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All-ages music holdout Jillian’s succumbs to the tough economy

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David Johansen and the New York Dolls played Jillian’s downstairs stage this past March.
Photo: Ryan Olbrysh

Las Vegas’ already fragile all-ages scene has suffered what could be a shattering blow: the closing of teen music hub Jillian’s.

“We were robbing Peter to pay Paul for so long, because I was so committed to keeping it open, and now Peter doesn’t have anything, and Paul left and went to Cincinnati,” says owner Loraine Kusuhara, who laid off her staff last Friday. “I don’t have any more money to lose. I put all my personal savings into making payroll. Jillian’s, total, is 45,000 square feet, and my electric bill in the summer is $15,000 a month. It’s crazy. I can’t pull hundreds out of my butt.”

The two-story, family-aimed arcade/bowling alley/restaurant space anchoring Neonopolis at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street opened in October 2002—affiliated with a then-national chain but independently owned and operated—and quickly emerged as a central location for all-ages music activity. Focused on pop-punk and emo but not averse to trying hip-hop or adult-oriented pop and rock, the venue hosted the New York Dolls, KRS-One, Against Me!, The Futureheads, Escape the Fate, The Blood Brothers, Plain White T’s, Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Adolescents and hundreds of other touring bands and local acts on its two stages, the makeshift-but-fun (and bowling-accessible) upstairs platform and a larger downstairs riser that shifted locations when Jillian’s resumed concerts after a hiatus partway through its concert run.

“It’s a significant blow. Kids have been coming up to me, really upset about it,” says Patrick “Pulsar” Trout, one of a team of local promoters who booked Jillian’s. “There are still [all-ages] places to play—Fade [at Epic Church], the Box Office, Rejavanate, Zia—but it’s a real bummer. Kids will still be able to see big national acts at House of Blues, but they’re not gonna have anywhere to see their friends’ bands play. We really need a solid, middle-ground venue. If I was gonna open a club with my own money, that’s the size I’d want, but with how bad the economy is right now …”

Pulsar’s own band, Ministry of Love, performed inside the venue Friday night before Jillian’s officially closed, but as it turns out, that show won’t enter the history books as the site’s last-ever show. The venue is scheduled to unchain its doors twice more—a Thursday, November 20 bill headlined by Bring Me the Horizon and a Friday, November 21 finale featuring, fittingly, the young musicians of Richard Moreno’s School of Rock.

As for bookings beyond that, a November 22 local-band showcase has been relocated to the Box Office; MC Lars (November 23), Pierce the Veil (November 24) and Otep (November 28) have been canceled; and a November 29 locals show remained in limbo at press time, along with five December gigs and January’s annual Punk Rock Bowling events.

“It’s just a bad economy,” says local promoter Brian Saliba. “Whether you’re a kid or an adult, with all the layoffs and cutbacks, everyone everywhere is feeling the pinch. But the [all-ages] scene isn’t gonna die. It might not be as permanent for a while, but everyone thought the scene was dead when the Huntridge went away, but here we are, and the scene is better than ever—Vegas bands are getting record deals and blowing up all over the world.”

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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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