And Like A Desert Spring
For years, rock and roll outfits never went to Las Vegas because it wasn’t cool. Sometime this century, though, everyone decided to stop giving a shit about being cool and make as much money as possible. Now all the rock and roll outfits go to Las Vegas.
Vegas is a terrible desert-dracula of a city, sucking out money and water from the marks, and if you’re in that city and don’t own a casino, you’re a mark. From the mob to the corporations to the billionaires, the people in charge of this city have always been assholes, and the town reflects it. Its one redeeming feature is that in a thousand years, our ancestors will be baffled by what the fuck was going on in the middle of the Mojave.
Rock groups rarely played Vegas: partially for the coolness thing, but also because the people who ran the town–the casinos–didn’t particularly want them there. Rock fans were young, broke, and stoned. Vegas hates all three of those things, but what Vegas hates the most is when potential customers are kept from the tables.
Nowadays, Vegas sells more than gambling, but for most of its existence, entertainment was an add-on. Casinos had a main room with a headliner (a comic or singer) that did two 90-minute shows a night, and a lounge with a singer/band that played all night. The Rat Pack, not Ratt; at least in the 80’s.
Which is what makes it so odd that the Dead played the Aladdin three times in Spring of ’81, ’83, and ’84. Counting set break, an early 80’s Dead show was over three hours long, plus the people it attracts are people you would actively remove from your premises any other time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy who owned the place’s kid was a Deadhead: otherwise, it makes no sense at all.
This is what the Aladdin looked like:
After three shows at the Aladdin, the Dead didn’t return to Las Vegas until ’91, this time at Sam Boyd Stadium, which was on the outskirts of town and therefore well out of sight of the normal people. It looked like this:
Fun fact: that is Mount Tamalpais.
After Garcia died, the Grateful Dead didn’t play Vegas any more, but they also didn’t play anywhere else, so Vegas shouldn’t take it personally.