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Best of the City: Arts & Entertainment

Bunkhouse Saloon
Photo courtesy of Bunkhouse

Best Live Music Venue

The Bunkhouse Saloon

One of the oldest buildings on East Fremont, the hip and popular Bunkhouse Saloon is a buzzing hive of sound. Honky tonk, psychedelia, neo-soul, punk, hip-hop, electronica — this genre-blending venue hosts marquee acts from Ty Segall, Dead Meadow, and Minus the Bear to Surfer Blood, Television, and Built to Spill. Local faves like Indigo Kidd, Tippy Elvis, and Sabriel have played there, and hometown hero Shamir takes the stage this month, on the 23rd. There’s even karaoke. 124 S. 11th St., (GT)


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Best Breakout Band

The Rhyolite Sound

After landing a spot on last year’s Life Is Beautiful Festival and burning through every beer bar and whiskey hole in town, The Rhyolite Sound will soon head out to show off in Memphis, where they’ve been nominated for a 2018 Ameripolitan Award. Larry Reha and crew have worked hard to become the best desert honky tonkin’ band in Vegas, and we can look forward to them doing us proud across the country. (CB)


Best Brass Band

The Soul Juice Band

Like any funk band worth its salt, The Soul Juice Band doesn’t aim to be fancy; it’s just a tight, groovin’, throwback dance party. The 11-member outfit, fronted by vocalists Dave Tatlock and Chondell La Land, are horn-driven and high-energy. Catch them performing inspired originals and classic funk mashups in their slamming live sets. (CB)

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Best Singer-Songwriter

Mike Xavier

Mike Xavier aims to inspire. His 2017 EP, Resilience, was his strongest effort to date, polishing his previously raw emotion into powerfully smooth tracks that buck modern rap trends. It’s conscious hip-hop performed with a gospel and jazz influenced live band that will leave you moved. (CB)


Best DJ/Beat Collective

The Rabbit Hole

Weird. Unclassifiable. Organic. Genre-spanning. The Rabbit Hole is making .wavs in Vegas by creating a vibrant Downtown community of rhythm producers, DJs, and artists. Their collaborative and inclusive project is home to some of the most exciting and original electronic music, standing in contrast to the mega-club-beat-mills of the Strip. (CB)

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Best New Band

Indigo Kidd

Photo by Brent Holmes.

When Indigo Kidd relocated to Las Vegas from Yakima, Washington, they sought a change of scene and were welcomed with open arms and spots on the Neon Reverb and Life Is Shit festivals. Their December debut album, Sad Daze in Happy Valley, is raw, catchy, and emotional without taking itself seriously. A refreshing blend of indie, punk, and pop that gives us high hopes for their future. (CB)


Best Annual Concert for a Cause

Pigs for the Kids

I’ve never needed an excuse to attend a BBQ competition, but the fact that Pigs for the Kids benefits Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, Cure 4 the Kids Foundation, and Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation gives me all the more incentive to add it to my calendar each year (this year it’ll be September 22). Now, tack on some great live funk bands and a beautiful Vegas fall day, and there’s no reason not to lather yourself in hot sauce and meat sweat … for a cause, of course. Craig Ranch Regional Park, 628 W. Craig Road. (CB)


Best Actress

Tina Rice

Tina Rice blew away audiences — and her fellow cast members — in 2017 as Vivian Bearing in Wit at A Public Fit Theatre. Rice is versatile, able to carry an emotionally draining show while, offstage, serving as APF’s chief financial officer. A formidable actress with both a BFA and an MBA, Rice brings confidence and humility to everything she does. (CK)


Best Director

Troy Heard

For last year’s Hand to God, Heard did an excellent job with this raucous, ambitious, and daring undertaking. Timing is crucial with this script, as is character development, particularly with the lead schizophrenic role. Heard used the tiny, makeshift space to full advantage and brought all elements — detailed production values and performances alike — to culmination in an irresistible and delightful presentation. (PA)


Best Actor

Andrew Young

Young showed up at a play Troy Heard had directed in 2015 and announced that he had just moved from Texas and wanted to act. Heard cast him in The Eight and was so impressed he got the rights to Hand to God with Young in mind for the lead, Jason, who found himself sometimes at war with his alter ego in a Christian Puppet Ministry. The role earned him a Valley Theatre Award last year. (CK)


Best Theatre Company

(tie) A Public Fit and Majestic Repertory

A Public Fit keeps its offerings to two full-scale productions per season to retain consistency, but that allows attention to every detail, and quality performances, that bring this company down center. Equally important in this age of digital content is attracting the patrons of tomorrow, and that’s what Majestic Rep is doing on a grand scale., (PA)


Best Movie Theater

Regal Downtown Summerlin 5

Recline in plush, lounger-style seats and sip on adult beverages during a cinematic getaway. While far from being the largest multiplex in Southern Nevada, its prime location in Downtown Summerlin (right next to a parking lot and a valet station) makes it luxuriously handy for taking in Hollywood blockbusters and indie films alike. Plus, it’s a quick stroll to eateries like Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill and Andiron Steak & Sea for deluxe pre- or post-movie snacking. 2070 Park Center Drive, (GT)


Best Museum

Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art

Adding “Art” to its name last year underscored the Barrick’s new mission following a lengthy transition from natural history museum to robust contemporary art hub. Powerful rotating exhibits (both cerebral and soulful) dig deep into concepts of land, time, objects, and medium. In addition, permanent contemporary and pre-Columbian collections, artist talks, lectures, workshops, outreach, and partnerships have made the Barrick an invaluable force. (KP)


Best Artist


Andreana Donahue

Courtesy of Andreana Donahue.

A multidisciplinary artist known to thoroughly explore concept, process, and medium, Donahue is wildly intellectual and tenacious in approaching ideas of time, space, and impermanence in her works. Her intricate, minimalist hand-cut paper sculptures, textile works (incorporating elements of vanishing places), and elaborate installations on desert survival with a sci-fi bent have given us brainy art with sentimental undertones. (KP)


Best Recent Public Sculpture

Dream Machine

Courtesy of and Dream Machine.

In terms of public art speaking volumes to place, Wayne Littlejohn’s 26-foot tall, sensual and otherworldly Dream Machine at Siegfried & Roy Park hits the Vegas mark. Its organic spiraling form, made of cast aluminum (illuminating differently throughout the day) — painted Oriental Blue Candy — and its dazzling baroque forms under a shiny mushroom top, make the artist’s “upside down Venus on a half shell” reference a striking a metaphor for this land of dreams. (KP)


Best Figure in Local Culture

Joshua Wolf Shenk

Under Shenk’s guidance and greased by funding most literary nonprofits can only fantasize about, Black Mountain Institute has lately made a series of interesting strategic moves: acquiring and reviving The Believer magazine, with the intent to make it (and Las Vegas) a hub of contemporary nonfiction; leveraging that title’s cachet to create The Believer Festival, an audacious, talent-rich event that debuted last year; and becoming an integral part of UNLV’s new creative-nonfiction program. It’s his vision, and Vegas is the beneficiary. (SD)


Best Variety Show

Vegas! The Show

When Jubilee! closed, Vegas! The Show suddenly became authentic. Any celebration of classic Vegas is now a re-creation, and this tribute at the Saxe Theater at Planet Hollywood uses sincere nostalgia to bookend a winning showcase of live music, likable singers, Technicolor visuals and — don’t forget — the magicians and jugglers that always spelled the big numbers. (MW)


Best Strip Performer

Lionel Richie

You snickered in the grunge years. Always knew Lionel Richie was destined for Vegas. What you didn’t know was that it would take until 2016 for him to commit to recurring stints at Planet Hollywood. Or that, in the meantime, Lionel Richie became the rare thing we all agree on. The songs are no less sappy, but the man just radiates personality. What he says in between is as much fun as the singing. That’s a quintessential Vegas entertainer. (MW)


Best Production Show/Strip Spectacle

Michael Jackson One

Michael Jackson’s best friend? Turns out it wasn’t a chimp or even a rat named Ben. It’s Michael Jackson One, the Cirque du Soleil spectacle at Mandalay Bay that helps time fade the sad, sordid part of the pop legend, and smacks us with a refreshing dose of childlike, Clinton-era optimism that we can heal the world and defeat those tabloid paparazzi cyberbots. (Whatever happened to those guys anyway?) (MW)


Best Comedian

Ron White

Everyone visits this standup mecca for a night or two, from Dave Chappelle to Ali Wong. But in Ron White’s Texas they say “dance with who brung ya.” With five weekends booked at The Mirage this year, White’s perennial cigar-and-bourbon odes to personal freedoms fit the Strip like a poker room, embodying both a night on the town and the spirit of his old-Vegas mentors. (MW)


Best Magic Show

Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller put a Benjamin Button reversal on the standard Las Vegas career trajectory. After 15 years at the Rio, they are more famous than ever, and their show’s smart, funny magic reflects the energy of workshopping new material for their fifth season of the CW network’s Fool Us. (MW)


Best Non-Gaming Strip Attraction

TopGolf Las Vegas

Does TopGolf reinvent golf and expand its silver-haired, Mar-A-Lago image? Or is the high-tech driving range (picture the lazy space station from Wall-E hovering a few tee shots from the Strip) really just an excuse for its hedonistic wrappings: four levels of bars, bands, eats, swimming pools, and giant video screens that can be spotted from the mothership? Does it matter? (MW)


Best Lounge

Cleopatra’s Barge

Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment.

When Niki Scalera sings “Diamonds Are Forever” in the happy-hour “Cocktail Cabaret,” she’s anchored on a Cleopatra’s Barge that’s a year older than the 1971 James Bond flick. This enduring vessel of retro-Vegas kitsch survived waves of Caesars Palace makeovers, and is now celebrated by David Perrico’s house band and visiting headliners such as Paul Shaffer. The front bar remains a prime stakeout for people-watching, now and forever the eye of the tourist hurricane. (MW)



Readers' Poll

Best Dance Troupe: Nevada Ballet Theatre

Best Theater Company: Majestic Repertory Theatre

Best Historic Attraction: The Neon Museum

Best Live Music Venue: The Smith Center

Scott Dickensheets is a Las Vegas writer and editor whose trenchant observations about local culture have graced the pages of publications nationwide.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)