“By building a bar for sociable computer gamers, Christopher LaPorte seems at first glance to be chasing an oxymoron.”
So began an April 2011 article on the opening of Insert Coin(s), by Review-Journal reporter Tim O’Reiley. It’s an Outraged Parent sentiment, one born of wrong perceptions (“In the popular image … gamers interact more comfortably with monitors and consoles than with other people,” O’Reiley adds) and basic disbelief. Who, O’Reiley seemed to ask, would patronize a “videolounge gamebar”—a place where adults could knock back cocktails and administer hadoukens?
Three years later, O’Reiley has his answer: Las Vegas wanted Insert Coin(s), and badly. On the occasion of the bar’s third anniversary, founder and operator LaPorte—who is, by the way, one of the most sociable guys I’ve ever met—presides over one of the busiest bars on Fremont Street.
“I love that we have such a brilliant mix of cultures in here on any given night—locals and tourists alike,” he says.
He’s not underselling the bar’s appeal. Crowds pack Insert Coin(s) nearly every night they’re open. They come to play video games both new and vintage (Insert’s selection ranges from classic arcade machines to the newest gaming consoles), and to move to the funkiest beats in the Entertainment Corridor, produced by resident DJ 88 and a veritable all-star team of open-format DJs. (In the past year alone, such talents as Just Blaze, The Hood Internet and Jazzy Jeff have played at the bar.) And several local charities, including The Center, the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society and Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, have directly benefited from Insert’s generosity.
In short, Insert Coin(s) is interacting, and this weekend, LaPorte and his crew are celebrating three years in business simply by doing what they do. On Friday, local rockers The Dirty Hooks play a live set (“I love those guys,” LaPorte says—high praise from the self-described “hip hop guy”), with Tendaji Lathan, Charlie Darker and others playing DJ sets. Saturday brings one of Insert’s classic DJ showcases—DJ 88 and Crykit, Black Boots, OBOne and Dave Fogg are scheduled to appear—and Sunday wraps up this anniversary present with free sets by The Knocks, KCRW’s Anthony Valdez, Phoreyz and Silent John. A full event schedule is included below.
It may look like a victory lap, this three-day blowout. But LaPorte says that he, and the bar, are still advancing on the boss stage. “Our plans for the immediate future are to keep digging for up-and-coming acts that we’d like Vegas to be aware of,” he says. “Now, if money wasn’t an object at all? Just off the top of my head, having shows like Hiatus Kaiyote, Flosstradamus, Mar & Full Crate, OutKast, Ta-Ku, King Krule, MF Doom or Wu-Tang would be amazing. Why should we have to wait until a festival comes to town to enjoy acts like that in DTLV?”
Answer: We don’t, as long as Insert Coin(s) keeps striving to beat the game and challenge critical expectations of what gamer culture is really like. It’s not a solitary, man-vs.-machine life; it’s a big damn party, meant to be shared with as many friends you can cram into the room.
And the gamer lifestyle yields rewards beyond higher scores and extra lives … some of which Christopher LaPorte has been fortunate enough to reap personally.
“My most rewarding day happened when Jazzy Jeff walked into the bar and said, ‘This place is special. There needs to be an Insert Coin(s) in every major city,'” says LaPorte. “He said that, even with all the world traveling that he’s done.”
PHOTO BY DANIELLE DEBRUNO