I won two tickets to the Electronic Daisy Carnvial music festival in Vegas through a writing competition. You can call that ‘luck’ – as several people did – but I’ve been practicing my craft for almost 40 years, so I’m gonna call it ‘just’.
Two months after receiving the winning phone call from California, my girlfriend – aka The Model (take a look and you’ll see why) – and I were aboard a plane and hauling ass to The Entertainment Capital of the World™. We landed at McCarran International Airport where we queued pointlessly for two hours. There was no reason for it, and an old lady almost passed out such was the wait.
Both the border control and random people in the queue asked if we were there for the EDC festival. Back in the UK, EDC is ‘just another event’ buried among a plethora of other events that we seem to throw up every weekend throughout the year, but here, in the Nevada dessert, I was already getting the impression that they might be taking it quite seriously. In fact, I saw a Fox News Special that stated the EDC bought in $621,000,000 to Las Vegas that weekend.
We left the airport and walked straight into a suffocating heat. I became acclimatized to it quickly, but the milky-skinned Model suffered daily. She may be hot, but I’m tough. *flexes*
We were staying at The Stratosphere (found a good deal with moneysupermarket.com); a hotel built around a 1,149ft tower that overlooks Vegas. We hit our very pleasant 3-star room where I dump our bags, clap my hands, and shout ‘let’s get boozy!’ like a true English Pig. The Model agreed, lay on the bed, and fell asleep.
That left me to my own (stupid) devices.
She was snoring before I let the door shut quietly behind me, losing myself in the corridors and elevators of the hotel. My first thought was to reach the highest point and check out Las Vegas. The woman in the elevator told me that the ascent/descent was 21 seconds and over 100 floors, making it the fastest elevator in the city. She barely had enough time to finish her speech before we reached the top.
The view is fucking amazing.
At the top there are ‘rides’ which either spin you around over the city, or hang you precariously over the edge. There is also a ‘free-fall’ jump where you are connected to something like a bungee-cord, and fall 1,000 feet before it slows your descent, landing you gracefully on the ground.
It makes me pause, recalling the last time I thought about jumping from a great height…
There is also a bar. Of all the exciting touristy rides, I choose the bar. The only problem with the bar is that at an altitude of 1,143 feet, you tend to get drunk quicker than usual. By the time I’d finished a couple of drinks with the goatee’d barman, he was throwing me free vodkas for being ‘one funny-ass English dude’. At this height, and with this many vodkas, I was getting pie-eyed. Fast.
I figured it best to go back to the bottom, and go poke The Model until she woke up, but as I got out of the elevator I somehow fell in with a group of businessmen who were wandering the numerous stores that litter the base of the tower. They were talking about the origins of elevators, people losing fingers in doors, and how the building would be insured, etc, while one guy at the back turned his full attention on me. He checked out my tattoos, looked me in the eye, and said ‘you look like trouble’. Now, I’m not really fluent in the Mating Rituals of the Average American Male, and could only offer him a weak ‘thanks’. An elevator opened up in front of us and the businessmen stepped inside, an arm around my shoulders dragging me along with them.
The Average American Male was stood behind me. “Wanna get in more trouble?” he breathed in my ear. The elevators in the Stratosphere have doors front and back, and both open and shut at the same time, so while the guy at the back was tickling my ear, I slipped forward and exited through the other side of the elevator.
I glance back as the doors close to see him wink at me.
The Model is still in a coma, so I explore some more, and outside the hotel I find this place:
Now tell me that ain’t one of the houses Trevor gatecrashes in Grand Theft Auto V?!
I seriously consider knocking on the door just to see if someone like Trevor does live there, but a sound from behind catches my attention. Against a wall sit three homeless people. Two men flank a lady, and I assume that their collective age is around 847. The toothless woman in the middle asks how my day is going, but I refrain from answering. In my short time in Vegas I’ve already learned that everyone is trying to sell something, and if you have an accent they ‘coo’ and ‘aww’ over it… before laying on their shit thickly.
Toothless doesn’t look like she’d be selling anything I want to buy, so I carry on. She asks again how my day is going, but I keep smiling and walking.
“Hey!” she drools, and I fear she is going to chase me so I lengthen my stride until I am clear.
I wake The Model and once she’s ready we explore Downtown Vegas. This is the original area of the casinos and whorehouses, and in 1951 – when the first atomic bomb was detonated at the Nevada test site – the Downtown locals could see the mushroom cloud from the old streets.
Downtown is awash with tourist-traps such as open-fronted bars, street performers, and guys selling tat out of suitcases.
Some shitty 90s pop tune bursts from speakers either side of one open-bar, and the barmaids clamber onto the slippery surfaces, dancing like bored housewives as no one hollers or cheers.
These girls mark a trend in LV; bored housewife-looking women crammed into leather corsets and short skirts, looking forlorn until they serve someone, forcing a fake smile on their faces. They dance on the top of bars, greet people at hotels, and ghost in and out of the machines that suck the life and money from those that play them.
The casinos are 24-hour, as is everything in Vegas. When go to bed at night, the machines are manned by players of all ages, and when we wake the poker tables are already half-full as the dealers fan their cards across the green felt.
Each morning we walk through the casino to breakfast at either Roxy’s Diner or a $19.99 all-you-can-eat-buffet just beyond. The Diner is great, and we have either steak or burger for breakfast (don’t judge us), and in the buffet they have everything.
One morning I had orange chicken, rice, salmon, cookies, muffins, cous cous, and whatever the hell else I could fit on my plate. (Now you can judge us).
We spend our days sat by the pool on the 8th floor, and the heat bakes me red as we sip 16oz blueberry margaritas. The floor is so hot everyone has to wear flip-flops or shoes to walk around, and one ingenious lad pours a bucket of water on the ground before him wherever he steps. The pool is full of people talking, swimming, or participating in possibly the World’s Largest Ever Water Volleyball game.
There’s a 7/11 (a 24-hour store) a couple of minutes away from our hotel, and we needed water and twinkies (mmmm twinkies).
One thing I know about Americans is that they struggle with how fast I talk, and we’ve had to rely on The Model to do all the speaking while we’re out here. Seriously.
However, the fast-talking Hispanic community understand me perfectly, and the olive-skinned guy who works in the 7/11 chats with me whenever I venture in.
We talked briefly, and then I started to shop when I realised that there was a row of slot machines along the window, and a small Korean guy beating away at them.
As I was being served by the Mexican, the Korean guy begun furiously hitting the machine buttons and swearing in his own language.
The Mexican paused while loading my bag up, staring at the Korean.
“He’s not meant to be doing that, is he?” I ask the Mexican.
“No, bro,” he replied.
The Korean swore once more, smashed his tiny fist on the slot machine, adjusted his glasses, and stomped up to us.
“Do you got a restroom?” he asked in halting English.
“Not for you, homes,” said the Mexican.
“I use restroom,” said the Korean.
“It’s not for the public, man,” said the Mexican.
“I USE RESTROOM!” shouted the small Korean, and the small Mexican took out a small baseball bat as the relatively-tall Englishman wondered if this was how wars started.
The Korean eyed the bat, looking like he was ready to fight, but instead he puffed out his pigeon chest, shoved open the door, and left.
“Have a nice day!” the Mexican called after him, placing the bat on the counter before loading my bag up as if a Mexican-Korean war hadn’t just been averted in a small convenience store in Las Vegas.
“Anything else, my friend?” he asked me.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I don’t want to use your bathroom.”
I love Vegas.
An extra reason for visiting Sin City was to meet a friend I’d made through the wonder of social media. Professor Ben has lavished me with mixes, beats, and tracks over the last few years, and we’ve played word games and chatted through Facebook. He’s a very intelligent guy – as a professor should be – and we arranged to meet after he flew to Vegas to spend the weekend there as well.
Ben’s an articulate, carefree guy, and we hit it off straight away. His relaxed ‘right on’ attitude compliments the poolside and drinks perfectly, and soon we are tossing the shit about music, firearms, and partying memories from back in the 90s.
As The Model and I have EDC to contend with, we arrange to spend our days (if we’re physically and mentally able to) with Ben and his beau, and he takes us to the Erotic Heritage Museum; 24,000 square foot of pussy-riddled history, life-size pictures of adult stars, and more rubber cocks than you can shake a rubber cock at. It’s as interesting as it is fun, and the Celebrity Sex Tapes section proves that I spend too much time watching porn as I can almost name them all.
After the museum, we get ready for EDC and Ben kindly gives us a ride to the Las Vegas Speedway circuit. People are everywhere, and we can hear the boom of the bass as we walk around the outside of the arena.
Unfortunately, getting into the speedway circuit proves to be as big a pain in the ass as getting out of the airport did. There is an ID check, then a body search, then another check, all at three different gates before they let you into the grounds. And all this after we were told to go to the wrong gate. Three times. As in the UK, putting a monkey in a hi-viz jacket does not an organiser make.
But the wait is worth it. Our faces are assaulted by lights, sounds, and people dressed in all kinds of ridiculous attire. The stage in front of us shakes the tarmac beneath our feet. Festival goers are sat all around us as we descend the stairs into bedlam. Girls dressed as ravers from the 90s (complete with dummies, whistles, furry boots, etc) are everywhere you turn, 90% of them wearing stockings or lingerie. Wrongly. Sure, I get it’s part of the ‘look’, but seeing several thousand 18 year old girls dressed in nightwear and not pulling it off is an unwelcome distraction.
And thus we come to the ‘PLUR’ people.
The PLUR movement stands for Peace Love Unity Respect. It’s a worldwide ‘thing’ but mainly resides in America, and is a mix of 60s hippie with 90s ravers at its core. But minus the fun. It’s all ‘far out, man’ from people wearing rave gear, and – from what I could tell – doing shit drugs. Or no drugs. It was like a drought in the dessert. Ha. No one had anything. Believe me.
Yet I’ve had friends say that some areas were awash with narcotics. But I didn’t see any dribblers tucked into corners chewing at walls. It never felt like a ‘real’ rave to me. Sure, I’m old school, and mongrels smashed on the floor isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but those guys serve as a reminder that there are hardcore wreckheads at every festival. And this one never really hit that mark for me.
Still, the stages were fantastic, and some of the music was great. The Model loved the hard stuff, and we’d gone for her to enjoy herself so I let her cut loose and throw shapes to Hardwell, Headhunterz, etc. I couldn’t get my feet moving in time – it’s definitely not my sound/scene – but as long as she was having fun I was happy.
My night was made when we came across Loco Dice playing in the Neon Garden, and their set was fantastic; energetic, techno-heavy, and just what I needed.
134,000 youths attend EDC, and I have a theory as to why the age range is so low. The minimum age for drinking in Vegas is 21 – as is most of America (I think I’m right in saying) – so an event like EDC where the drinking age is 18 attracts as many 18-21 year olds as it can fit in. The whole thing was one big youth club.
Without drink or narcotics, nights like this can wear you out, and soon we were outside looking for a taxi. ‘Shuttles’ run back and forth to events such as these, but they were charging over $100 for the weekend. I figured I should find one of my own kind; a taxi brethren.
As we walked along the road a guy climbed up a gravel bank toward us. First I thought we were going to be mugged, but then he said he was doing $20 runs back to The Strip where we were staying. Perfect. Cheaper than the shuttle and right to our hotel.
In the ‘taxi’ back we chat away and he comments on our accents, EDC, other English people he’s picked up, and then mentions that he’s selling that which we all seek in the desert… narcotics. I fucking love taxi drivers.
The next night and The Model has her drink, and I have my party supplies, and we attack EDC with a renewed vigor.
John Digweed is on the agenda, and I’ve seen him play many times – even featuring him in an old blog – and his set does not disappoint. The Model remarks that the ‘real’ ravers are here in abundance; heads nodding and feet stomping to the techno. There are also foot shufflers. And if you know what a ‘foot shuffler’ is, you’ll hate them as much as the rest of the world does. These fucks go just to throw spasms with their feet, completely out of synch with the music as they solely intend to be there just for people to look at. Those of us who do look think they’re cunts.
You stand your ground, dancing until the shufflers fuck off to impress no one else. The tired PLUR babies sit on their asses because it’s past their bedtime, already comforted by the pacifiers that they carry in their mouths. Luckily this is real music, so there aren’t too many of them around. In fact, the majority of the clientele is superb, and I see a guy clearly into his 60s with his top off, sunglasses on, funking to the sound of Digweed. He catches my eye and nods, turning back to the throng of youngsters surrounding him, eager to prove their coolness by being in his vicinity.
Maya Coles is up next but we’re drifting away. The Model’s drunken exuberance is wearing off, and the average American MDMA just doesn’t cut it. If there’s one thing the Europeans do right, it’s chemicals.
The Greatest Taxi Dude Ever meets us at our allotted time, and takes us and some San Diego-ans back to our hotels where we collapse in tired, sore-footed heaps. EDC – as a spectacle – was fantastic. America and Americans – I LOVE ’em. PLUR kids – go get some real drugs and learn how to party.
Oh, and my entry for the Insomniac Events Writing Competition was this: