Hardcore and rockabilly collide on a Saturday night at the Double Down

Thanksgiving weekend is a time for feasting, friends and rocking out. In Las Vegas, the Double Down Saloon continued its 22nd birthday bash on Saturday, Nov. 29, with a killer Japanese band sandwiched between two local favorites. The Vermin kicked off the night, followed by a swingin’ set from The Heiz. Hardcore dynamos F.S.P. finished up a night of heavy rock music.

As fans might expect, there was a mixture of storytelling and rocking from The Vermin, who took to the stage about 45 minutes after their advertised start time. Bassist Rob Ruckus, who also shared vocal duty with guitarist Dirk Vermin, had a lot to say, alternating between toasting the crowd and insulting them.

The trio’s tight, powerful set included original tunes as well as a diverse mix of cover songs, including “Girls and Boys” by Blur, The Misfits’ “Vampira” and “Bloodstains,” an Agent Orange original. The Vermin also threw T-shirts at the vivacious crowd, and they ended their set with another exceptional cover. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus opened with heavy distortion and drew a huge response from the crowd.

Saturday night’s biggest draw was The Heiz, a Tokyo-based band with killer style and rockabilly sensibility, who were playing their second consecutive night at the Double Down. The Heiz are a stylish trio who wear nearly constant smiles and really know how to work a crowd.

Drummer Kimura “Kim” Takashi, bassist Watanabe Asako and guitarist/frontman Shaku Keiji take turns on lead vocals and harmonies, and they busted out with a set that featured plenty of early rock favorites. Following a cover of Little Richard’s “Tutti Fruitti” to end their set, the crowd shouted for more and the band acquiesced, pulling The Vermin’s Ruckus onstage for the punk version of “What a Wonderful World,” a la Joey Ramone.

The Heiz were a tough act to follow, but F.S.P. were up to the challenge. Despite the late hour (or early, as it was Sunday morning by the time the rockers began their set), a few fans were still in the mood for a mosh-pit attempt on the venue’s small floor. About four songs in, bassist Johnny Bangs took off his shirt, and “that’s when you know it’s gettin’ real,” according to an F.S.P. fan in the crowd. And it stayed that way, with vocalist Danny Breeden constantly on the move as the quartet powered through their set.

The Double Down is finally all grown up, and if Saturday night was any indication, the Vegas punk rock staple still has a loud, dark future of infamy to look forward to.