“It may be Sunday elsewhere in the world, but in Vegas it’s always Saturday night!”
And the band launch into a cover of Zac Brown’s “Toes” with its hook: “Life is good today”.
Yes, it is.
But hang on, what happened to Saturday night and “Widespread Panic”? Well, the most positive I can be is to suggest that they’re an acquired taste.
The fans are passionate. They follow the “best band in the world” around the country. Most of them seem to be attending both Friday and Saturday night’s gigs, and pretty much all of them are out of their seats dancing the entire time. But it’s odd.
You know when you see someone dancing and you think: “He must be wearing earphones and dancing to his own tune”? Well, this was like watching a couple of thousand people dancing to their own tunes. They certainly weren’t dancing to the bass-line! Still, they were having a lot of fun, although that was probably helped by the amount of sweet smelling cigarettes being smoked. I guess there must have been a lot of card carrying Californians around!
WP knocked out a good version of “All along the watchtower” (though I’ll take Jimmy’s version) and the crowd went wild. Made me wonder, if they’re so good, why do the fans seem to prefer the covers?
After 90 minutes they stop for an interval, and I head out to see the piano guys. No Bonnie tonight, but a guy named Mike who keeps up the standard. Again there’s not many people in, so they’re playing great tunes. They rock harder than the band, so I don’t go back for any more guitar noodling, and I’m enjoying the repartee when the gig finishes at 1.30 and we’re invaded by drunken nutters wanting to hear another song “the panic” like to cover: “sympathy for the devil”.
But that was Saturday night in Vegas, I’m supposed to be blogging Sunday, sorry, Saturday night in Vegas.
It was a struggle to get up, but the football was about to kick off. It might still be “soccer” over here, and “girls” at that, but it’s the U!….S!…..A! in the World Cup Final so I’d best get to a bar quick.
Er….. no. Nobody seems to care. There’s a few people gathered around screens, but there’s room at the bars, and no real atmosphere. The main priority is getting out to the pool, and gaining a wristband for “rehab” which I may have given a passing mention in chapter 15.
There’s a bar with TVs by the pool, so I might as well watch the game out there. A small but vocal crowd forms around me and as the clock runs down I find myself explaining the rules of extra time to several girls. Given that they’re all wearing small bikinis it’s quite distracting and I’m glad they’re not asking me to explain the offside trap.
I talk to Donnie and Chris who turn out to be in the army and have been stationed in Hawaii so I get some more tips to try to remember. Their buddy Brian is still in bed recovering. I then overhear a girl with an English accent saying that there aren’t any English people around.
Kirsty is from Leicester, but looks like a blonde Californian. They must get a lot of sun in Leicester. She’s on holiday with her boyfriend Lee, and her sister, Laura. I start out thinking “poor Laura” for being the spare wheel, but after trying to get a word in edgeways with the excitable pair I think “poor Lee”!
Kirsty complains that the Americans don’t seem to want to talk and I’m gobsmacked.
“But I chat to new people all day”
“Yes, but that’s your job” comes the puzzling, though not entirely inaccurate reply.
The USA score. We all cheer, except the Japanese barman, and I have to explain to some more girls that it’s not over yet. (I’m not suggesting the guys knew the rules any better - I just let them figure it out for themselves)
Japan equalise, barman grins, Chris is almost in tears - he’s got money on this, and…
…well, you know what happened. It would have been good to see the USA win, but it wasn’t the massive social event I was expecting, and nobody seemed tempted to trash the city when they lost.
Probably because we still had Rehab.
I described the 4th July party. This one was less attended and slightly tamer, but still freaking awesome! I spoke to an Irish guy afterwards who said “where else in the world can an ordinary person spend the afternoon partying like a rock star?”
I meet Brian, the third member of the army trio. He got up late because he was partying late. He got separated from his mates, hooked up with a hotel manager and spent the night hanging out with Michael Madsen, getting in at 11am.
Well, he says he did. Vegas is such an extraordinary place that anything’s possible, so truth and fiction get blurred, but who cares.
Even after the party’s over, the fun continues. After the Irish guy in the snack shop, I meet a guy from London in the toilets, a couple of English girls in the taxi queue…
They’ve been touring South America for 5 months and are having a quick hurrah in Vegas before heading home. For once I’m trumped in the travellers tales as we share a cab to the strip.
..then I meet two sisters from San Diego in Toby Keith’s “I love this Bar and Grill”, before the band start up. (Isn't this where we came in?)
After an hour of decent country music (yes it is possible) I head to Gilley’s where it’s the girls turn to ride the bull.
I talk to a Canadian stag.
He asks how they enforce a “quality standard” on the girls, since they’re riding in bikinis. I suggest that ladies who are older or, er, larger, probably don’t want to be flying around on a mechanical bull in a bikini, following good looking young girls.
How wrong can you be!
Still, I discover the young couple next to me, Glen and Alex are from Connecticut (From those names try to figure out who is whom!). They’ve driven across the country, so we swap entertaining travelling stories.
Alex says he’s found foreigners a lot more fun to talk to than Americans. I suppose it’s perspective – they’re meeting people who are travelling so are likely to be friendlier than fellow yanks. I’m meeting people who are interested in the fact I’m not a fellow yank.
Then there’s a special surprise visit from a rock legend. Willie Nelson has popped in for a drink. The MC spots him and asks him if he’ll sing us a song and he obliges with a version of “Can’t help falling in love with you”
Incredible. Actually, the Canadians are asking “is that really him?” Well, he looks like him and he sounds like him. But this is Vegas, where it seems just as likely to run into a real rock star as an impersonator, so who the hell knows!
The Connecticutians call it an early night, and I’m not tempted to stay for round two, so I head back to the HRH for a final dose of pianos.
Todd, Lee and Mike are in full swing. Again there’s only a dozen people watching, but the atmosphere is livened by some rowdy aussie girls in the corner. Lee spots me and slows it down for a spot of Pink Floyd – “Time” which is a meaningful song to listen to when you’ve decided to risk a career break to see the world:
“No-one told you when to run”
Ironically, the party livens up as the clock runs out. More people and requests stream in as we approach 2 o’clock. The army boys show up, and I make another friend when a lady buys me a drink for outbidding the Aussie girl who wanted the last song to be Kelly Clarkson.
I’m not against Kelly, but versus Living on a Prayer? Come on!
The guys go over their timeslot, even succumbing to fan pressure for a genuine encore. We’re all up and dancing like fools and it’s a great end to a great day.
But the army guys want another drink with me, so we stagger to another bar. I talk to a couple from Fresno who’d been enjoying the duelling pianos. Again I find they’re fascinated by my trip, tell me what I’m doing is great and wish me the best of luck.
“Americans don’t want to talk to you”? Are you kidding me?! J