Monday, January 22, 2018

Road Trip: The National at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, 1.20.18

Over the weekend I took a road trip to Vegas with my friend Jeff to see The National at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It's been awhile since he and I have done a road trip show but knowing he bought the tickets months ago and who am I to argue? It was a quick trip, just 30 hours away from my family...We left San Diego early Saturday morning, arrived in the afternoon and checked in to the hotel, gambled a little, had an amazing fancy steak dinner at MB, then caught the show. I had a photo pass to the band's show in San Diego back in October so I reached out to the publicists again, and after some back and forth, I was still holding out hope for a photo pass in Vegas. It never happened, but fortunately we chatted with the box office before the show and they seemed to have an open policy so long as there's no "detachable lens", so I decided to take my Samsung point and shoot into the venue. I was afraid I wouldn't pass the metal detectors, but clearly cameras aren't what they were looking for, and despite the massive line to get into the show, getting in took very little time at all.

The show was incredible. There was no opener but before they came to the stage, the lights dimmed and the house music went to Big Thief's "Shark Smile", probably because the band will be opening some 2018 tour dates in the Southeast, and then, because it was the day of the Women's March, played "Women of the World Take Over".

So let me say something about my pictures...I'm 5'3" and was about 6-10 rows of people from the stage, depending on how many people tried to shove in front of us. Several people had their phones out and above their heads almost the entirety of the show, so I'm trying to focus my camera over the shoulder of the guy in front of me, working around cell phones, trying to not be obnoxious myself. The band members are barely lit with the exception of Matt. I think it's intentional, but I really tried to get pics of the others, especially Bryce and Aaron, who are also up front, but nothing decent came out. It would definitely appear I'm trained just on Matt, but I think that's kind of the way the band prefers it.

I hadn't ever been to the Joint and the best I can describe it is imagine the Spreckel's Theatre layout except on a bigger scale inside Rimac or Viejas Arena. It's all steel ceilings, but softened by the tables and suites in the loge level and seating in the balcony. The venue holds 4000, or so we were told, and the show was mostly sold out except for some scattered suite spots which were about $150 each. The venue is one of the few spots in Vegas where smoking inside isn't allowed, but cocktail waitresses are happy to deliver $15 beers or $8 bottles of Fiji Water. A guy we met was drinking double jack and cokes in a 22 or so ounce cup, spending $30 a pop. Needless to say, we were just there for the show and I saved my drinking for later.

Here's the Setlist (from Setlist.FM)

Nobody Else Will Be There
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
Walk It Back
Guilty Party
I Should Live in Salt (Dedicated to Tom Berninger)
Don't Swallow the Cap
Bloodbuzz Ohio (Dedicated to Rob Portman)
Squalor Victoria
I Need My Girl
Green Gloves
Conversation 16
I'll Still Destroy You 
Dark Side of the Gym
Slow Show
Carin at the Liquor Store
Day I Die
Fake Empire

Mr. November
Terrible Love
About Today

The rest of my photos are after the jump, but some quick side notes on the trip. I hadn't been to Vegas since before I was with Darren so it has certainly changed a lot. More casinos, more development, and a lot more security everywhere since the Mandalay Bay shooting. Maybe I just notice more, but the homeless and tent cities are more massive, so I feel like this isn't just a San Diego or California problem. The top news stories were the same as here: the Flu, Hep A, and the government shutdown. Next week are the AVN awards, so the casino was full of AVN conventioneers wearing their sex company branded t-shirts. It was funny but honestly also made me uncomfortable, especially because it was the day of the women's march and to me, the industry is just a confusing conflict between sexual freedom and blatant sexism, not to mention some of the extremely sick and disturbed consumers.

After The National, we went to Beauty Bar to see Haunted Summer. It was a pain to park, the venue was super dumpy since the last time I was there, and despite the show saying "no cover", they had a ladies are free, men are $5 policy, which last I checked is not legal, and by the time we got to the door guy, they'd arbitrarily changed it to $10 starting with the dudes in front of us. Another security told us the band was already on but probably had 20 minutes left. By the time we were in and Jeff paid, we caught approximately 3 minutes of their last song. Count me out on ever trying that shithole again unless the circumstances are very different. We left and walked through Fremont to gamble at Main Street Station, the only casino where I got a legitimately poured drink the whole weekend. We checked out early Sunday and got home by 3:45, so we were grateful not to hit any serious traffic in either direction.

I spent my whole life going to Vegas several times a year with my family and have spend the last 5 trying to convince Darren and Nova that they would like it though they've never been, but after this weekend, I'm not so sure that if we had the time or money, that it would be a place we could have fun together. Maybe I'm just too old, but I just don't see myself rushing back anytime soon. But if The National was playing again, I'm sure I could be convinced otherwise.

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