Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend is one of the country’s premier kustom kulture annuals that pays homage to both the music and cars from a bygone era. From April 17th to the 20th, Easter Weekend, the folks who work tirelessly to coordinate this vintage summit turned the Orleans Hotel and Casino into a blast from the past for the 17th time since the event’s inception in 1998.
Originally Viva Las Vegas was hosted at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino which is only one mile north of the Orleans. As with any event that dedicates its resources year after year to becoming a full fledged annual Viva Las Vegas grew, and since 2006, hot rodders, kustom kulture enthusiasts, and fans of rockabilly have been flocking to the Orleans to share experiences, let loose, and take a break from the mundaneness that can oftentimes bog down the most cheery hearted.
For four days during the height of spring and the cusp of summer automotive and music lovers alike can look forward to the month of April and know that brief salvation and much needed rejuvenation await them in Sin City.
Rod Authority knows that events like this form the very foundation of hot rod and kustom kulture in the modern age. The individuals who keep the music and the cars at the forefront and even those who are advocates for more modern cultural breakthroughs like the widespread acceptance of tattoo culture keep not only the love for cars alive and well, but the spirit of a golden era uniquely transformed by modern times as well.
Beautiful modern day pinups, similar to practitioners of geisha lifestyle through their preservation of bygone fashion and art forms such as burlesque theatre, are living chronicles of counter culture during a time of social conservatism and knee-length modesty.
Hot rodders and kustomizers represented the fringe of 50s and 60s America as well. They lived life on the edge and expressed their boredom with social norm through their love of the automobile–who’d have thought that even today with electric and commuter cars pushing to shift the automotive market that their legacy stands strong amongst the car clubs and shade tree builders who do everything in their power to pass on knowledge and skill to the next generation.
The spirit of rock and roll was born out of mid-twentieth century America sometimes at the cost of an artist becoming demonized for emotionally driven vocals and sultry tones that navigated the airwaves for the first time. Music is primal and if anything should give you the feeling of wanting to jump out of your skin and run free. Rock and roll, rockabilly, and the blues did everything to remind people of that element of music–despite the nods of disapproval from moralists and those opposed to this new movement of emotionally charged up-tempo art.
If there’s a reoccurring theme here it’s that kustom kulture, as we’d like to refer to a collective group of vintage cultures translated in modern times, glorifies America’s rebellious and wild. Not to defect away from order but to remind those that would otherwise stand against these finks and eccentric individuals, more beautiful history has shaped America’s past and solidified an era in gold thanks to their willingness to stare the majority dead-on and continue on their way unfazed or unfettered.
Dropping in on Viva Las Vegas and other kustom kulture events like it is Rod Authority’s way of gauging the temperature of this sub-culture. We’re happy to say that this ecosystem of speed demons, rebel rockers, tattooed freaks, and drop dead gorgeous women who serve as its maidens and protectors are constantly pushing it to bigger and better horizons each year.
Without further ado check out our coverage from Friday and Saturday including a closeup of artist, Max Grundy’s, Pontiac Safari which took home “Best In Show” as well as a recap of the Viva Las Vegas Pinup Contest.
Friday April 18th–Touchdown At The Orleans
Rod Authority arrived in Vegas on Thursday night around 9:30 p.m.. The event had already kicked off and we were eager to grab our credentials, but more importantly, grab a few whiskey and sodas to shake off that drive from our home base in Murrieta, California. It was a warm desert night and it felt great to walk through the Orleans’ main entrance to be hit with the smells and sounds that only Vegas Casinos can produce. After grabbing the proper passes and event itinerary it was off to the bar for some good old unwinding and socializing.
Cue Friday morning, no hangover–we knew that it was going to definitely be a good and productive day. For those who don’t know, Viva Las Vegas is held within the Orleans Arena, an area behind the main hotel boasting a huge lot, huge enough for two stages, a large vendor’s row, several sites for food vendors, and enough space to house hundreds of cars hailing everywhere from the contiguous to Canada.
As with any large scale event Rod Authority did some initial reconnaissance of the layout to formulate a game plan. Alongside our event coverage we were also pulling Rod Authority’s Top 5 from Viva as well. Be sure to check it out to see the lineup of kustoms and hot rods that caught our eye over the weekend. A lot of the first day was spent cataloging the rows of gorgeous cars that were filling up the Orleans Arena and identifying candidates for our Top 5. With the vendor’s row and music stages still being setup for the following day the rest of Friday was spent chatting with car clubs and individuals who’d already set up camp while getting to enjoy the lot to ourselves before the chaos of Saturday ensued.
Saturday April 19th–The Main Event
Day two for Rod Authority and day three of the event was nothing but fun and excitement. Upon arriving at the arena it was a stark contrast from the day before. Cars filled practically every slot, the second and main stage were rigged up and adorned with large Viva Las Vegas banners, and visitors walked up and down the rows of cars chatting, snapping pictures, and flocking to vendors for some midday shopping.
We went straight back to work taking shots of new cars that had pulled in during the early morning and we also spent the day shooting the rest of our Top 5 picks. We also got a chance to catch up with our friends from the Long Beach Cavaliers. Jason and Aladdin were among the group and we finally got a chance to shoot Aladdin’s ’29 Chevy which will be making a Rod Authority debut in a few weeks, be sure to stay tuned for that as it is one unique and beautiful roadster which he drove hard and fast all the way up from Long Beach, California!
With the Las Vegas sun beating down on our heads it was time for a little break. What’s a break in Vegas without an ice cold beer? Back inside the hotel you’d be surprised to find that it was just as packed as the outside. Slot machines, tables, and bars were filled shoulder to shoulder with patrons and gamblers. We were craving oysters on the half shell and got our fix at one of the Orleans’ in-house restaurants. Definitely a good way to recharge in time for the pinup contest.
Viva Las Vegas Pinup Contest
As with any kustom kulture event the pinup pageant is always a highlight that’s not to be missed. Pinups and vintage cars have always gone hand in hand and without these beautiful women present at the show the atmosphere would only be half as fun! Check out what went down during the contest and which ladies took home top honors this year.
According to the Viva Las Vegas homepage, “the objective of the contest is to find a pinup that exemplifies what it means to be a great pin-up in today’s modern world. We are looking for a pinup who can carry herself in a crowd but who shines within it. She must be positive, professional, kind, and compassionate. This contest is not one that is based solely on popularity or cosmetic appeal but one that includes inner beauty as well.”
This year’s contestants graced the stage representing their hometowns from Southern California, the midwest, and as far as Australia. The contestants that competed for 2014 were Miss Lilly White, Kitty Cox, Ginger Watson, Cynthia Isabelle Alves, Lady Cat, Sharon Escamilla aka Little Bit, Kandy K, Julie Van Wilpe, Ruby Rabbt, Sirena Siren, and Sophie Sassafras. You can find them on Facebook, each are published models with impressive portfolios. Be sure to give their pages a like to stay up to date with their work.
The competition was steeped in variation–from up do’s to elegant waves, bare skin to fully inked. All the different styles made for a truly entertaining pinup pageant. Best wardrobe went to Ruby Rabbt, Kandy K took home the award for Best Makeup, and Sirena Siren took this year’s award for Best Hair.
2nd Runner-Up went to Miss Lily White, 1st Runner-Up was awarded to Julie Van Wilpe, and the beautiful Ginger Watson was crowned this year’s Miss Viva Las Vegas. Rod Authority would like to congratulate all the women who were all equally fierce competition. It takes a lot of prep time to get dolled up and stay on top of your game during the on-stage interviews and we wish them all the best in their future modeling pursuits.
Viva Las Vegas Best In Show–Max Grundy’s ’59 Safari Wagon
Capping off this year’s event coverage would be nothing without getting up close with a Best In Show classic. Our friend Max Grundy is a rising name within the automotive industry. His work was the official artwork for last year’s SEMA Show and his style is a brand all its own. His 1959 Pontiac Safari Wagon is as pristine as it is rare.
Max resides in Riverside, California and when we asked him to give us a few details about his car you could tell that his love for California and knack for artistry truly carried over into the rebuild of his ’59.
According to Max, “the inspiration for a wagon build was mostly for the wife and family. When discussing our next project we wanted something that could accommodate the whole family. Our last car, the 1950 Mercury custom, wasn’t really good for a whole family. So we started out with that in mind.”
“The engine and frame are both stock but modified. The frame has been fitted with a disk brake kit and airbags. The stock 389 Pontiac motor was bored out and fitted with a competition cam as well as a fuel injection system,” Max tells us.
The paint job for the car was inspired by his and his wife’s love for their favorite time of day, “We wanted to re-create the effect of a California sunset. We mixed a vintage gray/blue that looks like it came out of the 50s and a honey cream color again mixed by trial and error. Both colors had just a hint of pearl added to give some accent to the corners of the car.”
The mark of a true artist is their ability to evoke emotion and stimulate the senses. The fact that shooting photos of Max’s car made us nostalgic of summer beach trips and bonfires during the 50s even before learning about the motivation behind the paint scheme is a testament to his eye for creativity and the connection he has with color palates.
The 2014 Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend was definitely a success. As was the case with a lot of our friends Rod Authority definitely suffered a bit of the post-Viva blues. With that, we are looking forward to 2015’s 18th weekender which has already been scheduled and set into motion! Be sure to check out the Viva Las Vegas homepage to stay up to date and prepare for next year’s trip. This is a west coast classic that you definitely don’t want to pass up!