In Praise of the Original Joint

Photo by Erik Kabik

Photo by Erik Kabik

For nearly three years, from 1995 to 1998, my routine was the same: I would leave the Las Vegas Sun offices around 6 or 7 p.m. and drive directly to the Hard Rock Hotel. Once there, I’d get a counter seat at Mr. Lucky’s 24/7 (their veggie burger was as delicious as a poem), and I’d write stuff in my notebook—columns for, ideas for other stories—until the doors of The Joint swung open. I’d usually try to find Sun photographer Ethan Miller, my partner on countless concert reviews—really, I was the Samwise to his Frodo—and then I’d cavalierly slip my notebook into my back pocket and wait for the show.

I have no way of telling you how many shows I reviewed at the original Joint. Maybe a hundred. I saved my ticket stubs, but the promoters didn’t always give me physical tickets; I saved my clippings, but I didn’t always remember to clip my reviews (and most of them have since been expunged from the Sun’s website—c’mon, guys). It’s all one big blur of INXS, Fiona Apple, Bauhaus, Van Halen, the Ramones, Paula Cole, Morrissey, Depeche Mode, King Crimson, Ben Folds Five, James Brown, Fatboy Slim, Garbage and Radiohead (who opened for fucking Tears for Fears, if you can believe it).

But I do remember the room pretty well. The curved proscenium arch. The guitars affixed to the walls, crowning giant cymbals. The parquet floor, scarred by heavy use. The two back bars, whose patrons were so loud that they all but ruined Elvis Costello for me. I loved every goddamned inch of that room—and not because it was like a second home to me. Every time I went to The Joint, I felt like I was being treated to something exclusive—the room had a way of making you feel like that, even when you were there to review a shitty band like the Rembrandts.

And I continued loving The Joint even after I’d departed it. As it was originally constructed, with only its circular casino and handful of restaurants, the Hard Rock felt like an extension of its concert venue after the show. On those rare nights when I wasn’t on deadline, I’d hang out at the Center Bar or return to Mr. Lucky’s, and it wasn’t at all uncommon to see the band I’d just reviewed getting beers or sitting down to a late-night stack of nachos. Convivial is the word I’d use to describe it: Everyone was just plain happy to be there, happy to have seen a good show and particularly happy that the Hard Rock’s parking garage wasn’t terribly far away.

I’ve reviewed just one show at the “new” Joint, and it was all right. It’s a decent venue—a nice, big box. But I never felt like I had the band all to myself, as I did at the original Joint. There was something special about that room, and I wish it were still there. Goddamn it, I miss my old office.

This Joint’s Rockin’

7 shows at the original Joint you wish you’d attended

  • The Ramones 8/25/95
  • Donna Summer 11/15/95
  • The Fugees 6/14/96
  • Chemical Brothers and The Orb 5/2/97
  • Rolling Stones 2/15/98
  • Destiny’s Child 7/02/00
  • David Bowie 1/30/04