Fear and Life in Las Vegas….
I’m in the bathroom now, and lean my full weight back against the swinging door.
Still it’s no use.
The incessant chug of the oom pa pa, the drunken melodies of the Fatherland odes, these come at me still through the steel and wood.
A bathroom attendant is there and he gives me a quick smile, he’s seen this before.
“You get used to it man,” he says with a wave of paper towel. “Hell, I don’t even notice that shit anymore, not any more.”
I’m aware of the absurdity at play.
We’re in town, after all, to play a gig at a club appropriately named The Dive Bar.
In a couple hours we will be on a moist stage and setting the Marshall JCM900’s to a lethal 7 on the main volume, and then shouting ourselves hoarse for lack of proper monitor.
All the while, a sound man gives us the universal mating call of his species: Turn it down please!
But for now I’m huddled in the bathroom of a faux-German tourist trap, a noise induced headache working its way to the temporal lobes.
I can hear the noise ratcheted up yet another notch, as some group sing along starts again, all beery tears and hugs out there.
What am I afraid of?
Being forced to suffer the humiliation of the goddamned Chicken Dance?
The inevitable shouts of Kill the Jews! that will come right after Komman Mein Herz ??
But this peace is artificial and not to be possessed for long, like a stack of twenties dispensed from a strip club ATM.
The bathroom chap gives my hands a squirt of soap and holds out a paper towel as I wash my hands and check for gray nose hairs in the mirror, then sends me back out to the beerhall with an encouraging smile.
I toss a couple bucks into his tip bucket and take a mint from the counter, one kind human engagement fulfilled in a town known for cruelty.
We brave another round and a bite of sausage more, and then we load into the cars.
It’s a Saturday night after all, an easy one nighter, but perhaps Vegas has lost some of its charm for us grumpy fucks.
I used to love that initial descent into the valley after a 4 hour drag along the 15, that magic moment when the lights of the Strip would come into view, amplified by the blackness of desert sky.
But now it seems as though Vegas is expanding like a toxic spill toward the State line.
The city grows larger and brighter, and those thrilling casino lights that used to shine like jewels now seem as just more dots among the millions.
To walk through the outrageous casino lobbies now, it’s harder to recognize the thrill and chance of treasure.
And now those green and black chips illustrate a different value, tanks of gas and groceries for a week.
Is this what they call growing up?
Turns out the Dive is a proper bar, with a lively crowd come out to play.
We are immediately cheered to find some friendly faces inside, and the night is off!
We get ready to set up when I see Joe and his crew roll in.
Now, I’ve known this kid since he was a teen, when he would only come to see us at the rare all-ager or stand out in the parking lot of Alex’s.
Now he’s a card carrying adult, of course, and a familiar and welcome face at a lot of the gigs.
Still, it’s strange to see the homeboys from East LA here in Vegas, especially on a weekend that doesn’t involve bowling or an appearance by The Adicts!
Turns out it’s Joe’s birthday–his 23rd!—and the gang has decided on a classic Vegas road trip to celebrate!
Let’s look at the immortal lyrics that will forever earn us shit.
Oh, I imagine Roger Daltry cringing each night he has to sing, I hope I die before I get old.
But we had to go one further and get all specific, motherfucker!
Fear of Life
I’ve grown so fond of this weekend life, no responsibilities
I’m not ready for the real world, wake me up when I’m twenty-three
Eat mom’s pills, drink dad’s beer
Anything to forget my fear
Got no job, got no girl, got nothing at all
Sounds like a life of misery, still I’m having a ball
I live in my own little fantasy, I won’t listen to you
You tell me to act more seriously, hey man, fuck you
So it’s only fitting, mid set, that we bring Joe up onstage and have him spit out the song himself–Fear of Life!
The kid nails it, breathing a new life into a song that has been perhaps missing a spark.
And with that we are energized.
We finish out the set strong, play all the old hard fast ones for good measure.
When we finally get outside to gulp down some cool air and let the sweat dry, the lights of the city look new.
Joe and the kids are full of fire.
I hear them chatting and plans are made for a night that is a still young at 3am, for this town, for people 23 years old.
Us? We call it a night.
We get back to the hotel and pause before heading to the elevators and ending the night.
There’s still time, it seems, to sit down at the bar and feed the video poker a twenty, order up one more drink.
There’s always the chance, isn’t there? to win.