(A very truncated version of this, along with Ryan's photos, may very well appear in the October 1 issue of New Reform Magazine. We'll see.)
There have been times when I have reached, without any narcotic aid, a kind of trance where that buzz of a great show becomes totally, incomprehensibly engulfing. I’ve watched Wayne scream wildly into a megaphone spewing green sulfur-smoke with a strobe light strapped to his belly, balloons, Santa Clause, more balloons, an elephant. Happy Birthday ha ha ha is this real? Aliens? Nokia phone guitar? And then my brain explodes.
Stacy calls me Friday night, I'm walking around in Westwood and she starts the conversation by saying "I am your best friend in the world" in an impossibly raspy voice. The words 'contest winner' make me jump up and down excitedly in the street much moreso than 'Palms' or even 'Strep Throat.' Saturday is a big old clusterfuck of worrying, figuring logistics. If it's Stacy's name on the guest list and not mine then will we get in? They say they check IDs. We're fucked if they check IDs. I'm so tired on Saturday night I practically decide not to go. She hasn't even called me back let alone sent me the right information. She's my best friend in the world but at this point I'm a little fed up with the noncommunication and the worrying and I'm beat to shit so I won't go. In the morning I decide yes and Steph cries, partly because I didn't 'pick' her and partly because of some meds. I hope it's more the meds. This is so not an adventure.
We roll up to the Palms roughly 5 hours after OJ had been escorted off the premises, and even without knowing this particular bit of information I feel, and have always felt, that Vegas is not a welcoming place. Lips shows are always, without fail, the most welcoming events you will ever attend, so the dichotomy becomes apparent quickly. The interior of the casino is raked with smoke. It’s still the mid-afternoon and we’re not exactly on the strip, so the gambling going on is lax, elderly, mixed strangely with Playboy themes. It feels like Florida, frankly.
The trip out there does this annoying thing to me where I immediately lose all my standards. All in one day I buy a) milkshake from McDonalds b) Starbucks gas station frozen drink c) gross burger all because...what? Because I'm on the road? This, along with the constant smell of pathetic old person vacationing in a cloud of tobacco ensures that puke is an imminent threat. The security guy asks me my name, and I decide to draw that latent 'a' out in 'Stacy Swane' to make is sound as masculine as possible. Saying my name is 'Stacy Swan' may screw us, so I tell him 'Stacy Swaaaane on the list for two' in my best drawl. We're the first ones in the doors and the first ones to the stage. It's quite literally poolside and has no more than 50 feet of general admissionon area. The show fits, maximum, 400 people underneath the giant blinking Playboy bunny sign, and every body grooves to T.Rex during the pre-show set up.
There’s the megaphone and the aliens, and Captain America even talks to me, but the show is never out of grasp mentally, or…metaphysically. The crowd is probably the best Lips crowd I’ve ever seen, and the band totally harnesses that energy to throw a big ol' Rock Show Party. Capitol letters, sure of purpose, emotional control. Stephen's synthesizers go from rolling and heavy to totally bouyant to start ‘Waitin’ for a Superman,’ I feel like we’re in a bubble in this mini-Florida, and that the Lips, more than any other band right now, really have in them a platform for change.
Wayne makes no qualms talking about the war, the bullshit, whatever. He knows not to preach but he also knows that there's no excuse for inaction. When he gives a short speech about the production of bugles in relation to the lives lost in the war, it is followed by confetti rifles, leaping around with double guitars, or balloons. It's never, never incongruous or insincere. That's what keeps amazing me.
Kliph dedicates 'Vein of Stars' to Marc Bolan, and Wayne notifies everyone that it is thirty years to the day that he died, and that he was an awesome guitarist. Kliph plays the opening drums to 'Jeepster' and I am excited. Later, Stephen says to Wayne "We're doing Pompeii" and scrambles for a moment, then jumps into my favorite song. It's such a fucking good night that any kind of brain overload is replaced by surreality. I don't exactly get how I got here, but it's good and I couldn't imagine doing otherwise. The songs tonight are energetic and jump-inducing. Michael plays the Entwistle to Wayne's Daltrey, keeping a balance of smirking stoicism (complete with the Entwistle inspired skeleton costume) as Wayne jumps and swings his legs while the crowd yells "FANATICAL FUCK!" The Who image comes together nicely while Stephen rails on his guitar and Wayne makes spirals with confetti streamers. It is not hard to imagine that same curly hair bouncing around thirty five years earlier, swinging microphones rather than confetti. It's the same feel, but a new, more robot/ninja centric rock opera. Out on the concrete afterwards we find a stray orange balloon attached to a string of tape, so we have a giant bounce ball. A pickup truck says "Awww they got a balloon!" and we shot put the thing across the parking lot. It gets picked up by the wind and shoots away farther than is natural, bounces off a car and into the street. It rolls around and I can't see it any longer. Before I know it we're back on the road, impossibly raspy, humming the opening lines to 'The W.A.N.D.' against the wind.