by Rex Stickel
Photos by Jim Testa & Johnny Puke
Vegas is one of the few promises in the world that appears
to be kept despite the changing times, sitting out in the
desert stuck halfway between a past we never saw and a future
we’re not sure is sticking around. The past is bright,
and can be seen preserved in the junk lands of old signs
and structures; and the future is even brighter, LCD screens
filling every corner of the eye, sprawling across the giant
buildings filled with the happiest and saddest people in
the world. I found myself marveling at the beauty of it
all, the ever encompassing skyline of the mountains and
orange dirt, first feeling protective and enveloping like
a sunburnt hug, but as the time passes, transforming itself
into a self convicting prison. The visiting goons from around
the world all appeared to be displaying the same perma-grin
I seemed to share while the few locals I encountered seemed
closer to inmates, doing their time serving the eager public.
I loved every second of it.
You only find yourself in Las Vegas for either business
or pleasure, and my business was the pleasure of Punk Rock,
in the form of a music festival wrapped around a bowling
tournament. We would be celebrating the 20th anniversary
of Punk Rock Bowling (PRB) this year, and I was attending
with a mixture of old pros and greenhorns like me. I had
the fortune of rubbing elbows with the elite and at the
same time forgiven for getting lost nearly every other turn.
I decided the year before I was no longer going to leave
it to the pros, and decided to join along and see if it
really was all about community, exactly what the Punk Nation
had been shouting for the last 19 years. All you need to
know to begin to understand this unlikely event are the
minds behind this endeavor: Shawn and Mark Stern.
Johnny Puke and Joe McMahon, two happy campers
The Stern brothers are known for many things, their band
Youth Brigade most likely the most noteworthy. You’ve
seen the film they made as kids, touring the the US and
Canada in a school bus that only seemed to drive 20 yards
at a time, “Another State Of Mind”. (If you
haven’t and need a reason to drink beer and stay up
all night, please visit your local Internet connection).
What you might not know is they’ve been running one
of the most popular punk labels of all time, BYO Records.
They’ve had the pleasure of releasing music by bands
like Hot Water Music, Rancid, Bouncing Souls, and 7 Seconds,
so they’re good at what they do. They essentially
wanted to have a bowling party for punks in 1999 and invite
all their friends. Well, their friends are all in awesome
bands, run great labels, zines, booking agencies, bars,
etc. Why not force them all to bowl against each other,
have the bands play sets, and let all the punks be punks?
It’s what they do! Did I mention the Sterns are also
directly responsible for the resurgence of swing in the
90’s? Yes, that’s them in “The Mask”
starring Jim Carrey, putting a little swing in your ding-a-ling.
These brothers appear to do it all. And this time, we’re
doing it all in Las Vegas.
I’m fortunate enough to have a major “in”
into this world, as I happen to be buddies with an 18-year
PBR vet who also happens to be a 35-year vet in the world
of punk rock. He’s been a punk since he learned how
to lift his middle finger, been the lead singer of successful
bands like Cletus, managed countless bands like Alkaline
Trio, and will forever be connected with the demise of late
great, doomed G.G. Allin. He responds to the name Johnny
Puke. Other than being a fixture in the scene, as well as
a forever fan of the music, Johnny has been bowling at the
tournament for over a decade now. He is proudly a “Jersey
Beater, Punk Rock Defeater”, and joined by long-time
New Jersey Zine overseer Jim Testa, bar tender/crabbing
enthusiast Tia Clark, and Andy “Can’t Find My
Team Bowling Shirt” Peters. Together they form a mighty
bowling team that has taken the trophy for both 3rd and
4th place in their 17 years, and this year I tagged along
to see if they had the wherewithal to bring home the trophy.
Also, Hot Water Music is playing a club show, who the hell
is gonna miss that??
A little punk rock mischief
If you’re like me, and visiting from the East coast,
the first trick Vegas plays on you is the ole’ time
travel bit. Leaving South Carolina at 7:25 am and touching
down in Nevada at 12:30pm sounds convenient, but going from
Eastern to Pacific time in one day is quite a bit of a mindfuck;
more on that later. Besides regretting spending the extra
$0.07 for a plastic bag to carry my $14 snacks, the first
order of business after touching down was hooking up with
my roommate for the weekend, Chris “Ugly” Robbins.
While technically bandmates, Chris and I were friends through
(wait for it) Johnny Puke. They were friends since college,
having started their first band together and continuing
a friendship to this day. Although I was in diapers when
Puke and Ugly formed their rap-rock band Stinky Finger all
the way back in 1986, a recent string of reunion shows from
the previous year reconnected the old friends. Once the
performances were over and the band voted their original
guitar player out from participating in any further band
activities, they asked if I was interested in filling in
on guitar. Turns out, I was. Although the band reunion has
taken a spot on the back burner recently, this particular
reunion was for a different reason. Chris had been the victim
of a massive heart attack just months before, and was lucky
to be alive. After much discussion with the wifey, it was
decided before he pleads his case to St Peter, he better
go have a Vegas weekend with the boys. But here we were,
two guys probably not in shape for what was looming for
the weekend, hugging it out in the Vegas airport, bags in
hand. It was good to see him outside of the imagery of a
It didn’t take much time after getting the normal
pleasantries and greetings out of the way that our attention
turned to the First Order of Business: Ubering to a local
dispensary. We had to leave the airport anyway, so why not?
I had heard of this “marijuana” and with the
state of Nevada legalizing recreational use in 2017, I didn’t
want to be the only punk rocker not experiencing all there
is to experience. After all, I’m on vacation. So after
safely entering in the address of our thoroughly researched
cannabis superstore, we get a ride from the only sane person
I interacted with the entire weekend who drove an Uber.
I look back and almost wish I had just gotten her number
and seen if she’d work out a deal and just be our
personal driver for the weekend, if I knew then what I know
The legal cannabis industry has somehow become just as
boring as shopping for a used car or watching someone else
open their birthday presents. Sure, at the end of it all
you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor but they certainly
do make it labor. They’ve gone too far from the subtle
drug deal and drag it out in a process similar to how I
imagine a bar that sold farts would operate, holding out
jar after jar of what I could only tell is the same thing
over and over again. Do I want to feel slightly buzzed but
not too much and also have a slight German accent? Try this.
Do you wanna feel like you’re floating in water but
not be able to control your body functions? Here’s
a hybrid. I found myself seconds away from just demanding
“GIMME THE WEED LADY” and suddenly we were done.
We had danced around the floor long enough, the band was
packing up and we were allowed to leave. Which was good,
as I had reservations with some old friends at Gordon Ramsay
Steak looming in an hour or so.
To declare our next Uber driver insane just because he
didn’t speak a lick of English would be unfair, but
let’s just say he wasn’t pushing the boundaries
of sanity either. We eventually made it to our hotel after
several loops around the block; I assume our driver just
wanted us to familiarize ourselves with the surrounding
buildings, or just didn’t understand the signs POINTING
to passenger drop off/pick up. Either way, we made it to
our palace for the weekend, The D.
My smile seemed to stretch even further taking in all the
moderately priced swankiness that is The D. Sure there had
been slots at the airport, but this was a Vegas hotel, the
REAL DEAL. I can’t remember being as giddy as I was
while we were checking in, the electric vibe the place was
putting out, and the extra oxygen being pumped through the
air ducts as I’ll discover later on. It felt like
home right away.
While our room wasn’t a suite, it was definitely
sweet, and overlooked the grounds for the music festival
below. To our surprise, we could see AND hear the bands
from our hotel room. Neat. We started a bit nervous considering
what we had just purchased prior to staking our claim at
The D, but our nerves seemed to shift into comfort as we
passed every door that seemed to all be producing the same
familiar smell. If we were going down, by God this entire
floor would go down with us. Lucky for us, nothing but Punks
as far as the eye could see, down the hallway, in the elevator,
checking in, at the slots. We were among US. Perhaps any
other weekend the white hairs and the fun police may have
had some words to say, but not this weekend. The Punks owned
this block for a few days and we were gonna take advantage.
Now at this exact moment, it would have made the most sense
to try out some of the items purchased, kick off the shoes
and prepare for the rest of the night by sleeping with my
eyes open, but I had a date with a Beef Wellington.
My ace-in-the-hole this weekend were a trio of friends
visiting from Montana. They had moved away from Charleston
last September, and we were all reuniting in Las Vegas.
No matter what happened from here on out, seeing all my
friends again was worth all the time, money, and effort.
After a round of hugs and much debate about whether or not
a grown woman in overalls would be admitted to such a fancy
pants lounge as Gordon Ramsay Steak, we parted ways to meet
down by the car drop off/pickup. Now would be a great time
to reveal a charming detail about the elevator system in
The D. In either a stroke of true brilliance (or ignorance),
all function buttons that operate which floor the elevator
reaches are located OUTSIDE of the elevator. So you press
the button to the floor you want, it will tell you which
of the 5 elevators will be taking you, it eventually shows
up, and boom you step inside. Doors close, and it takes
you wherever you keyed in last. The trouble with that, is
if there were any mistakes, or you were a little impatient
outside and mashed a bunch of buttons, you have no control
once you get inside the box. Good luck.
My trouble started sometime outside of the
elevator, and the details are a little fuzzy. After changing
into a polo and khakis (HOT) and possibly consuming a small
dose of LSD, I made my way to the elevator to meet my friends
downstairs. My room is up on floor 22 so it's not quite
a long way down, but it takes its time. So when the doors
finally pop open, I start happily on my way, walking towards
the sounds of the whistles and bells of the casino downstairs.
I walk towards where I’m pretty sure I came from and...nope.
Dead end. I turn around to the elevator and try the other
direction, which led to the Diner. “I don’t
remember that..” crawls across my brain as I slowly
realize, I am lost. “Ok, keep it together. It’s
your first time. You have 30 minutes until your reservation,
and you’re 20 minutes away. You’re fine.”
I walk and walk, passing by the same style of games and
people, hoping to see some sort of recognizable ANYTHING.
And then it hits me. FOLLOW THE EXIT SIGNS. Of course!
I pull the handle on a nearly hidden door with EXIT right
above it, and immediately realize I’m getting even
more lost. These are not flashy carpets and bells and whistles.
I’m walking on linoleum floors among white walls,
mazing left and right. I turn a corner and suddenly I’m
face to face with a chef. A real life chef coat and chef
hat wearing, mustachioed chef. He give me the strangest
look, and asks, “What are you doing back here?”
Just as I throw my hands up and declare I’m the lostest
boy of them all, a nice lady in a pantsuit and name tag
appears and saves me. She begins to escort me back to civilization,
explaining that I had gotten off on Level 2, not Level 1,
where my friends are surely waiting. As we’re walking,
we run into another group of confused lost youth, as they
had come from outside on an escalator that only seemed to
go up, with no ‘down’ counter part. “That’s
how they get you,” I thought to myself.
Once safely on the ground floor, I made sure to drop breadcrumbs
this time and made my way towards the natural light of the
sun. This of course was also the wrong way, but now I was
at least outside of the building. I had exited the front
door of The D which led to Fremont street, where all the
action happens. Besides droves of clueless noobs like myself,
the street was filled with vendors, performers of all kinds,
bands, dancers, everything in between. I shit you not, as
all of this is happening on the street, directly above us
are tourists zip lining down the length of the street. There
was a full on country concert going on, and I had walked
out at the end of their last song. I was in awe of the crowd
these folks were performing to, just hundreds of people
stopped in their tracks watching a cover band I’m
sure they’ve never heard of. Being in a (Thin Lizzy)
cover band myself, I was very impressed with the crowd,
thinking, “Boy it would be a thrill to perform in
front of so many people!” But just as I allowed myself
to put myself in their shoes, something very interesting
happened. Without missing a beat, as soon as the band was
done, the entire audience turned around and then gave their
full attention to two people dressed as Power Rangers performing
the newest dance craze to an actual boom box. I then felt
for the egos of all the members of the cover band.
I let instinct take over and made my way back inside The
D, and back outside to where I was supposed to be, 20 minutes
ago. There my friends were waiting, I’m sure to hear
exactly what I had been doing. I was busy ordering an Uber
on my phone. We sat and people watched at the valet station,
every other car reminding us we are among probably some
of the richest folks we’ve ever seen, even having
spent time in the Carolinas. After what felt entirely too
long, we pile into our Uber, only to be politely asked to
exit as none of us were “Jessica”, the client
who had actually ordered the Uber. This was becoming tedious.
10 minutes after our reservation time comes and goes, we’re
finally in the right car heading in what I hope is the right
direction. I can’t be too sure, as the driver speaks
in a heavy foreign accent, and the only words I can make
out him saying are “Donald”, “Trump”
and “Great man”, so I’m clearly not listening
anymore. 100 years later, we pull up to Caesar’s Palace.
Is that where we were going? Of course not.
It's almost as much fun looking at the bowling shirt
as actually bowling!
A quick Google search revealed to us our driver had not
listened to the details, and instead of bringing us to Gordon
Ramsay Steak, he brought us to Hell’s Kitchen, 7 miles
away from the establishment I had reservations at 40 minutes
ago. With not much else to lose, we try our luck at Hell’s
Kitchen, and to our surprise, we get right in. The meal
that followed was honestly some of the best food I’ve
ever put in my mouth, from the cheese topped squares of
watermelon to the rare tender filet inside the Wellington
all the way to the final spoon full of Gordon’s famous
sticky pudding. Sometimes I close my eyes and hope I open
them still sitting at that table, carving into the best
meal I’ve had in years.
Yes, it’s time for another insane Uber driver, this
time he’s an older Tobias Funke type.
“I betchya ten bucks I can getchya to Th’ D
without touching Las Vegas Boulevard,” he sort of
moaned out. “Betchya money that place right there
has the best prime rib off the strip. Betchya money.”
This guy somehow slithered while sitting still.
“I bet YOU couldn’t drive past a school without
touching something ya fuckin creep,” I thought to
myself as I cut eyes to my companions. Are we gonna have
to run this time? It was as hard to look at this guy, his
glasses were so plastic and big they nearly sat on his orange
The relief of climbing out of the series of Ubers at The
D became refreshing and routine. You had the walk to the
room to shake it off, and if it was before 5pm you could
grab an iced caramel coffee sugar bomb to wash down the
bad feelings. Before we knew it, it was time to part ways
for our respective club shows, my friends attending The
Dwarves and the NJ Beater Squad was splitting time between
Joe McMahon and Joey Cape and Hagfish. The Joes were bros
and Hagfish was a band that rarely comes to our side of
the States, so tough choices had to be made. That is the
nature of the Club Shows at PRB. There’s a chance
you have to choose between a favorite band or another favorite
band. It’s as hard as it sounds. We were walking out
of The D as my entire body seized up. Full body cramp.
Cramp? Try a Charlie horse in every muscle. What was the
one thing I was warned about and clearly ignored all day?
I was dehydrated. I needed water. I managed to convey this
much to my group, and waddled across the street to the corner
store. I made it back to my room with two torpedo tubes
of water under my arms. My phone starts to vibrate. Someone
sent me a video of my roommate taking a tequila shot with
a scorpion in it. The last thing I remember was hearing
the hotel room door shut behind me.
Phone rings. I reach out from a coma to stop the alien
sound. Pure instinct drags out a “..hello..?”
“Where’s Cookie? Send her ass down here to
“......Sorry man, wrong room.”
Phone rings. Too stupid too let things alone, I answer.
“Ay would you tell Cookie to get to 715 to play cards??
715! We’re waiting on her ass!”
“Uh, sorry man this is still the wrong number.”
“Oh, well...y’all wanna play cards?”
“.....No we’re good.”
“Well if you see Cookie around tell her 715.”
Ugly and I had decided early on we wanted the entire PRB
experience so we were definitely going to support our New
Jersey Beaters, Punk Rock Defeaters in the tournament. First
up of course was to sample the breakfast delicacies offered
by The D Grill (affectionately called the “Waddya
Want For Free” Grill by Johnny Puke, since long time
members can use their loyalty cards here), so we hit the
now very-familiar-to-me second floor. Our Asian waitress
was introduced to us as Ken, contrary to her name tag saying
Maria (however after further investigation ALL the female
servers had a tag that said Maria so do with that what you
will) and I ordered the Chicken & Pancakes. The place
is a little bit of a funhouse mirror of a diner. Viva Las
The bowling tournament takes place in a older hotel/casino
called Sam’s Town, and was the only place so visited
that you could taste it. I suspect it has something to do
with housing 50 bowling lanes below the casino where every
one smokes, and all the pins knocking around prevent the
decade smoke to never settle into the walls. The D is like
a slick uncle. This place was Grandpa. (Editor's Note:
Assuming your grandpa is a morbidly obese retiree from Iowa
who lives in an RV. That said, I love Sam's Town.)
Jersey Beaters, Punk Rock Defeaters (Well, not this
To your average punk rock fan, the tournament really is
a Who’s Who of the weekend. (Editor's Note: I
said hello to the publicist from Fat Wreck, the legendary
Greg Hetson, the singer from The Briefs, and the Stern brothers
themselves.) Our team was bowling on the two lanes
next to the Fat Wreck Chords team. Fat Erin is passing out
donuts. I recognize the guitar player from Lagwagon. Yeah
he’s about 6’11” and called Big Bitch,
but I still recognized him. Today was Day 1, which is the
friendly day. Everyone high fives, shares pitchers of beer,
and nobody really even made fun of Johnny Puke when he fell
forward on his face while delivering a ball to the gutter.
Like I said, friendly bowling. It’s Day 2 where friends
become enemies. It also means loser walks, so your buddies
yesterday are now your fierce competition, including the
folks right next to you, versus who’s next to them
and so on. Day 2 is also when everybody is hung over, out
of drugs, and pissed off. And NOW you gotta get up and bowl
because you kicked ass yesterday at bowling? Seems counterintuitive
but this is what it’s all about. Sweet bragging rights
about winning the trophy.
I wish this story had a Mighty Ducks 2 direction to take,
but let’s just say we could all sleep in the next
day. We came, they bowled, now it’s time to rock.
Now we can focus on important things like how to stay awake
and attend a show a 4am eastern, 1am local time, or what
kind of pizza do we get from Pizza Rock (Answer: Margarita).
It also felt like time to start some serious gambling. It
was a good time to get my own loyalty card. And good thing
we did; within 30 minutes I was up $250.
Here is where the gluttony of fun begins to devour itself:
it was time to stop having fun so we could go over here
and have fun. It’s a strange side effect of Vegas,
I suspect most folks would be late to their own funeral.
Hitting the festival on the high of winning money was a
grand idea, just in case it turned out to be not so fun.
But that was never a problem. We walked up as L7 were ripping
through their set, and I’m happy and ready to report
they were one of the tightest bands all weekend. They played
new songs that sounded as classic as the classics and did
themselves justice to anyone who may have been a naysayer
regarding ladies of a certain age couldn’t rock. They
Suicidal Tendencies played next, and before you could say
“Pepsi” they churned out 9 or 10 songs that
usually included chanting variations of their band name.
I’ve always sensed these guys get away playing by
their own rules and always will. It works for what it is,
even all these years later. True pioneers. One innovation
I did notice during the Suicidal set was one guy hardcore
dancing, like really thrashing around on his hands and feet,
but he was picking up trash as he was doing it. Sort of
brought back my faith in strangers.
The crown jewel of the night and headliner was Rise Against.
For some reason I can’t come up with a compliment
that doesn’t sound condescending so I’ll say
their performance was something like watching LeBron dunk
and do lay ups all night. True professionals doing what
they do for another huge audience who appreciated it. Class
If you thought I had learned my lesson about staying hydrated
by now, you haven’t been paying attention. Lagwagon
was to be the Club Show, starting at a shiny 1am. My vision
stopped working about 11:30pm. I felt safe in my room. Plus
rumor has it tomorrow was to be the Big Bro Buffet, where
all the buds and bros are coming, from Jughead (Screeching
Weasel) to Joey Cape (Lagwagon) to Joe McMahon (Smoke or
Fire) and the NJB bowling team were all gonna join and have
a toast for the 20th Anniversary. The possibilities danced
in my head as I curled up in a ball on my bed.
Main Street Station was the buffet of choice, just a block
or two from The Golden Nugget. The walk there gave me an
opportunity to become familiar with the desert sun and heat
and I immediately resented both. Our breakfast Bros were
dropping out like flies, either catching earlier flights,
earlier breakfasts, or just saw the line and thought it
was too damn long. (Editor's Note: That would be me
and Andy, who like all native Jerseyans do not
stand in line for nothin'.) I was told inside the casino
they have an actual section of the Berlin Wall in the men’s
room specifically just to piss on. We were going. Besides
the Berlin Piss Wall, Main Street Station also boasted Winston
Churchill’s snooker table, as well as an air conditioned
walkway to the hotel next door, The California. And there
was no fucking way I was walking in the sun again.
The California is a strange bird indeed, in the sense
that it’s located in Las Vegas, called The California,
decorated and themed in Hawaiian garb, and advertised exclusively
to Hawaiians. The dealers all wear Hawaiian shirts, but
themselves are not Hawaiian. 100% of the clientele is Hawaiian,
and the only reason I’m telling you this is...isn’t
that weird as shit?
An old picture of Johnny at Binion's
Just past The California on this same journey back is Binion’s,
the birthplace of The World Series of Poker. One of the most
important casinos at one time, now barely houses even slot
machines, most of the space in the back taken up with giant
advertisements for other places or the steakhouse on the top
floor. Another Vegas side effect, there’s always a dozen
other coats of paint under the shiniest.
By this point it was clear if I had any chance to make
the Club Show that night, sleep would have to become part
of the prep. So I laid down and listened to the show outside
my window, relaxing my barking dogs and swollen cats. I
don’t remember setting an alarm but I do remember
being woken up by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who were
honking away outside my window. After fielding a dozen “WHERE
ARE YOU??” texts, I made my way across the street
to the show. I almost had to paddle my arms through a sea
of Donald Ducks as I had just missed Turbonegro (DAMMIT).
The Bosstones were up there looking sharp, doing their thing,
never knocking on wood or whatever. All I knew was next
up was NOFX, and they could never do no harm.
Turbo Negro has an army of fans called Turbo Jugend
Here’s what I will say about NOFX; I’ve been
a fan a long time, have been to a bunch of shows, and I
know what to expect. Now, would I appreciate a band I like
showing up to my hometown, Charleston, SC, and then try
and riff comedy on a church shooting? No. But there was
something lost in translation from being there and what
was printed in some things I read. What THEY do is SELF-deprecate,
first and foremost. Will they make fun of others? Sure.
Did theycome to Vegas to make light of what happened? No.
But it did happen, and folks got hurt. I didn’t think
it would go any further than the audible groan that came
from the live crowd, but people are allowed to feel their
feelings. Other than that, the show was great.
But the best was still to come and soon we would be making
the journey to the last Club Show of the weekend. Hot Water
Music has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember,
and this was my first chance at seeing them. Since the venue
they were performing at was a staple to the festival, our
experienced crew members knew exactly how to spend the time
before: screwdrivers made with fresh squeezed orange juice
at Atomic Liquors. Of course this place is awesome, in the
artsy up and coming part of town, yet still old Vegas at
the same time. It was actually named for being a watering
hole for scientists and staff working on nuclear tests out
in the desert and has the video footage and time capsule
right in the floor of the bar to prove it.
The show was next door at an outdoor venue called The
Bunkhouse, and we were lucky enough to catch the end of
one of the opening bands, Strike Anywhere. Having never
heard them before, I was blown away. Exactly the energy
we needed to receive and return at that time of night, even
after a few screwdrivers. The lead singer gave his white
guy in dreads community a real bump up in my book that night.
HWM took the stage, and even without co-founder Chris Wollard
as part of the line up, they were everything I had hoped
for. Hell, they seemed to have played all my favorite songs.
Chris Cresswell from The Flatliners filled in, and couldn’t
have done a better job. It’s such a pleasure to be
present for one of your favorite bands just fucking killing
it. I appreciate it so much being a door guy and hearing
mostly NOT my favorite bands.
Johnny, Andy and Jim went to see Hagfish
We decided since we were all wound up on screwdrivers
and high on life from HWM and high on drugs from the drugs,
tonight would be our late night gambling session. I was
getting bad vibes early on, chewing up my earlier winnings
faster than I had planned. Tia was my slot partner, and
she was getting it done. They say watching someone win is
just as fun; wait, do they say that? They shouldn’t.
Now Tia didn’t just have luck in the slots that night,
she picked up a predator and immediately deduced I was prey.
After a bit she came up to me and said, “You know
it looks like that girl is trying to get your attention.
She just walked passed me twice, too soon to actually be
“Hmm, I didn’t see her,” I said honestly
and Tia went off to keep cleaning up. That’s when
I felt someone slink their hand up my arm. I looked, and
there she was. Black dress, chopped hair, almost wounded
looking. She started to talk but could only squeak, it took
her a while to clear her throat of whatever hard drugs she
had been smoking earlier. “...someone...stole my ba...”
I leaned in like an idiot.
“My bag. .....stole it,” she coughed out.
“In the hotel?” I ask. She nodded. “Well
there’s like a million cameras...security...”
She quickly changes the subject. “Hey, which button
is Max Bet?” And starts pressing buttons on my slot
“Alright Julia Roberts, that’s enough. Good
luck with your ‘bag’.” I think she quickly
realized I was betting quarters and decided I didn’t
have the $800 she was gonna quote me. I went to bed happy
as a fresh clam.
During the entire weekend and culminating on the final
night was the electricity of the NHL Finals, which first
year team Vegas Knights were apart of, and the city couldn’t
have been more excited. (Editor's note: This is true.
I couldn't believe how totally Hockey Fever had swept through
Vegas. It was like being in Boston when the RedSox were
in the World Series.) Our goal for the day was to watch
the Knights win, and cap off the trip with Against Me!,
X, and At The Drive In. But before that, Tia was gonna show
me how to bet the ponies. Ponies? you ask, yes ponies, and
even though those little bastards are plastic and dragged
around by magnets , I’ve never had so much fun in
my motherfucking life. At first you watch folks getting
turnt up and acting wild watching these little plastic ponies
and think, “Boy that’s embarrassing. That won’t
be ME.” You’re wrong, cowboy. Shit gets intense.
I’ve never had more fun handing money away. 10/10
would bet ponies again. Just as we head out to catch the
end of Against Me! the place goes nuts. Knights win.
I’m assuming most folks were allowing fatigue to
set in as this was the most docile night of the festival
so far. X delivered in a big way, bringing some different
sounds we hadn’t quite heard that weekend that was
perfect for the Vegas setting. I was told the singer could
get political on stage (Editor's note: Exene
is an asshat) but thankfully it was all about the
music. Last but not least was the redheaded step-child of
PRB, At The Drive-In. Months of online complaining had led
me to actual curiosity how this was gonna play out, among
the complaints the band “wasn’t punk rock enough”
or just an “emo band”. I’ll be honest,
I am more familiar with the main duo’s other project,
Mars Volta, but ATDI earned their place on that stage as
far as I’m concerned. All requirements to enjoy them
is to enjoy music and passion, and pretty sure those two
elements are what brought everyone there. That and girls
This was the beginning of the end for me, as some idiot
(me) had booked a 7:25am flight back home. Time to let reality
set in and go back to the way things were. I was ready.
I’ve been pressing myself to see if I really did learn
anything new about attending shows, while experiencing something
totally new to me, the animal that is Vegas. And thankfully
what I learned was what I already knew: this was the place
for me. For everyone with insecurities who found that power
in music, who throw their grain against the odds of life
by even being able to afford such a good time, to the folks
who consider those same people family. Punk rock is a finite
resource. Going through the last 20 years of bands and the
only constant is we’re getting older and closer to
death. Why not come out to the desert once a year and play
the odds? You may just win a bowling trophy.
is an independently published music fanzine
covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage
music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State
area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music
fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming
bands and a resource for all those interested in
rock and roll.