For the Culture on Las Vegas’ Budding Music Scene

Photo by For the Culture

8/8/22 Update: This article has been edited to remove the mention of Napalm Star, due to their members Dean Stacy and Kaden West having allegations of sexual misconduct.

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By Vlada Stark, Abby Villarus

Recently, I’ve become interested in various aspects of Vegas’ growing culture, whether that be local fashion, music, art, etc. Through the interviews I’ve conducted, I realized that the people behind these events are often overshadowed by their adolescent audiences.

Admittedly, even I have focused on the big crowd-drawing acts in Vegas while unknowingly disregarding the people who have prepared the stage for them. Of course, there are many groups in Vegas that set up culture events. But, the most familiar name for many is For the Culture, or FTC, largely due to their popular First Friday shows. (Which were originally held at the Union House on Main St., but have since been moved to Insideman HQ.)

As exciting as the bands are, the people behind Vegas’ emerging arts culture deserve to express their motivations for doing so.

So, Abby and I interviewed the For the Culture team during First Friday to learn what exactly FTC is, what inspires their work in the community, and their own memorable experiences in Vegas’ art scene. 

Vlada: What is For the Culture? 

Paul: It’s a platform, and a mirror, to help culture grow as much as possible. And that’s about it.

Abby: The Vegas music scene isn’t very established as others, like the Seattle, Pacific Northwest. How do you guys think [For the Culture] helps with that?

Rex: Yeah, so Vegas is a budding scene. We all grew up here. And we all saw the things that Vegas was lacking. And we’re just trying to create something that wasn’t here before. Within that, Vegas can compete with those cities like Seattle and Atlanta and Chicago because we’ve never had the infrastructure before, but we’re part of that movement that is creating the infrastructure to make Vegas that next big city. 

V: Do you think Vegas could ever catch up to Seattle, for example? 

Rex: Oh, we’re gonna surpass it! We’re gonna surpass it!  It’s already bigger, like, Vegas, like, okay, so Atlanta has a hip hop scene. Seattle has a grunge or like, indie scene. Vegas has both. Vegas has everything that every other city is lacking. And we’re moving at such a pace that no other city has seen. 

Pat: That is very true.

A: How did you guys get together? How did this idea even come about? How did you guys get this place? How was [For the Culture] even founded in the first place?

Paul: Yeah, so we all just kinda met at a Walmart. So, For the Culture is three years old. And it just started with me, and this guy named Dan Grams. And really quickly, everybody else. We just met each other through the thing and we all became friends and ran it together. We all became friends and banded together to make this better. And it’s just like all of us working really crazy hard.

Rex: Let me chime in on that. So, I met a lot of these people through the open mic scene. I was a performer myself. Paul put me on an event. Patricio came on as our first intern, but a lot of us just kind of saw everyone kind of doing shit. And everyone that does shit kind of will eventually conglomerate together. Like that’s what we do. You know, I’m saying like, so yeah, it’s dope. Um, yeah, the pandemic kind of made it a real thing. That’s when we got the venue. And we started going, like, our media team started making clothing. So, although For the Culture started as just events, like it took a team to make it into what it is now.

A: I know, Rex, you and Paul have been here since like, the very start of it all. It was a pretty small thing. I remember when you guys started. How does it feel just getting big ass fucking numbers, like people coming in? How does that euphoria translate to you guys?

Paul: It’s pretty new. And we’re really happy. But we still have a lot more to do. And, you know, we just hope to like, I guess do something meaningful with what we got going on and then make it bigger. 

A: First Friday, obviously, it’s like a really big event. When I started going to First Friday shows there was not – I’ve gone to shows here, but they were more independent people coming and putting on their own shows. Renting this house and putting on these things daily, how did you guys even start that?

Rex: So yeah, let’s tell the whole story. Yeah. So Paul put together a For the Culture Show here with the ‘Sarap clothing company. Shoutouts to ‘Sarap, they were around before us doing dope stuff with like clothing brands, the bands, and other dope things in the city, “for the culture” essentially. And then Paul set up a show with them in August 2019,  saw the venue, it was amazing. The Union House was doubling down for local artists. It was really cool. And then a year later, during the pandemic, we realized that For the Culture couldn’t go on because of the pandemic. We put on For the Culture live. We did it here at ‘Sarap, the same spot we did it in August. And so ‘Sarap said that there was a spot available. So we used that spot to do everything. We made our content, we made our fucking clothes, we started putting on First Friday shows. We just used that one venue to make it happen essentially. So yeah, that’s how we ended up here. Long story short. 

A: [To Lurk Franklin] How do you feel like FTC kind of helped smaller independent artists, especially people who don’t know how to make a name? 

Lurk: They helped tremendously. I can speak from personal experience, like when I first moved here, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know anything but my mom and dad and then I saw that they were like throwing events and like, you know, they were just like, “Send us some music or whatever.” I sent them some music and then they’d be like, do like a whole bunch of shows and I was trying to tell them that I was trying to get my name out there as much as I can. So Paul, and the rest of the staff, pretty much like gave me every opportunity I could possibly get to perform like I did like the first four FTCs like back to back to back to back and they always made sure like I was like treated well, like, you know, had water. Bring some people in and all that good stuff, you know what I’m saying.  And like I just consistently did that with FTC. Right now I’m doing the Strong music festival with Lil’ Yachty, Trippie Redd,  Lil’ Tecca, you know some big names right? But I couldn’t – I wouldn’t – have gotten that far without FTC. Like they break artists like any band, any rapper, singer, whatever like “artist” or artistic person, they come to FTC. They can build off of that because we’re gonna give them the content that they need to. Yeah, because of that everything goes toward them and they help tremendously. I wouldn’t be where I am without FTC. 

V: Why do you guys think FTC and First Friday, why do you think it stayed so relevant in such a bustling community?

Rex: It’s the thing to do, man. It’s the only thing to do too. It’s the only spot to find all the locals, all the creators,  all the dopest people bro. We really try to cultivate that community. It’s what we do. 

Paul: As far as that, I think that we do a really good job of paying attention to what’s like happening like in the world around us, in Las Vegas, and like, general culture. And like our only mission is to be like a mirror for that. You know? So like, as long as like we could do that and like it’s totally cool.

V: Yeah, so quick question. Do you guys have any favorites? I don’t mean to pick favorites. Like a favorite musical act you know in Vegas? What really stuck out to you? 

Rex: People we book the most essentially, but like low-key like it was really cool to see Wave and Chief, like Wave MMLZ and Chief DVB, tonight because I’ve been stanning them forever. That was my first article for For the Culture was about Chief. And they put on a crazy show tonight. They’re really dope performers. But like, bro, like, I don’t know, like all the other standards. Eclipse, like all of them, you know, people we look out for like, people that you see at For the Culture shows are the people that we really enjoy watching. 

Paul: Paul Gonzalez stans Eclipse. 

A: [To Patrick Gibbons] What is your favorite part of working at FTC? I know you’re like a newer addition. 

Patrick: The endless opportunity they allow me and just how they expand my horizons on what I can do and what I want to do. Yeah. It’s really good.

V: What’s your guys’ favorite memory with everyone in this whole company, like, Well, what was the most gratifying moment so far?

Paul: Every day with these beautiful faces. 

Rex: It seems cheap but it really is. It’s kind of amazing to be here. It’s really, really cool. Yeah. When I got hurt bro, I was like laying in bed for like, two months. I got hurt. I broke my leg. And Paul sent me this video where Cantinfliz made sure to like shout me out like. “Yo shout out Rex cause he got hurt.” Motherfuckers just went crazy. It was cool. It was like a moment. Yeah, that was like probably the best day when I was hurt.

A: That’s very sweet. What do you guys think are some of the most defining traits like this kind of really fastly growing scene? 

Paul: I would say that inside of the Las Vegas scene, there are a lot of really smart people who are dedicating time to this [the Vegas culture scene] that like in the past we haven’t had. 

It’s a lot of people in the scene that are doing great things. It’s a lot of smart people that are fucking throwing on the shows and all that stuff. Stuff like this [Kindergarten Mag]. 

V: Why do you guys think it’s important, especially for really young adolescents? Musical and other creative endeavors. Why do you guys think it’s important for them to be supported by the community? 

Rex: There was nothing here for us before us.

Pat: I think identifying with your fellow people is like, like, the most important thing and one of the biggest roads to happiness. So being able to like have like, you know, a community that you can like nourish in order to like, continue that cycle of like self – identification between each other. That’s like, the golden shit.

A: [To Pat] What is it like to manage the shop?

Pat: Like I’ve heard like, like, you know, there’s like reports of people who like get like addicted to like being in like, really choppy waters like, like hardcore fishing or like, you know, if you’re about like those like, like helicopter pilots who like just like, who are just totally like oblivious to the fact of death that were just like, just like crazy in the moment. And like, when I do things such as like, run the shop or help out here, it’s like the same like, like breathless it’s like, it’s like a total grace under pressure.

V: What’s some advice, not even just for people getting wanting to get into music, but just like, young creatives who want to start a collective? 

Pat: Keep pushing. 

Paul: Keep pushing. But really, basically, you can do whatever you want to do, but nobody’s ever gonna give you permission to do it. So you just go do it. And that’s all you know, if you can make it in your mind then like, pretty close to making it in real life.

Rex: Oh, real talk, bro. Like on some real shit, bro. Like, First Friday, like was not supposed to be this big. It was supposed to be our little show. And then the city saw that motherfuckers just made it happen. And so we made it happen with the city. 

A: What has kind of been the most difficult part of it all? 

Rex: Communication. People communicating between a team of 20 folks. But real talk. That’s the hardest part. We’re having a great time. Yeah, it’s cool. We made it happen. 

Ben: I will say as somebody that – so my name is Ben Giles. I’m from Kentucky and from Southern Illinois. I was only supposed to be in Vegas for a year. I came during the middle of the pandemic. And, basically, once I found For the Culture, and like I was like, “Oh, like, why would I leave?” because also not just like For the Culture, but also like all the people and For the Culture have just like made me be like, I have like such a good like network of friends. Like these are people that like work so hard and make such an effort and like really give a fuck about what they care about. They really care about what they do. Sorry I’m trying not to curse. They really care about what they do. And I was ready to leave. And then like three months before my lease was up, I was like, I’m just gonna stay. And so now, yeah, the Late Night with Rex, just like the entire thing.  Paul. Pat.  I mean, just like everybody here just made me realize that it’s like, why would I leave? Because you know, I was supposed to be in LA. And now I’m here for probably three more years. Until we have an outpost in LA, I guess that’s when I’ll leave. 

A: It’s really okay to be egotistical for this answer, but what do you guys think makes FTC so different from all the other things like Casa Verde or High-Five? 

Rex: We’re not competing! It’s not competition, it’s collaboration. It’s love. We’re lit up for everyone. We’ll go vend at your shows. We’re part of y’all. That’s the thing. Like I created the late night show, and everyone’s like, “Oh, you’re starting to podcast.  Oh, you’re competing with everyone’s other podcasts.” And I was like, “Nah, bro, I’ll have podcasts on my show, my show is like there to be something unique and different to the city that we’ve never had before.” If you’re there to fight with someone in your neighborhood, you’re stupid bro. Like we’re not competing, we’re collaborating. We look out for everyone. 

Paul: We work really hard.

Rex: Everyone knows that. They’ve seen the shows. They’ve been here. They know we work. Bro, we make that happen. This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s quality. It’s quantity. It’s effort, bro. Real talk. 

Ben: I would say one of the things that makes a difference is the people in it and not so much that we’re better than other people. But I think that when you look at FTC, you can see a group of people that are like very, very honest about who they are, regardless of the setting. So regardless of whether or not it’s like this interview, or we’re talking about First Friday, or just interacting with people on a day-to-day basis, I think everybody in FTC is extremely honest about who they are and authentic to themselves.

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