Atlantic City Diaries, Chapter 9: Third Eye Blind at Caesar’s

Posted: May 28, 2013 by rorypatrick in Atlantic City Diaries
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As a young lad growing up in New Jersey, summer was my favorite season.  Not so much because of the weather, but really because of the all the free time I had.  I loved the freedom from the regimented school day, and used this new-found autonomy in the most efficient way possible: playing video games and reading comic books.  However, as I’ve become older and more grizzled, summer is dropping down in my season power rankings.  I’m sweating in the subway to work, all vacation spots are increasing their prices, and I spend 20 minutes putting on sunscreen to go out and check the mail.  And yet, even as the glory days of summer become a thing of the past, I still love Memorial Day weekend, as it signifies the start of what will assuredly be the greatest summer ever.  This year, things kicked off the way my younger self would have whole-heartedly approved of: a Third Eye Blind concert.

The crew for this adventure consisted of the Atlantic City veteran and man of leisure, OB, and good-friend-but-Atlantic-City-novice Steve.  Like many of our trips, this tale begins in the subterranean basement of Port Authority, waiting at gate 80….

3:30PM – OB and I are waiting on an ever-growing line for a bus to Caesar’s.  As it is Memorial Day weekend, the crowd is more numerous and more hostile.  Behind us, a crazy women dressed like Stevie Nicks is monitoring the line, yelling at people she suspects may be cutting in (when in reality, they are just asking if this was the right gate, or they had been in line already).  We are slightly nervous, as Steve has been unresponsive so far, and sneaking him into our spot in line may prove difficult.  However, another bus to Atlantic City shows up at the adjacent gate, and the crazy lady hops on it.  The first crisis of the weekend has been averted.

4:00 – Due to the excess of people, there are two buses waiting to take people to Caesar’s at the scheduled time.  We begin to board, with Steve still incommunicado.  We have to pass up the first bus, and things are starting to look dicey.  The next bus is the “last of the Mohicans,” a strange Greyhound worker tells us.  As OB and I try to unwrap this baffling piece of information, Steve makes a dramatic last minute appearance, and we are able to get the second bus.  Second crisis averted, and we are off to Atlantic City!

6:25 – At our estimated arrival time, we arrive….at exit 102 on the Garden State Parkway.  The traffic is bad but not unexpected – it is Memorial Day Weekend after all.  However, the concert starts at 9:00PM, and I still do not have a ticket to the concert.  Just to explain the situation – OB was given two complimentary tickets, but the seat location was not set.  I would like to get a third complimentary ticket, but failing that, I would like to buy a ticket near where they are sitting.

Anyway, this bus ride was not as booze-filled as our usual trips.  Since it is just the Friday of a three day weekend, we are all playing the long game – you don’t want to get too drunk too early.  We pass the extended bus ride by playing a “top 3” game, where we name our top 3 songs by particular artists, or top 3 movies by particular actors.  We are cool.

7:30 – We arrive at Caesar’s!  Immediately after debarking, a women gets into an argument with a guy as she tried to enter through the same doorway that he was exiting through.  Mind you, it was a double door, but they both were determined to own the space around one doorway.  “This is what I hate about New York City,” remarks Steve, which is strange because we had just arrived in Atlantic City.

Entering Caesar’s, we immediately hit the baggage check to remove our bags.  Steve is nervous about his laptop being in his bag, and wonders if he should let the person know to be careful with it, but we assure him there’s no need to worry.  We find a great man named Carlos working the baggage check.  I check my bag, Steve next, saying nothing about his laptop.  Then OB checks his bag last, but tells Carlos to be extra careful with his bag, since he has a handle of Heaven Hill whiskey in there.  Carlos assures us that nobody will take better care of our bags than him, and wishes us fun at the 3 Doors Down concert.  We correct him, saying Third Eye Blind.  “Oh, that’s right, got it – have fun at the Third Door Blind concert!”  Close enough.

We go to pick up the complimentary tickets, and the status of the third ticket is murky.  They tell us to check back at 8:45 to see if there are any cancellations.  A young lad named Steven is working the counter, and says that the weather could cause some people not to show.  He also adds, “I just found out the theater has 1,500 seats.”  You just found that at Steven?  Do employees need to reach a certain security level before they are given such information?

So I’m forced with a decision: do I play it safe and buy the ticket now, or do I check back in an hour and see if I can get a free ticket, risking the fact that the show could get sold out?  Well, in Atlantic City, do as the Atlantic Citians do.  I take the gamble!  And with that, we are off to gamble!

8:00 – As per rule 3 of How I Do AC, we hit the slot machines to use our bus vouchers.  We hit the always reliable KISS slot machines (which loyal readers may remember from Chapter 7).  I turned my $25 into a robust $12 before calling it quits.  Steve takes over my machine, and I jokingly say “I warmed it up for you.”  I didn’t realize how right I was, as he cashes out quickly with over $70.  He is done gambling for the night.  OB also makes around $70, and we leave there having turned our collective $75 in vouchers into $150 in real cash.  A solid start to the night.

We hit Piazza Di Giorgio in the Shops at Caesar’s for some airport quality pizza.  We were hungry, and didn’t have enough time for a buffet.  This is uneventful.  Moving on.

8:45 – We go back to check on the status of the complimentary tickets.  OB boisterously asks the young Steven behind the counter, “What’s the good word, Steven?”  Steven responds, “The good word is….I have to ask my manager.”  Well, it might not have been a good word, but I’ve heard much worse.  However, my gamble paid off – I am not only given a free ticket, but a free drink coupon as well!  “That’s A+ service, Steven!” OB yells at the shaken young man, who responds with a timid thanks.  To the concert!

9:00 – The opening act was a local band from Pennsylvania.  They were a little to angst-y for my tastes.  Let’s move on to the main event.

10:00 – Third Eye Blind takes the stage.  Lead singer Stephan Jenkins has a hoodie draped over his face and is wearing no shoes – for the first three songs or so, he has a level of nonchalant-ness that would rival Liam Gallagher.  By the time the band kicks into “Never Let You Go”, however, the hoodie is gone and he is bouncing around the stage.  The audience was one of the most actively involved at a concert I’ve ever seen – nearly every song was sung along to word for word.  As Third Eye Blind is not officially touring, Jenkins claimed that a lot of what they were doing on stage is improvised (however Steve, who saw them last year, thinks that they may be embellishing their spontaneity a bit).  Personally, I thought the strongest part of the show was when Jenkins sent the band away, and did a three song solo set – “Slow Motion,” “Why Can’t You Be,” and a sing-along of “How’s It Gonna Be,” where he strummed his acoustic guitar as the entire crowd sang, bringing back the band for the final chorus.  (Side note: I went to the bathroom after “How’s It Gonna Be,” and was very tempted to sing “How’s It Gonna Pee” while in there.  I had not drank enough at that point.)

Again, I can’t emphasize enough how into the show the crowd was.  I had never been to a Third Eye Blind concert before (I’m not even that big a fan), and was stunned by the loyalty.  They even played three new songs from an album they were working on, and they all got a tremendous response from the audience.  My only disappointment was not hearing “Deep Inside of You”, but they played every other major song of theirs (although one drunk guy behind us was yelling “WATER LANDING,” which sadly was not played as well).

The venue, which was the 1,500-seat (thanks Steven!) Circus Maximus Theater, seemed fine for comedy shows, but it was awkward to be in a seat during a concert.  We were in the comped ticket section, so we weren’t surrounded by the die-hard fans.  However, we nearly immediately made the decision to stand during the show, people behind us be damned!  Fortunately, we started a trend, and shortly afterward most around us were standing and rocking.

Overall, for my first (and, let’s be honest, most likely last) Third Eye Blind concert, I was thoroughly entertained.  It provided everything I’d like from a concert – I heard some old hits, but it also made me more interested in checking out other songs that I had not heard before.  One final stray observation, again about the crowd – they are YOUNG.  I am 28, which is not quite a boy but not yet a man.  But, I certainly saw some boys carrying beers around the concert.  I am very surprised not only by dedication of Third Eye Blind fans, but of the youth.  It makes me think that Third Eye Blind may have another significant pop culture hit in the future, but even as the crazy gambler I am, I’d hesitate on putting money on that.

12:00AM – We pick up our bags from Carlos without any incident and take a cab over to Harrah’s, where is our base of operations and putzing for the night.  As OB checks into the room, the woman misunderstands his name and thinks he is named “LeBron”.  It’s an easy mistake that happens all the time with OB.

We go to the room, relax, have a few drinks, and head down to the floor.  OB immediately loses a bunch of money on craps, and we decide to hit a blackjack table together.  After a solid run, OB is back in black, up a little over $20, while I’m about even.  I immediately encourage OB to take a breather, and surprisingly, he listens to me.  For about 5 minutes.

2:00 – The night continues on the blackjack table.  Steve has retired to the room.  I’m treading water, never up or down more than $50.  OB is swinging wildly all over the map – every time he seems down and out, he’ll hit a Lucky Lady side bet that pays 9-to-1.  We are at a solid table with an Indian Kevin Eubanks, who is making us feel like the two funniest men in the world.  The laughter comes to a screeching halt, however, as OB gets shellacked in an all-time classic “FUCK YOU ATLANTIC CITY” hand.

He gets dealt two 2’s, with the dealer showing a 6.  As he splits them, I say, “You know that you’ll definitely be doubling down on at least one of those.”  Sure enough, he gets dealt a nine.  He doubles down, but receives a three, so he’s sitting on one hand with a 14.  Not terrible, but not great.  The next 2 receives an ace.  He doubles down again, getting a 5.  So he’s got one decent hand (18) and one he’ll need some help from the dealer on.  Now, the dealer flips over her cards.  An 8.  14 total.  So far, so good.  Next card – a 2.  16.  Getting better!  And the final card….a four.  “YOU SLUT!” yells OB.  And we immediately leave the table.

4:00 – OB took out a little more money from the ATM, but it was no use.  There’s no going back from a stomach punch like that.  It was no where near the most amount of money OB ever lost in Atlantic City, but it was probably the most brutal way he’s lost that money.  We head back to the room (I finished more or less even), and I encourage the man to take a bath in the tub.  “Well, I took one financially, I might as well take one physically.”  I fall asleep, listening to his iPhone play Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

9:00 – Steve and I are up early, trying to figure out how best we can escape this city.  We settle on an 11:10AM bus from Bally’s.  After getting our stuff together and checked out, we arrive at Bally’s with about a half hour to kill.  I realize Steve has never been on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, so we head there.  We don’t see much, but at least Steve can check that off his list of places to be.  It’s dirty, it’s depressing, but it’s ours, and a true American landmark.  A fitting end to the first summer activity.  Will this be the best summer ever?  Probably not.  But, if it’s anything like the summers when I originally listened to Third Eye Blind, it’s got a good chance.

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