Atlantic City Diaries, Chapter 2: Orion Music Festival

Posted: June 25, 2012 by rorypatrick in Atlantic City Diaries
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This past weekend, I made a trip to Atlantic City with a few goals. First, I’d like to introduce my girlfriend to the city I both love and loathe. Secondly, I wanted to get my rock on at the Orion Music Festival. And finally, I wanted to write this to share with you lovely readers. Let’s get going!

FRIDAY

The day began as usual: taking the bus from Port Authority to the casino. I was with my girlfriend and frequent gambling cohort, OB. This time, all of us were staying at the Resorts in a comped room for Friday night, then paying to stay in separate rooms (me and the lady in one, OB in the other) at the Showboat on Saturday night. The Greyhound bus from New York City always provides you with deals. For about $35, we got a round trip ticket to the city, as well as $15 for slots and $15 for food in Resorts. In addition, we brought some adult beverages onto the bus to get the party started a bit early. While this isn’t legal in any way, as long as you can keep your shit together, nobody will really mind. So you caution, folks. I don’t want anyone reading this, getting drunk on the bus, then causing a scene and blaming me. While driving down does provide a better sense of freedom – blasting your music, setting your own times, not being forced to sit next to anyone with questionable hygiene – the bus is just too good a deal to turn down, at least in my mindset, where I’d rather spend money on the tables than on gas and tolls.

The bus ride down was fairly incident free. It rained the whole time, which was a bit ominous, but the weather reports assured us sunshine throughout the rest of the weekend. When we got to Resorts, we had a bit of an incident where they gave us a room that looked like it had been vacated about 12 minutes ago. Now, after spending three hours on a bus, this was a bit frustrating – I just wanted to drop off my luggage and get the party started. However, it worked to our advantage, as we got a slightly bigger room. It was roughly 6PM by now, and we decided it was probably time to load up on food for the long night ahead of us. The $15 food voucher had a bunch of restrictions, so we decided to just play it safe and use it on the Resorts buffet.

Walking into the Resorts buffet, I had an immediate sense of deja vu. OB reminded me that this was the first buffet we had in Atlantic City, in 2007. And really, it hasn’t changed at all. Looking at the decor, I wouldn’t be surprised if it hadn’t changed since 1987. It is pretty drab, and almost depressing to look at. But, despite this, the meal was excellent. OB even brought his own bottle of red wine for the meal. (Side note: OB got into the habit of drinking red wine in Atlantic City last February, following a Guns N Roses concert. It is both baffling and brilliant.) After a couple glasses of this wine, I came up with the ridiculous Atlantic City buffet analogy. It goes as such: Atlantic City is like the Resorts buffet – kind of old looking, kind of depressing, but if you know what to select, you can have a great time. If you take a quick look at it, it may seem disgusting, but it has tons of potential. And it is also about what you bring – bringing the wine made it better, and bringing a great attitude will make your trip to the city better. This seems like an overly dramatic interpretation of a crummy buffet, but I swear it sounded profound after a couple glasses of the house red.

After dinner, OB went to prepare for his evening – he was catching a UFC fight at the new Revel casino. I had a $30 free table bet at Bally’s, so my girlfriend and I strolled the boardwalk to get there, perusing the little shops along the way. Did you know you could buy hermit crabs with superhero logos spray painted on their shells? If I didn’t think that it would die before the end of the weekend, I may have plunked down the $5. Anyway, I wanted to play the free table bet on roulette – I figured it’d be a quick way to win or lose. It had some odd restrictions – I could only place this bet on either red, even, or 1-18. Isn’t this a coin flip? Is this a sign that black, odds, and 19-36 win more often? I chose even, and happily collected my $30 after it landed on 20 (which is black and in the 19-36, so something is definitely up). We decided to celebrate these winnings in Bally’s Blue Martini lounge, a solid bar in the corner of Bally’s. They had their happy hour special, where drinks were half priced. That didn’t stop a Bud Light and a mixed drink from costing $8.50. A cover band came on, cranking out some 90’s rock tunes. Even though the band had some of the most questionable hair I’ve seen, I was too drunk by this point to care. After cashing out my winnings, we headed back to Resorts.

At Resorts, it was time to blow the whopping $15 in slot play we got from the bus ride. I sat down at a random slot machine, which I thought was Wheel of Fortune, but maybe wasn’t, I’m not sure, but oh fuck it – who gives a shit about slots? I spent $10 of the $15, and came back with $40. My girlfriend sits down, and comes up with jack shit for $10. So, being the nice guy I am, I decide to split my winnings. Karma paid me back pretty instantaneously – my remaining $5 gave me nothing, but my girlfriend turned her $5 into $30, and spilt that with me. Not too shabby for the slots.

When OB came back with our buddy Finn (who drove down and would be crashing with us tonight), we started the grand tradition of “putzing”. According to the dictionary, “putzing” is defined as engaging in ineffective or unproductive activity. For us, this is basically just roaming the casino floor, drinking, and playing random games. I sat down with about $60 in my wallet (after the free roll and slots) to play some blackjack, but immediately ran away after scoring a blackjack. At this point in my gambling career, I’m so far in the red, that I’ll take any little victory. I’m too scared of losing.

After a bit of time in Resorts, we putzed over to the Showboat, hoping the scene would be a bit more active. My memory is fuzzy at this point, as I’ve been racking up the drinks. Eventually, the gang breaks up – Finn is playing three card poker and OB is in the poker room. I got separate from my girlfriend, and decided to kill time at a blackjack table. This, on paper, was a horrible idea. Fortunately, my girl found me before I could inflict much damage upon my finances – I walked away only down $20 from my peak (up roughly $50 overall so far). We decided to hit up a bar in the middle of the Showboat gaming floor (which is apparently called “12BAR”). This bar has been typically good for me – just slip some money into a video poker machine, and let them keep giving you free drinks. However, this time they were quite slow with the drinks (or maybe I was being a bit belligerent in trying to order them). I broke even, but my girlfriend lost $5 – the first gambling loss of her career. With that, we called it a night – the walk back to Resorts is a blur, and I barely remember the room service we ordered when we returned. Later, I learned that OB and Finn had big scores, with Finn getting a royal flush in three-card poker. For the first night of a long weekend, you can’t do much better than cheap eats, tons of drinks, and more money in your pocket.

SATURDAY

This day began with the harsh knock of housekeeping on our door….at 9AM in the morning. When none of the others in my room responded, I barked out a hoarse “GO AWAY!” However, the damage was done. I was awake. As I showered, brushed my teeth, and regained forgotten memories of last night, the others began to stir. Somehow, shortly, we were in a riveting conversation regarding Family Matters. Family Matters, after all, was my first introduction to gambling. I reminisced about the one episode where Lt. Murtaugh and Urkel were playing poker. At the climax of the episode, Lt. Murtaugh went all in, offering his grandfather’s gold watch (or something hackneyed like that). Urkel won, absolutely devastating Lt. Murtaugh. When Urkel saw his dejected look, he gave him back the watch. The lesson I took from this was that not only was gambling fun, but that if you looked sad enough, you’ll get your losses back. Unfortunately, the latter has not yet proven true for me.

Finn left, and we checked out of Resorts and into the Showboat. With my girlfriend resting up, I walked to Bally’s to use the free bets I had – another $30 roll, and $15 in slots. Unfortunately, lady luck was not with me this time. I placed another bet on even, and it came up 25 – another number that was 19-36, but this one was red. I swear, there must be something unlucky about 1-18, red, and even. The $15 in slots came and went just as quick. So, I went back to Showboat for some early afternoon putzing with OB.

Now, I am very conservative with my gambling (as you can tell, I just stick with freebies), but I can still get a thrill out of watching others gamble, especially if they are playing blackjack. OB, up from last night, slapped down $200 on a blackjack table. He took two green $25 chips, and placed $10 on the Lucky Ladies, a side game where if you score a 20, you’ll get a bonus (the payout varies with the card composition). On the first hand, he is dealt a 10 and a 3. He takes a hit, and gets an 8. Winner. The dealer gives him two more $25 chips, and he calmly stacks it on top of his previous bet, making it $100. He places another $10 on the Lucky Ladies, and goes in for round two. He is dealt an ace and a 3, takes a hit, and gets a 7. Another winner. Now, I know what OB is going to do, and I’m pleading with him not to do it. But sure enough, the dealer gives him 4 $25 chips, and he calmly stacks it upon his previous bet. His $50 bet is now $200, and he adds another $10 on the Lucky Ladies. He gets dealt a 20, which pays him $40 on the Lucky Ladies bet. The dealer ends up busting – another winner. OB thanks the table, and walks away $370 richer. A great way to start the day, and it would turn out to be our last gambling story for the trip.

Around 3:30, we headed to the Orion Music Festival. Now, I’ve never been to a Metallica show, nor am I a huge Metallica fan, nor am I a huge metal fan in general. I was there to see some of the lighter-but-still-rocking bands like The Gaslight Anthem, Modest Mouse, Arctic Monkeys, and Best Coast. So, I had no idea how the crowd would be. On the walk over, we were surrounded by frat-esque guys yelling about “Todd” Brasky, and I didn’t have enough liquid courage in my to correct them that it is Bill Brasky. We also saw a shirtless man with vomit spilling out of his mouth getting dragged out by his two friends. I was a tad nervous that this festival might be a bit too hardcore for me.

Fortunately, once through the gates, the festival was fantastic. The staff was very friendly and organized, the lines moved briskly, and the crowd seemed to be having a great time – people were drinking, but there weren’t too many people who were sloppy messes. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but at times it felt like the sun was hovering about 100 feet from your head. I bathed in SPF 70 sunscreen before the concert, and reapplied with SPF 80 later in the day, and escaped the show with my unhealthy pale skin unblemished.

The first band we saw was The Gaslight Anthem, who came on at 5PM, a bit early in the concert. These guys are one of my favorite bands, and ever since I saw them about three years ago, I’ve been dying to see them again. They have garnered an even bigger fanbase since then, and when I tried to get tickets to see them in Brooklyn this past May, the show sold out in seconds. Thankfully I got a chance to see them now.

The set wasn’t exactly perfect. First, the concert had set up a “VIP” section in front of the stage, blocking off access to the first 30 yards or so surrounding the stage. This makes sense for Metallica, since they have tons of fans, but for acts like Gaslight, it was half-empty and created a sizable gap between them and the fans. It definitely hurt the vibe of the show that people couldn’t mosh or crowd-surf. In addition, Brian Fallon’s vocals were turned down too low in the beginning, making it tough to hear his words – this was rectified by the middle of the second song. Despite these complaints, I had a great time, but I’m still itching to see them as a headlining act, surrounded by their fans. Their set list was great – many songs from The 59 Sound and American Slang, two songs from their upcoming album, and a few cutting deep with hits from their first album and an EP from 2008. Fallon is still trying to get his Springsteen-esque stage persona set – he had a couple corny jokes that he didn’t quite pull off. He always comes off as humble and sincere that you can’t help but find his goofiness endearing. As a huge Springsteen fan, I’m convinced Bruce’s guitar isn’t actually plugged in, allowing him to do his crazy theatrics. Once Fallon figures this out, he’ll be able to amp up his stage-strutting.

After this, we took a break to get some food, as Friday night was still testing our endurance. Modest Mouse took the stage at 7PM, and we stayed further back from the stage in a shady area. I’m not sure if our distance and tiredness made us more detached from the show, but I didn’t quite love Modest Mouse’s set. They performed fine, but it didn’t have the energy and enthusiasm that I just saw in Gaslight’s set. Granted, I may have not been in the best state to enjoy them, but there wasn’t much I took away from this concert, except for Isaac Brock’s delightful shorts.

At 8PM, we headed to the second biggest stage to watch the Arctic Monkeys. I had only a passing familiarity with this band, but they are one of my girlfriend’s favorites. With a smaller stage and no VIP area, the Monkeys put on a spectacular show. Despite my love of Gaslight Anthem, I have to admit, the Monkeys were the best performance I saw that night. The set was perfect for the show, as they chose their “heaviest” songs. The crowd was completely into it, creating a fantastic atmosphere. OB and I were singing along to “Brick By Brick”, despite the obvious handicap of never having heard the song before. Needless to say, the Arctic Monkeys converted us to fans that night.

My girlfriend and I left after the Arctic Monkeys, forgoing Metallica in favor of getting out early. We were fortunate to grab a taxi fairly quickly. After that, we tried to stay awake until OB returned from the concert. My girlfriend went to bed fairly not much later. Around 11PM, I decided to check out the casino floor, just to see how it was on a Saturday night. Now, dear reader, I must tell you – I rarely visit Atlantic City in the summer. Most of my trips are off-peak in the winter, as you can get better room deals. This was the first time I saw the city on a prime summer night. And man, did it look like a crazy time. The Showboat House of Blues area, an area that is normally dead during the day, was alive with gamblers, dancers, and rock bands. With dark blue lighting, it looked like a prime spot to party on a Saturday night. The table limits were fairly low – there were many $10 blackjack tables with open seats that called to me. However, gambling by myself would only lead to trouble. After a brisk 20 minute walk around the casino floor, soaking up the atmosphere, I decided to call it a night. OB had difficulty getting back to the hotel, as there were insanely long lines for taxis after the concert. He eventually found a limo to drive him home, but by the time he made it back I was too exhausted to party with him at night. That’s the thing with “putzing”, in my years as a serial-putzer, I’ve never done it two days in a row. With a great day in the bag, including several great musical performances and an amazing blackjack run, there was no need to risk it all.

SUNDAY

Going to bed early on Saturday was a blessing, as we had to wake up early on Sunday. I had signed up for a time-share thingy to get my girlfriend and I a couple free airline tickets, casino vouchers for the Resorts, and shopping vouchers for the Atlantic City outlets. The two-hour tour morphed into three-hours, and both of us were slowly developing headaches as we inhaled the desperation emitting from the salespersons. The less said about this the better. Hopefully, the free trips we’ll get out of this will make it worth while. If you have a strong will and a couple hours to kill, you may want to look into this. If not, stay far, far away.

We grabbed a pricey-but-necessary brunch buffet at Scarduzio’s in Showboat, guzzled down a much needed Bloody Mary, and headed out to Bally’s. I had another $20 free for the slots, turned that into $12, and then headed back to the Orion Music Fest to see Best Coast. While I’m not a die-hard Best Coast fan, I enjoy their style of music – it fits in well with a summer outdoor music festival. The lead singer, Bethany Cosentino, had many weird breaks between songs, talking to a few fans in the crowd, talking about shitting, and sounded somewhere between being nervous and having a grand old time. The set ran a bit short (just under 50 minutes), which makes sense, since they only have two studio albums that total just barely of an hour’s worth of music themselves. They, too, were hampered by the lack of people in the VIP area. And, apparently, this was the first time one of the cameramen had seen a girl, as the camera constantly panned down to film her bare legs. I don’t recall this happening to Isaac Brock yesterday. Come on, random camera guy, act like you’ve seen a girl in short-shorts before!

Best Coast’s more laid-back crowd and music was the perfect way to ease out of a weekend of rough drinking, hard-rocking, little sleep, and gorging at buffets. We, unfortunately, didn’t get to everything we wanted to. My girlfriend would have liked to check out the Atlantic City outlets, I would’ve liked more putzing time with OB, and we both would’ve like more time on the beach or playing boardwalk games. There are already talks of another trip in July. Stay tuned.

Read Chapter 1

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