The Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender Hangover is Real

Not every hangover is alcohol induced.

Have you ever been to an event that left you feeling exhausted, foggy brained, and satisfied but painfully longing for more? That, my friends, is also a hangover, and this time Viva Las Vegas was the cause.

The 21stannual Viva Las Vegas music festival brought over 20,000 rockabilly fans to The Orleans Hotel and Casino beginning on April 25th for four days of music, dancing, burlesque shows, and hot rods and customs. It’s the largest and most respected Rockabilly festival in the world, featuring over 75 world-renowned bands and legends that keep your feet moving no matter how sore they may be. Cool cats and kittens dressed to the nines come from as far as Japan, Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand. No matter your roots, when you arrive at Viva, you are part of a family.

The weekender hosts North America’s largest pre-63 car show which featured over 800 stunning hot rods and customs this year. It isn’t your average car show.  All vehicles are styled based on the era, which means lots of chrome, scallops and metallic flake with bare metal and patina in-between. Clubs gathered on the show grounds, swanky ladies showed off their modeling skills next to the rolling art, and old friendships were rekindled and new ones discovered.

The neverending rows of old school hot rods and customs will make anyone question even their most comfortable shoes. It’s a sight to behold, and its easy to get lost in all of the eye candy at every turn .

The cars at Viva display some of the most intricate, perfectly swooping pinstriping ever seen. Pausing to admire the artwork is recommended, otherwise you may miss hidden details.

An occasional blinding from the sun reflecting off metallic flake is to be expected. Extravegent custom roof paint varied from subtle lace panels with soft edges to bright, vivid shapes.

These high-rollers have attended the festival for a decade, posing for photos and chatting about their ’53 GMC pickup, “Blue Moon”. Owner George Tantardini, pompadour extraordinaire and husband to pin up model Dixie Rebelle, did all the work, including the chop and paint.

During the car show’s entirety, rockabilly tunes echoed from the massive stage on the outskirts of the lot. Hearing an 82 year-old Jerry  Lee Lewis sing “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” was like being serenaded by a rock’n’roll grandpa.

That amazing man just keeps on rockin’, and so do his dedicated fans. A couple, also in their eighties, danced harder than anyone in the younger audience. After skillfully jumping and jiving and twisting and twirling as long as their legs could take it, their increasing audience applauded.

It was one of those defining moments that gives you the chills. Shortly after Jerry’s set, a clowder of tomcats and queens gathered around the stage and overflowed beyond the bleachers to hoot ’n’ holler for the Stray Cats, who returned from a nine-year hiatus to reclaim their throne as the Kings of Rockabilly.

The Rockabilly scene has a rich history and is a lifestyle for some, usually with a modern flare. For others it’s another fantastic music genre. It’s also a reason to build a custom car and jive to the rhythmic beats that erupt from the stand-up base, drums and guitar, and sometimes piano and brass.

Regardless, the people of Viva Las Vegas are fueled by their love for music and hot rods, and by the ethics and mentality of a simpler era. It’s the best way to experience 1950s rock’n’roll music and lifestyle in the world today. The second-best way is to listen to some Stray Cats and jive on through the gallery.

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