Count’s 77 played Count’s Vamp’d on Saturday, July 2, 2022.
For many years, Vamp’d has been Las Vegas’ leading home of rock and roll. Even in a post-pandemic society, the venue has bounced back, continuing to host some of the best live concerts in Sin City. The venue is owned by Danny “The Count” Koker, known for the TV series COUNTING CARS, and also as an auto expert on PAWN STARS prior to that. Even back in the 90s, he was known to locals as Count Cool Rider, having hosted horror movies on a local television station owned by his family.
He’s a busy man, yet somehow found a way to add “Rock Star” to his resume on top of it all!
Count’s 77 (previously known as Zito 77) is Koker’s six-man rock band on Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records label, the group having released two albums on Shrapnel as of 2022, with more songs on the way. While the band mainly plays shows in Las Vegas, they’ve also played out of state, including at several festivals. The band consists of the following members:
-Danny “The Count” Koker on vocals. Koker’s resume speaks for itself, and with the arrival of COUNTING CARS on History, his following has never been bigger. In addition to Count’s Kustoms and Vamp’d, Koker also owns Count’s Tattoo Company in the Rio Hotel/Casino. Koker’s musical background is extensive, having had a father who was a musician in addition to he himself singing from a young age.
-Stoney Curtis on guitar. Even long before the Count’s 77 days, Curtis had released countless blues-rock albums on Shrapnel Records, forging a reputation as one of the best at what he does. While performing/recording with Count’s 77, he still has his own band/career.
-John Zito on guitar. This self-taught guitarist has continued to tour and record extensively, garnering quite the reputation in his own right even prior to Count’s 77. His influences are numerous and show in every performance and recording he does.
-Barry Barnes on bass. Having been in Vegas for many years now, Barnes has performed in the ROCK OF AGES stage show, and has also performed with Stoney Curtis and John Zito’s respective bands in addition to his duties with Count’s 77.
-Tommy Paris on keyboards. Paris is best known as a long-time member of classic hard rock band Britny Fox, with whom he still performs. Prior to Britny Fox he was known as Don Jillson, and had released some recordings under the Jillson name.
-Shon McKee on drums. A popular Vegas drummer who has played with many bands. He currently also performs in Crashing Wayward with former LA Guns guitarist Stacey Blades.
Earlier Count’s 77 shows/albums/etc. featured drummer Paul DiSibio; McKee is listed and pictured as the drummer on the band’s official website, though DiSibio is still listed on many other outlets (Wikipedia, the band’s Facebook page, etc.) This has never been made clear anywhere; I was unaware of any lineup change until this show.
I hadn’t seen Count’s 77 in years; this was my first time seeing them since the pandemic. Both albums released by the band, 2014’s COUNT’S 77 and 2016’s SOUL TRANSFUSION, are fantastic throwback albums in all the best ways, and the group’s shows are always killer with a nice mixture of these retro-style rock tunes and plenty of covers for the audience as well. The debut album from the band featured several tracks with guitarist Stoney Curtis on vocals, though this show’s setlist stuck to the Koker-sung songs. As was the case at this night’s show, Count’s 77 performances also sometimes feature guest stars. More on that later, though.
Vamp’d was already filling up fairly early due to the Count and company playing; I even heard a security guard mention to an attendee that Count’s 77 shows have tables booked months in advance! Doors opened at 8PM, with the show advertised to start around 10PM. I took my place as close to the stage as I could early enough to have the best place in the house for the gig, not to mention for getting a few pictures of the band (many of which you’re seeing in this article).
At approximately 10PM, the lights went out, and a pre-recorded version of “America the Beautiful” with Koker on vocals began playing over the speakers (I’d never heard this before so hopefully it’ll be on the next album!) It wasn’t long before the band took the stage with a blistering cover of Elton John’s 1973 classic “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” (Seriously, is there a better choice of a song to kick off a Saturday night gig with?) And right from the get-go it became clear these guys were as strong musically as ever, having lost nothing over the pandemic years. From Stoney jumping off the stage to play right in the crowd’s face to Danny using a beer bottle as a slide on the guitar, it’s clear these guys wanted to cut loose and give the audience a rock and roll party to remember.
What followed was a night of rock for the ages that never slowed down or let up in its nearly three-hour duration. We had Danny recounting stories of his musical influences, Stoney doing Pete Townshend-style “windmills” on the guitar, and plenty of more comical moments along the way. The band did not book an opening act for this evening; that gave them a balanced running time to give the people what they wanted (I’ve attended some shows in the venue where there were late-starting opening acts, and headliners who never quite knew when to stop playing, so this was a welcomed reprieve!) Everyone on stage was in good spirits; you can tell these guys love performing and have a chemistry with one another.
One of my favorite things about attending a Count’s 77 show is the fact that their original material blends in seamlessly with the (mostly 1970s) classics that the band performed on the stage. It was a varied setlist that combined material from the band’s two studio albums with covers that included artists like The Doors, Grand Funk Railroad, Ides of March, KISS, Bob Seger, and Pat Travers. The crowd and band were equal parts enthusiastic, including plenty of opportunities for audience participation.
The biggest surprise of the evening came in the form of special guests! A Count’s 77 show is always an epic on-stage occurrence, but this was the icing on the cake, giving audiences not one, not two, but THREE musical powerhouses to enhance an already fantastic evening! The guests were as follows:
-Bassist Phil Soussan. Best known for being Ozzy Osbourne’s bassist and a writer on the hit song “Shot in the Dark” (he’d demoed an earlier version of the song with his old band Wildlife), he’s also played with Billy Idol, Beggars and Thieves, Vince Neil, and RAIDING THE ROCK VAULT.
-Vocalist Paul Shortino. Shortino played Duke Fame in the 1984 film THIS IS SPINAL TAP, and has fronted bands like Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot, and King Kobra. He also recorded the “EGGMAN” song for the video game SONIC ADVENTURE 2.
-Vocalist Sebastian Bach. Bach now resides in Las Vegas, and is best known for being the classic lead vocalist in the band SKID ROW, with whom he recorded three full-length albums before parting ways with the band in the mid 1990s.
Each one of these guests added to what was already a fantastic show, giving the crowd all the more reason to be excited. I saw plenty of audience members trying to plow through the roped-off barricade to get close to Mr. Bach, though thankfully security kept these folks in line. It would’ve been nice to get another song or two out of Sebastian (he only sang a cover of KISS’ “Watchin’ You”), but we can’t complain with what we got. Also in the audience were ex-LA Guns and current Crashing Wayward guitarist Stacey Blades, and Koker’s COUNTING CARS co-star Horny Mike, though neither of them got on stage. Mike, of course, got some humorous shout-outs from Koker.
This was a killer evening of retro rock and roll, and this fans hopes new Count’s 77 music is on the way (some of the remarks made by Koker have me optimistic on that front). It’s never a boring time at a Count’s 77 show, and this one was no exception. Guest stars only enhanced an already excellent evening here. No one should pass up an opportunity to see Koker and his partners in crime rocking a live stage!
All photos taken by the author.