Singer and songwriter Shamir's roots in Las Vegas run unusually deep, so much so that he called his debut EP Northtown—the nickname given to the North Las Vegas airport and the surrounding area. But despite making a name for himself on the music scene, the strict Vegas laws successfully kept him out of the bars and clubs until his recent 21st birthday. Unable to live that Vegas party life, Shamir found other ways to keep entertained and inspired in the desert.
VICE: Give us a sense of your personal relationship to the city of Las Vegas.
Shamir: The thing about Vegas, I'm Vegas through and through, from beginning to end, which is pretty rare because it's a very transient city and really no one is born and raised there. A lot of my friends either moved there or their parents moved there. But both my parents and I were born and raised in Las Vegas. So I'm about as Vegas as it gets.
Second generation Vegas. Wow. That's definitely a first for me.
I would say technically third because my grandma moved there when she was 8. So pretty much third!
So as someone who's Vegas through and through, what are some of your favorite places to go eat?
Well the thing about Vegas is that, outside the Strip, there's not a lot of homegrown restaurants that everybody goes to. We're really big about the chains that we have. Outside from California, we have In-N-Out. So we obviously take pride in that.
There's this huge chain. It's called Roberto's. It's a chain of Mexican food. It's pretty much fast Mexican food, but it's still all fresh. You see them making it for you and everything. Kind of like Chipotle, but not really. It's not made in front of you like that, but the kitchen is open. They're everywhere. They're pretty much like convenience stores. Every single corner has a Roberto's and it's so good! It's literally the local Las Vegas diet.
I like to go to the Tivoli Village in Summerlin on the west side. They have a bunch of shops and restaurants.
Like I said, there's not too many mom-and-pop places, but since I've been in high school, they've been trying to turn the downtown area into a place more for the locals. There's a place called The Beat Coffeehouse, which I love. It's really good. It's really cool. It's fairly new. They have really good coffee. It's also a record store and if you go upstairs, there's an art gallery.
Where do you go if you just want to grab a drink with some friends?
I just turned 21 back in November. I've never even been to a bar in Vegas, actually, which is actually insane to think about. So I'm at a loss for that. But when we were underage and we were being a little mischievous, what we would do is go downtown, like around Fremont Street and just flirt our way into somebody giving us a drink. Which is horrible to think about, but, yeah.
So as someone who hasn't been able to fully enjoy the party scene, what are things you do or places you go to just relax or hang out?
If you go more south like near Mountain's Edge, there's caves out there. And me and my friends, we'll hike. It's about a half hour hike. And then we go to the caves. The caves are really dark. Probably the darkest place that you'll ever be in your life, which is really cool. So it'd be really hot in the summer and we'd go in the caves. It's about maybe 20 to 30 degrees cooler. And we'd just kind of sit in there and chill. Make a bonfire or light some candles. And we'll chill and have a drink in there by ourselves or whatever.
I'm a super nature person. I love nature. I love doing all that. You can hike up these really cool waterfalls. Like the Red Rock one is really cool because it's not like a "waterfall" waterfall. It kind of is like this fast dripping of water and then it turns into this really cool spring. And then Mary Jane Falls in Mount Charleston is really cool because I think it's also melted snow. So it's really fast running water. You can actually drink it and it's probably the freshest water you'll get in Vegas.
What's the craziest/weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Vegas?
Because it's a pretty chill city, especially when you live there, I'm not really hungry to have those crazy nights. Like, crazy nights are usually house parties with friends. The first place I lived when I moved out with my parents, it was a really big house that I rented with my friends. We decided to throw a house party and had a few bands play and everything. And it was really great, really insane. And like 70 people showed up. We did not expect that to happen. I set up, or helped them set up and then was like, "I've gotta go to work. Be back before midnight." Got back and it was insane. I was like, "Oh my god. I can't believe all these people came!" The bands were really good and it was just like really fun. It was my first time really having a successful house show like that. It was really cool. We had a lot of fun. There was burlesque and the craziest jungle juice ever.
Are there any venues that you love to play or listen to music at?
Well, again, just turned 21 and most of the venues are 21 and over. At least, like, the smaller ones that a lot of the bands I like play at. Like Beauty Bar is over 21, so I've never been.
[There wasn't anything] up until the Cosmopolitan was built. They have that pool venue, which is really cool because it's all ages. They book a lot of indie acts.
We played Count Vamp'd at 16. It used to be called Feelgoods. Now it's called Count Vamp'd. I think it was owned by that old metal band with Tommy Lee...you know what I'm talking about...that '80s band.
Yeah. The guy from Mötley Crüe apparently owned it.
How would you say the music scene has evolved in Las Vegas?
When I was going to school, they used to have First Friday a lot. That really helps the music scene because First Friday is all ages and there's a lot of interest and everything and a lot of people will come out. And with the whole downtown area, it's more of a local's place and arts place and an artistic place. I remember after school me and my friends would get together and we'd all ride the bus downtown and have a blast.
Are there any misconceptions about Vegas that you want to clear up?
This is a party city, but not necessarily so much for the locals. A lot of people come to Vegas and complain about the craziness and the fast pace or whatever, and the first thing I always ask them is, "Well, did you leave the Strip?" And they're like, "No." Literally, all you have to do is just go like three miles outside the Strip. Trust me. You'll find chillness.
Check out the entire VICE Guide to Las Vegas here.
Photo by Mathew Parri Thomas via Facebook