Viva Las Vegas, Oct. 30 - 31, 1998
Las Vegas Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
I made it to Las Vegas by accident. Vegas was simply too far to go to see a show, and after being unemployed and out of school for six months, I couldn't afford it anyway. I mail ordered a Halloween ticket thinking it would go to help out a friend, but I ended up with it somehow. Ten days before the shows, I got my first job and decided to spoil myself. I would need a break after my first full week, my brother had hotel reservations already, and hell, it was Halloween.
On my very first day on the job at Editor & Publisher, I told my new boss that I had a "family gathering" in Nevada at the end of October. So on noon on Friday, Oct. 30, I left my newfound "real world" straight to Las Vegas to see Phish on Halloween.
Walking off the plane, I was greeted by dozens of slot machines echoing through the terminals of the Las Vegas International airport. They made all sorts of noises, and I became quickly acquainted with the sound of falling coins hitting a metal trey, uh, tray.
I have family in Manhattan and have spent some time there. I went to college in Boston, which I always considered a poor substitute for New York City.
I didn't think much of it when my brother said he had reservations for a room at the New York New York hotel. It sounded alright, but I couldn't have imagined what it was. In the cab from the Vegas airport to the hotel, I watched the New York skyline approach from the middle a the desert. I had traveled 2,000 miles to stay in New York. With my jaw hanging a foot from the rest of my head, my cabbie joked, "First time?"
I checked in and went directly to the show to find my ticket.
As the sun was setting in the west, the Vegas skyline was clearly visible, with the pyramid-shaped Luxor Hotel most prominent. I found one guy who was asking for $100 and I offered double face and no more. We agreed on all the money I had -- $54. (He let me keep my change). The line was relatively short with an hour until doors, and I ran into Jesse Jarnow from Fire Island in front.
After the chaotic rush into the venue, I somehow scored five seats in the fifth row on Page's side. Within minutes, Mike found my row and we held seats for Sam, Scott, and Mike's girlfriend Kerstin. Nice venue. Any indoor arena that's General Admission is alright with me. With a little motivation, I get to be with my friends and not worry about getting bumped. In the madness of the day, I had decided to leave my camera at the hotel, but not before snapping a few shots of the crazy roller coaster that flies atop the New York New York casino.
The first Vegas show fell on Phish's 15th anniversary of their first gig. That's an incredible milestone. From the campus of the University of Vermont at Burlington to a sold-out four-night stand at Madison Square Garden at the end of 1998.
I met up with my older brother Jordan after the show. He had caught the tour opener in Los Angeles at the Greek Theater the night before and made the drive during the day.
New York New York was a trip. The entire theme of the hotel was to look and feel as much like New York as possible. And as a semi-native New Yorker, I was impressed. It was small scale, but it was accurate. Down to the cobblestone streets in SoHo and the Times Square replica. The pizza wasn't as good (duh), but they hired guys with Brooklyn accents to put you in yellow taxis, and I liked that. At home, I resided on the 22nd floor of my apartment building.
I didn't do anything productive before the concert. Vegas isn't much of a walking town (I prefer a mini scooter, or something like the ride my buddy rented for the day to the left; especially when we've caught a bit of buzz from playing BJ or slots in the casinos, or just taking a cab), and I was a disaster from the previous day's insanity. Mike went to the UNLV campus to buy a costume -- he went as a UNLV Runnin' Rebel. Dressed in total UNLV basketball garb, Mike wondered about the number on his jersey, 15. "Who's 15?" he asked me. I smiled, "Phish."
In line for the show, I talked with many people about their predictions. I heard 'em all, and personally thought it would be the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street.
This time it was Sam who hooked up the seats, the exact same five from the previous night. Security had removed the Page Against The Machine sticker that Mike put up on the bannister, but it was still our territory. On Halloween, it was an absolute dream. Following the style of Hunter S. Thompson in experiencing Vegas to the fullest, I made the trip to Vegas all the more insane. Especially with all the costumes. I only took a few pictures at night in Vegas, and these two tend to sum it up.
The show started off strong, with Axilla into Punch a la New Years Eve '96, but was lacking the Peaches en Regalia. I dug Sneakin' Sally, and even liked the Frankie Says in the Mike's Groove. Very relaxing. Since Phish had given us a Phishbill entering the concert, everyone knew it was going to be Velvet Underground's Loaded. I owned one Lou Reed CD and knew nothing about Loaded. While I was slightly disappointed by the fact that it was an unfamiliar album, I knew it was going to be amazing. Seeing the debut of Sweet Jane in Maryland over the summer confirmed that. The second time, that night, still gives me shivers.
That song signaled that even though I had finally joined the "real world," I would still be able to incorporate Phish and the adventure of seeing them into it. I met up with my brother, who I rarely see now that he's moved to San Francisco. I reunited with my oldest friends Sam and Mike. I was exploring a new city, Las Vegas, which had taken me my surprise in being clean and friendly. To top it off, Phish was directly in front of me, on Halloween, covering one of the finest albums in rock history.
I couldn't deal with bringing my camera into the Thomas & Mack. Sometimes it's just too much to deal with. The spectacular photograph of the band was taken by my buddy, who obviously took advantage of the general admission opportunity.
The next song, "Rock & Roll", mentions how a girl listens to New York radio and hears rock n' roll for the first time, giving her a purpose. Hearing "New York" sung a couple of times, I remembered that Lou Reed is a New Yorker and realized that the Loaded album art is of a NYC subway. Of course.
The night progressed, and I was stuck with permagrin. The third set lost me a bit, but I had no complaints after the show. For six straight hours, I stayed in my row, content with everything in the world.
After the show, we fit eight people into Jason's tiny Golf for the two-mile trip back to The Strip. Half my body stuck out of the sun roof and the tailpipe dragged on the pavement, but we made it. I stayed up through the night to catch a 6:40 a.m. flight home. I was back in New York in time to catch the Jets game and get a good night's sleep. Then it was back to work, where I was asked, "Have a good weekend?" I nodded. "Yup." Hopefully Phish returns soon, because I'm due for another visit ;-)