The Shamir Explosion, The Holacracy Fallout and the Uber Revival

In Downtown News is a digest of news stories and blog posts about Downtown Las Vegas compiled from local and national sources. Seen something? Say something:

Photo by Anthony Mair

Photo by Anthony Mair

SHAMIR BEGINS: Ratchet, the debut album by North Las Vegas-based singer-songwriter Shamir Bailey, drops on May 19—and a goodly number of big-deal media outlets are falling over each other to align themselves with this rising star. Lindsay Zoladz of Vulture started the land rush with an April 23 profile, followed closely by Jason Lamphier in Out Magazine (May 7), Jon Caramanica in the New York Times (May 8), Hermione Hoby in the Guardian (May 11), Mike Powell in Pitchfork (May 11), and Lindsay Hood in The Stranger (May 12).

The appearance of Pitchfork and Guardian features isn’t that surprising—both publications have been staunch supporters of Shamir for a while now, Pitchfork since the June 2014 release of his EP Northtown and the Guradian since his well-received March 2015 appearance at South By Southwest. But the New York Times profile and Stranger mention are strong indicators that Shamir’s appeal is moving beyond music writers—a nice enough bunch, but kind of insular—and in the direction of mainstream success. I’ve never before now seen a Las Vegas musician get this much praise before his album drops, and while most of these stories flog the seeming unlikeliness of Las Vegas producing a pop star (see also: The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Panic! at the Disco, The Crystal Method and Slaughter), there’s another tone to the stories, one that’s also new to me: The writers don’t try to convince Shamir that his hometown isn’t worthy of him. They follow him to his favorite west side crêperie; visit his NLV apartment, somewhere near the pigs and goats of RC Farms; and they drive the Strip with him, because that’s what parachute writers feel they need to do to get a handle on Vegas. Very few of them suggest that Shamir would be happier somewhere else. To their minds, Las Vegas is part of what makes Shamir who he is … which is the kind of national mainstream press perspective we’ve been waiting for since, oh, 1950.

By the way, Shamir’s album? It’s fantastic. Funky as fuck, and possessed of the easy confidence and artistic maturity that makes superstars. You can listen to it now, streaming on iTunes Radio. Do that.

PUTTING THE HOLE IN HOLACRACY: The other Las Vegas story enjoying lots of traction right now, though I’m sure its makers wish it weren’t, is the Zappos buyout. As we reported here last week, Zappos offered three months’ severance pay—plus benefits!—to anyone who didn’t want to work under the unusual Holacracy corporate governance structure, which eschews tradtional managment roles. Nearly 14% of Zappos’ workforce took the offer, and the national business press went off like Kanye before Beck: “(When) 14% of my organization leaves in one day, there is something amiss if not awry,” wrote Dan Pontefract in Forbes. “The Zappos exodus suggests that employees aren’t buying into Holacracy, the language of which wavers between manifesto-esque and outright cultish,” said Alison Griswold in Slate. And while speaking to CNBC, Yale School of Management’s Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld basically ripped Holacracy a new hole: “It is a bit of a hypocrisy that [Hsieh is essentially saying], ‘Thou shall participate or else.’ How is that employee participation if they didn’t elect?”

For its own part, Zappos remains sanguine about the departures, reminding us that those 210 jobs will be internally evaluated and, very likely, become available through the Zappos Insider program.

UBER RISES: The Review-Journal’s Sandra Chereb reports that Uber might be coming back to Nevada sooner than you think: A bill that would allow the ride-hailing service to operate here has passed the Nevada Senate on its third try. Now the bill goes to the Assembly, where it may well be mugged and beaten to within an inch of its life. Uber encourages anyone who wants the service back in Nevada to contact their representative in the Assembly; find yours here.

Vegas Seven