Thirty minutes before showtime, we were surprised to encounter a crowd that ran all the way back to that wretched buffet. Along the wall were bins of various noisemakers: pans, bowls, water bottles half-filled with gravel. Everyone was encouraged to collect their “instrument,” along with a drum stick, before entering the theater. Inside, the show had already begun in earnest, with people banging their recycled props to the house music. Thank goodness the ushers offered earplugs free of charge.
As soon as the lights came down, we were mesmerized. And, scratching our head over what we were actually seeing. Was it a mirror effect? A video projection? We won’t spoil it for you, but the entrance by Recycled Percussion to Styx's "Renegade" is a real jaw-dropper. Very few show openers will give you goosebumps. That guitar twang in Beatles Love will do it. So will the tree sequence in Le Reve. We’ll count this as number three.
Throughout the performance, the audience is encouraged to bang on their color-coded instruments to support their matching team. It makes for what they call “the most interactive show on Earth.” Each of the guys has a solo bit. Group founder Justin Spencer represents “Team Red” and calls himself the world’s fastest drummer. “Blue” Ryan Vezina specializes in body percussion, “Black” Matt Bowman plays a wild guitar, and “Green” Jason Davies shows of his dancing and acrobatic skills. The night is jokingly sponsored by Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, Bayer Aspirin, etc.
Classic songs make up the heart of this "junk rock" show. Eleanor Rigby gets the RP treatment with spark-spewing grinders. Elvis, KISS, Queen and many more get "recycled" as well. "Highway Star" by Deep Purple is played as a custom van lights up with various projections that make it appear to move and transform. Eventually it does, splitting into a bi-level set that reveals the group inside. The exploding VW Beatle from Love would be envious.
Even if the rest of the show can’t maintain that level of creativity, you won't mind. The members of Recycled Percussion are so damned charming and playful that you’ll be won over. Justin tells a story of how his grandmother supported his childhood practice sessions, then dedicates a drum solo salute to her and the grandmothers of the world... while wearing a “I Heart Grammy” T-shirt. At one point, everything stops for “Totally Random Cookie Time” when the guys run into the audience with trays of goodies to share.
This writer was brought onstage to participate in something called "Monkey Training Zoo." Having seen the show twice, I can tell you that it’s a lot funnier from your seat. But, bring a camera, as photos and videos are permitted, and you’ll want to upload a video of your unfortunate chimp-costumed friend dancing to “Baby Got Back.”
Not everything in the show works. A cutesy skit involving four slamming doors seemed borrowed from a 60s era TV variety show, and was little more than an excuse for Justin to appear shirtless. The finale’s 10 Greatest Rock Songs countdown had the obligatory moonwalking to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We’d really love to see a Vegas show that didn't include a MJ reference. They’ve become the resort fees of Vegas entertainment. Mandatory, unnecessary, and everywhere you go.
Like all of the performers at The Quad, Recycled Percussion has a free meet-and-greet after the show. Twenty percent of their merchandise sales goes to Shade Tree Shelter, a local charity for homeless/abused women and children. In their free time, the group spreads a no drugs/no alcohol message targeted at young people, and Spencer spearheads a fitness and motivational campaign called Legacy X.
I’m sure that their grandmothers are very proud.
Recycled Percussion performs six nights a week inside The Quad (dark Fridays). Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets start at $59.99 for adults, $29.99 for children.