Vegas: City of Sin

A Twisted Tale of Vegas Nightlife

Submitted by Jay Dawg
March 10, 2003

Here is a rather long-winded tale of my first day in vegas on my most recent trip. I hope you enjoy it.

Vegas: city of Sin. What is there to say; some people love it, some people loathe it. Myself, I don't see what the big deal is. It's like any other resort destination, just much more extreme. Elaborate shows, grand buffets, huge casino's, and extreme hotels. It's Disneyland for adults, and if you win a few bucks while you are there, it's like going for a ride on Magic Mountain without having to wait in line!!! Well regardless of what your particular take on Vegas is, I love it. So when Phish announced their Winter schedule, which included a two-night run at the Thomas and Mack Center, I was happier than a pig in slop.

Flash ahead several long months of anticipation and a lovely 6 hour cross country flight: Their I am in the middle of McCarran International waiting for my amigo Spence to fly in an hour or so after me so the fun/conspicuous consumption can begin. Every few minutes I see another group of Phish phans reuniting like long lost college friends. A few stop and chat, most asking me if I have tickets. Time drags but eventually Spence and I meet at the baggage claim for his flight. We exchange a quick hello, grab his gear and as we head for the cab stand, the adventure truly begins.

Another hour or so later, after a brief incident with a rather unscroupulous cabbie, we are settled into the hotel. Immediately we hit the strip in search of some frosty beverages to wet our whistles. This proves to be little trouble and in fact Spence manages to get three for the price of two because of some minor spillage on the part of the alchol gal. Double fisted, I head north up the strip with spence in tow, leaving behind the safety and shear opulence of our new home, the Imperial Palace.

Now memories fade fast, especially when those memories are floating in several gallons of beer, but as I recall the rest of our day flew by in a torrent of wine, women and song. We bounced in and out of casinos, occasionally to check them out, but mostly to acquire more brew and relieve ourselves.

I do remember a brief pit stop in the Venetian for a quick bite to eat. It was a mostly uneventful meal, however I can say that no tip, regardless of how large, could properly compensate our waitress for the madness she endured. In fact if you ever find yourself in The Venetians Grand Luxe Cafe stop by and tell them we send our compliments. While the food is so-so, the servers are top notch and aparently they must be trained to handle top notch fools.

After nearly being blacklisted from the Venetian, we made our way up the street via the 301, Las Vegas Boulevard local. Sure, I know what you are thinking, two high rollers like us taking the bus? Hey, contrary to what you may think, taking a ride on the local bus is one of the best ways to get to know the locals. Furthermore the cab fare saved helps defray the cost of lap dances, ah I mean, cultural events.

Once on Freemont Street things went from bad to downright ugly as our blood alcohol levels hit optimal levels. In fact at one point in time we were using the head in Fitzgerald's and Spence was talking trash about some impersonator that we had seen a sign for. Sure enough, but who should walk out from one of the stalls, Mr. funny man himself. That's Vegas for you. It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.

Again, my memories of the next couple of hours are hazy, but I do remember losing a few things, including my wallet, my virtue, a whole lot of beer and a few twenty dollar bills. Good news is I found my wallet. The beer turned up later too...well sort of.

After wearing out our welcome with the Girls of Glitter Gulch, and every other soul we encountered downtown, we boarded the mother ship once again and headed for our home on the other end of the cosmos. Once aboard, our long strange trip got both longer and stranger. We went to the back of the bus and Spence challenged me to, "bust a rhyme". What happened from there could best be summed up by saying that Spence pitted me and some local hoodlum in a rap-off. With spence dropping beats like the Philly native that he is, we showed up the locals and managed to exit the bus a half an hour later with all our organs still intact. To say Spence was antagonistic to this one cat would not be exaggerating, in fact I'm still scratching my head asking myself as to how we made it back alive. I guess I'm just glad we were not in L.A.

Back at our hotel, we took a ten minute "breather" and changed into something a little less casual. I recall it was around midnight (still very early by Vegas standards), so our pit stop was brief and purposeful. I had a few places I wanted to show Spence on Friday night because Saturday and Sunday our evenings would be consumed by the live music of Phish and moe. It was hard to leave the majestic beauty of the Imperial Palace, but collectively we searched deep and found the energy to continue on.

Back on the worn pavement of the strip we continued to bump into kind peeps who were obviously in town for the show. Stopping here and there to chat, we eventually reached a nice spot to stop and relax a moment. While sharing a jug and some other consumables, we hung out with some new found friends for a little while and basked in the beauty of the Fountains at Bellagio. I remember feeling very comfortable and not wanting to part company with our new comrades, however our presence was required elsewhere.

A cool ass rickshaw ride later and we found ourselves outside the Boardwalk Casino. Now this place isn't much to look at, and I certainly wouldn't recommend eating there, however the Prince tribute band that plays there is pretty killer.

Purple Reign plays most nights in the lounge and all you have to do is buy a brew and you can enjoy an entire set of music for next to nothing. The lead singer is a dead ringer for Prince, and while the Casino they play in may remind you of some local dive bar that time forgot, the show is cool enough to keep me coming back. Besides, you don't come there to eat or gamble, you got there to get your freak on.

When we arrived at the Boardwalk Casino, "Prince" had just gone off stage, so we crossed the street and tried to grab a quick brewat the Polo Lounge. After taking the elevator to the top of Polo Towers we were a little troubled to hear that the cover was $20. I told him we just wanted a beer and that I heard there was no cover. The gent told me that in fact, after 10pm the venue becomes more nightclub than lounge and there is indeed a cover after said time. Our error. After our quick descent back to the ground floor, we dodged traffic yet again and made our way across the strip, or at least we tried to. This is when Las Vegas's finest jumped into our night.

Apparently it is illegal to J-walk 8 lanes of traffic, who knew? Officer Makisupa hastily informed us that in no uncertain terms we could be arrested on the spot. Furthermore, it looked as though the officer was already taking a random African American male into custody. I can't remember the specifics but the unlucky fellow was laying face down on the grass in the middle of the lush median strip. I could here the music in the back of my head - Bad Boy, Bad Boys, What you gonna do... I new the right play at this point in time was to simply be apologetic, play dumb and hope for the best. I recall being very concerned that Spence might say something to piss off the cop, mostly because Spence appeared to be running on autopilot. Luckily the cop was busy with bigger local fish and so he threw us back into the sea of tourists. Lesson learned, we followed the officers' instructions and walked on the median to the next crosswalk, making our way back to the relative safety of the Boardwalk lounge.

After all the drama, it turns out Purple Reign was as good as I remember. From what I gathered, Spence enjoyed the show too. I was near blind now from the alcohol and was no doubt doing the chicken before long. As this was their second set of the night, other people were feeling the sauce as well and consequently the theme of the night was definitely "lets go crazy". If I had been a little drunker I would have swore Trey came out and jammed with them, but alas I was not quite there...yet.

After Purple Reign finished up it must have been about 2 am. Spence and I had been going strong for 12 hours and so it was essentially 5am as far as our bodies were concerned. I had gotten up around 4:20am that morning to get ready for my trip to the airport. I gathered that Spence, like me, was coasting on fumes. Still there was one final spot Spence and I needed to visit before we called it a night.

Approximately 20 minutes later we were on the 51st floor of the Rio. We had bypassed the cover charge as well as the live music inside and headed straight for arguably the coolest late night spot in Vegas: the patio at the infamous Voodoo Lounge.

Looking east towards the strip, the VL is a bit of a touristy spot during the day, complete with its own overpriced theme restaurant. By night however, when the strip fires up the miles of neon tubes, the lounge is transformed into one of the coolest venues around. the two other times I have been there it has been very chill. Sipping a cocktail, listening to some music and staring out to the far reaching lights of Las Vegas, I often wonder if there is a place that equals the Voodoo.

It being a Friday night (early Saturday), this was not the atmosphere we encountered. Instead the scene out on the expansive patio was decidedly more dance-cubbish. There was a DJ spinning the newest mixes and the majority of the crowd was dancing like they were MTV. I think I saw downtown Julie Brown trying to stage her comeback on the dance floor.

Spence and I grabbed our last beverages of the night and ambled through the crowd, eager to get a better vantage point of the excellent views. The ladies and the strip were equally breathtaking. After taking it all in, I jumped into the mix and grooved to a familiar tune. Spence was a little more reluctant and whether it was because this wasn't "his bag" or because of pure exhaustion, I cared not. It wasn't my usual scene either, but when in Vegas...

A little later I caught up with him and he was chatting with some people, I took a break and wandered over to check on him and catch my breath. The guy and gal were from across the pond somewhere and they seemed very pleasant. As memory serves they were brother and sister, which was cool be cause the lass was a cutie. A remixed version of a popular tune came on and I dragged the three of them away from the railing towards the animated crowd. We danced for a little while as the night slowly came to an end.

I don't remember the cab ride back to the Imperial Palace, in fact I barely remember leaving the Rio. I do however, remember thinking that if Spence and I were going to survive the next two nights in Las Vegas and the 4 concerts we had yet to attend, we were going to have to do a better job at pacing ourselves. Needless to say, that never happened... In fact on day 2, Hunter S. Thompson showed up and things got real ugly. But that, my friends, is another story for another time.


Reprinted with permission from a letter submitted to

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