Kelly Sheehan not only has a knack for capturing the subtle nuances of some of classic rock’s most iconic vocalists, she also seems to pick up any number of additional musicians no matter when or where a gig might be. She also seems to gather more and more fans with each and every show, so the logical name for her band, Kelly & the Strays, makes sense.
This top-notch classic quartet has played for more than 10 years in Las Vegas at most of the major casinos, convention center and concert venues. From the House of Blues on the Vegas Strip to the mountains and ski lodges of southern Utah they have entertained and captured thousands of enthusiastic fans and built a solid reputation across the Southwest as a dynamic and highly professional classic rock ensemble.
“I’ve been playing for about 20 years in Vegas and about 10 years ago, I got together with my current guitar player and we’ve been playing for about 10 years together now,” Sheehan told the Laughlin entertainer. “We’ve pretty much been doing classic rock that whole time. That’s what we do and along the way we to pick up a couple of wonderful professional musicians—my bass player played with Joan Jett for years. I’m very fortunate to have some very talented people in my band making me look good.
“My lead guitar player is Kelly Dorn and he also sings,” she said. “Sean Koos is our bass player and he also sings as well. Then Al Serrato is my drummer and he sings, too. I’m surrounded and outnumbered, let me tell you. I’m fortunate and grateful to have such talented musicians around me.
“I am a singer, I do not play, I leave that up to the professionals,” she added. “I put everything I can into my singing.”
While they cover a multitude of classic tunes with everyone taking a turn at the mic, one of their show highlights is a little bit of a tribute that has become an expected signature part of the show.
“We actually ended up turning it into a short show, but I do sort of a tribute to Janis Joplin,” Sheehan said. “When I start singing people automatically will come up to me and ask, ‘do you sing Janis Joplin?’ I do have that raspy kind of voice going on, so it’s an automatic reaction, I think, when people start hearing me sing. Or, they’ll ask, ‘When will you be singing some Janis,’ so there will be some Janis in the show, a little bit here and there.”
They’re also one of those rare bands that don’t try to slip in original material.
“We just don’t,” she said. “I’m strictly a cover band and I thoroughly enjoy it. There’s a lot of wonderful music out there and I think people love hearing music they are familiar with and grew up with and it’s an emotional connection. I think there’s so much good music out there, I don’t need to do my own. I thoroughly enjoy doing everybody else’s. I love it.
“My guitar player has his own thing, and he does originals on occasion, but not with me,” she added. “It’s all cover and we actually do classic rock, but we’ll creep up into some of the newer stuff on occasion, if it’s fun.
“We also get a little silly once in a while and throw in a little disco, I don’t know if we’ll do it in this show or not, but sometimes we throw people for a loop or something. A little ‘I Will Survive’ never hurt anybody.
“We’re just about having fun,” Sheehan said. “That’s all it is, we’re there to have a good time and we really enjoy it. I love it. It’s paid therapy for me.”
They take the musicianship very seriously and are detail oriented when it comes to the music because that’s what fans of the music expect, but cranking up the fun a few notches is just as important.
“I think that for us we’re a professional band, but we can’t take it that seriously,” Sheehan said. “We are playing music, but I think that we have so much fun when we’re on stage that it just resonates and that way, when people look up and we’re smiling and having a good time, we just don’t take it that seriously. Of course, we want to sound wonderful and play our best, but it’s about having a good time for me. I just wanna have fun. We want everybody to come and have fun—and Laughlin is the best place to do it. I go there all the time, so I’m a fan. I love Laughlin. It’s cool. Kelly, my guitar player and I played there before,” she added. “We did a duo thing on the outdoor stage, between the Belle and the Edgewater and we had a great time. What a fun venue to play, so we’re really looking forward to being in the Belle. You’re right next to the river, how much better can it be? It’s gonna be a great time.”
“They’re called ‘strays’ ’cause I occasionally pick up one or two more players along the way, and they’ll come up and play with us. I’m very fortunate.”
“We wanted to make (shows) fun and kind of reminiscent of a circus,” says Kelly Sheehan, Side Show’s lead vocalist and occasional percussionist. “We wanted to make it a good time and kind of silly.”
Mission accomplished for the duo, who currently play at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Martini Ranch at Texas Station, 2101 Texas Star Lane.
Sheehan and Eric Dahl, lead guitarist and vocalist, make up the core of Side Show. In addition, Sheehan says, “we do frequently add a third player, (guitarist/vocalist) Tom Rojas.”
In fact, as the gig demands, “we actually expand up to a five-piece,” Sheehan says. “It depends on what people want to hear.”
Sheehan and Dahl have been playing together for about a decade.
“We have been quietly creeping around the shadows in Las Vegas for quite a while,” Sheehan jokes. “We’ve played in quite a few local bars and pubs, but a lot of our work is private parties in the hotels.”
Side Show began as, and remains, “kind of a paid hobby for us,” Sheehan says. “It’s therapy for Eric and I. We both work in advertising and marketing and the stress is … pretty up there.
“So we started playing together kind of to blow off steam at one of the local pubs in town. And it’s turned into a good chemistry between Eric and I, and Tom as well, so we just picked it up from there.”
Their Texas Station gigs began in July.
“We love them. We have a lot of fun there,” Sheehan says. “It’s a great evening.
“We play a lot of classic rock and a little bit of new rock and some blues thrown in. And I’ll do some Janis Joplin, all the way across to some stuff you wouldn’t normally hear like Marc Cohn or some older blues stuff that Eric will do.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Sheehan says. “Throw Eric and I and a few half-price martinis in there and it’s a pretty good show.”
They currently only play Wednesdays, having taken a break from an additional Sunday date, too. But the Sunday dates probably will resume after football season ends, Sheehan says.
The best thing about Side Show’s Texas Station gig is that she and Dahl enjoy the audience as much as the audience enjoys them.
“It’s more about having a great time than being the most fabulous wonderful band,” Sheehan says. “We’re really out for fun and, hey, if we sound good, it’s a bonus.”
For more information, visit the group’s website at www.sideshowlv.com.