Hours after the Riviera closed its doors last month I was making my first visit to the retail and entertainment mecca known as The Linq.
I don't spend a lot of time on the strip these days. I went to see "La Reve – The Dream" at Wynn last November, and we stayed two nights at the Stratosphere (which I'll never do again), which included a viewing of "Pin Up" (which was better than I expected). Thanks to my girlfriend I've found my way to the strip a few times the past couple of years for things I wouldn't do if I were traveling solo.
The Linq had never been on my "must see" list, and despite my girlfriend's fear of heights, she was fascinated by the High Roller last November, so we made a pilgrimage to the big wheel.
But first we stopped off at Brooklyn Bowl. OK, that was at least second. We stopped off at some fun, interesting retail store, the name of which I don't remember. It had cool stuff, and it had a book I was interested in, but I wasn't going to carry it around all night, so I didn't buy it.
We went to Brooklyn Bowl because my girlfriend wanted to see something resembling live entertainment on this trip, and we didn't make it a priority in May given we went to three shows during three nights last November. (The third being Gordie Brown at the Golden Nugget. Not good. The tickets were comps and I still wanted my money back.)
Our compromise was to go to a show at Brooklyn Bowl. On Monday night, the night before Cinco de Mayo, we went to see Mariachi El Bronx.
It's what you think it is. It's mariachi music.
This seems like an odd fit for a live music venue that sells itself as a punk music haven. Why a bowling alley is attractive to the punk music lovers of America I don't know, but that's what they're going for.
Brooklyn Bowl is a second floor venue, featuring 10 or so bowling lanes and a big open floor in front of a stage. If you bowl during a concert your back is to the music, but they have live video of it on big screens above the pins. It seems like a fun way to bowl. I'm guessing they play music videos on those screens during the daytime hours.
From what I could tell, the bowling ain't exactly cheap at Brooklyn Bowl. You rent a lane by the hour, and I think the range was $20-25 per hour, depending upon when you're bowling. Live music in the house, it costs more to bowl, evidently. Perhaps the rate is no worse than four individual games at a premium price, I don't know, I'm not a bowler.
Overall I still find the merger of bowling and punk music to be odd.
As for the non-punk band playing that night, it turns out that Mariachi El Bronx is a band that developed from a punk band called The Bronx, so says Wikipedia. From what I can tell, it's basically an alter ego of the punk band, and it seems like the mariachi version of The Bronx is doing pretty well, and keeping pretty busy. MEB has performed on "The Late Show with David Letterman," and the lead singer spoke about having recently toured somewhere overseas.
Now that I know that MEB is an alter ego of a punk band, (I didn't that night,) the lead singer's comment made sense. He said something about people calling them posers, and scoffed at it. Other than the fact much of the band is white guys (and a white woman), I didn't think it was fraudulent. They seemed to do a good job playing mariachi music, although what do I know about that?
They played for a little over an hour, and the small crowd there that night seemed to be into it. Some folks looked like they were there for a punk rock concert. And there were some elders in the audience. Plenty of people were younger than me, but I didn't look like an old guy trying to fit in with youngsters. It was quite a mix of people. I'd estimate the crowd at somewhere south of 300.
The show ended and it was time to go to the High Roller. The giant Ferris wheel takes you 550 feet in the air. Unlike a Ferris wheel, however, you're not in an open-air cabin. It's enclosed, and they have a video narration playing inside as you make your revolution.
This giant wheel is set at the back side of The Linq. It offers views up and down the strip, although they're not the best views. At night the wheel lights up and changes colors.
The High Roller is a major attraction, but it's not doing the numbers that the Caesar's empire envisioned. Since opening more than a year ago they've run countless deals trying to pack up to 40 people in the cabins. (They claim the capacity is 40, but there's no way 40 people can stand around inside a cabin and enjoy the rotation.)
Among the deals have been ticket discounts through the daily deal sites, and I procured a pair of tickets that way. Two nighttime tickets were less than $60. (Nighttime tickets are more expensive.) And our tickets were for the booze cruise.
After the High Roller showed signs of underperforming, the geniuses running it decided to start offering cocktails on a portion of the cabins. There's a bar with a limited selection of canned beverages and a bartender that will mix drinks with the limited inventory of available liquors. You can drink as many as you can get your hands on during your 30-minute loop through the sky.
We had about a dozen people in our cabin, and once everybody had a drink, you didn't have to wait long for your next one. Our bartender was sharp, she would remember each person's drink of choice. I knocked off six or seven mixed drinks, mostly Malibu sunrise, during the rotation. I think I took a can of beer for the road.
Booze and a 30-minute spin 550 feet into the sky for less than $30 per person, I have no complaints. That's not something you can do many places. I won't make it a priority to return during my next trip, but if there's a discounted ticket to be had....
As for The Linq, I didn't hit up any of bars, restaurants or other gimmicky places. Most of our time was spent at Brooklyn Bowl and at the High Roller. I should have set foot in O'Sheas to see what they're passing off in the name of the former low-roller casino that was closed down three years earlier to make way for The Linq.
I'm not in a hurry to return to The Linq, but you never know who will be rocking the maracas the next time I'm in Vegas.