What is the soul of Las Vegas?

Las Vegas begins and ends with freedom. Yes, change and opportunity are contenders, but both stem (or, perhaps, stemmed) from our physical isolation from Washington, D.C., and that isolation’s attendant privileges. Vegas’ libertarian roots and libertine business model (one based upon legitimizing the criminal activities, and thereby the criminals, of other states) long provided us a big-city lifestyle with Wild West liberties. But after the city’s most recent population boom, “freedom” was prettied, packaged and sold to our visitors while it was eroded from our residential lifestyle. Planned communities lorded over by associations and CC&Rs, smoking bans that applied to adults-only establishments, anti-cell phone laws and more. Once the soul of Las Vegas is irrevocably altered, we might simply languish as an overbuilt city in a resource-scarce desert.

What song best captures Las Vegas? Please don’t say “Viva Las Vegas.”

Much like the “quintessential Las Vegas novel” query, many believe our song has yet to be written. Sure, there are plenty of self-loathing Las Vegans who dream of the day they view the city in the rear-view while blasting Sheryl Crow’s “Leaving Las Vegas,” but I’m not among them. Elvis Presley’s 1964 “Viva Las Vegas” is so obvious it might be better ignored, but “Night Life” (from the same soundtrack), both captures the mood of ’60s-era Vegas and transcends it (“you can’t be a quitter / when you’re caught up in the glitter”). There’s many tracks that graze Las Vegas (B-52s “Queen of Las Vegas,” Buck Owens’ “Big in Vegas,” ad infinitum), but few reach inside. I’m hoping for an authentic, local-born anthem to emerge, one that connects to Las Vegas much like Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” does to Detroit. My current fave is Soundgarden’s “Burden in My Hand”—not a “Vegas” song, but one whose lyrics (and title) metaphorically reflect Las Vegas in a way that few do.

I just saw a billboard for DJ Reza. Is that you?

Your eyes must have been dazzled by my extraordinarily good taste in music. As much time as I have spent in nightclubs (and harbor a fantasy that I, too, could lift the Electric Daisy Carnival crowds to new heights of ecstasy upon my track-building skills), DJ Reza and I share a name and a love of electronica. That’s as far as it goes.

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