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LAS VEGAS

A buffet of club choices

If you want to see live music, take your pick among rollicking local joints and lavish venues with every imaginable amenity.

July 08, 2007|Kevin Capp | Special to The Times

LAS VEGAS' concert venues offer nothing if not variety, whether you're looking to catch Morrissey's oily pompadour gleaming in the spotlight with 2,000 of your closest friends or a grimy local act shrouded in cigarette smoke with only 100 others.

This variety extends to the essential ingredients of any live music hub, including sound quality, sight lines and the type of crowd milling or, as is sometimes the case, thrashing about in front of the stage. Ticket prices vary too, as do seating arrangements (when they exist) and age limit, which, in the 24-hour whirligig of unencumbered boozing that is Sin City, is usually 21 and over. Sorry, kids.

A sampling of the city's music venues would have to include the Bunkhouse Saloon, which can get wild when a punk or heavy metal act is on the bill. But because the headbangers and Mohawkers can get rowdy, bar manager Keith Fox says he's trying to keep such shows to a minimum, if only to avoid the FEMA-like cleanup effort afterward.

"There's a lot of collateral damage for those kinds of shows," he says.

And even though it's only 3,500 square feet, which places it at the small end of the spectrum, there's plenty to break at the Bunkhouse. Hence the focus on genres that attract a more peaceable lot, like indie rock. The club is adorned with enough cowboy accouterment to fill a Wild West Museum (sepia-toned photos of Clint Eastwood in a 10-gallon hat, branding irons and spurs line the walls). The 50-year-old downtown venue offers the kind of one-on-one interaction between the acts and the audience usually reserved for psychiatrists and their patients.

Las Vegas-based rockers Soul'd Out took advantage of the slightly cramped quarters, hopping off the stage to join the crowd at choice moments during their all-American fusion of lyrical sensitivity and crackling guitar solos during a recent show. It's the kind of cozy congeniality that Fox, who always maintains more slots for local bands than out-of-towners, encourages. And with an entrance fee as low as $5, people are usually happy when they step inside anyway.

If there's a middle ground in the land of Vegas concert venues, the Canyon Club occupies it, both in terms of size and ticket price. Open for about a month, the 7,500-square-foot venue in the Four Queens hotel-casino is still very much a work in progress, with the full sound system just having been installed, says owner Lance Sterling, who also owns the Agoura Hills version.

Despite that it's still shaking out the mats and linking up the wires, the Canyon Club has the look and feel of a timeworn tour stop saturated in legend. Admittedly, a lot of this is because of the rock-god memorabilia lining the walls and encased in 14 wood-and-glass table tops dotting the venue. And a lot of it has to do with the Asian decor (featuring statues, rugs and more) from Indonesia and India, which exudes an aura of of ancient and mystical cultures. But there's something else here, something ... ah, you'll just have to experience it for yourself.

There are two bars on either side of the stage, plus a VIP area equipped with booths and an Alice in Wonderland-sized chair, plus a bed in the back for customers with creaky knees, or those who maybe had too much to drink. Besides booking acts such as Los Lobos and Craig Shoemaker (tickets usually hover between $20 and $40), the Canyon Club has live-music events with reappearing cover bands performing '80s, classic rock and more Wednesdays through Saturdays.

The likelihood you'll catch a cover band at the Pearl, the 2,500-person-capacity venue inside the Palms, is almost zero. (Fergie and Snow Patrol are on the July schedule). But so is the likelihood you'll pay less than $30 to get in; ticket prices here can shoot north of $400. As they say, you get what you pay for.

And what you pay for is real estate in a three-level, $80-million facility that's as sleek and comfortable as it is spacious. Palms owner George Maloof says it's the last piece in the puzzle for his hotel-casino's entertainment venues (which added two nightspots, including Moon Nightclub and the Playboy Club, in its new Fantasy Tower).

The Pearl's salient features include bars on every floor; two 14-by-16-foot video screens flanking the stage; 18 skyboxes with amenities ranging from private bars to personal lounges, depending on which one you reserve; and a seating arrangement designed to allow even the farthest seat in the theater, at 120 feet, to be within shouting distance of the stage. All of which, in terms of luxury and comfort, puts the Pearl above House of Blues and the Joint, the city's old standbys for major concerts.

Of course, if you're not into that sort of thing, you can always go somewhere else.

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Live music hangouts

Bunkhouse Saloon, 124 S. 11th St.; (702) 384-4536, www.bunkhouselv.com. The wild, wild West in a 50-year-old downtown location.

Canyon Club, 202 Fremont St.; (888) 645-5006, www.canyonclub.net. Rock memorabilia, Asian decor and a wide selection of groups.

The Pearl (at the Palms), 4321 W. Flamingo Road; (702) 474-4000, www.palmspearl.com. Glitz and comfort blend nicely at Palms location.

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