The End of an Era: Hard Rock Hotel Vegas 1995-2020
It’s a bitter sweet feeling seeing the Facebook notification that the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas changed its name to Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. While the venue pages for Vinyl and The Joint still currently remain the same, its only a matter of time before we see changes there too. It is the end of the era, a door closing on a great hotel with so much music history plastered around its halls making any time i spent there a value add experience.
The Hard Rock Hotel will always hold a special place in my heart for many reasons, the main one being that it was first concert I ever saw in Vegas back in 2002 (2 years before I moved here). It was my first trip to Vegas and I was with my friends from New York. I saw that Poison was playing with Cinderella and Winger (no judgement) at the Joint. No one wanted to go so I rolled solo and as you will see, I’ve made concerts one of main priorities of my life.
I’ve seen tons of shows throughout the years at all the venues throughout the hotel (The Joint, Vinyl, Pool, Parking lot) and tons of memorable ones from the first Psycho Fest to my first Warped Tour (2017, the only good one for us metal-heads) and everything in between. The great thing about seeing shows here is it had different venues of different sizes so a whole range of bands would play here from big ones to small ones. The pool stage was a great setup with wonderful scenery, Vinyl was an intimate space with a capacity of 650, and the infamous Joint was the big venue which started off as a 2,000 capacity venue and doubled in size when they built the new one in 2009.
I’ve had some real notable shows and show memories from this place. It was the first and only time seeing Soundgarden, the first time seeing Alice in Chains, and seeing the first show from Twisted Sister (Metal Meltdown show w/ Extreme, Skid Row, Great White) after the passing of their drummer with the legendary Mike Portnoy filling in on drums. I even got to talk to him for a sec. Another great memory was after the Megadeth/Amon Amarth/Suicidal Tendencies/Metal Church show getting to talk to and take pics with a few of the Amon guys, Brian Slagel from Metal Blade Records and Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Grip Inc, Suicidal Tendencies, many others).
Another celebrity I could almost always count on being there was Vinny Paul (rip). It seemed like 9 out of 10 times I was there for any reason he was there at the tables. He was always cool and we made a joke out of it that every time we went to Hard Rock we’d assume he was there. I’ve stayed there a couple times and always had a good drunken late night meal at Mr. Luckys (7.77 steak and shrimp meal was legendary!). One of my favorite spots there was the “secret library” which was a hidden area in the new tower that had books (obviously) and couches and was cool little hang out spot.
Although I didn’t make it to the closing weekend, which was Jan.30-Feb.2, I did get there to check out the memorabilia exhibit they set up just for the end of the hotel and got to eat at Pink Taco one last time, which was another one of my favorite places to grub. Me being a music guy I am bummed that the Hard Rock will be no more as I loved the memorabilia scattered throughout the place even though I’m sure it’ll be pretty damn nice once it transitions over to the Virgin Hotel. My only hope is that at least the Joint stays and it keeps its iconic name. I guess we will find out later in 2020 what the future holds for this place.
I’ve added all my stubs at the various venues at Hard Rock from over the years and a slide show of any pics I’ve taken from there. Update: since this article was written in February it was announced May 14 that Hard Rock International announced that it has bought back the intellectual property rights for a hotel and casino in Las Vegas, opening the door for the brand to buy or build a new property in the city. Even though there have been rumors of Virgin backing out, an interview conducted April 13 with Virgin CEO said everything is still on track to open in the fall as Virgin despite COVID-19 related setbacks.