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Fifth Street

October 7, 2021

In this issue: Scary good times: Seasonal family fun and cultural events | Bohemian eulogy: When Maryland Parkway ruled the ’90s | Street Foodie is ‘stew crazy’ over these bomb wet burritos | This guy sounds just like Tim McGraw and, look, now he’s on national TV


Heather Lang-Cassera
Oct. 8
Poetry reading

Heather Lang-Cassera, Nevada State College professor and former Clark County Poet Laureate, has brought out a poetry collection called Gathering Broken Light in the same week that we remembered victims of the 1 October shooting in Las Vegas. The book, published by Unsolicited Press in Portland, meditates lyrically on the anguish and aftermath of this tragedy. But can poetry even address — even make sense of — such a horrific event? Lang-Cassera sagely points out that poetry’s job isn’t to supply answers, but rather provide a different, fertile medium for asking questions.

“I’m not sure I’ve made sense of anything, but for me, that is, in part, the function of poetry,” she says. “If I already know how I feel, or if I have a set idea, I write prose, like short stories. However, if I can’t make sense of something, I turn to poetry, both as a writer and a reader. I hope the poems might help us make space for our community’s grief, and I hope they will allow us to pause and to remember those most affected.” Jarret Keene

With author Jennifer Battisti, 7p, free, The Writer’s Block, thewritersblock.org

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Ghost(s)
Oct. 7-30
Immersive theater

For Ghost(s), Majestic Repertory’s interactive theater experience in which attendees play the role of intrepid new recruits into The Pyewacket Society for Occultural Affairs (est. 1919), the but-seriously fine print boasts all the juicy selling points: “Ghost(s) is a fully immersive experience in which groups of six are taken beyond the veil to make contact with the deceased. There is a chance of physical contact.” Oooh! “Strobe lights, theatrical haze, and loud sounds are implemented in this experience.” Aaaaah! “This performance is not recommended for audience members who are not comfortable standing, walking, climbing stairs, crawling, or being alone.” Zoiiiks! (Honestly, they had me at “chance of physical contact.”) The premise: As a fresh recruit, you’re joining other members of The Pyewacket Society as they seek to make contact with spirits from beyond — but your quest reveals dark secrets about the Pyewacket family that (cue diabolical laughter) may haunt you in more ways than one. Andrew Kiraly

Multiple slots available starting at 7p, Thu-Sat, $35, The Usual Place, 100 S. Maryland Pkwy., majesticrepertory.com


Indigenous Peoples’ Day Cultural Event and Car Parade
Oct. 10
Cultural celebration

What happens when you combine a car show with a cultural holiday and throw in some free pandemic prevention? We’ll find out this Sunday, when folks are invited to decorate their classic vehicles with tribal regalia and gather at Winchester Dondero Cultural Center for a collective drive to the Strip. Back at the community center, there will be booths with Indigenous art, food, and performances, along with free COVID-19 and flu vaccines. You can register to participate by emailing nativevotevegas@gmail.com. Heidi Kyser

1-5p, free, Winchester Dondero Cultural Center, 3130 McLeod Drive, clarkcountynv.gov

Witch
Oct. 13-Nov. 7
Play

Nobody can muck up a deal with the devil like a witch. That’s the moral of Jen Silverman’s 2018 dark comedy about male conflict, female marginalization, and small-town politics. It’s perfect timing for Halloween, of course, but also a welcome reopening for Vegas Theatre Company, formerly known as Cockroach, which has been holding regular comedy and improv shows but marks this as its return to scripted drama after 18 months away. VTC is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry to the theater, as well as mask use in line with current CDC guidelines. HK

7:30 p Fridays, 2p and 7:30p Saturdays, and 5p Sundays; $25-$33; Vegas Theatre Co., 1025 S. 1st St.; theatre.vegas

Las Vegas Book Festival
Oct. 23
Literary shindig

The City of Las Vegas is extending the creative use of online events that it developed during the pandemic to all its gatherings, including this year’s book festival. The virtual book festival starts October 18 and lasts all week, with events ranging from a panel of romance authors to a three-hour creative writing intensive. Saturday is the in-person gathering Downtown, offering the usual mix of author talks, panel discussions, and workshops — not to mention the book marketplace. Among this year’s highlights are comic Fran Lebowitz (right), poet and novelist Sandra Cisneros, and writer and scholar Oriel Maria Siu. HK

9a-6p, free, Historic Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St., lasvegasbookfestival.com

Tease
Oct. 23
Burlesque

If you’ve been meaning to try burlesque, this evening could make for a good introduction. Tease is a fundraiser for sponsor the Burlesque Hall of Fame, a nonprofit museum downtown that holds thousands of costumes, props, photos, and other memorabilia from the history of the art form. Expect a sampling from that collection, with performances defined by the characteristic mix of comedy, glamour, and sex appeal. All that fun is lubricated by The Space’s two-drink minimum. HK

7p, $20-40, The Space, 3460 Cavaretta Ct., thespacelv.com

Versions of a Family Ofrenda
Oct. 28-Nov. 25
Art exhibit

Ofrendas are a central feature of annual Dia de los Muertos celebrations — homemade altars dedicated to loved ones who’ve passed away, often lavishly replete with food, candles, photos, and other mementos. If that sounds like an opportunity for some artistic flair and creative interpretation, you’re going to love this exhibit curated by Natalie Delgado. The artist and educator has brought together a stellar group of local Hispanic artists — including Adriana Chavez, Manny Munoz, Daisy Sanchez, Miguel Rodriguez, Reina Dalton, Dan Hernandez, and Albert F. Montoya Jr. — who’ll share their own wildly personal spins on the ofrenda through various media and methods. You’re likely to find that the reflective traditions of Dia de los Muertos can be approached with joy, playfulness, and creative verve. AK

Reception 6p Oct. 28, free, Charleston Heights Arts Center Gallery, 800 S. Brush St., artslasvegas.org

The Macro-Fi Halloween Block Party 2021
October 30
Music

Ain’t no party like a Macro-Fi party ’cause a Macro-Fi party … wait, what is Macro-Fi? Macro-Fi isn’t a band per se; rather, it’s a much-respected local musical collective perhaps best known for hosting Common Ground, a long-running First Friday after-party that’s become an institution all its own. For this Halloween shindig, Macro-Fi is bringing together a wildly diverse bunch of scary talented local bands to ring in (forgive me) the “boo” year, including Indigo Kidd, Hassan (right), Desert Bloom (headline picture), Late for Dinner, and Viaje Nahual. Also expect plenty of jaw-dropping breakdancing, live art creation, refreshments, and a Halloween costume contest. AK

7p-11p, free and all ages, Third Street Promenade between Hoover and Gass avenues, artslasvegas.org

Toytopia
Through Jan. 3
Interactive exhibit

Toys: They’re not just for kids anymore. I’m talking to you, LEGO-loving, PS4-playing, Star Wars figures-collecting dadboy who spent the weekend utterly destroying your kid in a high-stakes living-room Nerf blaster war. In other words, interactive exhibit Toytopia should provide plenty of dopamine for adults as well as kids, as it highlights a range of historic toys and games of yesteryear, with displays such as a nearly 8-foot-tall Etch-A-Sketch; a playable, real-life arcade of ’80s video-game classics such as Ms. Pac Man, Donkey Kong Jr., and Missile Command; a giant Battleship game; and, of course, a LEGO play area. Play on, man-babies and child-people of all ages. Play on. AK

Through Jan. 3, free for Springs Preserve members; included with general admission for non-members, Springs Preserve, springspreserve.org

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IF YOU LIVED in Las Vegas in the 1990s and were interested in arts and culture, you headed down to Maryland Parkway. For a brief period of time, the area around UNLV was the city’s artistic hub, with coffeehouses such as Café Espresso Roma and Café Copioh, record stores Benway Bop and The Underground, and art galleries such as the Contemporary Arts Collective. Maryland Parkway was where you could check out local bands, poetry readings, and art exhibits, or just hang out with like-minded bohemians. By the early 2000s, though, the scene had almost entirely dried up. Most of the businesses closed, and the Vegas arts scene shifted to Downtown.

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Former Las Vegas journalist Pj Perez was a mainstay of the Maryland Parkway scene, and in 2006 he wrote a Las Vegas Weekly feature exploring the rise and fall of the area. Although he moved to Southern California in 2017, Vegas and Maryland Parkway remained on his mind, and the result is the documentary Parkway of Broken Dreams. The film has its local premiere October 13 at Galaxy Theatres in the Boulevard Mall, before moving on to festival showings and an eventual VOD release, as well as potential public television airings next year. Perez spoke to Fifth Street about capturing a somewhat forgotten moment in Vegas history onscreen.

When did you start thinking of expanding your Las Vegas Weekly article into a documentary?
It’s funny because I didn’t realize how long I’d been rolling that idea around in my head, until I stumbled upon some random social media post from up to 10 years ago where I was talking about doing that. I think on a LiveJournal post or something, I responded to someone and I was like, “Maybe one day I’ll turn this into a documentary,” because they were commenting on the Weekly story. So it was almost from the get-go. But I wasn’t involved in filmmaking at the time, so I really had no inclination or clue of how I would do it then.

Did you attempt to interview some of the more well-known people associated with the Maryland Parkway scene?
Yeah, absolutely. At least two members of The Killers were supposed to be in the film, one of whom reached out to me about being in it, and the other who I reached out to because I've known him the longest. We couldn’t make the schedules work. As far as anyone else, in the course of an interview with Dayvid Figler, he was the one who clued me in on the fact that Jason Sudeikis used to do free shows at Roma after they got done with their Second City sets back in the early 2000s. That would’ve been nice if we could’ve gotten someone like Jason Sudeikis, especially before Ted Lasso blew up. But at the same time, to what end? That was after the scene kind of was over. What I’ve found, especially talking to other members of the Generation X clan, is that they’re like, “This story reminds me of the scene in my hometown. I had the exact same thing that I went through in Nashville, or in Denver, or wherever it is.” I think that that makes the story even more relatable than just, “I recognize that person from that music video.”

What was the process for gathering archival photos and videos for the film?
It was like pulling teeth from the universe. This was a time period when people weren’t documenting every moment of everything, so there were very few people to go to. But thankfully, the people who did run around with video cameras all the time were very generous with the material they had. In the course of the whole project, most people were very willing to just donate the use of their footage for no cost. That’s what took the longest. I could control the new footage for the most part. I could schedule the interviews, I could go to town and shoot Maryland Parkway as things kept getting torn down. But I couldn’t control for that. Some of the time in making it was just waiting for someone to get back to me with clearance on a photo, or waiting for someone to send me the files they promised to send.

Do you have a favorite memory from your experience in the Maryland Parkway scene?
The weird thing about that time and that place is that while it was happening, it felt like something special was happening, and it was very organic. It's like — my wedding was awesome, and everyone talks about how great of a time they had. But (my wife) Sarah and I cannot remember the details of it at all. We see the pictures, and I’ll be like, I forget that that thing happened, or that thing happened. That’s what that whole scene feels like in retrospect. It feels like we were all at this really amazing grungy poetry indie rock wedding that everyone knows was really awesome, but you can’t really pinpoint the things, because there was so much happening, and we were also all probably doing a lot of drugs. It feels sort of like it was a dream, but I think part of the reason why I also wanted to do the film was, well no, it happened. Here’s the very concrete evidence that it happened, and it wasn’t just a dream.

What does the short-lived nature of the Maryland Parkway scene say about the ability of Las Vegas to sustain cultural and artistic communities?
There’s always an impermanence about everything in Vegas. Especially people who’ve lived in Vegas for a long time, or did live in Vegas for a long time, know that feeling of, oh, this building could get torn down at any time, this cultural institution could go away. Everything cool that ever happens always goes away very quickly. I don’t know if that's the case anymore. I feel like the circumstances today are very different than they were even 10, 15 years ago, to be able to support long-term this sort of thing. What would happen back then is — and this happened all the way up until maybe the 2010s — everyone would go to one area, and then as soon as you had something else more interesting in another area, everyone would just abandon the (initial) area. And that’s basically what happened with Maryland Parkway. I think that that’s changed somewhat, but back then I think the impermanence was inevitable. You just took advantage of everything you could for as long as you could.

What lessons does this offer in terms of how cities in general can be more supportive of culture?
I think you need to have some sort of “official” cultivation or sponsorship of the arts or independent businesses or whatever it is, in order to layer over and also provide support under those things that may be very popular with patrons and participants, but might not be financially sound enough for those who are endeavoring to actually survive. That’s probably part of why certain initiatives have worked Downtown, where they wouldn’t work elsewhere, because you either had an outside incubator like the Downtown Project, which could finance projects, or you had the city of Las Vegas doing things like offering grants for building refurbishment or for signage improvement. They were doing these things to the layout of the streets to help improve the curb appeal of certain businesses. You need to have that sort of support so that you can actually have those cultural institutions that otherwise tend to just flounder.

Do you have other documentary projects in the works?
Depending on how things go, even though working on this documentary was a harrowing experience at times, I learned a lot about what not to do next time, and what to definitely do next time. I am in the process of fundraising for another documentary feature or series that is tied into another Vegas topic.

Did the changing cultural landscape of Vegas have any influence on your own move out of town?
I’ve done everything in Vegas. I lived there for 25 years. I played in bands, I published ’zines, I edited magazines, I edited websites, I made short films, I ran a small business. I did a lot there. It felt easy, because it was just always there, and because it was a very small scene for most of my time there, despite the growth of the city. I felt very “big fish, small pond.” And that’s not to say I was a super-awesome rock star or anything. It was just that I was like, if I move somewhere else that’s a much bigger pond, will I be able to swim? The only way for me to find that out was to leave the small pond. That wasn’t why we moved, but it’s definitely something that I took advantage of the opportunity to see. And honestly, the verdict’s still out.

Parkway of Broken Dreams premieres 8p Oct. 13 at Galaxy Theatres inside the Boulevard Mall. Tickets $15. More info: parkwayofbrokendreams.com

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IS THIS THE THIRD or fourth time this week? Street Foodie has lost count. A gravitational event is occurring on my plate, an event horizon disguised as a taco truck on Mojave Road just off Charleston Boulevard. Burritos Guisos de el Canelo is a singularity of unexpected flavor.

Please humor your humble Street Foodie. Never have I ever experienced something so simple yet satisfying. There are chefs in this town like Mitsuo Endo of Raku or Nicole Brisson of Brezza who have constructed entire galaxies on a plate. Delicate, intricate solar systems with complex, individuated ingredients. This is not that. This is stew ... or its slightly thicker Spanish cousin.

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To be specific, what I’ve dedicated the last four… five? … days to consuming is a dense group of stew-like dishes wrapped delicately into hand-made, fresh-pressed flour tortillas. These dishes aren’t pretty or even well-organized. They are messy affairs, dripping with fluids, moistening hands and mouth. Street Foodie has never smirked at a mess, though; beneath their delicate wrappers lie dense black holes of compounded flavor. 

Watching the cooks move about in this small trailer, cooking tortillas, griddling fillings — these are not uncommon sights for the taco truck enthusiast. But when you see the fresh balls of dough loaded into the tortilla press; when you are handed a plate and the scent of long-cooked vegetables and meat hits you, you realize something truly special is going on here. Street Foodie has tasted every single thing on Burritos Guisos de el Canelo’s menu. (It’s pretty easy since there are only 12 items.) Every single one is beautiful in its own right. 

Take the rajas, a crema, green pepper, and corn concoction that coats the mouth and encourages a childish glee — like a more mature creamed corn. Or the pollo, which has all the depth of wood-grilled chicken with an intense chipotle sauce capable of weakening the knees. The chilorio (Street Foodie’s fave) is a pork and potatoes dish delivering hearty satisfaction without weighing you down. And, of course, they have birria, the super-trendy tomato and beef dish that no one’s been able to get enough of lately.

Have you noticed the rise in foods like birria during our continuing pandemic? Street Foodie has. It feels like a collective yearning to feel comforted, safe, cared for. Where a burger or a pizza might satisfy some animalistic craving, and fine dining may placate a more analytical palate, the food served at Burritos Guisos de el Canelo dives deeper. This is true soul food. Deceptive in its lack of complexity, touching on experiences of care, family, and tradition that cannot be described with words. Each dish feels like a long-anticipated hug from a friend you never knew you had. Oh yeah — and the pineapple or watermelon agua frescas is bomb!

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TRIBUTE ACTS and cover bands are staples of Las Vegas entertainment, but it’s always been easy to dismiss them as cheap knockoffs of the real thing. However, a new TV show aims to highlight their artistry and energy — and, of course, a local tribute act is taking the stage. Hosted by Stephen “tWitch” Boss and judged by a celebrity panel, Jimmy Fallon’s Clash of the Cover Bands premieres 9:30 p.m. Oct. 13 on the E! channel. Bands ultimately compete for a $25,000 cash prize and the chance to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

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Representing Vegas, Adam Tucker, aka “Vegas McGraw,” and his band will step into the spotlight on E!’s new show. With more than a decade of performing McGraw’s music under his belt, Tucker is a veteran tribute performer — though he didn’t exactly start off that way. Growing up in West Virginia, Tucker decided to pursue a music career in 2001, after the death of a close friend made him reconsider his goals and dreams. Tucker began by performing his own music, but would sometimes include Tim McGraw songs in his setlist. However, industry execs didn’t appreciate the uncanny similarity of Tucker’s voice to McGraw’s.

“They told me I had to change my singing voice, but I just couldn’t,” he says. Instead, he embraced it. In 2009, Tucker formed a full-time Tim McGraw tribute band; it was only a couple months before he was offered a performance contract in Las Vegas. “It seemed like a no-brainer,” he says. Today, Tucker has three live bands that he alternates on tours, an East Coast, West Coast, and Canadian band.

TV is obviously a different animal than a Las Vegas stage — “I have never done anything like this before,” Tucker says — but at least he’ll have good company: The band performing on Clash of the Cover Bands is made up of musicians from his hometown in West Virginia.

“They're onto something with the TV show,” Tucker says, noting that Clash’s producers and judges seem to appreciate that cover bands have to balance sounding faithful with, well, being fun. That jibes with Tucker’s personal philosophy of tribute acts: Above all, it’s more important that a performance is entertaining than it being a meticulous, note-by-note clone of the original artist’s music. “I like to put myself in the audience's shoes,” he says. “What do they want to see?”

Tucker is understandably mum about how his band ultimately fares on the show, but here’s hoping it turned out like he says his live performances sometimes do: “There's crowds going wild, I'm signing guitars, there's people jumping on stage, and I want to be like, ‘You know I'm not the real person, right?’”

Clash of the Cover Bands premieres 9:30 p.m. Oct. 13 on the E! channel.

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Photos and art: Desert Bloom courtesy; Fran Lebowitz by Cybele Malinowski; Hassan courtesy Macro-Fi; Maryland Parkway and Pj Perez courtesy Pj Perez; tortillas by Brent Holmes; Adam Tucker courtesy E!

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