Catch a Wave

It will be “Fun, Fun, Fun” when Good Vibrations: A Celebration of the Beach Boys comes back to Laughlin this week, paying tribute to the classic ’60s band that started the surf music genre with their “California sound.”

This light and fun music was characterized by simple lyrics glorifying life on the sunkissed beaches on the southern end of California. The Beach Boys rose to fame with their version of these pop rock surfing tunes, but later delved much deeper into musical stylings.

Brian Wilson started the band with his younger brothers, Dennis and Carl, their cousin Mike Love and a classmate Al Jardine, when the boys were just teenagers. They signed their first record deal in 1961 and recorded the song “Surfin’.” There was something special about the clean-cut California boys that sang about cars, girls and adolescent fun.

Brian served as the band’s composer and he melded rock, pop and jazz influences together to create their own signature sound, with falsetto vocals and a harmonic structure. Brian was mostly self-taught and his curiosity for musical arrangement kept the band’s sound evolving. He learned to create several layers of sound in their songs and delved into deeper emotional ballads in later years.

The Beach Boys endured through the British Invasion of the mid-‘60s competing for air-time with the Beatles. The Boys’ popular surf music held strong, yet Brian was ready to advance with a new production concept and looked to renowned record producer Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” style to compose “Pet Sounds,” the group’s 11th studio album, released in 1966.

Initially the album was met with mixed reviews, but it has come to be known as one of the greatest rock albums ever made and is platinum certified. Paul McCartney has been cited as calling one of the album’s singles, “God Only Knows,” his “favorite song of all time.”

Following “Pet Sounds,” The Beach Boys released the hit single, “Good Vibrations,” which topped the charts in the U.S. and several other countries. Brian took on a lengthy production period with a complex method of tape splicing to complete the song. Love contributed the lyrics to the innovative track, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Group performance in 1966 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994.

Over the next five decades, The Beach Boys released 18 more studio albums, with interchanging members. They suffered their fair share of turmoil and tragedy throughout that time. Dennis drowned in Marina del Rey in 1983 and Carl died of lung cancer in 1998. Brian suffered with addiction and mental health issues, which lead him to stray from the band, and Jardine quit touring with the group as well. Love has carried on with The Beach Boys name with longtime member Bruce Johnston.

Another group of California brothers and friends brings the music they loved from The Beach Boys to audiences all over the world. Jeff Celentano sings and plays keyboards for Good Vibrations: A Celebration of The Beach Boys. Celentano is originally from California and grew up a huge fan of The Beach Boys, which influenced his own musical career. After moving to Las Vegas and meeting a touring member of The Beach Boys, the idea for the tribute formed.

“We had an original band and we were writing music that was very much in the vein of later period Beach Boys material, and we were opening for bands of that era — America, Little River Band,” Celentano said. “Then around 2004 we met a fellow named Billy Hinsche. He was a longtime touring member and extended family member of The Beach Boys. He was Carl Wilson’s brother in law.

“We met him while opening for the band America and he kind of took us under his wing and we started playing with Al Jardine, who was a founding member of The Beach Boys. Next thing we know, we’re playing with one of The Beach Boys, touring and traveling. Then we kind of hatched the idea to form a tribute band out of that, around 2004-2005. So various members of our band have worked with original members of The Beach Boys.”

Having that connection to the real group helped Good Vibrations become a premier tribute, but first, the music had to be mastered, and The Beach Boys’ vocal range is not easy to replicate.

“The hardest part about being in a Beach Boys band is you have to find guys that cannot only play instrumentally, but can sing the parts,” Celentano said. “That’s been the biggest challenge throughout the years as members rotate out. We have to be very specific about the fact, they don’t have to be monster players, they don’t need to be guitar shredders, it’s more important that they know how to sing harmony parts.”

And one of the most difficult songs to perfect, was that hit single that lends its name to the tribute group, “Good Vibrations.”

“The most challenging song is probably the song ‘Good Vibrations,’ because there’s so many moving parts,” Celentano said. “That’s the hardest one to perform, even though it’s gotten easier for us over the years. Most songs just kind of have the same vibe from beginning to end. ‘Good Vibrations’ has four or five different sections in it so it’s almost like three songs in one. And it’s got weird instrumentation.

“That’s one of the cool things about The Beach Boys. If they only did surfin’ car music, they wouldn’t be as remembered as they are today. I think the thing about the music of The Beach Boys is that, very much like the Beatles, it started off very simplistic, then it veered off into this weird territory that most people didn’t expect. So if you go back and listen to the ‘Pet Sounds’ album or ‘Good Vibrations,’ it’s pretty out there. So they took as much of a leap musically, as say the Beatles did.”

Celentano agrees with Beatles member McCartney, that “God Only Knows” is a masterpiece.

“My favorite song to perform in the show is ‘God Only Knows.’ It’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written and tends to be one of most people’s favorite mid-period Beach Boys songs,” Celentano said. “The harder tunes, the more complex stuff, is my favorite as a musician, but for the general public, they like ‘Surfin’ USA’ and that kind of stuff. And that’s fun to play too.”

Good Vibrations has been a recurring act in Laughlin. This time, the band will play at Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort at 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, June 30-July 3.

“We love playing in Laughlin because it’s close to home but it’s nice to branch out a bit and meet some people that wouldn’t otherwise be able to come see us in Vegas,” Celentano said. “We’re looking forward to knocking it out of the park!”

Fans won’t leave disappointed because Good Vibrations checks every hit on the list during their shows.

“They can expect to hear all of The Beach Boys’ biggest hits,” Celentano said. “We will leave no stone unturned. We won’t go down a rabbit hole of any of the weird deep cuts. We stick to the hits so it’s going to be all of the stuff that they know and love.”