Tickets are $48-$70.

A Killer return: On Sept. 19, Las Vegas band-made-good the Killers will play their first local show since February. The band is set to perform at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.

The quartet's hot single, "Somebody Told Me," was featured in last Sunday's episode of the HBO series "Six Feet Under," and is No. 6 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks single chart.

New York's the Walkmen open the show. Tickets are $15 and go on sale Thursday at the House of Blues box office, at TicketMaster outlets, by phone at 474-4000 and at

Quick hits

A look at a few of the shows scheduled to hit Southern Nevada in the next week:

Pottymouth-queen-turned-pop-star Liz Phair returns to the House of Blues at 6 p.m. Saturday for a stop on the "Chicks With Attitude" tour. This time, she'll have opening acts the Cardigans, Katy Rose and Charlotte Martin in tow. Tickets are $25-$35.

Industrial/metal/hardcore bands Fear Factor, Mastodon, Sworn Enemy and Walls of Jericho share a bill at the House of Blues at 6 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $20.

And on Tuesday, groove-rock outfit Galactic brings its funky New Orleans sound to the House of Blues. Doors open at 8 p.m. for the 21-and-over event. Tickets are $20-$30.

On sale

Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band play the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Oct. 16 and Oct. 23. Tickets are $65-$200 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at the MGM Grand box office and through TicketMaster.

The Cramps land at the House of Blues on Oct. 28. Tickets are $18 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday through the House of Blues box office and TicketMaster.

Mest teams with Hawthorne Heights, Bayside and Lola Ray for an Oct. 8 House of Blues show. Tickets are $12.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday through the House of Blues box office and TicketMaster.

Godsmack will perform an acoustic concert on Sept. 11 at the House of Blues. Tickets are $35.50 and are on sale now through the House of Blues box office and TicketMaster.

On Sept. 3, the House of Blues hosts a pair of hip-hop events. First up: the "Vinyl Kombat 2004 Championship," hosted by DJ Jazzy Jeff. Tickets are $10. Later that night: a bill featuring Lord Finesse, Diamond D, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Skillz, Supernatural and the Beat Junkies. Tickets are $20.