Hometown Heroes: The Killers by Jennifer Durnell

Welcome to Hometown Heroes. In this series, we feature notable public figures from Las Vegas and highlight the significant impact they have left on our city, culture, and personal lives. 

It’s an autumn morning in 2004 and I’m getting ready for another day at Garside Junior High School in the Charleston Heights neighborhood of Las Vegas. My morning routine involves rimming copious amounts of black eyeliner around my eyes and frying my hair with a straightener I bought on clearance from the neighborhood drugstore. Like every morning, I had music videos from MTV playing in the background.

All the usual suspects were on heavy rotation at the time: Ciara, Usher, Terror Squad, and Ashlee Simpson. While I was caking my face with the infamously orange Dream Matte Mousse foundation, a new and unidentifiable sound materialized out of my speakers. I look away from the mirror and divert my attention to the TV screen.

It’s a young, mascara-clad Brandon Flowers sashaying and flamboyantly swinging his mic in front of colossal LED screens in a dark and desolate desert. He exuded a hubris that could only be matched by David Bowie or a Smiths era Morrissey. The music video was for The Killers first single “Somebody Told Me”. In the following months, they released their seminal hit  “Mr. Brightside” (a song that has placed on The UK Singles Chart every year since its inception) and the rest is history.

Today, The Killers are considered one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st century, and the most successful act to ever emerge from Nevada, selling more than 28 million albums worldwide.

The Killers inaugural LP Hot Fuss debuted in June 2004, and no album has so intrinsically defined a generation of Las Vegans so fittingly. The guitar-driven record was a neo-new wave synthpop fantasy that conjured a mixture of romance and ruggedness. The juxtaposition of grime and glamour in their sound paralleled the same nuance that precedes our city outside of it’s Strip borders. 

California has The Beach Boys, New Jersey has Bruce Springsteen, Minnesota has Prince, Washington has Nirvana, and Nevada has The Killers.

Las Vegas and its iconography has always had a seat at the table in the pop culture vernacular. From the Golden Age when our city saw residencies from Liberace, Wayne Newton, The Rat Pack, and Elvis. To modern incarnations, where millions of tourists flock to Las Vegas to see sold-out performances from Celine Dion, Elton John, Britney Spears, and Rod Stewart on a nightly basis. According to Seat Geek, we are the U.S. city with the most concerts per capita. 

Although the biggest names performed here, rarely did we have any artists who made it that were “from here,”; A fitting conundrum due to the transient nature of our city.

The Killers have always embraced this city. Their sophomore record, Sams Town is titled after the seedy east-side casino of the same name. Their fourth studio album Battle Born refers to the phrase on Nevada’s state flag. They’ve filmed numerous music videos here. They organized benefit concerts raising more than $700,000 for those affected by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. They donated funds to help save the historic Huntridge Theater. In 2016, they played a surprise secret show at the intimate 250-occupancy downtown venue The Bunkhouse. Flowers is still a current resident.

Since The Killers ascension to fame, we have seen international success from other bands who got their start here, including Panic! At the Disco and Imagine Dragons, both of whom feature Mormon frontmen, akin to Brandon Flowers. Current acts gaining notoriety from Las Vegas include garage rockers Surf Curse, hip-hop artist Dizzy Wright, and the indie-electronic crooner Shamir.

It’s October 2019 – an adult me, who now wears a reasonable amount of eyeliner, just landed in Vegas. I am walking through McCarran Airport and am overwhelmed from stimuli of slot machine chimes. I see a giddy group of young women celebrating a bachelorette party taking selfies at baggage claim. I hear The Killers echoing on the overhead speakers. I’m home.