Easter @ Mystic Lake
Summerfest in Milwaukee just announced their 2017 lineup, which continues their amazing run of awesome bookings. I still don’t fully understand how they can get such great acts year after year, while charging so little to get in. There must be some serious beer vendor underwriting going on – plus now they are stepping up the other corporate sponsorships to improve the grounds.
While the closing night this year features the outstanding Outlaw Music Festival (with Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, Nathaniel Rateliff and Margo Price), I don’t think we are going to go this year. Reviewing the daily lineups reminded me I never wrote about last year’s finale: Peter Gabriel and Sting on the Rock Paper Scissors tour.
The problem with me forgetting about these posts in the draft folder is that I have a really hard time remembering exactly what happened. Thankfully this Sunday night show from July 10, 2016 was covered by the local newspaper. They also included the setlist I included below (followed by some really bad shots from our waaaaay in the back seats).
After re-reading the review, I do remember that I was really concerned heading in to the show about Sting covering Peter Gabriel songs and vice versa. We’ve seen Sting a number of times, but had never seen Gabriel and didn’t want to get a “fake” cover show. In reality, the show was the best of both worlds and was one of my favorites all year. I don’t recall how much the tickets were, but I know they were expensive and that I intentionally bought seats farther back to limit cost.
The only other things I remember about this trip is that we stayed in the really nice new rooms at the Potawatomi Hotel and we took our first two Uber rides (which also turned out to be our last Uber rides). Didn’t play much at the casino – Milwaukee pricing is a little too rich for my taste. Oh yeah, also made a quick pit stop at the Gritty in Madison…
When my mom stopped to visit the loft earlier this week, we were talking about upcoming concerts and she mentioned that Dolly Parton is one of her favorites. That reminded me I never posted the pictures from the show last summer at Grand Casino Hinckley. The Pure and Simple Tour stopped for a Wednesday evening show in their outdoor amphitheater on July 20, 2016 and thanks to Hinckley’s amazing general manager Mel Towle, we got to sit front and center (seriously, Mel is one of the best people in the entire casino world).
Growing up, I probably knew Dolly more for the movie 9 to 5 than for her country music. I also thought it was cool that we shared a birthday (hello, Edgar Allan Poe). Seeing her perform live, it’s really hard to believe she is 70 (now 71). Gotta believe Dolly and Debbie Harry must have some sort of Secret 70 Club that prevents the effects of aging.
Don’t have a set list or much recollection of the show now – I just remember it was really sunny at the start and that she was quite the entertainer. I think we also waited in the parking lot afterwards for nearly as long as she played (guessing the Hinckley police force is not a fan of summer concert nights). Looking at set lists from other stops, she did hit all the big ones: Jolene, Islands in the Stream, 9 to 5, Coat of Many Colors and I Will Always Love You.
This Saturday night casino show back on 4/9/2016 was the one that finally made me realize I need to research old groups *before* I buy tickets. Foreigner songs were a big part of my formative years and I had never seen them live. While I knew Lou Gramm was out of the picture, I figured Mick Jones was still worth the money, right?
Well, turns out Mick was sick that night and we ended up paying waaaaay too much money to hear what was essentially a Foreigner cover band. It was really weird, though, that I was one of the few people in the sold-out, 2100-seat venue that seemed to care. I mean, just check out this glowing review from Dave Rubene at Twin Cities Media.
What the hell, people.
I will say, the musicians themselves were talented and it was cool to have them bring out the local high school choir during the encore. I also really have a soft spot for many of these songs – particularly Juke Box Hero, Waiting for a Girl Like You and Urgent. This wasn’t enough, however, for me to get over how the new lead singer sounded nothing like the original.
Set list and pictures after the jump.
…most of the time. Hookers, dudes and (double) forgs @ Mystic Lake
First ever taxable hand-pay jackpot: 10,000x my 40-cent bet (Black Orchid progressive @ Mystic Lake)
The one lone highlight of the visit – don’t need to go back for a while
When I was little growing up in St. Paul, we had an old turntable that I used as my own personal DJ station. The volume, treble and bass knobs let me create simple “mixes” on the fly, which I thought sounded awesome. The smaller 45 rpm singles were my main source of entertainment, which I eagerly used my allowance on every few weeks at the old Montgomery Ward on University Avenue. Full-size LPs were an expensive luxury, so I only got those a few times a year as gifts (Donna Summer’s On the Radio and Eagles Live were two favorites).
I remember numbering my 45s and hanging them on nails in my closet. One of the early single digit platters was America’s A Horse with No Name, which I loved to mix because it started off so quietly. Played the heck out of that one. When I bought my first bird, Ken the cockatiel, we had a silly inside joke about changing the lyrics to “I’ve been through the desert on a chicken named Ken.”
My parents owned History, America’s Greatest Hits on vinyl, so I learned about all of their other songs: Sister Golden Hair, Ventura Highway, I Need You, Sandman, Tin Man and, one that spoke to me as a personal anthem, Lonely People. Never had seen them live, but that changed last Friday at 7:30pm, when Colleen and I drove up to Grand Casino Hinckley.
Wasn’t really sure what to expect, since one of the original three members, Dan Peek, died in 2011. The two surviving members, Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, were joined by the former touring bassist from Three Dog Night (Richard Campbell), the former drummer from ska band Reel Big Fish (Ryland Steen) and a talented young guitarist named Bill Worrell, who is the son of their sound engineer (Bill’s LinkedIn profile here).
The show had no opener and started right on time with an interesting video collage of vintage photos and videos of their 45+ year career. This was my first show in the ballroom at Hinckley and I didn’t really like it much – the seats were too close together, row 13 seemed really far away from the stage and we couldn’t see behind the tall people in front of us. They also didn’t have the guitars or the lead vocals connected for the first 15-20 seconds of the opening song, which was a bummer.
The biggest letdown, though, were the voices of Dewey and Gerry. The former sounded fine (but would lose power halfway through each song), while the latter just sounded weird (one reviewer said it sounded like a sick chipmunk). Apparently all three original members wrote songs and whoever wrote the song would sing lead. That meant the Dan Peek songs were basically covers (Don’t Cross the River, Lonely People, Woman Tonight) and all of the Beckley songs were weird (I Need You, Sister Golden Hair, Daisy Jane). I thought Sandman and Ventura Highway sounded the best overall and had high hopes for the closing song (which I learned was originally called Desert Song). Dewey was pretty much out of juice by that point of the night, though.
They did have some good between-song banter and it was fun to hear stories about George Martin becoming their producer after the first three albums. Seemed really strange they didn’t have any merch to sell – we heard several people in the crowd wanting to buy stuff.
We stopped for a late dinner afterwards at Grand Grill Americana, which surprisingly had a very short post-concert line. Colleen had a dinner salad and the fish fry, while I had a cup of Marge’s wild rice soup (which had yucky mushrooms) and the Nueske’s® bacon chicken sandwich with fresh-cut chips. I’ve been mostly happy with the food at this restaurant, but the service always seems to be slow. This night had the added frustration of several manager type people just standing around talking to each other and not doing anything to improve service delivery.
After spending a lot more time at Mystic Lake since I’ve been back in the Twin Cities, I have to say I now prefer them in every area: better players club benefits, much better food, better entertainment venues, no comparison between golf courses, nicer hotel rooms and a better gaming floor. We did hit a butterfly progressive on Black Orchid, but I find it harder and harder to justify an hour and 15 minute drive that way (sorry, Mel). The new bar was nice looking, but I just don’t drink those craft beers…
Next casino show: Foreigner at Mystic on 4/9
Last week I had two different people ask me if I missed the casino world. After some inner reflection, I realized I do a little bit – it’s an exciting industry filled with a lot of great people. I still enjoy visiting places like Mystic Lake and figuring out which machines are new, how they change floor layouts, what types of promotions they run to attract more business and other aspects of the operation (which I still feel is one of the best around).
This also made me realize that I never wrote up a trip summary from last fall’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, held way back on September 28 – October 1 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. I hadn’t planned to attend this event originally, so my hotel choices were a bit limited and I ended up at the newly branded LINQ (formerly the Imperial Palace). While the location is great, I don’t think I’ll be going back there again. Nothing majorly horrible – I just prefer other resorts.
G2E is a huge show and I was lucky enough to attend five times during my casino career. The same companies and people are usually present every year and you have the added benefit of the Vegas Strip as a backdrop. This usually leads to a number of great (free) parties and the 2015 edition was no different. This time I held back a little on the drinking side of things, but was excited to finally see the inside of Tao, Lavo and Omnia. It was also great fun to spend time with Vanessa, Jason, Ryan, Peter, Shannon, Mike, Jenn and EJ. Hope to see all of them again at some point.
On the business side of things, I love evaluating new slot machines. As you can see in the photo gallery after the jump, licensed theme games continue to be extremely popular. My favorite new titles were The Simpsons, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey and Cirque du Soleil Kooza (a natural for Vegas slot floors if there ever was one). Games I felt were duds include Caddyshack (dislike 3×3 reel games), Frogger (complete waste of a license, poor gameplay, major let down from normally strong Konami) and Space Invaders (skill-based arcade games will only work when you have controls as good as the originals, IMO).
A few other items I remember from the show floor include seeing Pitbull promote his new Playboy slot machine (along with multiple Bunnies), a James Bond-themed welcome party and the Ultimate Chef Showdown judged by Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and Gavin Kaysen’s mentor, Daniel Boulud. I also had an interesting discussion at the MICROS booth (now owned by Oracle). Turns out I’m not the only one who feels the merger has basically destroyed what was once a solid, reliable business partner.
Speaking of food, I had quite a long list of Vegas restaurants I wanted to visit. I was hoping to hit db Brasserie at the Venetian right away, but they were “out of food” by the end of lunch that day. Spots that were open: Hash House A Go Go at the LINQ, Giada at the Cromwell, Bouchon at the Venetian and Yusho at the Monte Carlo. All were wonderful.
Ended up taking a red-eye home, so I had a lot of time to walk around various properties on the last day of the trip. I hiked over to New York, New York to get a glimpse of the new arena being built by MGM and AEG (now called T-Mobile Arena). The new hole in CityCenter where The Harmon used to stand was a bit dramatic. I also stopped in at the Bellagio Gallery of Art and took in the Picasso – Creatures and Creativity exhibition (for free, thanks to MyVegas).
Perhaps this post was best left unwritten, as now I just want to go back again…
Lauren Tewes (aka Julie McCoy from The Love Boat) @ Mystic Lake
Where can you find Terri Traen from KQRS, Officer Frank Poncherello, Miss Illinois and Buck Dharma (and the rest of Blue Öyster Cult) on one stage, for free? Why, that would be the Second Annual Northern Thunder Motorcycle Rally at Mystic Lake, of course. The three day event was held August 21-23 in Prior Lake and also included a free outdoor concert by The Fabulous Thunderbirds on Friday night.
The BÖC show was scheduled to be outdoors too, but was moved inside to the 2100-seat Mystic Showroom when thunderstorms threatened. It was first-come, first-serve for seating and we ended up in the second row. These guys were entertaining when they played the tent at Fortune Bay and didn’t disappoint at Mystic either. The set wasn’t super long, but all of the hits were played, including (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, Godzilla, and Burnin’ for You.
We also learned all about the hook-and-cross symbol, as a few lucky souls got to purchase some really cool shirts with the design (they must have had extremely limited stock, as they were sold out almost right away). There was also a fight in the front row between some older, hard-core fans and a younger couple who thought it would be cool to stand in front on the other group and shoot video on their phone. Canes were used as weapons and the whole group was tossed by security. Good times.
More pics after the jump.