RIP Blair Dewane, a downtown Las Vegas music fixture of enormous spirit
Earlier this week, we lost local music mainstay Blair Dewane, a musician I closely followed during my days as a music writer for local publications.
What a presence.
Even during those early days of The Skooners, the band he led in the 2000s, even when his hammy banter threatened to overshadow his disarming sincerity, even at his drunkenest, he owned both stage and audience.
He had the triple threat of charisma, wit and heart. He and his four bandmates cut right through even the arms-folded contingency of the Bunkhouse Saloon and Beauty Bar. It was a sight to behold, everyone awkwardly and gleefully shuffling and wriggling and chanting and outright caroming into one another respective to Blair's level of wily abandon, fueled by the band's rollicking charge and whatever was in his cup.
Those songs and Blair's gusto put The Skooners into must-see status and built, by my estimation, the most loyal following in DTLV.
Hijinks and spectacle aside, Blair could sing.
I heard traces of James Mercer and Jeff Buckley. At times, Blair was a scrappier Jerry Garcia (The Dead was an influence). All the while, he could physically embody the songs and their rhythms. His signature running-in-place to brother Ian Dewane's signature jangle recalled a wound-up, 5-year-old finally let out to play.
And when the song ended, out came the one-liners and good-natured jabs. He beat every would-be heckler to the punch. In fact, he worked the room both on stage and off, equal parts pluck and charm. Zero posturing. All warmth. And grounded AF.
While I loved Fun Blair like anyone else, I welcomed Mature Blair by the time his subsequent band, Rusty Maples, left the runway.
Several versions of, "Oh, he's really taking this s--t seriously," surely adorn my old reporter notebooks (along with the choice bon mots he still threw out). His newfound focus helped round out so many masterful Rusty performances. The band earned all its high-profile opening-act gigs.
During its 2016 set ahead of Texas post-rock act Explosions in the Sky, Blair showed a few goofball flashes but settled himself squarely in the Rusty pocket -- just enough recalibration from the Skooner days, just enough showmanship tweakery.
Many of us had high hopes for the band to break out. We were ready to share Blair with the rest of the world. And that compounds this huge loss.
And yet, an enormous spirit like Blair’s never fully disappears. It’s there in his bands’ music -- and in our hearts.