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Wednesday, March 1, 2006 08:18 am

Viva Last Vegas

The Chicago-based band rocks Viele’s Planet on Friday

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Last Vegas
“We’re a modern take on a classic-rock band,” says Adam Arling, guitarist and founding member of the Last Vegas, a young Chicago-based group raised on a diet of Cheap Trick, early Aerosmith, and the Stooges. “There’s not much like this in Chicago, but it’s always good to stick out, I guess.”
What’s the significance of the band’s name? “Before our first show, we figured we ought to have a name,” Arling explains. “A friend said, ‘Last Vegas—it sounds like something you’d hear on MTV,’ so we used it.” After a getting a good start in Normal, Ill., the group made the big move to Chicago in 2001. They recorded a CD, toured incessantly, and were seemingly on their way to rock & roll stardom — but soon the bass player, who also happened to be the lead vocalist, quit the band. Arling recalls, “Me and the other guitarist split the vocals, and we toured for about five or six months like that, and it worked all right.”
After the next studio recording was complete, though, the guys realized that something was missing. “The music sounded awesome, but we set a high bar for ourselves,” Arling explains, “so we put the recording on ice for a month and auditioned singers.” The rest is the stuff of a rock & roll fairy tale: The band met a lead singer, named Chad Cherry, who just happened to be looking for a group he could mesh with. “After hearing his voice, we knew he was perfect,” says Arling. “The lead singer is an important visual position, and it’s how people get that human connection — by hearing the voice.”
Cherry cut vocal tracks for the already recorded CD, and Seal the Deal was sent to Get Hip Records in the fall of 2005. The official CD-release party is being held March 10 in Chicago, at the prestigious Double Door, but the band will have copies by this weekend. Then the Last Vegas is off on a six- to seven-month tour of the United States and parts of Europe. Arling is hopeful that the band’s good fortune will continue. “We’ve really jelled as a band lately. Rock & roll is not a scientific thing. You need that element of luck,” he says. “You hop on that wave and get it going.”
The Last Vegas rocks Viele’s Planet (126 E. Jefferson St., 217-544-0598) 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, March 3. The Wires, featuring former Last Vegas keyboardist Rory Davis, open.

On Friday, March 3, percussionist Craig Russo inaugurates his Latin Jazz Project in the venerable confines of Norb Andy’s Tabarin (518 Capitol Ave., 217-523-7777), 9 p.m.-midnight. Russo has studied Latin rhythms in Cuba and other locales, and he applies the mesmerizing beats to jazz tunes with a flair that’s rarely heard in this area. Russo taps respected but not widely known musicians to bring forth his interpretation of “Latin jazz”; this week, the group features Carlos Vega, of southern Florida, on flute and saxophone, and locals Chris Nolte on bass and Sean Parsons on piano. This weekend, once again, the Hilton Springfield (700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530) abounds in excellent live music, with Americana bands in the Underground City Tavern and jazz (of course) at Jazz Central Station. Arthur Dodge, an alumnus of the vibrant Lawrence, Kansas, music scene, rolls into the UCT on Friday, and our old southern-Illinois friends the Woodbox Gang, still tottering on the verge of genius, as I noted some time ago, plays on Saturday. Thirty floors up, St. Louis’ Erin Bode fills the Friday-night slot with the original compositions and jazz standards that have brought her comparisons to Eva Cassidy and Norah Jones. The wacky-in-a-good-way Jazz Orgy, from Wisconsin, sounds off on Saturday. Local legends the Oohs are preparing to release a new all-original CD, Llamalamp, in a few weeks on their own Oohszone Layer label. For a sample of the new songs, visit www.myspace.com/theoohs, then head to the group’s official Web site, www.theoohs.com, to order the CD and receive an exclusive limited-edition bonus CD-R in the bargain. In other band news, Scott Mundstock, last seen as a member of Postwar Fords, replaces original Ooh Jim Engel, who parted amicably with the group to pursue other interests. See the Oohs live at the Forty-Niner Bye-Bye (518 Bruns Lane, 217-787-4937), 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday, March 4.
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