The Adventurist Guide to Downtown Las Vegas

Author - Cube Ruiz

Westside Story

Written by Matthew O’Brien 

Most of you, I assume, are familiar with the Fifth Street School, an old grammar school on Las Vegas Boulevard (formerly Fifth Street) that was converted into a cultural center. A similar transformation is taking place at the Historic Westside School on Washington Avenue at D Street.

The renovated Westside School, which catered to Native Americans in the 1920s and ’30s and African-Americans beginning in the ’40s, was unveiled last summer and is currently hosting its inaugural exhibit. Appropriately, “Life on the Westside” features the photography of Clinton Wright, who lived in the historic African-American neighborhood in the ’60s and ’70s. The stark, black-and-white images, with titles including “Voter Registration,” “Passing School Kids” and “Swimming at Doolittle Pool,” show a rarely seen side of the now-depressed neighborhood.

“Without Mr. Wright’s talent and incredible generosity, Las Vegas would have very little visual evidence of this vibrant, under-represented community,” said Aaron Mayes, curator of visual materials for UNLV’s Special Collections, which provided the pictures. “His images are special in many ways, but none more important than their ability to show the community in good times, something often lost in media coverage of the day.”

“Life on the Westside” is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (I recommend going midday, when light in the Mission Revival Style building is brightest.) The exhibit runs through May. To learn more about Wright and view images from his collection, visit www.library.unlv.edu/speccol and search for “Clinton Wright.”

Neon Reverb Returns

 

Written by Matthew O’brien 

To the delight of music junkies, Neon Reverb is back for its second straight year. The critically adored indie-music festival will be held March 9 through 12 in downtown Las Vegas. This year’s headliners include New York’s the Drums, LA’s Chicano Batman, Mexico’s Le Butcherettes and England’s Temples. Local acts include the Big Friendly Corporation, Same Sex Mary and Black Camaro.

Shows in the Fremont East area will be held at the Bunkhouse Saloon, Backstage Bar & Billiards, Beauty Bar and 11th Street Records. Shows in the Arts District will be at Velveteen Rabbit and the Inside Style warehouse. (The Inside Style show, which begins at 2 p.m. on March 11, is all ages and will showcase female musicians.)

Neon Reverb debuted in 2008. It has featured established acts like Melvins, Ty Segall and the Walkmen, but specializes in mid-tier acts that have a chance to make it big. It also aims to showcase the local music community and promising local acts.

Single show ($15) and festival passes ($60) are now on sale. For more info, visit www.neonreverb.com.

Do the Write Thing

Written by Matthew O’Brien 

Over the last five years, downtown Las Vegas has had its share of successes and failures, which have been well documented in blogs, magazine articles and even books. There’s no need for me to regurgitate them here. I would, however, like to note one of the successes—an anachronism of sorts that I think has been overlooked in the media coverage.

The Writer’s Block debuted in late 2014 (when many brick-and-mortar bookstores were going out of business) at Fremont and Tenth streets (an area that was considered off the beaten path). While I don’t know if hands-on owners Drew Cohen and Scott Seeley have benefitted financially from the business—it certainly seems stable—I do know the community has benefitted from it. It’s an ideal place to grab that novel you’ve wanted to read (that’s never on the shelf at Barnes & Noble) or get a gift for a friend, but what I appreciate most about the store is its willingness to promote local writers. This is evident in its events the next few weeks. On March 9, Black Mountain Institute executive director Joshua Wolf Shenk will read from his book-in-progress, tentatively titled The Question Man, which explores themes of addiction, sobriety and identity. “EXPO,” its monthly reading featuring local writers, is scheduled for March 10. (This month’s readers are Dayvid Figler, Kayla Miller, P Moss and Mercedes M. Yardley.) On March 14, Megan Edwards will read from and sign her debut novel Getting off on Frank Sinatra.

Don’t let the Writer’s Block stumble and be yet another downtown business you wish you had supported when it was open. Attend at least one of these events and buy something. (The store specializes in contemporary fiction, art and design, current affairs and children’s literature, but also sells stationery and notebooks, craft and office supplies and other unique items.)

For more information on the Writer’s Block and its events, visit  www.thewritersblock.org.

Goodbye to an Old Friend

For more than 60 years Ms. Nancy Williams costumed, adorned, accessorized and cared for showgirls, dancers and performers on and around the Las Vegas strip. She was a gifted dancer who not only danced in shows and modeled, she also taught the children of some infamous mobsters how to dance! Nancy used her intelligence and drive to buy a store across from the main post office (now the Mob Museum) where she was able to serve the dance and performing community for many years. When the opportunity presented itself, she sold and moved to the corner of Third Street and Colorado where Williams Costume sits today. Ms. Williams petitioned the City to have her apartment right above her store so that she could be close to her investment. She won that battle and has lived and worked in that amazing building for decades.

Anyone who has ever visited Williams Costume knows how wonderfully eclectic it is. You can get beads, feathers, hats, masks, material, sideburns, dance accessories and anything you may need to put together costumes or just your own unique look. The staff here is knowledgeable and experienced and so very kind that you will immediately feel at home.

 

 

It was such a joy for me to have met Nancy Williams. She shared wonderful stories of Vegas in the fantastic 50’s and 60’s. She was always so welcoming and had a smile on her face for every single person she met. Her love for dancers and performers is evident in every nook and cranny of her shop. There are so many photos of people, famous and not so, who have visited the store and/or shared the stage with Nancy. It is a must visit spot for anyone with an interest in Las Vegas and the entertainment industry.

Today we bid farewell to the beautiful, gifted, and generous woman who touched so many. Thanks for the memories Ms. Nancy Williams.

Lip Smacking Foodie Tours Downtown

restaurantsLip Smacking Foodie Tours is an exciting way for visitors and locals alike to get a taste of some of the most notable restaurants in Las Vegas. While the immediate draw of sampling food in a few of the trendiest eateries in town is enticing, guests also have the opportunity to see some of the iconic places that make Las Vegas great. On the Downtown leg of the tour, guests will see the famous El Cortez, pass by Emergency Arts which is located in the former Fremont Medical building, and visit the beautiful Carson building. Guests will avoid lines while the guides take them right into the acclaimed Carson Kitchen, brainchild of the late celebrity chef Kerry Simon. This venue has an open kitchen which gives visitors a unique experience as they prepare to sample Americana fare made with garden fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Tour guests will also visit Glutton. This is a new, upcoming spot that features elevated comfort foods and American fare. Glutton showcases locally sourced produce, housemade pasta, and seafood from the Pacific Northwest. Chef-Owner Bradley Manchester has created a place with a neighborhood vibe featuring craft cocktails with a concise menu of small and large plates.

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Guests will also venture further north to Itsy Bitsy Ramen and Whiskey located at the corner of Las Vegas Blvd. and Ogden. Don’t let the name fool you, the flavors here are far from small! This restaurant features create-your- own ramen bowls and rice bowls as well as hand rolls and more than a dozen Asian inspired dishes.

The tour will continue through the multi-use venue, Container Park. This unique space provides small shops and restaurants in repurposed shipping containers. There is a large stage with different entertainment such as live performances, movies, and activities for children and families. There is also a large play area open until 9 pm for children to enjoy.

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For tour participants who are over 21, there is an opportunity to visit Banger Brewing where you will be able to see how small batch craft beer is made and sample some unique brews.

If you are looking for a unique way to spend an evening and taste some of the best of Downtown, visit www.vegasfoodietour.com for more information.