Getting the gist with John Gist


It’s all too easy to believe that gigs happen by magic. Your favourite bands just show up in town, rock the house and then move on to the next town, all of it done by some sort of witchcraft. Except, of course, that’s not the case; there’s a road crew, a tour manager, security, bar staff at the venue, and some poor bugger who has to clean up all the mess.

But someone has to make all this happen, and most times that involves a promoter making all the necessary calls and invariably putting their money where their mouth is, essentially betting on people showing up. The promoter can win or lose in a big way and all too often they don’t get the credit they deserve.

One man who richly deserves credit right now is John Gist, a man who’s making magic happen in Las Vegas, entirely without the help of Penn and Teller. Not only is he a top bloke and massively enthusiastic about the bands he put on, but he works hard behind the scenes to keep the scene alive and kicking. People rarely bother to interview such people, but without them you’d be looking at an empty stage. I thought it only right to give him a moment of my time and see what makes him tick.

What was the first record you bought, John?

“The first record was Grease, The Rock Album which was an incredible compilation album with everything from Robin Trower to Boston to Kansas to Styx…..also the first Foreigner album. I was a massive Foreigner and AC/DC fan early on to go with my Bee Gees and Eagles 8 tracks. The first 45 was Copa Cabana by Barry Manilow….Mom helped with that. I am a child of the ’70s. First Tape was Kill em All by Metallica, Judas Priest Defenders of Faith and Dio Last in Line. First CDs were Led Zep 1 & 2, Houses of Holy and Queensryche: Operation Mindcrime …..Operation Mindcrime was such a captivating album and those Zep albums set the tone for what I grew up on rock wise.”

What was your first gig?

“Scorpions with Fastway opening on the Love at First Sting tour at The Cap Center in the DC area. Amazing first show, My mom drove us 45 minutes to the show and waited around for us. I was 14 I think. Those 3 or 4 years between 84-88 I caught Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister (Powerslave) , Ratt/Bon Jovi, Ozzy/Metallica (Ultimate Sin) , David Lee Roth/Cinderella? , The Cult/Metallica, The Who on the reunion tour with Joe Walsh on guitar, Monsters of Rock and Dio 2 times. Front Row the second time with Rough Cutt opening! Amazing times those were and I barely drank back then!”

You seem to be at every show. How many do you go to in a year?

“Yeah, in the last three years or so I have been doing 3-5 shows a week….off week maybe only two. I try to hit lots of local smaller ones also along with supporting heavy bands playing at smaller venues. It takes a lot out of my wallet and liver !”

What made you decide to start promoting shows?

“I saw the chance to really impact things and help get heavy rock ( Desert/stoner/Psych/Doom/Thrash/Metal) more exposure. Getting people to even know about these shows since many venues barely help with their own shows from a promoting/advertising standpoint. The USA has some catching up to do when it comes to getting back to hearing rock and metal besides what the record label monopolies and broadcast systems want us to hear. 30-50 years many times ask me where did this come from like they couldn’t believe bands like The Watchers or Sasquatch weren’t on the radio. The stations barely even use DJ recommendations and they play less diverse styles of rock. Same with Sirius XM….its like they barely exist. Popular around the whole world but the USA is fertile ground for growth. Basically I want to make a difference and a final career out of this. Lasting legacy of helping ! Truly feel the time is right with all the amazing music around the world being made….rock fans just haven’t gotten exposure to them yet. Most as soon as they hear these bands ask “Why haven’t I heard them before”?”

What are the challenges of putting on gigs in Vegas?

“What challenges aren’t there for the styles I try to promote? Some venues are way better than others. Danny and Korie Koker’s Count’s Vamp’d is a super nice venue and very pro. Korie has worked with me on bringing in some stoner/ retro and even Doom like The SKull/ Earthride. Recently we have an amazing show with Brant Bjork w/ 2 smaller hand picked bands by me to open (Mezzoa/ Stone Deaf). Kyng came to town and I matched them up with The Watchers and local boys Honor Amongst Thieves. Great show! Other times venues just allow you to book and you have to ask to have the show on their website and they may not even include you on their emails. Its rough here….many fans are comfortable in hearing cover/tribute bands or former guitarist of whatever 80s band new band…..bigger radio bands or older large name bands kill it here. Fans are pretty unaware of these styles in Sin City. Also we get a ton of free shows in Vegas….that’s an issue also. Folks paying for bands they have never heard of can be tough.”

A lot of people say there is no sense of community in Vegas. What do you think?

“Ummmmm tricky for sure. Clique communities for sure. We are a good sized city with 2 million here and obviously a lot of tourists but the people I see at many shows are the same ones. I believe quite a few people are out there to re-ignite their interest in rock since they likely aren’t digging what currently is dominate around here and/ or radio. People all around the USA have no clue how much excellent hard/heavy rock is out there with more of a 70s influence/foundation along with some Grunge/early mid 90s influences. Clean vocals, good songwriting and RIFFS!”

You’ve been bringing some legendary names to Vegas. What’s been your best show so far?

“Planet Desert Rock Weekend. My first weekend of shows. It started off with John Garcia of Kyuss in his only electric show in the U.S. and it was at Vinyl which is inside of the Hard Rock Casino. We had four of his former bandmates joining him on stage for songs from his past catalog including Kyuss/ Unida/ Hermano/ Slo Burn. Nick Oliveri formerly of Kyuss/ Queens of the Stone Age was part of the weekend with John Garcia and Scott “Wino” Weinrich (from The Obsessed/Saint Vitus). Luna Sol featuring Dave Angstrom of Hermano is playing along with also Arthur Seay’s Death in Pretty Wrapping. Chris Hale from Slo Burn popped up on stage with John for a song!! Wino headlined night 2 was at Bunkhouse Saloon along with a host of bands flying or driving into town such as The Heavy Eyes (Memphis) , Valley of the Sun (Cincinnati) , House of Broken Promises (Indio..features Arthur Seay and Mike Cancino of Unida), War Cloud (Oakland) and King Chiefs (San Diego). Nick Oliveri jumped on stage and did “Green Machine” with House of Broken Promises and later joined Wino to do a kick-ass cover of a Rose Tattoo song. The sound was killer all night and it was a vibrate social scene. Night 3 was at Beauty Bar with Wo-Fat , Sasquatch(SoCal), Freedom Hawk(Va Beach) , Blackwulf (Oakland), Powered Wig Machine (Sierra Vista, AZ), Strange Mistress(Vegas) and Red Desert (Minneapolis) . All of these bands came in from different parts of the country. Wo Fat from Dallas Texas rarely plays in the US and almost never on the West Coast. All of these groups bring a blues based style but various versions of each. Sasquatch is the best unknown to many band in the world. The show was outdoors at Beauty Bar and the temps dropped to mid 40’s and got a bit windy. Crowd stayed super strong throughout the madness. Wo Fat didn’t finish up until well past 1:30 or so. Fans came in from all over the country to be part of Planet Desert Rock Weekend. The feedback was amazing. People enjoyed how it was a different venue each evening….sort of an adventure of sorts. Also had a Thrash rager with Exmortus/ Hatchet/ Immortal Guardian and 3 locals Volterum , Vile Child and Sahara. From the opening band we had tons of people there on that Friday night. Great energy all the way through. Thrash fans in Vegas support big shows like that. Did one with up and comers Skeletal Remains on a Monday and killed it. It was outdoors and cold but we still had a great crowd. The Brant Bjork and Kyng show both had cool vibes and strong support. Brant is one chill cool dude. I’m so fortunate to get to know him some. At the Kyng show Christian Brady of Hell Yeah jumped on stage and played Hot for Teacher with the band. Great moment for one of our local heroes who sadly recently lost a very good friend Vinnie Paul. Vinnie was at Vegas Rock Revolution’s last 2 shows at Vamp’d before his passing. He is missed ….he was an unbelievable supporter and was out at so many shows. You would just see him coming in with that hat on…”

Who’s next?

“Right now two weekend concepts are in the works. Not going to divulge too much other than to say if things line up there will be two very distinctly different unique weekends involving very different lineup. We want to keep these weekends as not an all day event each day and want it to be smaller and special. The lineups will be crafted by invite more than anything and strive for the coolest experience not only for the fans who have traveled to enjoy it but also for the band members. Many bands and artists stuck around for the whole weekend including one of the Godfathers of Doom .. Scott “Wino” Weinrich. I really got to know Wino as he bunked up with me for PDRW. Super nice guy and full of amazing stories. He was ultra supportive and helped me many times. Anyways these weekends will continue to get better and better as things go. Next show on the books is a killer metal lineup on a Thursday night at the famous Count’s Vamp’d. 4 bands that provide wild unbridled energy to each performance. Starts off with Oakland’s War Cloud who has an old school metal style. Void Vator up next. These heart-breakers have amazingly catchy songs and were produced by Grammy Award Winner Ulrich Wild. Traveling through the desert is House of Broken Promises. These wild men are a power trio that has played all over the world including Japan. Both Arthur Seay and Mike Cancino were in Unida together with John Garcia of Kyuss. Sin City’s Taking Dawn rounds out the lineup. I just witnessed their live about a month ago and was blown away by their wild live performance. Frontman Chris Babbitt is a true Rockstar up there. These cats have played all over the world when they were on Roadrunner Records.You can feel the buzz building back up with them and we invited them to this lineup. I will make a point to say the ladies and the photographers super enjoy these bands. No cheesy stuff just high energy good time metal/rock.

If budget was no object, who would be on your perfect line-up?

“Tool , Rage Against the Machine (never know), Iron Maiden, Kyuss if only could get them back together. If not Queens of Stone Age (1st 3 albums material only) or Vista Chino , Led Zep…yeah right!I would fill in the rest of that day with the best stoner/retro bands from around the world on the ticket. Thanks for the chat Morat and long live rock and roll!”

Having written for Kerrang! magazine since 1989, I started shooting for them, pretty much by accident, in the early 90’s when all their photographers refused to go on tour with my favourite punk band Poison Idea. With pretensions of being as good as Mark Leialoha and taller than Ross Halfin, I shot everyone from Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer and Slipknot to The Prodigy and was published all around the world (full-ish list in the ‘published in’ section) before stumbling into fetish and pin up photography in 2006 when I married Masuimi Max. I quit Kerrang! in 2008 and now shoot the rock stuff for Metal Hammer and Terrorizer.