Friday, September 10, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part One: Smogged Out In Sparks

Sorry I've been away for so long, dear readers. Joy's laptop died on me while I was on the road, so I've had to wait until now to explain my absence for the last six weeks or so. It was a long six weeks on the road, so I've had to break it up into four parts. Here's the first chapter of my sprawling epic......

The first two weeks of the journey started in Sparks, where we played a ten-day run of shows at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks over the course of Hot August Nights. This has become an annual thing for Steppen Stonz, and while I had to pawn a mixing console just to get there (since paid off and returned), it's a paying gig, and a damn good one at that. But all gigs have their ups and downs, so here's how this one went for me.

I've discussed the pros and cons of playing at JAN before, so we won't go in to that. But the biggest downer is that playing for HAN is that it's for ten days straight, with no days off. Even though we're only playing for four or five hours a night, the drag of having no days off can be pretty hard on a guy. But it wasn't so bad compared to what I'd face in the future. Hell, it was a piece of cake compared to that. The only other real downer was that I had no real internet connection while I was there. The Nugget had recently introduced wireless internet access for its guests, but at a cost of $50/week, that was just too much for me.

And on top of that, the whole Hot August Nights event is a drag for me. Don't get me wrong, if you like classic American cars, it'd probably be nirvana for you. But it means something completely different to me. What, you ask? It means thousands upon thousands of big, old, and decidedly not low-emission vehicles tooling around the Truckee Meadows all day and most of the night. The resulting traffic makes it a bitch getting anywhere in the area. And when you combine all that extra smog with August heat, you get conditions that are entirely unsafe for Joy to be in. I hadn't planned on taking her with me anyway for a wide variety of reasons, but I could always use the company. I just wind up sitting in my room playing video games and watching TV a lot, just killing time until showtime came around.

But regardless of the negatives, the good thing about HAN for musicians is that everyone works while it's on. Everyone. I can't really tell you who played along with us in the Nugget's cabaret during the final weekend of HAN, but I will say that they were friends of mine, but they were pretty tired out by the end of the weekend, since they were also playing shows every night elsewhere after they got off the stage at the Nugget. Bands I know were also playing just down the street from the Nugget on a temporary stage set up by my friends at Starsound, serenading the nightly parade of cars through Sparks' Victorian Square. Every casino had live music, even the ones that generally don't have live music any other time of year. And the casinos that served as the official hubs of HAN had additional stages set up in their respective parking lots for local and national acts. Now if only there was something other than that boring Fifties and Sixties music being played. I'm just not much for nostalgia, but that's what HAN is all about - hearkening back to a day when gas was a quarter a gallon rather than three bucks, nobody cared about emissions, and it was all about muscle, tail fins and chrome instead of MPG and LEV.

Oh, bother.

At least I would be able to truly relax when HAN was over, when we moved on to our de facto home base in Carson City. At least, that's what I thought......

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