Las Vegas Metal: Interview w/ John Gist of Vegas Rock Revolution
Hey, everyone! Stephanie here. Recently I got the chance to sit down with John Gist of Vegas Rock Revolution for a chance to speak with him about his upcoming festival, Planet Desert Rock, as well as the work he is doing with the local heavy music scene. Vegas Rock Revolution was founded June 2017 and since then has put on a number of unique shows in the Vegas area.
Stephanie: So, how long have you been wanting to put together this idea of Vegas Rock Revolution? How did all this come about?
John: Well I’ve always been a heavy fan of music, maybe more of an avid fan. I’ve always been the guy that after I discover it, I just dig in. I get really involved in finding new music and so I just kind of faded into it when… basically, after I got divorced like three years ago. I tried to get out there and do something real again and I think that forced me to look inward. I’ve lived here about nine years now and for about a year or two I was going to shows regularly, like two to three a week. When you go to the right shows, meet the right people, you go the right amount of nights you study it and I just said, “You know what? No one’s promoting.”. I would go to shows – I don’t care if it’s the middle of the week – if you don’t promote it, it is only gonna be fifteen or twenty people. And it was that way with national acts of different kinds of music and not the clique kind of style of music we have here in town. I just feel like sometimes things need to be simplified. I mean, right now we’re losing venues in town.
S: Beauty Bar closed not too long ago and that was a big loss. Adrenaline was within the last year or two. So how do you think that’s been affecting bringing all these new acts and bands into town, then?
J: It’s too much competition and there’s so few spots I tell people I’m so fortunate to just be able to do some shows at Vamp’d. I consider that the best – in my experience there’s nothing even close to it. And that’s nothing against the others.
S: They do seem to cater maybe not exclusively but mostly towards rock and that’s more of their market and their focal point.
S: Hidden Scars, yeah. They’ve played there a couple times now.
J: And they’re heavy and industrial. It’s basically screaming most of the time. So that’s maybe not typical of Vamp’d but I think they’re really smart about that stuff. Other places that’s all they do and there’s a couple places in town that pride themselves on no metal. But that’s their prerogative.
S: So do you think there’s space for a new venue to come in and pick up some slack from where these other ones have closed?
J: Maybe. I think there’s venues here that I could see stepping up for more shows. They could take advantage of that opportunity which is smart.
S: You’ve brought in a lot of a very different sound from what most promoter’s are bringing in and different styles. I’ve heard it referred to most is stoner, psychedelic, doom. How would you describe the kind of scene you’re trying to cultivate with that?
J: I do get the labelled with the stoner rock thing and I get it. And I always have the same conversation with people – what is stoner rock? When they can’t really describe it then I’m like, you’re just putting a label and it could be disparaging or maybe dismissive and I think that’s sometimes people’s goal. Or sometimes it’s just the default, which is ignorant. But when I talk to other stoner rock fans I say stoner rock is just rock and roll. Because we’re missing just the basics of a rock and roll song that has many times lyrics that you can understand, things you can potentially relate to and there’s stories involved with songs. I think there’s an aspect of that that is always going to have an appreciation. In every Uber test I do, I take over the music and they don’t know what hit them in the first three minutes and they just don’t realize that there’s music like this and that’s why I believe that given the same resources that the mainstream radio has with their pull, the budgets, and all that then it could become more the norm than what hip hop has become. Or even rap, because that’s what has changed places.
S: Basically, you’re trying to fill some of this smaller niche markets that aren’t quite designed to get on the radio.
J: So that’s funny you say that. Right now this niche market has three commercials on TV.
J: Yeah. They’re all relatives to the exact genre that I’m talking about in heavy rock. And that is Rival Sons, who also was #1 on the active charts – that’s good ole seventies based influence and blues rock and roll. Our lovely friends Greta Van Fleet – their commercial’s been on for months. I mean, these guys are blowing up! Younger people are getting into it because it’s younger people doing it. The music sounds like Led Zeppelin, but the funny thing is they probably never really bothered to listen to Led Zeppelin because their parents listened to it. A lot of people don’t want to listen to what their parents do. I didn’t want to. A whole new genre of music is being discovered as we speak again.
S: It’s just the whole cycle repeating itself then, is what you’re saying.
J: Yeah! And I’ve dug down enough to believe in it and hear the real music. I mean, Rival Sons I’ve been listening to for seven or eight years. The other artist who has a commercial out right now is Wolfmother. Out of nowhere you can hear Andrew (Stockdale) singing every day on a commercial. So a stripped down, more basic rock style is becoming more relevant. Even Five Finger Death Punch’s new big one is Blue on Black which is a Kenny Wayne Shepherd blues rock song.
S: I believe they also covered House of the Rising Sun.
J: Yup, which is a classic rock style which definitely has psychedelic elements. Also, we’re getting high a lot more and this kind of music has been symbolic and hand in hand with that forever. If you go to the psychedelic era you’ve got styles like Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that. But the band I’ve got coming in, Radio Moscow, is like a mix of Hendrix meets Blue Cheer meets Led Zeppelin meets Stevie Ray Vaughn and these guys have played all over the world. Even when they come to Vegas, we’ll have a hundred some people minimum show up on a Sunday night. So there’s really good music out there. Now imagine the local crowd, and something like that ilk of music put something in their face like that and they’ll go, “Holy shit. Good rock and roll is being made right now.”.
S: Then you’ve had a good response in bringing in this sort of alternative scene that’s not quite so common here?
J: I just call it heavy rock and no, it’s ups and downs. It’s been torturous. It’s been emotionally and financially straining at times. If you’re gonna do something like this where your heart’s really behind it and then you don’t get enough support or people aren’t supporting you for weird reasons. I’ve been defamed a number of times and I just have to take it and I have to deal with that forever unless somehow we get to meet and I get to talk about the problem. So it’s hard, and right after May I take a break and just recollect. But the success of this year has been very good. We put on a number of outstanding shows from a business and fan standpoint this March at Vamp’d.
S: So speaking of your break at the end of May is a big event coming up soon. Planet Desert Rock.
J: Yeah, second volume. I did one is late November/December of last year. The first one ever. It really came out awesome so I hurried and did this. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done.
It’s four days straight and starts out at Vamp’d with Radio Moscow who is a psychedelic blues-based band. And Ape Machine who is just really good blues heavy rock. Shotgun Sawyer just released an album to big acclaim. But I think maybe the most intriguing is the local act – and that’s Jason Walker and the Majestic 12. I’ve been paying attention to Jason for a couple years now and I’m just really impressed. He’s brought in this great group of talent that he works with and he does a very creative set of cover tunes. He plays not your typical cover songs, but like the second or third best songs from that album.
S: So more of the deeper tracks then?
J: Yeah. Deeper, but still relevant. And he puts a lot heart and thought into the process. Creativity is what matters the most. I’m really looking forward to this festival. I’ve got 24 bands coming in, eight from Europe. Only one of which has been here before.
S: Which one is that?
S: Then you’re bringing in some acts that people might not get to see again anywhere in the country for at least a few years.
J: Or ever.
S: Well, hopefully not ever. Fingers crossed for not ever.
J: Well they’re taking a big chance. Even John Garcia who plays a lot of Kyuss stuff which has a big cult following. And basically half of Kyuss turned into Queens of the Stone Age, but not the singer. And the singer, John Garcia, went on to be in three different bands that were all awesome and had different levels of success. But it’s a really good mix of stuff. I’m all about up and coming hardworking, good bands. I like working with good people.
S: So this will really be four days of solid, good music that may be slightly under the radar.
J: Except for Red Fang who has over 230,000 followers on Facebook alone. That’s on Saturday night and that’s going to be huge. Kyng is going to be there as well as Black Water Rising and both of those bands were Jose Mangin bands. He really helped champion them over SiriusXM radio. The four bands before that definitely have some diverse cool qualities to them. Blues based band, Red Stone Souls is a good ol’ Zeppelin sound with maybe a little more balls to it. Droids Attack has a definite punk groove and is the heaviest band of the whole four days. Rifflord is coming down from South Dakota and Sundrifter will be here that night too.
Sunday is when I have six European bands, and it’s a day-timer. We have a car club outside at Vamp’d. Five different countries there. It’s starts at 2 o’ clock and it’s going to be Sunday Funday in May, so the weather is going to be beautiful.
Planet Desert Rock will be perhaps one of the best showcases for the majority of what Vegas Rock Revolution is all about and what it is bringing to the Vegas music scene. May 16-19 at both Count’s Vamp’d and Bunkhouse Saloon. I personally will be attending so keep an eye out for a follow up review on a lot of these bands coming to town this week! If you’re looking to attend, tickets are available at http://www.vegasrockrevolution.com.
Special thanks to John Gist for taking the time to speak with me. To keep up with him and Vegas Rock Revolution, follow @vegasrockrevolution on Instagram or Facebook.