Veteran lounge act The Lon Bronson All-Stars team with Steve “Doc” Kupka of Tower of Power
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IF, BY SOME ACT OF GOD, Las Vegas were swept up in a blockbuster-inspired natural phenomenon, and in the Treme-style aftermath, while people were mourning their losses and contacting next of kin and dramatically shoveling their cars out of piles of debris and helicopters were taking aerial shots of jammed southbound and police-blockaded northbound freeways, The Lon Bronson All-Stars would still be playing Tower of Power covers. They’re one of the last of their kind: The Vegas Lounge Band, proper noun. And now, backed by their horn-funk idol, Steve “Doc” Kupka of Tower of Power, they present their second recording in 23 years.
“Their” is used loosely here. Doc Goes Vegas, being released on Kupka’s Strokeland record label, isn’t a Lon Bronson All-Stars recording like the previous Golden Nugget-based Live! album. This is a collection of songs, some Kupka’s, some Kupka and Bronson’s, some old Tower of Power tracks. All are played by a 23-member mix of All-Stars and Tower of Power players, recorded in one day last year at Ovation in Green Valley Ranch.
“They’re like a kindred spirit to Tower of Power,” Kupka says. “Me and Lon clicked as friends immediately, and it’s been really fun doing this.”
Listening to any one live show is to accept slip-ups and stupid banter. Lon Bronson’s band doesn’t do that. With his coiffure short and parted, a pencil-thin goatee and blue-tinted glasses like a man who doesn’t see a lot of 7 a.ms, you might miss Bronson on his own stage, if he isn’t beating the hell out of a trumpet solo. He isn’t his singer, Tony Davich, with the Fawcett hair, the Depp goatee and the Rourke face like a living Joe Camel. He isn’t focused on being a showman so much as being a crankshaft in a room full of pistons. His subtle fist-pumps and shouts mean they don’t awkwardly pause. They don’t drop beats. In fact, Bronson’s faith in his band is why Doc Goes Vegas was recorded in one day — exception: “End of the Day,” recorded in-studio — as well. And why it worked.
“Up until the Golden Nugget recording, it seemed like taking a band like mine and putting it in the studio was cutting the heart out of what we do,” he says. “But technology caught up to us and it’s much easier now than it was [then] to do a remote digital recording. … we’ve made many bootleg cassette tapes from all the way back to the Riviera Lounge, but no official, legitimate recording was attempted until the Golden Nugget.”
In other cases, and other bands, an album means more. It means touring. It means radio-play. It might mean new haircuts. None of that will happen here. To Bronson, it’s just a vehicle for a little national recognition, a permanent aural flier for the uninitiated and the tourists who aren’t Marquee-bound. “I’d find comical the notion that we would imagine ourselves an upcoming, worldwide touring band. The average age of my band is probably 50. We’re way too long in the tooth for that.”
And the best part? The vindicated, long-lived but not weary response to more than two decades of performing without so much as a tri-state tour? Bronson doesn’t care. “This is just a cherry on top, the gravy,” he says. “We get to work with Tower and do a project like this with them, and be able to point to this as part of our legacy. But as far as what this means down the road, we realize that when push comes to shove, we are just a Vegas lounge band, one of the last of the dinosaurs. My whole objective from the beginning was to have a really first-class local Vegas Tower of Power kind of band. And we’ve succeeded.”
Lon Bronson All-Stars Thursday, Nov. 29, 8 p.m.; Chrome Showroom at Santa Fe Station, 4949 N. Rancho Drive, 658-4900, free.