Viva Las Vegas, it’s a film, a song, and one of the longest running Rockabilly weekenders in the world. What’s Rockabilly? It’s a style of music that started in the 50’s (primarily in Memphis at a little studio called Sun), had a revival in the 80’s, and has been slapping a bass since then. It’s split up into a huge range of subgenres, some going more punk, others going more “classic” (in this case 1950’s style). Among the fans, there’s also usually an appreciation of classic cars, 50’s fashion, and Americana culture. Pompadours, facial hair, flatcaps, and tattoos are common.
Back to Viva… this year was the 22nd year that the event was held, and for as long as I’ve been going, it’s been held at the Orleans Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, off the strip. The Orleans is known as a locals casino. But over most Easter weekends (when Viva is held), they turn off the standard music, change it over to Rockabilly, and swarms of people with their classic cars and finest 50’s fashion fall upon the Orleans. The event is popular enough that rooms for the next year go on sale before the tickets for the event do, and the rooms sell out in under three hours.
The men have it easy, bowling shirts and work shirts are the standard, with a couple of zoot suits and the like being worn. If you have hair, it’s either a high and tight or held up into a pompadour. The women have a much harder time dolling themselves up, but they go through the work and it shows. However, there are some entire families who dress themselves up in matching garb for the day (I’m not too sure about how much say the kids have, but they’re there).
Over the course of the weekend, there’s burlesque shows, pinup contests, concerts, DJ’s, vendor rooms, dance lessons, make up lessons, fashion lessons, bowling, movie premiers, and other shows of interest to the attendees. And that’s not even mentioning the car show, it’s massive, with all cars (except the ones from movies/TV shows) being pre-1964. If you’re not careful, you could walk away purchasing one of the cars that are for sale.
Now that you know what’s going on there, you’ve decided you want to go. Great, what should you plan for? First, plan on walking a lot. I don’t think I’ve walked less than 5 miles any day out there. Realize that you’ll probably not be able to get a room at the Orleans; however, keep in mind that they have a shuttle to their sister property (the Gold Coast), and the strip. Tickets for the main event come in basically two choices: The High Roller, which gives you access to everything all weekend; or the Car Show, which gives you access to the car show only on Saturday (that will include the vendors in that area, and the bands playing there). If you don’t have appropriate garb, then the vendors will be more than happy to help you out there, but bring cash as some do not take credit/debit cards..
If you’re going for the first time, I’d recommend going to Sweet Pea’s Hooch and Smooch on Thursday afternoon. It’s the official meet and greet for the event, and then there’s more specific meetups for singles, LGBT, sober, black pin-ups, etc. I’d also recommend looking over the schedule ahead of time, and try to at least get a rough schedule of the events you want to see. Personally, I’d recommend at least one burlesque event, and the Charles Phoenix slide show. Most of the shows happen multiple times (but may be different for each of them), bands usually only play once, but then hang out around the weekender for the rest (I met one of the players from Los Straitjackets that way, it’s not like you can recognize them).