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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Research for Where The Guitars Play





When Death shows up at the gig, two old musicians may have to rethink their dismissal of the forces unseen.





When I was writing the first draft of Where Guitars Play, Mr. Bowles and I had a conversation about bands. Who have you always liked? soon devolved into Yeah, but who would you still pay to see? A lot of the acts from our youth – they weren’t really the same guys anymore. Maybe they still have the singer or the guitar, but maybe the rest of the group are new guys. And even then, they’re creaky, and we’re creaky . . . Who would you still stand in line and get jostled around to see?  


I couldn’t think of a single act that was still together and/or still alive, except for Paul Rodgers. I’ve always loved the way he sings, enough so that I said I’d be willing to remove the delicate old bones from the couch and sally forth, if he ever went on tour again. I thought it unlikely, seeing how he’s in his 70s. I first saw Bad Company when I was fifteen, at the infamous Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, a year before the Who concert tragedy. I stood right next to the amps. Couldn’t hear for a week. Such things are legendary when you’re fifteen. It was awesome.


Coincidences make life interesting - damned if I just didn’t barely get the words out of my mouth, and then my good friends at Ticketmaster sent me the incredible news: Paul Rodgers was scheduled to appear in Las Vegas, at some place called the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. My daughter Marie was down for the trip to Sin City, even though she’d undoubtedly be one of the youngest people present. She’d heard the tunes her whole life, Bad Company and The Firm and even The Law, so just like Elise and Lisa, she’d know all the words. We looked at the seating chart, but discovered that the tickets were general admission, so apparently we could sit wherever we wanted. 


So on my mythical 9th Street Press expense account, I’d have to submit our Las Vegas trip for reimbursement; call it research for Where the Guitars Play. In the novel, Phenex winds up playing the DLVEC. We were there to see a much better act, however. You might even say one of Sonic Daydream caliber.



We saved 9th Street Press lots of money by staying at The Shalimar Hotel, which was definitely not on the strip. The hotel was located between a few strip clubs and wedding chapels. It seemed nice enough, although we did hear one side of the following conversation through the thin walls as we walked up to our room: “Clyde? He’s nothing to me. He’s fifteen hundred dollars to me, and that’s it.” I didn’t know if that made Clyde cheap or expensive, so we hurried on down the hall. I thought that our room was pleasant enough, with a nice balcony. On my review I stated, “Nice clean hotel, but not in a neighborhood for kids.”


I’d booked the place because it was fairly inexpensive and near to the venue. As we strolled from the Shalimar to the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center – it was supposed to take eight minutes – I immediately learned a new lesson. When Expedia says the hotel is eight minutes from the venue, they’re talking about driving time. Attention to such details has never been one of my strengths. A mile and a half is a little bit farther than one thinks when one is on foot, and the trip is considerably more than eight minutes. It was actually rather a hike. The younger fan was not amused. 



The internet is a wonderful thing, but I didn’t consult it before we went to Vegas. If I would’ve, I would’ve seen the pictures: to our surprise, we discovered that the DLVEC is an outdoor venue, a big, fenced-in square of concrete with a stage at one end. Ticketmaster had lied to us. There were no seats at all, at least not for this event. It was to be standing room only; general admission, as the tickets had said.


Since we knew ahead of time that the show was general admission (even if we did think it was inside), we’d showed up early. The only way to get up front at a general admission show is to be first in line.

 We weren’t the very first ones there, but almost, and the wait was considerable. But it was all worth it. We were right up front on the rail, and I can say that one of my favorite rock stars actually smiled at me. Mr. Rodgers's performance was just as good as it was way back in 1978, and since the band backing him wasn't Bad Company, he sang Satisfaction Guaranteed and Radioactive from his days with The Firm. The latter is one of my very favorites, what I'd traveled all the way to Las Vegas to see and hear (video below).

 The show was great, worth the long drive to Vegas and the sleazy hotel and the long walk to the venue. It's not often that one gets to take their kid to see one of the great acts from their youth. And just like Cal Bascomb said, "Nothing’s more fun than seeing and listening to your favorite band live."








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