Lon Bronson All-Star Band: The Best Free Show in Las Vegas
Several of Las Vegas’ top musicians — virtually all of whom play the expensive headliner shows at the biggest casinos — gather from time to time and put on an impromptu jamming session. Led by longtime bandleader and trumpeter Lon Bronson, his “All-Star Band” often has a dozen or more of the best session musicians in the city on a single stage.
Las Vegas is home to many of the best musicians and performers and in the world.
These artists play shows night after night on the Las Vegas Strip. Casino showrooms are loaded with great singers, guitarists, piano players, trumpet players, backup vocalists, string players, and drummers.
But let’s face it. Playing the same set of songs night after night gets old pretty quick. No matter how great the show is, these are supremely-talented performers with creative minds. Everyone needs to break the mold on occasion.
Incredibly, several of Las Vegas’ top musicians — virtually all of whom play the expensive headliner shows at the biggest casinos — gather from time to time and put on an impromptu jamming session. Led by longtime bandleader and trumpeter Lon Bronson, his “All-Star Band” often has a dozen or more of the best session musicians in the city on a single stage.
I mean, where else can you see a show with a ten-piece horn section in a showroom that holds a couple of hundred people?
The band sure isn’t doing this for the money.
That’s because — the show is free.
That’s right — FREE.
In a throwback to the good old days of yesteryear when Las Vegas casinos really understood the entertainment business, when they packed their lounges with some of the best acts in the world and then invited everyone to flood in and enjoy the party at no cost (aside from the added gambling revenue), Stations Casinos has decided to revive that old formula.
Starting this Friday night at 10:30 pm, the Ovation Room at the Green Valley Ranch Station Casino (near Henderson off the 215) will host the most talented and diverse lineup in the city. Why 10:30, which seems a bit late? That’s because most of these same musicians play their paying gigs on The Strip. But once those shows are over, it’s time to head over the Green Valley Ranch and jam.
What’s perhaps most exciting other than the musicianship is the utter unpredicatability of every show. In some cases, the artists have never played together before. They have never rehearsed. No one seems to care. They just roll with it and the audience roars.
You can check out the band’s website for future update about show locations and times:
I’ve seen Lon Bronson and his band about a dozen times over the past five years. You never know quite what to expect when they perform or who might show up at one of their shows. You never know what star might be sitting in the audience and be coaxed into jumping up on stage. They perform all kinds of music.
A few years ago, the band did a mind-boggling set that included the following (from memory):
A song by Tower of Power (with a few members of Tower of Power sitting in)
“White Punks on Dope” (The Tubes)
A Tina Turner Impersonator
Side Two of “Quadrophenia” (The Who)
A song by The Temptations
A song by Joe Cocker with dancers
“Imagine” (John Lennon) sung by extraordinary vocalist Lisa Mayer
That was just one set. The band typically plays three sets. Of course, the arrangements of these creative forces are always interesting. This is not a cover band. You will not hear top-40 hits or an oldies show To the contrary. If the Las Vegas entertainment scene had its own Grateful Dead movement, this would probably be it.
Naturally, given the reality that most of these musicians are pretty much performing for free on their own time, Lon Bronson All-Star Band shows don’t happen as often as many of us would like. But what’s magical is knowing that every single performer is up there on the stage — not because of a paycheck — but because that’s where they want to be.
I think this devotion comes though in their music. In their humor. In their energy. In their unpredictability.
Hope to see you this Friday night at Green Valley Ranch.
I’ll be there.