Essentially Ellington at UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Hall
Essentially Ellington, a high school jazz orchestra festival celebrating the music of legendary pianist Duke Ellington (and other noteworthy big-band composers and arrangers), is actually rooted in New York City—specifically, a creation of the Jazz at Lincoln Center educational arm. But it traditionally doesn’t see Las Vegas bands participate. JALC trumpeter Kenny Rampton, a Las Vegas native looking to inspire young jazz musicians back home, sought to change that and encouraged Valley bands to apply last year. Imagine his surprise when the JALC notified him that 18 schools had shown interest—a turnout high enough to warrant a regional Essentially Ellington event here in Las Vegas. That development spurred two significant developments: UNLV’s commitment to host the festival, which would be funded by Rampton’s new, locally based Jazz Outreach Initiative, established last year.
To accommodate the large number of participants, the Las Vegas Essentially Ellington Festival will take place over two days, with Rampton serving as clinician over both. His fellow JALC band members Chris Crenshaw (trombone) and Julius Tolentino (saxophone) will guest on Thursday during a performance by UNLV Latin Jazz Ensemble. And Rampton himself will perform on Friday with UNLV Jazz Ensemble 1. January 18 & 19, 7 p.m., $8-$10. –Mike Prevatt
Otakon Vegas at Planet Hollywood
Like the American words “nerd” or “geek,” the Japanese word otaku has several definitions—some of them generous to the recipient, some less so. But for the sake of Otakon Vegas—a three-day celebration of Japanese popular culture, from its animation to its gaming to its comics and beyond—we’ll define it as a devoted, happy enthusiasm for all things anime and manga. The fifth year of Otakon Vegas brings special guests, among them Katsuhiro Takei, a producer of the critically-acclaimed anime Your Name; a masquerade contest, in which cosplayers are invited to create skits based on Hayao Miyazaki, Overwatch and the like; a cosplay lip-sync competition, which is pretty self-explanatory; and, naturally, a dealer’s room, where that elusive Cowboy Bebop, Durarara and Akira swag will likely be waiting for your impulse buy. January 19-21, $60-$65 weekend pass, $45 single-day (Friday and Saturday), $30 Sunday; otakonvegas.com.
Spoon at the Chelsea
Even if you’re a superfan and caught the Austin indie vets all three times they played Vegas in 2014, this show promises to be different since a) Spoon has a fresh album from which to mine (2017’s Hot Thoughts), and b) the righteous glam/garage-rockers of White Reaper are onboard to open the show. January 20, 8 p.m., $30-$38. –Spencer Patterson
My Favorite Murder Live! At Red Rock Resort
If you like a little true crime with your comedy, you’re probably already a fan of the hit podcast My Favorite Murder. Hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark will emerge from the studio to delight fans IRL inside Red Rock’s Ballroom. January 20, 8 p.m., $43-$53. –C. Moon Reed
Power to the Polls at Sam Boyd Stadium
The Women’s March organization might be based in Washington, D.C., but activists and organizers recognized Nevada as the perfect place to launch the follow-up phase to last year’s efforts. As a swing state that has recently dealt with the tragic effects of gun violence—not to mention devastating statistics for domestic violence against women—Las Vegas is more than familiar with the wide range of issues women face in today’s world.
Marking the anniversary of last year’s Women’s March across the country, this Las Vegas gathering is the organization’s flagship event for 2018, commemorating the largest protest in U.S. history and bringing together activists, artists, musicians, elected officials and more. Officially titled Power to the Polls, the event isn’t really a march at all, but a community-wide gathering and rally to kick off a nationwide voting campaign focused on “targeting swing states to register new and disenfranchised voters” and “engage impacted communities.” Head to ReBar Friday night to make protest signs with other participants in the community, and don’t forget to register for the main event at powertothepolls.com. January 21, 10 a.m., Free. –Leslie Ventura
Pilobolus Maximus at Smith Center
Originally launched in 1971, this modern American dance company has performed in more than 65 countries and been featured on the Academy Awards and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Witness the magic for yourself when the troupe brings its legendary choreography to Reynolds Hall. January 21, 7:30 p.m., $24-$95. –Leslie Ventura
UNLV ends its football season against its intrastate rival.
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The 2016 album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is the band’s best in many years, and the setlists on the current tour haven’t skimped on its songs.
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