Rockabilly Style Comes to Las Vegas

There aren’t many things that would prompt my husband and me to drive 320 miles – through boring scenery and across the desert – with the final destination being a town built on gambling, excessive partying, and staying out late (none of which we are fond of). But, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend event, the largest rockabilly festival in the world, is well worth the trip.

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People from all over the world gather for this annual event. Some come to the Rockabilly Weekend for the cars, others come for the tattoos, many come to see and be seen, or for the vintage and kitschy merchandise, or maybe the tiki pool parties, pin-up, and burlesque, but almost all come for the music.

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The car show was great (Over 1,000, pre-1963 vehicles were on display), tattoos were both colorful and plentiful (and you could add even more ink at the event), the people-watching was stellar, you could buy just about anything from parasols to pomades, and rockabilly style ranged from sweet to sexy, but it was the music and dancing that enticed my husband and me to return to Las Vegas for this year’s event.

Although this was only our second year, Viva Las Vegas was celebrating its 20th anniversary, and they – and the attendees – really put on a show. Over 60 bands played on six stages over the 3-day weekend and when they weren’t playing, the DJs kept everyone entertained. Typically, the music started around 3:00 pm and ended well after midnight (or so the schedule said, we were long asleep by then).

 

We enjoy swing dancing and, for the most part, the music gave us a lot of opportunities to get out on the dance floor. When we weren’t dancing, we were watching others far more talented than us. Although some of the dancers were older, most were young(ish) and it was nice to see the classic dance styles being preserved. Jive, Jitterbug, Balboa, Lindy, Cha-Cha, West Coast Swing, and even some Texas Two-Step and Polka: whatever dance the music inspired.

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Besides the great music and dancing opportunities, we enjoyed watching the young men and women who love the rockabilly style and dressed to impress. Many of them wore classic 1940s clothes and had their hair styled to match (although the colors were often not those found in nature). Some dressed that way just for the weekend, but others had clearly committed themselves to that look.

Whether we go next year or not, we haven’t decided. We have decided, though, to sign up for Lindy classes. It was a dance style that looked like a lot of fun and we want to be ready when the music moves us to get up and out on the floor.

63 thoughts on “Rockabilly Style Comes to Las Vegas”

  1. That sounds as if everyone had a great time. I would have loved the vintage cars, we don’t have many car shows around here. Thanks for the great pictures, I really enjoyed seeing them.

  2. Looks like a lot of fun! I went to Vegas once (because everyone should see it one time) but it would take a lot to get me to go back there. Sounds like you found a good reason to return.

  3. Looks like great fun to me! Worth the ride – now, are you ‘going ’40s’ in your life? I think it’s fabulous that people are staying in tune with the ‘old’ dance steps. I remember when I was in my 20’s, even, I loved to dance the polka! ;-0

    1. Although I admired the style, my husband and I are pretty much set in the current era 🙂 No tattoos or rainbow-colored hair for us. I am also heartened that the older dance styles are being maintained. Some of the dancers (especially the younger ones with a lot of energy) were simply amazing.

      1. Yes, the tattoo craze is puzzling, isn’t it? Why mark up your skin for the rest of your life? Sigh. I remember how much my mom was upset just because I got my EARS pierced. 🙂

        1. Me too! I also remember asking my mom about getting a tattoo when I was in college. She just asked if I would still think it looked good when I was 60 or 70. I’m glad I didn’t get one, but I have a few friends at that age who have gotten tattoos and love them.

          1. I know. My mom, when she was 80, asked me to get a tattoo with her – she wanted us to have the same tattoo honoring our mother/daughter relationship. Amazing idea. But I didn’t think needles in her skin was a great idea at her age (nor at mine!!) ;-0

  4. Janis, very cool. Where is Eddie Cochrane when you need him? I love the woman’s skirt with an Incan or Aztec man and woman on it. Thanks for sharing. Keith

    1. We met a women who said that she had been dressing vintage since she was a young teen (she was probably in her thirties now). Others just dress the part for the rockabilly events (which take place around the world, evidently). I agree about the dance styles… so much fun!

  5. I’m impressed that you enjoy dancing so much, Janis. It’s a part of life I’ve never felt comfortable with but I have always envied the freedom that dancers seem to feel and express.

  6. Wonderful photos, Janis! I am totally envious of the fabulous sights, sounds and people watching this event inspired. I look forward to reading more about your Lindy classes!

    1. The people watching was amazing. And, unlike my chance encounter with Elvis, I didn’t have any problem asking for people to pose for pictures. They all seemed to be happy to comply… after all, they dressed up to be admired.

  7. These events that bring out the primo people-watching opportunities are so much fun! I hope you took advantage of all the great music to strut your stuff too 🙂

  8. Wow. That looks like a fun event, especially to people watch! It must have been pretty warm as well, based on the skimpy clothing. What I would do for some sun (and fun entertainment) these days… 🙂 I did not know what rockabilly was – i assume it is lifestyle (dress, music, cars…) from the 40s?

  9. If my husband had known about this car show, we would have left Arizona two weeks earlier than we did! (We drive right through Las Vegas on the way back to Alberta.)

    1. Oh, he would have loved it! Maybe next time – it’s worth the stop if you really love old cars (and you can buy just a one-day pass for just the car show on Saturday). I’m not sure when Viva Las Vegas will be next year, but it’s usually in mid-April.

  10. It sounds … and looks … like you two had a great time! Though I have not been to Vegas for some 15 years, I always liked best the people-watching. I can sit in a casino, sip a glass of wine, and just watch people, for hours on end! For me, gambling consists of a $10 roll of quarters, and when that’s gone, I’m done! Last of the big time spenders, I am! 🙂

    1. The casino didn’t make much money on us, that’s for sure. The people-watching is great, but I found that watching those who spent hours upon hours at the slot machines kind of sad. They may have been having a great time, but it was hard to imagine that could be fun.

      1. I agree with you! Not my idea of fun, either. But you know what is always amazing … watching the little old ladies, 90 years old, spending their whole day playing the slots! 🙂

  11. Loved seeing this side of you! And it’s so interesting that you described a trip to Vegas that didn’t include gambling, partying, and drinking because my wife and I were just talking about planning a trip this fall, but only if we could find an event/convention that would make it worthwhile. This would have been perfect! I know very little about “Rockabilly” but I’ve seen a few episodes of Mad Men and we both like vintage cars, so who knows, if we don’t find a good fit this fall, maybe we’ll bump into you both if you decide to attend for a third year.

        1. I have just come across your site and love it! I am also ‘in transition’ – retiring from a 34 yr nursing career in a month. I am posting my pre & post retirement journey on my Instagram- myretirementjourney, if you are interested I would love if you could check it out as I think we have lots of similar thoughts at this time in our lives. 💕Cathy Reid

          1. Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting! I hope you return often and add to the conversation. I will check out your Instagram site (I must admit that I just post pictures there, I had no idea that it could be used as a journal).

          2. Hi Cathy! I’m delighted to meet you. Great idea to use Instagram for your retirement journey. Love the diary, both form and content. I don’t spend much time on Instagram but it looks very right for you, as an artist.

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