Chuck Ragan / TheCore. - live in Las Vegas (Cover Artwork)

Chuck Ragan / TheCore.

live in Las Vegas (2011)

live show

I've often complained, sometimes on this very website, about the tendency of touring bands to skip over Las Vegas. However, things aren't all bad here. We have 24-hour shopping and restaurants. There's the annual Punk Rock Bowling music festival. And the fact that Chuck Ragan seems to love us. The Hot Water Music co-frontman plays here often, and fresh off of a three-day residency at the House of Blues opening for Social Distortion and Lucero, Ragan played the first of three scheduled dates, this one free, at The Lounge inside the Palms casino.

Locals Brock and Sal of TheCore. opened the show. I unfortunately missed the first song or two because their set began while bouncers were still checking IDs, but I really liked what I heard. The duo played a catchy brand of Chuck Ragan-esque folk-punk that would feel right at home on Ragan's own Revival Tour, and quickly won over an eclectic crowd consisting of hardcore Ragan/Hot Water Music fans, Stone Temple Pilots fans that wandered over after the band's concert at the Palms' larger Pearl venue, and 20-somethings waiting for space at the casino's nightclub to open. The song that got the biggest reaction was an impressive cover of the Bouncing Souls' "True Believers", a staple of TheCore.'s live show, which saw Ragan himself joining the guys on-stage midway through.

After a short wait, Chuck Ragan and his bandmates took the small stage, a large and unexplained photo of a bunny briefly adorning the screen behind them. Ragan's gruff voice was in great form as he tore through a set including "Symmetry", "Geraldine", "It's What You Will", "Let It Rain", "The Boat" and "California Burritos", the later featuring guest vocals from TheCore.'s Sal and Brock.

Ragan's bandmates, Jon Gaunt on the fiddle and Joe Ginsberg on the upright bass, were equally impressive that night. Gaunt in particular turned out to be a crowd favorite, commanding much applause and cheers during an extended fiddle solo.

Pleas from the audience for Ragan's classic cover of Alkaline Trio's "Bleeder" went unanswered, but we were instead treated to a brand new song titled "Meet Me in the Middle", which Ragan said would be on his next album, currently being recorded in Los Angeles. The song is a bit poppier than his normal fare and went over extremely well with the audience, something that doesn't always happen with new songs. If the rest of the new album is as good as this new song then I predict it will be his best yet.

Ragan's set consisted of about 15 songs, enough to satisfy his fans, win over a few new ones, and leave everyone excited for his next set of dates in April. So while we might not get as many shows as other large cities, I'll remain more than content if we continue to receive shows of this high a quality.