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Usual Place helping fill indie music void in downtown Vegas

Updated August 20, 2021 - 2:55 pm

The drummer’s getting his on a griddle-hot Tuesday night. The Groove Culture Band is warming up the room, seemingly out to make the place as sweltering as the summer evening sizzling outside. Jose “Pepe” Jimenez pistons in his seat, swinging his arms like a prizefighter pushing for the knockout blow.

Keys trill; the bass line percolates; a slow-simmering jam detonates. “Just hang in there and have fun,” Jimenez instructs the crowd at one point.

It’s jazz night at The Usual Place, 100 S. Maryland Parkway, where hanging in there has been the modus operandi for the past year and a half.

The club opened a few weeks before the March 2020 pandemic shutdown, reopened in June, closed again in July, and then got back in action in October — albeit at 25 percent capacity, which greatly limited the types of shows it could have.

Now, at last, the club is finally able to begin realizing its full potential by booking its first national acts, with rockers Electric Six headlining Wednesday and garage punks Together Pangea kicking off their upcoming tour at the venue Sept. 1.

With the nearby Bunkhouse Saloon still closed from the pandemic, The Usual Place is poised to help fill the void in this part of town as a new home base for indie shows.

“It reminds me of what the Beauty Bar used to be when it first opened, with the indie crowd,” says event promoter Danielle O’Hara, head of Nevermore Productions, which puts on concerts at The Usual Place. “I was like, ‘I missed this. I miss that indie vibe.’ That’s what attracted me to put some stuff up there.”

Her sentiment is shared by fellow show promoter Patrick “Pulsar” Trout. “It’s gonna be awesome having live music in that part of downtown again,” says Trout, who’s worked for the House of Blues as well as booked concerts on his own for years. “I’m excited to bring shows there.”

‘The room is flexible’

“Let’s get weird,” the sign suggests in pink lettering.

Yes, let’s.

The Usual Place manager/partner Carlos Sanchez is leading a quick tour of the club on a Monday afternoon, absorbing its chic, eclectic setting, which he describes as having a “midcentury modern vibe.”

Ornate wooden tiki masks hang near a trio of quasi-cubist paintings based on Coen Brothers films, including a particularly sweet portrait of The Dude from “The Big Lebowski.” Triangular mirrors, a menagerie of love seats and plush chairs, turquoise- and sea foam-colored walls and, of course, a photo booth round out the decor.

“The room is flexible,” Sanchez explains, pulling back the movable wall behind the stage to reveal additional space for larger shows. The capacity here is 298 people but can be increased to nearly 400 with the added space, Sanchez says. The venue is also shared by local theater company A Public Fit, whose next production is scheduled for February.

“This is a dual-purpose space,” Sanchez explains.

‘A really good local spot’

A New Orleans native, Sanchez is a veteran of both the music and hospitality industries. He grew up immersed in the former, his father a flamenco guitarist who performed at the seminal New Orleans Jazz Festival for 26 years.

In New Orleans, Sanchez got into DJing in his teens, later working at Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse, relocating here 22 years ago to do the same at its Vegas counterpart.

Sanchez became part of three-man DJ crew the House Society, which hosted parties for 12 years, beginning at the House of Blues in 2001 and moving to other spots like Ghostbar and Marquee Nightclub. They built their following from the ground up back when the Vegas DJ scene was far from as robust as it is now.

“We did everything,” Sanchez explains. “We had a friend who had sound, and we would rent from him — but we’d have to load it in, load it out. We were literally flyering in casino parking lots, the three of us, like, all the time.”

Sanchez has brought a similar hands-on approach to building up and conceptualizing The Usual Place: He bartends here six nights a week and DJs once a month or so.

He’s cultivated a diverse lineup of entertainment thus far, from art, game and open mic nights to yoga sessions. Now, he can fulfill his larger ambitions with shows of a similar magnitude.

“We’re just doing a bunch of different stuff, trying to incorporate different people in the community, trying to just make it a good local spot,” he says. “That was the ultimate goal: having a really good local spot.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter and @jbracelin76 on Instagram.

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