July 14, 2015 Cover
Numerous lounge bands have taken numerous stages in Laughlin casinos over the years. Most are quite good, a few moderately good, and only occasionally, a band misses the mark. During a specific time on the Laughlin calendar, like during a rodeo or blues festival, the bands target a specific audience, but most of the time, lounge bands play a variety of musical genres to meet the variety of tastes of mixed casino crowds.
Well, there is a stand out band with a specific musical repertoire that plays various Laughlin casinos throughout the year currently booked at the Aquarius. That band is Sixties Sensation playing the Splash Cabaret in the Aquarius on Thursdays-Sundays in July (8 p.m.-1 a.m.).
As their name implies, this band focuses on the music of the ’60s, from the psycho-pop layered songs of Tommy James and the Shondells to the clean instrumentals of The Ventures. If you want more than just a dose of vague nostalgia but are after something that eerily transports you back to a high school gym dance circa 1967, then this is your band and this is your party…and you can cry if you want to.
The Sixties Sensation not only plays the music that stretches from the surf of the Beach Boys to the grime of Liverpool and the mean streets of Motown, they play that music as true to the original recordings of each as is humanly possible.
The leader and founder of the band is appropriately named, Hal Singer, a professed fan of the British Invasion, who when asked his favorite artist will respond, “Well, there’s the Beatles and then there is everyone else.”
Singer is an L.A. transplant who made his way to Vegas in 2002. A devotee of ’60s music, he landed gigs with various doo wop and early rock cover bands when he first hit Nevada. Nothing seemed to stick so he decided to form his own group. He hooked up with like-minded “’60s-files” and not only found friends and kindred spirits, but lots of work.
In addition to Sixties Sensation, Singer has put together two other versions of cover bands for specific audiences: Rockin’ Mockers (for the rock crowd) and Guitars and Cadillacs (for the country crowd). The groups are composed of Singer and usually the same band members.
Currently, Sixties Sensation includes Singer, guitarist/keyboardist Johnny Rocker (who has been with Singer for years and also played with Buddy Miles and John Lee Hooker), Daniel Sage (bass), and Chris Cardenas (drums). Each of them is highly talented vocalist which is pivotal for the group to recreate the harmonies and sounds of the diverse groups they cover.
We caught up with Singer via a phone interview last week. Here’s his take on…
Why the ’60s?
Singer: That’s my stuff, my baby. It’s where I live because I love it and I’m still passionate about it. I was pushing the ’60s stuff at a young age. I was listening to the Beatles when I first started playing music at about age eight. I was forming bands and writing songs even at that age.
The Beatles were the main thing for me…and I liked Herman’s Hermits. I only bought Beatles albums, but I had all kinds of ’60s singles, mainly from ’64-’66. Those were my favorite years. The period was fun and the music was fun.
There is a little community of us (in Vegas) who are good at ’60s music and Beatles bands and that’s been sort of the work force.
Singer: The drummer I have now, Chris Cardenas, and I played on a cable TV show with Denny Laine who was Paul McCartney’s first Wings member. He was also a member of the Moody Blues. Telling people that hopefully makes us sound better than we are. We also played on Spencer Davis’ song “Gimme Some Lovin’” and I also got to meet Peter Noone (lead singer of Herman’s Hermits; most people think his name is “Herman”). I use that as a valuable tool that lends credibility to what we’re doing It’s padding, but it’s true.
Singer: The problem with almost any band is putting together and keeping members. With this small four-piece group, one of the main criteria was “you gotta sing.” That’s a big deal. They had to sing and be good with harmonies. To be an ongoing working band, that’s pretty much the options available.
Sometimes you get members that don’t consider the music their first love. They’re mercenaries. I didn’t want this do be transitional people. I wanted people who love this stuff and stick with it. I’ve gone through all kinds of members and all kinds of shapes and I have to say, right now, the guys in the band are easily the most amicable group of them all.
Johnny is my best friend, so sometimes we do the whole Sonny and Cher thing on stage. He’s good and gives us a lot of chances to branch out.
I’ve known Daniel Sage for years. I was looking for a ‘Paul McCartney‘-type guy and with him I’d finally found it. He also does a great John Lennon.
Chris Cardenas has been in a lot of groups like ours over the years and rounds us out so we now have the strongest incarnation of the band since I formed it back in 2009. No other band takes pride in the vocal harmonies and song construction like we do.
Getting it right…
Singer: Our image is geared toward our different members and what they bring to the band. We’re trying to be as close to the original recording as possible. It’s really important and that’s what we’re going for with most of the stuff we play.
When some of these songs have been recorded three and four times, audiences are familiar with the different versions so sometimes we do an amalgamation of all of them.
That Beatles thing…
Singer: You’d be hard pressed to find another ’60s band that does the Beatles stuff as well as we do.
Nothing pisses me off more that when bands do Beatles and do it badly. They need to go pick on somebody else. The Beatles have a reverent space in my heart.
The Beatles liked country music and (coming from England) they didn’t have the stigma that only people who lived in the sticks liked country music. They incorporated a lot of forms of American music into their sound—sounds a lot of Americans didn’t know originated here.
Singer: We cover a lot of genres nobody else covers—songs like “Misirlou” from “Pulp Fiction” and The Ventures’ “Wipe Out” and “Apache”. We do some of the deeper stuff. We do Motown and things like “Runaround Sue” and “Twisting the Night Away.” We tend to color outside the lines.
I dare you to find another band, unless it’s “The Fab Four” (a top rate Beatles tribute band) that does all that we do, and do it as well as we do. And we don’t use tracks. I’d rather shoot myself. With tracks you have to rehearse more and if you screw up it’s a total trainwreck. There’s so much more freedom if I’m doing things live. If a song is dying, I can go onto something else. You can’t do that with tracks.
Thursdays through Sundays in July; 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Free.
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