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Rock for change

Vegas music scene turns out to celebrate White House switcheroo

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One Pin Short parties with fans inside Canvas Cafe.
Photo: Jacob Kepler

Two Metro police officers have crashed the Canvas Cafe’s Monday-night inauguration party, arriving to investigate the scene along the Strip mall at the corner of Silverado Ranch and Bermuda Boulevard. Aaron Schropp, the eatery-turned-Obama headquarters’ owner, meets them on the sidewalk out front.

“Look, guys, we’ve endured eight long years, and we just want to celebrate tonight …’” Schropp starts, but the cops staring back aren’t much interested in hearing about the outgoing Bush or his successor. “There’s been a report of someone peeing in the parking lot,” one of them replies.

A crowd mills outside Canvas Cafe.

Random urination incident aside, Canvas’ hail-to-the-new-chief extravaganza—held the night before Obama’s official D.C. coronation—is a success by any standards. Kicking off at 5 p.m. and continuing beyond 1 a.m., the bash draws more than 150 revelers, who feast on premium beer, soak in the music offered up by a dozen local acts and rejoice in the change hanging thickly in the air.

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Place Guide
Canvas Cafe
Band Guide
Pan de Sal
One Pin Short
The Skooners
Beyond the Weekly
Local cafe celebrates Inauguration Day early (Las Vegas Sun, 1/20/09)

“At midnight tonight, Bush will officially be out of office,” bassist Judi Brown exclaims excitedly during Pan de Sal’s 8 p.m. set. “That was a long eight years.”

Pan de Sal’s perky but politically charged songs get the crowd moving—so forcefully, in fact, that one of the arts repository’s paintings tumbles off its wall. As those closest to the bistro’s makeshift corner staging area shake maracas and tambourines, an elementary-school-aged girl’s enthusiastic dance routine scores a free T-shirt from the band.

Mike and Dasha Biggs paint on canvas inside the Canvas Cafe.

Poet AmirRikkah’s just-penned latest composition, “Pursuit of Happiness,” pulls folks in from the porch, where they’d huddled under heat lamps to watch artists Mike and Dasha Biggs paint on—what else?—canvas. “Anything can happen when we find inspiration in innovation, as creation is caged in by our own perceived limitations,” AmirRikkah declares as his audience holds a collective fist in the air. “Break the gates, and it becomes painfully obvious that nothing is impossible.”

Next up: punk band Social Control, playing its final show after more than four years together. Drummer Jesse Control blurs his way across his kit as fans make the most of their last chance to sing the lyrics to the bouncy “I Don’t Want to Be Like You.”

Poet AmirRikkah speaks of change.

Later in the night—after fresh-off-its-tour-with-Reel-Big-Fish ska outfit One Pin Short flexes its considerable live muscles—a second Vegas band plays what could very well be its final set. Or not. The Skooners’ future isn’t exactly crystal clear at this point. “We really don’t have any plans right now,” explains frontman Blair Dewane, in from San Clemente, California, where he and his brother, Skooners guitarist Ian Dewane, are helping their mother remodel her home. “We’re still writing … we’re going to Seattle to record … and then we’ll come back … maybe with a different name … maybe with a different lineup. Right now, we’re feeling around in the dark.”

The same could be said of The Skooners’ music on this night. With bassist Max Supera sidelined with a broken arm and Blair, well, semi-blotto, the band’s farewell-for-now performance is hardly its best ever. But hey, it’s well past midnight, and the remaining crowd isn’t demanding technical precision at this point in the proceedings. Besides, Obama will be president in the morning.

Oh, and Metro? Those guys left without much hassle, a glimmer of hope 2009 could be a better year for area music venues. Maybe change really is possible.

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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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