My company took us to Las Vegas this year for our annual conference. We stayed at the Encore by Wynn. The vibe was a little different because we’re normally at a resort that is somewhat off the beaten path, and our group tends to take over said resort. Neither of those things was true as we stayed at a massive hotel/casino right on the strip. There were some distractions, but most of us survived the week.
Las Vegas is, perhaps, not the best town to be in when trying to leave one’s vices at home. I’ve eliminated some significant bad habits in my life over the past few years, and those very habits were front-and-center all week. I made it though. It wasn’t always easy, but I made it.
On Tuesday, they bused us all out to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway so we could ride in cars that most of us could never afford to buy. There were Aston Martins, Ferraris and some kind of a Nissan that people seemed to like because it was in The Fast and the Furious. I guess I’m not a car guy, because I wasn’t going nuts over these things like some people were. I was more excited for the challenge of taking some panning shots.
Anyone can take a sharp picture of a race car with a fast enough shutter speed, but then the car might as well be parked. It won’t look like it’s moving. The trick is to slow the shutter speed just a little bit and move the camera with the car. This creates a motion blur with the background that implies movement (it also keeps the wheels spinning). This is not easy to do while keeping the car in focus; you have to move the camera at the exact same speed as the car. I took 110 shots that evening and deleted 850 right away.
There were some jets flying around the whole time we were there, but we didn’t get to ride in those.
Our concert this year was headlined by Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. He was backed up by Matt Sorum, who is most famous as the drummer for Guns-n-Roses, and Mike Flanigin on the Hammond organ. All three really rocked; they are solid performers. Mike did double-duty with bass, playing an actual bass when he wasn’t at his keyboard and using foot pedals for the low end when he was. He’s an understated, low-key guy who wore a windbreaker for the concert. He looked like he should have been standing in the audience with us computer nerds instead of performing a rock concert.
Meanwhile, Billy wore two hats the entire time and even talked about that fact in between songs.
Perhaps you don’t need to, but if you look up Matt Sorum, you can see that he’s had quite a career that is still continuing to evolve. I got to hang out with him a little bit backstage. He’s kind of a strange guy (we’ll say quirky), but he was super friendly. The whole band was totally laid-back and down-to-earth. Really, these are all good guys.
Billy was the headliner though. I have to admit that I didn’t realize just how good he is on the guitar. He’s brilliant! His bluesy-rock style is among the best. He may not jump around very much on stage, but he absolutely kills it with his performance. We didn’t get to hear the cheesy hits like Tush and Legs, but Jesus Just Left Chicago and La Grange were off-the-charts good.
And I got to take the backstage pictures too. The managers had me sitting, by myself, in the VIP room at the Las Vegas Brooklyn Bowl for about 20 minutes before anyone else came in. I ended up being in there for about an hour with Billy and the band.
Without a doubt, Billy Gibbons is the friendliest, most personable performer I’ve ever met (and I’ve done a few of these backstage things). The whole band was great, really. If it wasn’t for the managers rushing everyone in the VIP room, we’d probably still be there talking to the band.
This is the kind of debauchery that goes on in the VIP room with the front man from ZZ Top and the drummer from Guns-n-Roses.