Tuesday, 3 May 2016

VLV19! A Review from a Viva Las Vegas Virgin!

This time two weeks ago, Spencer and I were on our way home from Viva Las Vegas - the largest Rockabilly Weekender in the World. Now, my experience to date of Rockabilly weekenders is Hemsby...there is nothing wrong with Hemsby at all, it's a great weekender, but let me tell you, VLV is Hemsby on Speed! 20,000 people attend Viva Las Vegas every year for 4 days of music, shopping, jiving, pool - partying, burlesque shows, car shows, tattoo's, bowling, the list goes on! There is so much going on in fact, for a Viva Las Vegas virgin, it was all a bit overwhelming! So in light of this, I thought I would review my experience, in the hope of educating anyone thinking of attending VLV for the first time, and hopefully pass on some helpful hints!

So we decided to book the 'High Roller' passes, which at $125 each (£85) are not bad for 4 whole days of entertainment. These passes give you access to everything - all the bands and DJ's, competitions and showcases, workshops, the car show - absolutely everything. These tickets were great for us, as it gave us some time to get the lay of the land before Saturday, which is without doubt, the busiest and most popular day of the event. 

We also decided not to stay in The Orleans Hotel (where VLV is held), mainly because it was fully booked! I would advise you 'get in quick' if you want to stay there in 2017, but the hotel has already sold out of rooms for that weekend! We stayed in the Excalibur instead. This is the closest hotel to The Orleans that is still on the strip. This gave us the option to do touristy things on the strip, as well as get a ride down to The Orleans for Viva when we wanted. It cost around $12 each way in a cab, which isn't too bad and took about 10 minutes. Uber is also another option and much cheaper (so we've heard). It took around 20 minutes on foot to get to The Orleans from the Excalibur which again, on a cooler day is not too bad. The Excalibur is cheap and cheerful. Perfect if you are not spending too much time there! Plus, they host Medieval jousting! Which is always on my list of top requirements when booking a hotel!

Orleans, Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas, Rockabilly, Weekender
The Orleans Hotel, Las Vegas

Although you are issued with an itinerary of what is going on when and where at Viva when you collect your wristbands, I have to admit, we had difficulty in actually finding these listed rooms in the hotel. Things were not very well signposted and it took us some time to actually find the main set of function rooms in which these activities were being held. The main action on the first 2 days is held in the hotels conference facilities, which are up a set of escalators, opposite The Orleans Showroom. Here you can see bands and gain access to the vendor rooms. The Showroom also hosts the burlesque shows. 

Now, Viva Las Vegas patrons LOVE a queue, or a 'line'. If you want to guarantee access to anything, expect to start queuing anything up to an hour before doors open. We waited in line for the vendor rooms to open on the first day (Wednesday). This was a waste of time in my view. Unless you are after a specific item of clothing that you know is going to be 50% off when you get in there and you need it otherwise you'll die, don't bother to queue to get in. It was so busy on the first day that it was not a very pleasant experience looking around and Spencer gradually lost the will to live. The vendor rooms are open throughout the event and then there are the stalls at the car show, so I would recommend just going down when it is convenient. I even picked up a couple of VLV branded t-shirts on the last day with no problems in terms of stock.

On the Friday we headed down to The Orleans around 1pm to attend Miss Wolff's Jiving School. Again, we queued for around an hour to get in. This class was great! Miss Wolff was funny, engaging and had a really talented team of tutors on hand to help. The only thing that let the class down was the size. The ball room was packed, which made jiving freely quite tricky. We still enjoyed it, but also took home her two tutorial DVD's to continue our lessons! I would still highly recommend this class for anyone who wants to start jiving!

Watching the car show set up on Friday
By the time Saturday rolled round, the event went into overdrive! Before Saturday, a few pinups could be seen wandering about, but by Saturday, The Orleans (and the Strip) were full of them! The security guard at our hotel even said to us one morning "Yo, why y'all dressed like it's the 50's?" which cracked us up! We headed down to the car show on Saturday and again, this is not massively easy to find unless you know where it is as it is not signposted. The car show can be found past the VLV registration desk (by TGI Fridays), down a long walk way (or moving walkway if you are lazy like us!) and out in the parking lot next to the Orleans Arena.

Viva Las Vegas, Car Show, Rockabilly, Weekender, Pinup, VLV19, Las Vegas
The Car Show at Viva Las Vegas
Over 800 cars gather in this lot, as well as hundreds of vendors including Freddies of Pinewood, Lucky Lou Shoes, Atomic Swag, Bow and Crossbones, Lux De Ville, Miss L Fire, Steady ClothingThe Oblong Box Shop, Unique Vintage and many more! There is not much shade in the parking lot, so if you are like me and have skin the colour of Casper, then cream up as it gets hot out there. I bought a $4 parasol which saved my skin, literally.

Viva Las Vegas Car Show
Keeping out of the sun at the Car Show!
I saw lots of Insta-famous people that I follow at the event, yet to be honest, I was too shy to say hello to any of them and ask for a photo, which was a shame. So I will have to put my big girl pants on next year and try and mingle! I opted out of the Pinup Meet and Greet for this reason. I managed to say Hello to and meet Dita Von Teese that day though, so I didn't do too badly! Viva Las Vegas is most definitely as much of a networking event as it is an entertaining event. I saw so many groups of girls posing for photos - some even arrived with their own photographers for photo shoots! I don't know anyone in person who is into pinup, so I would like to try and mingle more next year to change this. I love my husband, but I don't think he would appreciate me dressing him up as a pinup!

So, now for the most important bit - what to wear! The answer to that question - whatever the bloody hell you like! The range of genres at the event was crazy - Pin up, Tiki, Hawaiian and Asian Pacific, Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Mexicana and Latino, Western - you name it, someone was wearing it! It was amazing to see so many different styles in one place. VLV is a chance to dress up, go over the top and embrace what the whole Rockabilly and Pinup culture is about (in my view) - self expression. So go crazy, wear your best outfits. Heck, have 4 outfit changes in one day if you like! Because this is certainly the place you can!

Viva las vegas rockabilly weekender
In hindsight, I packed too much! But it's better to be prepared! 
UPDATE! One golden bit of advice I have to impart is regarding hair styling appliances. If you like to curl your hair using hot curlers and are from outside the US, you need to ensure that your curling iron or wand is described as having 'Worldwide Voltage'. I took my regular curling tongs which work fine in the UK, only to find that when I plugged them in at the hotel, the voltage was not strong enough to heat them up, hence why my hair looks terrible in all of my photos!! Argos are great at listing curling tongs and wands with their full descriptions, including Worldwide Voltage if you need to buy a new set!

So there you have it. My Viva Las Vegas 2016 experience. Spencer and I intend to return next year and try to organise our time a bit better to really get the most out of the weekend. We usually take a laminated itinerary on holiday with us - this year we didn't...what were we thinking!!!? 

Hopefully this post is helpful to someone thinking of attending next year and if you see us there, please come and say hello! 

- x - LMDW - x -