Happy birthday, Double Down! Love, Uberschall

Uberschall performs at the Double Down Saloon, Oct. 25, 2009.
Uberschall performs at the Double Down Saloon, Oct. 25, 2009
(Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna/www.erikkabikphoto.com)

What’s better than a little Ass Juice, awesome free music and a cross-dresser to cure that Turkey Day tryptophan coma? Double Down Saloon, we salute you.

Celebrating its 17th year as one of our favorite dives for unique live music, people watching and occasional memory loss, the Double Down is hosting a concert bash weekend for the freak show in all of us.

Culminating the weekend of debauchery and near puking after drinking a bacon martini, the Sunday night staple of Überschall settles in for a night of jamming. Playing the last Sunday of every month for over eight years, the group of talented professional musicians from Blue Man Group and around Vegas have practically made the Double Down their second home—even when they aren’t playing. Überschall drummer Jordan Cohen (also a musician for Blue Man Group, Sons of Jupiter and prior to that, Powerman 5000) shares memorable moments about the band and the bar.

How did the concept of Überschall come about? Cohen: Überschall came about through discussion where Elvis Lederer, he was talking to several musicians: myself, Phil Leavitt [formally of Dada], Jeffrey Brown, about doing this improv band. He wanted it to be ambient tribal. The whole idea of the music was this meditative, slow changing morphing thing, and there wasn’t one obvious voice, like a vocalist or solos. So that was the idea. It was this huge sound and everyone equally contributing to it, kind of meditative quality to it. Then, we gradually got Todd Waetzig and Mike Burns involved and Aki Ishihara on bass. Eventually it morphed into different guys playing in the band … It was just a simple musical idea, a bunch of guys sharing the same job — Blue Man — then eventually it opened up to some people outside of Blue Man.

In the currently lineup, who still works at Blue Man?

Todd Waetzig on drums, myself on drums, Jeff Tortora on drums, and then Charles Garland on guitar, he’s still with Blue Man. Elvis is with Criss Angel, although Elvis is coming back to do four shows over the holidays for Blue Man after two and a half years after him leaving Blue Man he’s going to do some holiday coverage which is really hilarious. Then the bass player is a guy named Wickett who is more traditionally an R&B funk player. Occasionally you have cool people sitting in with Überschall. Who’s stopped by? Tim Alexander is kind of like extended family or an honorary member. He was also in Primus and worked at BMG. Pucifer members have joined us, as well as Thaddeus Corea.

How did you first discover the Double Down? I discovered it through my friend [restaurateur] Joe O’Brien … He and my brother were friends in high school. He introduced me to a lot of cool things out here. I went there and it reminded of The Rathskeller, an old place in Boston, which was like the really ingratiating shit-hole, stickers and crap everywhere and all kinds of offensive signs about drinks, harassing the patrons. It was a similar kind of vibe, a weird eclectic mix of punks, bohemians and bikers and weirdos. It reminded me of that Boston bar so I immediately liked it. As time went on, I just got to know the people who worked there. The weird thing is, I still don’t know the owner that well, but I know all the people that work there. Elvis knows Moss, the owner, pretty well. Moss has been cool to us, he apparently likes us. We’ve done good. It’s a little bit of a coo playing in a place like that because at first, people are like, “Who are these hippy jam shit in a punk rock bar,” but it’s become its own thing, it has its own life in there. What are your favorite features of the Double Down? I love the jukebox. I would love for them to update the jukebox, but the jukebox has always been great … My favorite feature is the staff. I like Steve, one of the bouncers. He’s like a fatherly figure to us. Actually, I brought my 68-year-old father there — he was 67 at the time — and he totally kicked it with Steve because he’s a similar age. They’re completely different guys and they totally like each other. So Steve, Mello the bartender—there’s a bunch of guys there that are great. What odd moment sticks out the most? Many times we play there, you have strange people come up and try to dance, or this one guy would play this weird recorder and try to peripherally jam with us. What do you think is the key to success of the Double Down? That it’s off the Strip. Despite having kind of a gnarly look to it … It’s a little more down and dirty and realistic and people can have actually conversations — albeit they have to go outside sometimes — but generally most people drop the Vegas pretense because those kind of people probably wouldn’t go in there because of the way it looks anyways. Do you guys plan on continuing Überschall there indefinitely? Yeah, we’re going to hobble in there in walkers. There’s no plans to leave. We don’t do it for the money. We do it get our clothes stinky and dirty.

(Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly and at LasVegasWeekly.com.)

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