All Photos © The Neon Lounge 2012
I first met Chris Heers many moons ago at a local open mic night. He did a top-notch cover of Hal Ketchum’s “Small Town, Saturday Night” and finished the set with some Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle—and those three songs were all it took for me to become a fan of the native Las Vegan. Granted, since I’m from Nashville I should like country music by default (which explains why a guitar that I don’t know how to play is hanging on my wall) but honestly, I wasn’t much of a die-hard country music fan at the time—although it’s suffice to say that Chris’s songwriting has since broadened both my country and western horizons.
In the years following those open mic nights Chris has achieved goals that most musicians only hope to attain. He left his day job and started writing songs—a lot of songs. Good songs. He went to Nashville and recorded his album Western Stars with some of the best session musicians in the business. He’s played Music City’s World Famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Even more impressive, long time Nashville music critic Robert K. Oermann bestowed Chris with his highly sought after “DisCovery” award for the Heers’ single “Dirt Rich.” In addition to Western Stars, “Dirt Rich” can be found on the Wii entertainment game Country Dance II—along with music by the likes of Brad Paisely, George Strait, Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum.
Heers is the only musician I know who has achieved so much in such a short amount of time—and all without him hailing from Texas or having lived in Nashville. Vegas is home for Heers. Make no mistake though, these accomplishments only happened because of his devotion and passionate talent toward his music.
Last year Chris finally did what I’ve been waiting for—he formed a down-home, full fledged country band to jam with on a regular basis. Trust me folks, this was no easy task. Finding a good pedal steel guitarist ain’t easy. Hell, finding any good and available musician in Las Vegas ain’t easy. Chris did an excellent job though and now has a band that will keep your boots scootin’ across the dance floor all night long.
The band—known either as The Chris Heers Band or Chris Heers and The Dirt Rich Band—play regularly at the Naughty Ladies’ Saloon inside Arizona Charlie’s Westside. It wasn’t until last month though—during the National Finals Rodeo—that I dusted off my boots and caught-up with the band during one of their (ten night) gigs at the Tuscany Hotel & Casino. Finally seeing Chris perform with a full and tight band was an absolute joy. People danced, the beer flowed, song requests were met (including some Townes requested by yours truly) and a good time was had by all. Also, I hadn’t worn my shit-kickers since my motorcycling days and I’d forgotten how comfortable they still are.
In addition to playing at Arizona Charlie’s, Chris occasionally plays an unplugged set on Sunday afternoons at the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nevada. The Pioneer is one of the oldest free-standing bars in America and is well worth the short drive from Las Vegas to check-out Chris in an intimate setting. Just be careful not to run over the sleeping dog in the middle of Main Street.
I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store for Chris and the band. For starters, I hereby deem Chris Heers as someone who Las Vegas needs more of—that being a hometown hero.
More Heers Here:
See a few more of my photographs of the band playing at the Tuscany here. I wish drummer Jim Lovgren had been more visible.
Read another Chris Heers related article that I originally wrote for another website here.