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Confessions of a Smith Center holdout

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Can you imagine Tom Waits in Reynolds Hall? Neither can we.

My name is Spencer, and I still haven’t seen a show at the Smith Center. I have been inside, for a media tour last March. I left impressed by the facility, curious about its live sound and certain I’d be back a bunch of times. But so far, no go, odd considering I catch 50-75 shows in a typical year.

Initially, I was holding out for a name that felt worthy of a first experience. So I passed on a few I might otherwise have seen—Béla Fleck, Branford Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, Buddy Guy … Any surely would have made for a fine night out, but I was searching for something else, the kind of act that wouldn’t have played Vegas pre-Smith Center. That’s why they built it, right?

And the longer I waited, the higher I raised my bar. k.d. lang? Pass. Dr. John and the Blind Boys of Alabama? Skip. I was dug in and determined. To get me there, the Smith Center would need some serious wow. And I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. Bryan Adams might move tickets, but lots of locals have prayed for a day when Tom Waits, Patti Smith or Nick Cave might stop by. Whose idea of jazz is Cecil Taylor and Peter Brötzmann, not Dave Koz. Who listen to Emmylou Harris, not Randy Travis and Trace Adkins. And who would freak out to be in the crowd for a performance by Philip Glass, Terry Riley or Tim Hecker.

Of course, I get that venues can’t book artists who aren’t touring nearby. But each of those names represents dozens of others that could make the Smith Center a more interesting place. Laurie Anderson. John Zorn. Sun Ra Arkestra. Swans. Joanna Newsom. Sufjan Stevens. Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou. And on and on and on.

And so I wait. Do I miss out? Undeniably. But I’ll stay true to my cause, to my hope that bookings will get better. And when I do step back inside the Smith Center, I’ll do so knowing I, and they, have truly earned it.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is Las Vegas Weekly's Managing Editor, having previously served as Arts & Entertainment Editor, Music Editor and a ...

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