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Columns > Lee Abraham

Published: 2002/01/22
by Lee Abraham

Farewell To Legends (Part One)

Word got out a few months ago – Legends Lounge was closing its doors. Local reaction came swiftly as Las Vegas jambanders immediately issued a collective groan. This was painful. Sure, live music clubs come and go all the time, and on a national scale, the closing of the Wetlands was a much bigger story, but to the neon city faithful, losing Legends Lounge was headline news.
Face it – Las Vegas is a weird town. No, make that a very weird town. And nobody knows just how twisted Vegas is better than the people who live there. When Garcia died in 95, Legends was the only place in town for heads to gather, literally an island of kindness amidst the cold neon shadows of the world famous Strip. Legends was a safe haven. A home base. A warm and fuzzy place for grateful groovemeisters to feed their jones and shake their bones without the frowning disapproval and glittering ignorance of the Las Vegas casino culture looking over their shoulders.
At the end of Legends incredible run, the club was a state-of-the-art music venue, with an awesome sound system, killer lighting and tie-dyed tapestries everywhere. But Legends wasnt always that way. I remember a day many years ago when my old buddy Rudy Jalio bought the place and was preparing for Legends grand opening. Things were very different back then.
First of all, the business plan didnt include music. The idea at the time was to run Legends primarily as a restaurant and poker bar. Didnt work out that way. Especially the restaurant part. For whatever reason, the restaurant concept didnt take off and the kitchen quickly morphed into a pizza joint.
Then Jerry died, and for the first time, Legends was packed. Even though the place was still relatively new and there was no live music, people gathered at Legends because of Rudys involvement in the local tape trading scene and the Grateful Dead Family Picnics he organized for the Deads annual concerts at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl. And after Garcias death, Rudy held host tape trading nights at the club, allowing people to patch their tape decks into his sound system and record shows from his vast collection.
At around the same time, I was rediscovering the guitar. I was never really too good at playing guitar, and had been known to put the darn thing down for years at a time, but like I said, at this particular time I was getting back into it and actually had been playing again and writing songs on a regular basis for over a year. A couple buddies of mine, Scotty Sliceman Tillotson, a much better guitarist than myself, and Gary the ace of bass Chodikov, would come over to my house and wed make some musical noise in my living room. Mostly acoustic stuff. And although we played plenty of covers, we were playing our own originals as well.
Before long, we were auditioning female vocalists and percussion players. Not that we had anything serious in mind. We just wanted to play music. And for me personally, I was stoked to be playing original music… I learned early on that I get more out of creating music than performing music. Dont get me wrong, playing music in front of people is one of the coolest things in the world, Ive just always felt that I was better at writing songs than playing them.
So anyway, we did what we did, and began to play out at local open mic. nights under the name 5 OClock Shadow. This was just before Rudy opened Legends, back when he was running a place called Ciceros Pizza, where he did his tape trading stuff, as well as the Dead Family Picnics. We played at the picnic in 93 and a year or so later, Rudy opened Legends.
I cant recall all the particulars, but Rudy invited us to set up our acoustic instruments in the corner to play some songs at one of the tapers nights down at the club, so we did. Not everybody liked it, but I guess some people thought it was okay, and Rudy asked us back. He also asked if we could play a little louder, and we said sure. That was the beginning of live music at Legends.
We played an every other Saturday night gig down there for a few years, switching to an all electric sound early into the program. But even at the time of our final show, somewhere around four years ago, there was no stage, sound system or lighting. We had to bring our own PA and just sorta set up in the corner. It was primitive, but it was okay. More than anything, we were just there to have fun.
At least thats how it started. Line up changes, egos, agendas, and personality conflicts took their toll on the band and we broke up. But by the time 5OS called it quits, Legends was beginning to book not only local bands, but some touring jambands as well. Thats when Rudy got serious and put in all the high tech gear. The rest, as they say, is history.
NEXT MONTH: 5 OClock Shadow reunites for a Farewell To Legends…
Lee Abraham is a freelance writer/photographer currently on assignment in Ocean Beach, California. Check out his Adventures In Music Journalism website at www.mrlee.com or contact him directly at mrlee@jambands.com

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