VEGASinsight Archives Alternative news, commentary and culture from Las Vegas Mon, 05 Jan 2009 23:08:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 It’s not the ride, it’s the wait Mon, 22 Dec 2008 05:50:06 +0000 The Deuce rolls down Boulder Highway

The Deuce rolls down Boulder Highway

Call it the cheapest tour in town. You can ride Citizen Area Transit (CAT)’s Route 107 from College and Horizon Drives in Henderson straight into the heart of downtown Las Vegas and back for only $2.50.

The route cruises along Boulder Highway and, according to the transit guide, should only take about an hour. Along with nine other passengers, I paid my fare at 11:50 a.m. and took a front row seat on The Deuce, the gold-colored, double-decker bus that was originally used to pack more people on a single bus for Strip routes. It feels empty now, but before arriving at the Downtown Transportation Center (DTC), only a few seats remained unfilled.

I tried talking to people, but Boulder Highway travelers are not as used to seeing a camera around someone’s neck as are folks on the Strip. It fits the setting: Boulder Highway is a 15-mile long strip mall, complete with fast food joints, gas stations, motels, a smattering of casinos and used car lots.

The driver did his best to arrive at the DTC on time, but the rain, people with incorrect change and a couple wheelchairs added 20 minutes to the journey. I wasn’t in a hurry but the complaining murmurs I overheard—mostly about the wheelchairs—indicated some people did have places to go.

I wandered around Fremont Street for an hour, somehow resisting fried Twinkies, 99-cent daiquiris and the lure of a “free pull.”

At the DTC

At the DTC

Maneuvering through the human flotsam clogging up the sidewalks of the DTC caused me to miss the bus. It’s not their fault; not everyone falls through society’s cracks on purpose. I waited 15 minutes for the next bus, then hit the road again, getting a look at the other side of Boulder Highway. It’s the same. The barren lot that most recently was Castaways (and was once the Showboat) is still empty. The new sign marking the border of Las Vegas and Henderson that first beckoned “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” now reads “Drive Carefully Come Back Soon.”

Then hunger hit. I blame the signs proclaiming “Old Las Vegas Prices” at the Longhorn Casino. Try it sometime. You can get a decent—not fantastic, but better than the price suggests—steak dinner for $4.99. I told you, it’s the cheapest tour in town.

I finished my meal, headed out to the nearest stop … and waited. And waited. I must have once again barely missed one bus and had to wait about 20 minutes for the next.

When I got on, there was a woman asking if anyone had a day pass they wouldn’t be using again. The $2.50 pass is good for unlimited rides for 24 hours (replacing the outdated transfer slips). Hers must have been close to expiring. No one spoke up to offer any assistance and she exited the bus with a look of worry on her face.

I exited the bus at Boulder Highway and Lake Mead Parkway. Route 217 stops there and would get me to within a block of my house. It was 4:02 p.m. when I got off the 107. The 217 passed through this stop at 4:00.

The next time it came by was 5 p.m., proving the one major down point about riding the CAT buses anywhere in town: it isn’t the ride that sucks, it’s the wait.

And wait I did, for an hour. I probably could have walked home in the time it took to wait for the next bus, but my day pass was still valid and I intended to use it to its fullest. Plus, it was raining, and while walking in the rain is great some places, Las Vegas isn’t one of them. I arrived home at 5:15 p.m.

I spent two and a half hours on the bus and more than an hour and a half waiting for the bus. No one exposed themselves to me or smelled bad. Sure, a few people talked too loud, but overall, riding the bus is not as bad as many people make it seem.

Then again, waiting for the bus still sucks.

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Lisick and Jepsen bring Bay Area sketch comedy to Sin City Thu, 11 Dec 2008 20:38:55 +0000 We don't know what to think, either.

We don't know what to think, either.

San Francisco writers Beth Lisick and Tara Jepsen have been performing together on and off since both appearing on the 1999 Sister Spit tour. This weekend, they’re unveiling their comedic alter egos in Las Vegas once again with a sketch-comedy show called “Getting on the Ground Floor and Staying There” at Beauty Bar (517 Fremont St.) tomorrow night, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. In case you’ve been living under a culture-less rock and aren’t aware of these two incredible authors, here’s the righteous skinny:

Lisick has penned two critically acclaimed popular alt-memoirs — Everyone into the Pool: True Tales and Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone. She also spent eight years writing a nightlife column called “Buzz Town” for the San Francisco Chronicle and co-founded the Porchlight Storytelling Series (which has featured Las Vegas’ own spoken-word maestro and NPR commentator Dayvid Figler).

Jepsen, on the other hand, orchestrates the queer slam-poetry night, “K’vetch,” and helped create one of the more notorious rock bands in S.F. called Lesbians. Her work has been published in landmark anthologies such as Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache and It’s So You.

VEGASinsight had a chance to speak with Lisick recently, to get the lowdown on what we can expect from her and Jepsen’s Las Vegas appearance.

VEGASinsight: So what’s “Getting on the Ground Floor and Staying There” all about anyway?

Beth Lisick: The show is a tribute that Tara [Jepsen] and I are throwing for ourselves after working together for 10 years. Carole and Mitzi are lady comediennes who never quite get around to telling their jokes, because they’re easily sidetracked about topics such as what defines one as a lesbian, and how much their tub of pancake mix is going to cost them, and how dirty the steam room at the gay men’s bath house was the other night. They are the janitors there on the night shift, you see.

VI: Wow.

BL: Oh, we’ll also present Cricket and Jinx, two ladies well past 40 who are obsessed with being “rock ’n’ roll” and “edgy.” And also Don and Phil, a couple of gay silver foxes who have been together for more than 30 years and like to kindly educate their audience about art and architecture.

VI: Isn’t there a movie component? We heard there was a film of Tara’s and yours to be screened.

BL: Yes, we will also show our short film Diving for Pearls, which played gay film fests internationally. [Note: Lisick doesn’t like to brag. The film won the “Most Innovative Short” award at the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 2005 and was selected for the “Best of Newfest” screening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.]

VI: You’ve been a comedian for 10 years! What does comedy mean to you?

BL: Well, I don’t consider myself a true comedian, though my character Carole Murphy is certainly one.

VI: So I guess you could say you only play a comedian onstage. Does comedy scratch a different itch for you than the one you scratch with the Porchlight series?

BL: Porchlight is a storytelling series that I curate, but don’t perform at. I just emcee the event with my partner Arline Klatte.

VI: You’ve done everything in Vegas — poetry readings, book festival appearances, dressed up like a banana for promotions, performed music — except for one thing: You’ve never worked in a casino. When can we expect that to happen?

BL: We will work in a casino this weekend if anyone wants to hire us!

Getting shipwrecked in Las Vegas at Frankie’s Tiki Room Wed, 03 Dec 2008 21:06:43 +0000 Frankie's Tiki Room
Photos by Erik Kabik | RETNA and courtesy Frankie’s Tiki Room

Double Down Saloon owner P. Moss is a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma. We’ve heard all kinds of wild stories about him — among the most interesting: he wrote screenplays for several B-grade action and exploitation movies produced in the 1980s — but confirmed very few of them. What we can tell you, though: He doesn’t like to brag, but we happen to know he’s an excellent crime fiction writer, and one of the most brilliant bar managers on the planet. Further evidence of the latter can be found at the brand-new Frankie’s Tiki Room (1712 W. Charleston Blvd.).

Last night saw the bar open to invited media and VIP guests, giving us a sneak peek at what Moss has done with the old Frankie’s Bar & Cocktail Lounge. The answer: He’s transformed it into one of the coolest tiki rooms in existence, with an attention to detail that is impressive (no surprise – like everything Moss does, this place is pitch-perfect). If the Double Down masters the art of the punk bar – with its Bacon Martinis and Ass Juice – then Frankie’s perfects the idea of a 1950s-style, Polynesian-themed lounge. Every aspect of the décor (courtesy of renowned tiki designer Bamboo Ben) is pure South Pacific kitsch, from the beautiful cocktail tables and chairs and the bartender’s surf shirts to the bumper pool table and the coin-operated “Vice Tester” game nonchalantly installed in the corner.

P Moss and Bamboo BenBut it’s the mind-blowing drinks themselves that will impress even the most been-there-done-that tiki enthusiast. Every drink is 8 bucks — unless you opt for a $20 souvenir mug, each of which is beautiful. And each drink listed on the menu has a skull rating, letting you how much power (or much of a hangover) you’re getting.

We sampled (OK, downed completely) three from the “Frankie’s Original Tiki Drinks” side of the menu. First was the small-yet-deadly Fink Bomb, a blend of coconut rum, 160-proof rum, melon liqueur and pineapple juice that had us buzzing before we knew it. Second, there was Ninth Island, a mix of gold and silver rums, 151-proof rum and pineapple juice that, because of its larger size, was easier to nurse than the nearly shot-sized Fink. God, we wanted to sip our Ninth Island all night, but we finally had to move on to something even better: the mojito-styled Bearded Clam (light rum, mint leaves, passion fruit). Needless to say, we should’ve called in sick to work this morning, but it was well worth it.

There are also plenty of traditional tiki drinks to be enjoyed, such as the Zombie, a Mai Tai or Lapu Lapu. But we definitely encourage you to try the original drinks. Frankie’s doesn’t serve food, but you can smoke or gamble at the bar.

Frankie’s Tiki Room is less than a mile from the downtown Las Vegas‘ Arts District, giving those who live in and around that area another beautiful place to drink. The Griffin and the Downtown Cocktail Room are wonderful, but sometimes a tad too close to Fremont Street Experience-gazing tourists. Added bonus: Frankie’s is right next to University Medical Center, so if you come down with acute alcohol poisoning, help is just a few feet away.

It looks like we’ll be spending quite a bit of time and money at Frankie’s Tiki Room.


Neon Outlook: Las Vegas’ live music in December Tue, 25 Nov 2008 07:26:16 +0000 White Arrows play Revolution Lounge on Dec. 7

White Arrows play Revolution Lounge on Dec. 7

It’s a bittersweet outlook for December’s live music. On one hand, there’s some killer stuff (Nine Inch Nails, anyone? Bloc Party? Wu Tang?!) coming to Las Vegas, and on the other hand, a number of shows scheduled for Jillian’s are homeless, as the venue has officially closed. Some shows have been moved to the House of Blues, others to The Box Office (1129 Casino Center Blvd.), but some are just … up in the air. But the all-ages music scene in Vegas is not dead yet, as the Alley Theater is slated to return soon to the valley. Or, so says its MySpace page. Keep your eyes posted to this space in the future for more on that. Until then, here are some shows that have not been canceled for December (yet…):

Tuesday, December 2
Wasted Space: Zerofingers, The Vermin and Guilty by Association at 10 p.m.

Wednesday, December 3
House of Blues: Five Finger Death Punch with In This Moment and Broken End at 5 p.m. $15, all ages.

Friday, December 5
The Joint: Tesla with Cinder Road at 8 p.m. $35.
Wasted Space: Velicious at 10 p.m.
Wasted Space: Conflict of Interest, Bydeathsdesign at 10 p.m.

Saturday, December 6
House of Blues: Hot 97.5’s OMG Jingle Jam featuring Pleasure P., Bobby Valentino and DJ Unk at 2 p.m. $9.75 – $19.75, all ages.
House of Blues: Wu Tang Clan at 8 p.m. $37 – 55, 21-over.

Sunday, December 7
Wasted Space: All-American Rejects, Jetlag Gemini and The City Lives at 10 p.m. $22.50
Revolution Lounge: White Arrows, DJ InMusicInLove at 10 p.m.

Tuesday, December 9
Wasted Space: CSS at 10 p.m. $15.

Wednesday, December 10
House of Blues: Anthony Hamilton at 7:30 p.m. $27 – 40, 21-over.

Thursday, December 11
House of Blues: Gary Allan at 8 p.m. $40-60, 21-over.

Friday, December 12
The Joint: Area 107.9’s Big Damn Holiday Jam featuring Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, The Ting Tings and Carolina Liar at 7 p.m. $39.50 and up.
Wasted Space: Jesse Dayton at 10 p.m.
House of Blues: Gary Allan at 8 p.m. $40-60, 21-over.

Saturday, December 13
Wasted Space: Jesse Dayton at 10 p.m.
Theatre for the Performing Arts (Planet Hollywood): Nine Inch Nails at 8 p.m. $54, $64 and $79.
House of Blues: Smash Magazine’s 5th Annual Birthday Bash Celebration featuring Escape the Fate, Seventh Plague, Destruction of a Rose and Eyes Like Diamonds at 5:30 p.m. $15-17, all ages.

Sunday, December 14
Revolution Lounge: Super Sonic Jets and The Hanks at 10 p.m.

Tuesday, December 16
House of Blues: Suicidal Tendencies with Death By Stereo and Whole Wheat Bread at 6 p.m. $17-20, all ages.

Thursday, December 18
House of Blues: Lamb of God with Job for a Cowboy and The Faceless at 5:30 p.m. $22-25, all ages.

Friday, December 19
The Joint: Xtreme Radio 107.5’s Holiday Havoc ’08 featuring Papa Roach, Hoobastank and Hollywood Undead. $29.50 and up.

Saturday, December 20
House of Blues: Appetite for Destruction and Back In Black at 8 p.m. $13-15, 21-over.

Sunday, December 21
Revolution Lounge: Aerodrone and The Anix at 10 p.m.

Sunday, December 28
Revolution Lounge: Devil Doll at 10 p.m.

Monday, December 29
House of Blues: Girl Talk with Dan Deacon at 7 p.m. $17-20, all ages.

Tuesday, December 30
House of Blues: Ratt at 7:30 p.m. $30-35, 21-over.

Wednesday, December 31
House of Blues: Akon at 10 p.m. $125-175, 21-over.

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Neon Review: ‘Day & Age’ by The Killers Mon, 24 Nov 2008 21:32:31 +0000 The Killers
Day & Age

Day and AgeWe’re going to deviate from the typical, one-sided, subjective album review you’ve come to know and hate for this latest studio effort from Las Vegas’ own The Killers in favor of something far more interesting: a two-sided, subjective album review. Today, VEGASinsight’s Pj Perez welcomes special guest Roger Erik Tinch, art and online director for the CineVegas Film Festival, as we present two very different takes on Day & Age, which hits stores in the United States today.

Pj: As usual, The Killers keep Day & Age lean, with only 10 tracks over 41 minutes (not counting the bonus tracks which we media types don’t get to preview). But that doesn’t mean they’ve cut the fat musically. Rather, the boys from Sin City try to cram so many different sounds into not only the album but each song – from dance to funk to Latin to rock to pop – that it seems along the way they just forgot to write a good song. It feels as though The Killers are overreaching even more than on Sam’s Town, whereas they’d be best off stripping back the horns and orchestral overtones and simply scratching out some palatable hooks and melodies.

Roger: OK, do some of the songs rip off The Clash? Sure. But four (three studio) albums in and the band is stilling putting together fully encompassed songs, unlike some of my other favorite bands, Coldplay and Radiohead. They rip from the playbook of The Beatles (yes I said it) and make rhythmically catchy tunes on top of seemingly simple lyrics that get more complex the digger you deep. Is it their best album? No, that is still reserved for Sam’s Town, a dystopian cowboy’s guide to the desert. But it is once again a cohesive album that raises the bar on their musical eclecticism without fully changing their “sound.”

Let’s look at the album, song by song:

“Losing Touch”
Pj: Hmm … it sounds like E.L.O. I guess I’m biased against ’70s retreads but totally alright with ’80s do-overs, as I very much enjoyed The Killers’ debut, Hot Fuss. Come on, if you’re going to dip back into the ’70s, at least make it David Bowie or Iggy Pop or, hell, go the Billy Joel route.
Roger: A great introduction to a new sound from The Killers. Pay attention to the sax as that’s the driving force behind the intriguingly fresh soundscape for the lads.

Pj: By now, we all know this first single from the album, whether or not we like it. The scary thing is, as bad as this song sounds as a single compared to great, early Killers tracks such as “All These Things That I’ve Done” or “Somebody Told Me,” it sounds surprisingly refreshing next to the rest of Day & Age, even if it easily could have been recorded by Erasure 25 years ago.
Roger: This is a quintessential Killers track. Catchy rhythm: check. Catchy hook: check. Aural use of synths: check. It’s just a beautiful song that has as much of a timeless sound as it does a space age-y feel.

Pj: Tempo: Good. New Order-ness: Good. Brandon’s voice: Bugging the crap out of me for some reason. This new, near-falsetto whine just doesn’t work here. And every time I’ve seen the band – which is after and in between every album – he can’t pull it off live. Not a single—sorry, Island.
Roger: Speaking of space, this just rockets you into the atmosphere. Just try not singing along and rocking out to the “Spaceman says everyone look down” chorus. Definitely works as a second single. Sizzles with energy and has a kinetic force that builds to the last note.

“Joy Ride”
Pj: This is actually pretty enjoyable. I mean, I like funk. I like disco. And Flowers isn’t whining. It kind of reminds me of “Station-to-Station”-era Bowie. I’d pick this as a single over “Spaceman,” but then again, it still sounds too locked in the ’70s to really make it, especially not on alternative radio. ’80s disco they like – ’70s, not so much.
Roger: See, this track just screams The Clash to me. Maybe it’s just my “London Calling” obsession. Anyhow, it’s amazing how it dips into a ’70s vibe, then out to acoustic guitars, then back into a groovy saxophone bridge. This is another example of the band extending its sound brilliantly.

“A Dustland Fairytale”
Pj: Oh look, ethereal, piano-driven storytelling pop. That’s not ’70s at all. Hey, Meatloaf just called about his royalties for “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.”
Roger: This one is all about Brandon Flowers’ lyrics, backed by some wonderful orchestral strings. It’s the power ballad of the album for sure, and also an example of the band’s knack for creating fully encompassed songs formed with cohesion from beginning to end. No such thing as “filler” tracks for this band.

“This is Your Life”
Pj: Bass line from When in Rome’s “The Promise” … weird tribal chanting … “Chariots of Fire”-like synthesizers … it now occurs to me The Killers are the live equivalent of a mash-up DJ. And it’s not pretty.
Roger: This is less of a mash-up and more of an aural journey, as was the previous track. I am constantly amazed by how many different sounds a song can have and how easily they ebb and flow throughout. It never sounds forced and keeps a sense of unpredictability that you seldom find in many songs today.

“I Can’t Stay”
Pj: I don’t even know what to say at this point. I think I’ve lost such interest. It’s … um … please never play this live, guys. When The Cure tried the whole quirky Latin and jazz influences, it worked — see “The Lovecats” or “The 13th.” This just doesn’t.
Roger: Come on, this is just a light and fun track. Let the boys break out from the guitars and synths every now and again.

“Neon Tiger”
Pj: Here we go, back to that Sam’s Town Springsteen-iness … without the hooks.
Roger: The band never forgets its Vegas roots and with each album, The Killers have a track that reinforces that. This is that track. Not the strongest song on the album, but then again, even their worst songs are better than some band’s best songs.

“The World We Live In”
Pj: I am tapping my toes. Man, I love Hall & Oates. Oh wait … it’s not H&O … it’s INXS. It’s … hell, I don’t even know at this point.
Roger: I love it every time they bring in the orchestral strings and horns. As close as to Coldplay as they’ve ever gotten. I dig it because there is a genuine earnestness on display here. Flowers writes from the heart, irony be damned.

“Goodnight, Travel Well”
Pj: And here, at the end, clocking in at 6:51, is the absolute best song on the album, a slow-building, tempered, epic song that feels like a live band and not a jukebox, with Flowers sounding earnest as he repeats “there’s nothing I can do now.” Why can’t there be more like this?
Roger: Coming on the heels of Death Cab for Cutie’s nine-minute epic “I Will Possess Your Heart,” this also takes the dramatic route in length, but with a thunderous build that poetically creeps along. Before you know it, the track is over and so is another solid album from The Killers. That four for four in my book!

And there you have it, kids. If you want to form your own opinion of The Killers’ latest opus, we recommend heading on over to, where you can buy Day & Age for only $3.99 this week. Why pay more?

Saosin: ‘No silent moments’ Thu, 20 Nov 2008 21:43:56 +0000 Saosin
Saosin guitarist Beau Burchell rocking the HOB, Nov. 18, 2008

It’s 3 p.m. on Wednesday, and two dozen kids are at the House of Blues Las Vegas inside the Mandalay Bay resort and casino waiting for the doors to open. Small groups of young music fans continue to arrive, turning the floor into a sea of black T-shirts with random smatterings of Fruit Loops colors – pinks, blues, yellows and purples flash when someone turns around or lifts an arm to wave to a friend.

In two hours, these kids will fill the House of Blues, but for now, the venue is almost empty as I walk to the backstage area to meet Saosin, the California-based band second-billed on a tour with headliner Underoath, The Devil Wears Prada and The Famine.

Saosin guitarist Beau Burchell relaxes in the band’s RV as bassist Chris Sorenson chops onions and peppers for pre-show guacamole. A fan gave Sorenson a cookbook a few days before but this recipe is one of his own creations.

“Some bands are scared to meet their fans. They’re kind of creepy sometimes,” Burchell said. “But ours aren’t that way.”

Before this tour, Saosin brought the fans into their work. In a deal with clothing brand Hurley, Saosin agreed to stream video of the recording process on the web.

“We’re kind of breaking the taboo about how a record gets made,” Burchell said.

Sorenson agreed, while still keeping his eyes on the project at hand.

“No one knows how much nothing goes on,” he said. “It is a process, but it isn’t always ‘finish one thing then on to the next thing.’ The cool thing is that we did everything ourselves. Fans got to see us move the mikes and get into a giant drum circle.”

Burchell smiles like he just found the best way to explain the situation.

“It’s like my own brother,” he continues, “Just because his brother is in a band, you’d think he might know more about what goes on. Unless you are in the band, you really don’t know.”

Letting fans into the studio was something designed for the few who are truly interested in the process and not much else.

“We’re making a record, not reality TV,” Sorenson said. “It’s not something we advertised a lot, but was mostly for the core fan base.”

“It’s not for every band,” Burchell said. “It can be easy to get caught up in things when you are in the creative state. You just need to stay focused.”

Most bands wouldn’t want their rock star lifestyles broadcast and viewed 100,000 times a week, but this was never a concern for Saosin.

“We can’t be the band that is getting drunk and being self-destructive,” Sorenson said. “It’s not really a problem for us. We’re not shitty people.”

For all the lack of pretension, the fans that have filled the House of Blues on this autumn evening accept Saosin as bona fide rock stars. They get applause almost equal to top-billed Underoath, and finding someone not singing along during Saosin’s set is difficult. Vocalist Cove Reber works the crowd as though he’s been doing this for two decades and not just five years. Burchell and Sorenson have the rock god posing down, but there is a humor in their eyes that lets fans in on the joke. Guitarist Justin Shekoski performs with an air of mystery around him, rarely looking up and seemingly engrossed in the music. Drummer Alex Rodriguez keeps everyone in time and up to speed.

And it could all be different.

“There’s an urge to go out and be the heaviest band we can be,” Sorenson said. “But that’d be too easy. Besides, we’d never be heavier than The Famine.”

Even without being as heavy as they can be, Saosin manages to keep up the energy level deep into the tour.

“It’s just the kids,” Burchell said. “If I know there are kids out there that waited to see us and are giving 110 percent to us, I feel bad if I can’t give 110 percent to them.”

The kids even get loud for two new songs: “Secrets” and “Lovemaker” are currently only available on Saosin’s tour exclusive EP The Grey.

“Whatever song gets the most from the crowd each night is our favorite song to play,” Burchell said.

Often, that song is “You’re Not Alone,” a ballad that could easily be the anthem for a new youth movement. Anything that can bring this many kids—and a few of their parents, thanks to the House of Blues’ rules stating that anyone under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian—together can’t be a bad thing.

“It’s worth playing when you see the same guys who were just in the mosh pit beating each other up now arm in arm,” Sorenson said.

And that is exactly what happens. Pierced and tattooed tough guys calm down, start singing and get into the moment. A father and daughter wearing matching As I Lay Dying T-shirts hug each other.

Maybe this will become a prom night song and maybe Saosin will be the band with which these kids grow old. Right now, only one thing is for sure:

“There are no silent moments,” Sorenson said.


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CineVegas announces 2009 dates, gets Shorts-sighted Fri, 14 Nov 2008 19:11:32 +0000 CineVegas logo

You might think it’s a little soon for us to be discussing the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival, given that it’s June 11 start is still seven months away. But if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, you might think differently, as submissions for the 11th annual fest are being accepted from Dec. 1, 2008 to March 1, 2009.

With cash prizes totaling $14,000 awarded to select film categories and previous winners going on to festival circuit fame and grandiose distribution deals, CineVegas is the perfect launch platform for your Scorcese-like epic. But act soon, because the competition is fierce.

“2008 was a record-breaking year for CineVegas, as the Festival received the most submissions in its history,” said Trevor Groth, artistic director for the festival. “I know that 2009 will also break records, not just in the number of submissions we receive, but in the quality of films that we are seeing.”

If you fall into that category of “the next Quentin Tarantino,” then you’ll want to click on over to, where festival submissions for CineVegas are being handled. Submissions received by Jan. 15 will be eligible for an early bird discount – and hey, every penny counts these days.

In related CineVegas news, the festival recently re-launched its CineVegas Shorts Online microsite, where some of the best shorts from the 2002 to 2006 festivals can now be viewed at Perfect for those of you looking for something to watch while you eat that tuna sandwich at your desk.

Tool singer Keenan brings wrathful grapes to suburbia Thu, 06 Nov 2008 16:27:22 +0000 Maynard James Keenan

He will work to elevate you. He will work to bring you down. (Photo by Erik Kabik | RETNA)

Does anyone else find it weird that Maynard James Keenan, the once mohawked, cross-dressing lead singer of dark, progressive alt-metal band Tool – as well as other projects such as A Perfect Circle and Puscifer – is now hawking fancy wines to suburban yoga moms in pricey organic supermarkets? Yes, that’s right, Keenan is a partner in Arizona-based winery Caduceus Cellars (they grow grapes in Arizona?!), with winemaker Eric Glomski, and he’s doing a different kind of tour than he’s used to – that of wine promotions and signings at Whole Foods stores.

The singer – who comes from a family of Italian winemakers – stopped at the location in The District at Green Valley Ranch yesterday with Glomski, an event which found people lined up down the street to meet, and buy wine from, the diminutive, smooth-headed singer-turned-vintner. Our favorite bearded photographer, Erik Kabik, not only snapped photos of the signing, but also snapped up a $75 bottle of Caduceus’ 2005 Nagual de la Naga. According to the shutterbug and wine enthusiast, the wine is “a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grape varieties … a big, fruity wine with jammy, smoky flavors of blackberry and rhubarb.” Sounds good to us.

In case you missed the signing, have no fear – Keenan will be back on Dec. 9 at the Town Square Whole Foods location from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Save your pennies now. We wonder what wine goes best with “Prison Sex,” though. Hmm …

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Drinking with the Dems on Election Night in Las Vegas Wed, 05 Nov 2008 21:55:20 +0000 obama_shirts

Avoiding Election Day results in this age of information overload and constant connectivity isn’t an easy task. My plan was this: Avoid polling results until I got to the Nevada Democratic Party Election Night bash at the Rio All-Suites Hotel. I wanted to be surprised, I wanted to get caught up in the moment, I didn’t want to emotionally rise and fall throughout the hours leading up to the eventual declaration and concession.

I did pretty well. At about 5 p.m., an hour after polls closed on the East Coast, a friend started to tell me how many electoral votes were called for Sen. Barack Obama. I shut her up quickly. When I got home, I avoided radio and internet, going straight into the kitchen to make dinner and absorbing no more information beyond a 20-year-old comic book. Before leaving for the Rio, I logged onto Twitter to announce my destination. And that’s when I caught the page full of tweets relaying the news that Ohio had been called for Obama. That could have been the end right there.

Driving in my car on surprisingly quiet streets, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) was being interviewed on NPR. This is a man who helped lead the Civil Rights Movement, who marched right along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was beaten by a white mob in his youth. Listening to him talk brought the first of a number of tears last night to my eyes.

obama_tieI submitted a request for credentials to the party at the Rio’s Pavilion meeting rooms, but ended up not needing any. This celebration was open to the public, and boy, did the public turn out. Say what you will about party politics, but one thing I’ve noticed in attendance at both Obama rallies and this Election Night party is that the Democratic base is the definition of diverse: All colors, ages, creeds, sizes, shapes and abilities were represented in the Brasilia Ballroom. This is what America looks like.

A giant screen projected a live broadcast from MSNBC, while smaller, flat screen monitors scattered throughout the massive ballroom displayed live reports from Fox News, CNN and the like. One section of the room was specifically designated for the hearing, mobility and sight impaired, complete with sign language interpreters and handicap accommodations. Cash bars were well distributed throughout the room, and a decent appetizer buffet set behind the press riser fed a hungry line all night.

There were important local and state races all around, including two U.S. Congressional seats, a number of State Assembly seats and a County Commission opening. But it was obvious why the party was flooded with people – obvious by their T-shirts, buttons, signs, accessories and banners: Last night was all about Barack Obama. Every time the giant screen displayed another winning state called for Obama, the crowd cheered. Actually, the crowd may have just cheered every time someone bought a drink. It was hard to tell. The sheer jubilance in the room was energizing.

But that feeling of anticipation I’d hoped for was all but impossible to attain. I arrived just a little after 7 p.m., and already Obama had 207 votes to Sen. John McCain’s 130 or so. And polls had still not closed on the West Coast. At about 7:30, I remarked to a friend that this thing would be over by 10 p.m. I should have put money on that.

Somewhere about 8:30, a Democratic Party official climbed behind the podium on the stage beneath the giant screen to make an announcement: The room was at capacity – those who were present needed to stay there, and no more folks were being let into the Brasilia Ballroom. Already an overflow room across the hall was being used. And then, as the speaker was talking mundanely about which restrooms for guests to use, it happened.

The room erupted. Screams and shouts and claps and cries and tears and hugs. That could mean only one thing, of course. And sure enough, as I peered through the throng of bodies between me and the nearby television, I saw the numbers on screen: Obama suddenly had somewhere in the neighborhood of 287 votes. The West Coast must have reported. It happened so quickly, so suddenly, it almost didn’t feel real.

We drank smuggled beers, making toasts and sharing in unified victory with strangers as we watched the numbers rise … by the time Obama leapt in a single bound over the 300 mark, we were out of that “worry zone” that something might go wrong, as it did in the hotly contested 2000 race. It was over. The Republican pundit on MSNBC knew it long before then, John McCain’s own advisers knew it long before then, but this was it. McCain’s pale, waxy face appeared on the giant screen as he made his concession speech. Aside from a few scattered boos, the Democrats in house were surprisingly respectful. They cheered his speech numerous times – not with the enthusiasm given to the winner, but with a sincere sentiment of “good game.”

But of course, the room swelled again in sheer political ecstasy as the live broadcast switched to Chicago, and now-President-Elect Obama took to his podium to deliver his victory speech to a sea of faces representing every walk of human life in this nation. It was moving and elating even if we all were heading toward the intoxicated side of our celebrating.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, who easily trounced her opponents last night with more than 67 percent of the vote, briefly addressed the crowd, dishing out the appropriate thanks to Democratic Party officials, volunteers, supporters, etc. Also in attendance – that I could see – were Dina Titus, who nabbed the District 3 Congressional seat from incumbent Jon Porter, Ellen Spiegel, who narrowly beat out Jon Ozark for State Assembly District 21 and Richard “Tick” Segerblom, who held onto his District 9 State Assembly seat with almost 67 percent of the vote.

Shortly after Berkley’s speech, the crowds began dissipating, mostly out into the casino to do more celebrating, but a healthy amount of people still remained in the ballrooms. The entire Rio that night was filled with (mostly drunken) cheers and chants of “yes we can” and “Obama!”

It remains to be seen what effect – good or bad – the renewed influence of the Democratic Party will have on American politics. We now technically live in a “blue state,” but that’s misleading, as only the extreme southern and northwestern tips of Nevada carried Obama last night, reinforcing the deep division between the population centers and the rural towns. And though the country overwhelmingly voted for its first African-American president, again, most of the “blue” states are located on one of the two coasts, which means a whole lot of people in the middle may be feeling disenfranchised if our newly-elected President cannot fulfill his promise of unity, community and working toward nonpartisan solutions.

Meanwhile, I just hope my car is still in one piece in the Rio parking lot. Well, you know what they say about the audacity of hope …

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Neon Outlook: November’s First Friday and more art beyond Tue, 04 Nov 2008 20:58:36 +0000 Just one of the haunting works by Justin Crabtree and David Ward at Main Gallery

Just one of the haunting works by Justin Crabtree and David Ward at Main Gallery

Amongst all the Election Day nonsense (oh, and topless shows, dance-punk concerts and Tiki bars), we almost forgot First Friday was coming up this week. I know, I know, “how could we?” Well, it’s not like the future of our country (and the free world?) is hanging in the balance today or anything, right?

With that in mind, assuming the world hasn’t shat itself by then, here’s a look forward to November’s worthy art openings in Las Vegas not only before and during First Friday, but maybe a little after, as well:

First up is the return of Brian and Jennifer Henry’s creation Lola in her newest show, “Lola vs. The Universe,” at Trifecta Gallery (inside the Arts Factory, 103 E. Charleston Blvd.). Opening with a preview reception on Thursday, Nov. 6 from 5 to 8 p.m., this new series catches up with the exploits of Lola, an “avid activist,” “steam train conductor” and Presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, at Main Gallery (1009 S. Main St.), Justin Crabtree and David Ward team up for “Method and Theory,” which opens Friday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. This installation juxtaposes the approaches, disciplines and styles of artist Crabtree and biologist Ward. You really need to see it to believe it.

Around the corner at MTZC (on the second floor of Commerce Street Studios, 1551 S. Commerce St.), we bid a sad farewell to the 4-year-old gallery with “20/20 Hindsight,” the final show featuring the art of owner Mark T. Zeilman. Do not miss the opening reception on Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. for this closing show.

If you survive all that First Friday noise, then by the next week you’ll be ready for the opening of “Love and Water” by San Francisco-based Alexis Amann at Atomic Todd (1221 Main St.), showing Nov. 14 through Dec. 31. The exhibition, curated by Naomi Arin, features Amann’s acrylic gouache paintings, which explore the dual themes of love and water. The opening reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14.

Other shows to keep on your calendar that we’ll revisit later: Tarissa Tiberti at The Fallout (1551 S. Commerce St.) from Nov. 21 to Jan. 3, 2009, and “Israeli Art NOW,” showing Nov. 26 through Jan. 4, 2009 at Naomi Arin Contemporary (formerly DUST, 900 S. Las Vegas Blvd. Suite 120-B).