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2018 Fall Culture Guide: Music


Okaidja performs as the Okaidja Afroso Band

Family & Festivals | Music | Theater & Dance | Literature and Ideas | Visual Arts

As the sun sets on summer, the fall cultural season is just getting started. Plan your outings with our handpicked collection of great art, music,  literature, theater, and festival events! 

September 14-16

Sponsor Message

A people’s story in song and dance

Okaidja  had something of a musical head start. In his village of Kokrobite in Ghana, he grew up in a family of performers and storytellers. Okaidja took that head start and ran with it, expanding the percussive, richly harmonious music of his homeland to include the diverse sounds of the broader African diaspora. To forge this eclectic style, he developed a nimble guitar technique that bursts with both joy and poignancy. He’ll be joined by his band, performing as the Okaidja Afroso Band. Prepare to dance — he’ll be doing that, too. (AK) September 14, West Charleston Library, 7:30p; September 15, West Las Vegas Library, 2p; September 16, Whitney Library, 2p,


September 15

A Bernstein Blowout

How does the Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrate the career of an iconic American composer, conductor, educator, humanitarian, and all-around irrepressible creative dynamo such as Leonard Bernstein on his 100th birthday? With the same verve and gusto that this American treasure approached his craft. Expect a hearty sampling of Bernstein’s timeless works. (AK) Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center, 7:30p, for ticket information

Other shows in the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s 2018-2019 season:

Sponsor Message

Oct. 6: Psycho film screening with live orchestra

Nov. 3: Glass, Mozart, and Bach feat. Simone Dinnerstein on piano

Dec. 1: “A Classic Holiday” feat. Kristen Hertzenberg and Travis Cloer

Jan. 12: The Music of John Williams


Sponsor Message

September 28

Pop Goes the pan-Latin fusion

You can be forgiven if you listen to a silken, shimmering LADAMA song and don’t pick up on all the different Latin musical traditions at work, among them, Venezuela’s joropo, Colombia’s cumbia, Brazil’s maracatu. That’s because they’re all subtly and seamlessly woven together into gorgeous songs that don’t shy away from taking strong stances — or just expressing joyous, unapologetic optimism. Remember that? (AK) Winchester Cultural Center, 7p, $12-$14, 702-455-7340


October 2

Past forward

MC5 founder Wayne Kramer is celebrating the 50th birthday of the band’s seminal album Kick Out the Jams in the most rock ’n’ roll way possible — by performing the album live with a roster of special guests, including Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Brendan Canty of Fugazi, Billy Gould of Faith No More, and Marcus Durant of Zen Guerrilla. (AK) Brooklyn Bowl, 8p, $35-$55,


October 12

Heartstrings Attached

Gabriel Royal did the busker grind on the New York subways for five years before he finally broke out. It was long overdue. His bittersweet cello ballads — “grown-up lullabies,” he calls them — eschew sonic gimmicks in favor of musical ideas that patiently blossom and unfurl. Check out his single “Say It’s Right,” with its welling strings and sophisticated phrasing. (AK) UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, 7:30p, $20-$50,


October 20

Banjos on Fire (in a Good Way)

Billy Strings may look like he just got his driver’s license, but when the opening string swell of “Meet Me at the Creek” gives way to his voice — supple but seasoned — you know you’re in the hands of a natural master. His precise playing and solid musicianship are simply a pleasure to listen to — until he and the band make your jaw drop with some scorching string interludes where banjo, fiddle, and guitar threaten to ignite. (AK) Bunkhouse Saloon, 9p, $15,


November 10-11

Comedy of Note

You might know her as the bumptious and aggressive Carrie “Big Boo” Black on Orange Is the New Black. But offscreen, Lea DeLaria is an award-winning jazz singer, comedian, and accomplished stage actress. She’s merged these superpowers into an acclaimed musical comedy act that’ll make you a prisoner — of laughter! (AK) Myron’s Cabaret Jazz in The Smith Center, 7p, $39-$59,


November 14

Like Fight Club, but for musicians

The musicians playing music on the Strip are performers — but at The Composers Showcase, they’re artists, performing their original songs that can range from pop to classical to hilariously ribald novelty tunes. The songs are stellar, but the atmosphere is half the fun. The cabaret vibe and musical camaraderie make you feel like you’ve been invited to a sometimes-raucous after-party where top Strip talent gets together to truly let loose. (AK) Myron’s Cabaret Jazz in The Smith Center, 10:30p, $20,


November 16

Mariachi Dreams

Some sueños do come true: Mariachi Herencia de Mexico — a young, Chicago-based mariachi band from the barrios — not only played their way out of the streets, but they got a Grammy nod while doing it. Catch them while they’re fulfilling another dream: touring the world and sharing the tradition of mariachi. (AK) UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, 7:30p, $20-$50,


December 29

Rhythm, Soul, and Seasonal Cheer

Based on traditional marching bands at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the DRUMLine Live Holiday Spectacular is a high-octane, percusso-riffic show that takes classic holiday tunes and cranks the dial to OMG with eye-popping costumes, high-tech lighting, and all the dancing and drumming you’d expect. (AK) Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center, 2p and 7:30p, $29-$69,


September 12

Sax Appeal

UNLV’s jazz department — formally known as the Divison of Jazz Studies — is one of the valley’s most underrated musical treasures. Its players have garnered praise and prizes from DownBeat, JazzTimes, the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival, and more. And lucky for us, its students play out often. Catch the Honors Jazz Combo as it performs a mix of classics and more contemporary tunes. (AK) Clark County Library, 7p, free, 702-507-3459


September 16

Beat It, Kids!

… and parents, and grandparents, and whoever else wants to join in on the World Beat Drum Circle. Sense of rhythm not required — just a desire to bang an instrument in unison (or not) with others to generate some great vibes. Best of all, drums and rhythm instruments are provided. Come on, make some noise! (AK) Summerlin Library, 1771 Inner Circle Drive, 3p, free, 702-507-3863


September 16

Music Fan, Heal Thyself

This double-talent “Strings Attached” concert promises not to just to thrill your ears, but maybe even heal your soul. Violinist Luca Ciarla will perform on a range of stringed instruments, playing Italian folk tunes and original pieces. Rebecca Sabin’s violin work, meanwhile, aims to transport you to an inner space, with ethereal sounds to restore your spirit — and we can all use a little of that.  (AK) Winchester Cultural Center, 2p, $12-$14, 702-455-7340


September 20

Vienna Links

Newly appointed assistant professor of violin, Ambroise Aubrun, makes his debut in “A Night in Vienna,” a concert celebrating Viennese greats Mozart, Schoenberg, and Brahms. With other UNLV talents on the roster — including Wei-Wei Le on violin, Kate Hamilton on viola, Mykola Suk on piano — this should be one tuneful faculty meeting. (AK) UNLV’s Dr. Arturo Rando-Grillot Recital Hall, 7:30p, $25,


September 28

Alt Before Alt

The Breeders burbled to the surface in the early ’90s, not so much a part of “alternative rock” as an early definer of it, with its sly, sidelong hooks and curated moments of pure, urgent rock bombast. And yet they’re no museum exhibit — their slinking quirk is as strange and fresh as ever. (AK) Brooklyn Bowl, 7p, $30-$35,


October 12-13

Guitar Bros, Literally

The Bassett Brothers are identical twins who both play guitar. What may seem like a recipe for a Tom and Jerry hellworld of epic sibling rivalry has instead blossomed into a power duo who can break out everything from sacred medieval songs to Metallica scorchers. (AK) Oct. 12, Clark County Library, 6p; Oct. 13, Centennial Hills Library, 3p, free,


October 20

Who is Zhu?

He’s an enigmatic electronic musician who shot to fame with a hit single, “Faded,” and hasn’t slowed down since, releasing tracks that take dance music in a surprisingly soulful direction. Check out his collaboration with Skrillex and THEY, “Working for It” — a silky, simmering electro track that’s as catchy as it is complex. (AK) Pearl Concert Theater at the Palms, 9p, $44.95,


October 21

Piazza Party!

In Italy, piazzas are gathering places — whether it’s for meeting up with friends or rendezvousing with a lover, people-watching or meditative pigeon-feeding — and each has a distinct personality and history. Little wonder that Pasquale Esposito feels the urge to celebrate them with an evening of tribute serenades. (AK) Myron’s Cabaret Jazz in The Smith Center, 7p, $65-$85,


November 2

Sitar Hero

The title of Indian musician Ustad Shafaat Khan’s performance is “East Meets West,” and it only hints at how this sensation on sitar, surbahar, and tabla marries pop music form to the shimmering glitter and sinuous lilt of traditional Indian instruments. The results are songs such as the irresistibly head-noddable “Ya Mere Habeeb” and the giddily frenetic “Ye Mubarak,” whose hand-clap track simply demands you clap along. (AK) The Smith Center, 7p, $35-$55,


November 15

This Time, It’s PersonalThink of Las Vegas Philharmonic Spotlight series as intimate music salons where you not only get to hear the artists perform in a chamber setting, but get to hear the stories behind the music from the people playing it. This performance, Works for Brass, features works by Paul Hindemith, Richard Peaslee, Francis Poulenc, and more. (AK) Troesh Theater at The Smith Center, 7:30p, $70,


December 10-11

Like a Boss of Bossa Nova

Graham Dechter is only 28, but his mastery of straight-ahead jazz guitar has propelled him to the pantheon of contemporary greats. His supernatural facility with everything from bossas to bebop to blues has also garnered him musical collaborations with everyone from Michael Bublé to Wynton Marsalis. In the December 10 shows, he’ll perform with special guests Jeff Hamilton and Akiko Tsuruga; on December 11, he’ll perform as the Graham Dechter Quartet, with drummer Hamilton, pianist Tamir Hendelman, and bassist Alex Frank. (AK) Myron’s Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center, 7p, $39-$59,


December 14

Royal Highness of Infectious Rhythms

Hailing from Podor, Senegal, King Ibu has made his home in Las Vegas for many years, and it makes a certain sense. Just as Vegas is a jostling intersection of numerous lifestyles, people and ideas, so is his music. Grounded in relentlessly joyous Senegalese polyrhythms and griot traditions, it also incorporates pop and rock stylings for a contemporary accent. But you’ll probably be too busy dancing to think about that. (AK) West Charleston Library, 6301 W. Charleston Blvd., 7:30p, free,

(Editor's note: Scott Dickensheets no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)
As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.
Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.
Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.