The flight from LAX was uneventful, being only about 45 minutes, give or take. I was, as I always seem to be, on my way to yet another convention, prepared to sit in the back of the room through endless panels, writing dry descriptions and verbatim quotes for the web and complaints and jokes for the social media audience. It is, as much as I don’t want to think about it, what I do for a living. There are worse fates.
But the flight was filled with people heading to Las Vegas for purposes other than business. There were bros wearing sunglasses on the dimly-lit aircraft (it was a Virgin America flight, which by definition means dim lighting and ambient chill music and various shades of pink and red and purple. I will miss that when Alaska Airlines takes over and bleaches it all out), families with screaming children, tourists speaking several different languages, and a couple eating foul-smelling sandwiches across the aisle from me. It was more bus than aircraft. But it was a short bus ride.
On the shuttle to the rental car center, a family from Illinois near St. Louis but originally from Chicago was clustered by the driver. I knew where they were from because a) the father, propping their baby up on his shoulder, proclaimed as such, loudly, to the driver, and b) dad was wearing a Jimmy Butler jersey, unfortunate since dad also sported a beer belly and the jersey, worn sans undershirt, didn’t stand a chance. Butler’s 21 looked more like 2 1, with a pasty expanse of skin peeking out from the bottom. The driver and dad were discussing football, and by that I mean that football teams and terms came up, but this was not by any means an informed discussion. Someone said that Brock Osweiler had signed with Tennessee, and that Tennessee was going to be tough with him and that guy from Philly, by which I assume they meant DeMarco Murray, and by which I also assume that they didn’t see Murray play last season. Osweiler, having been misplaced, also somehow became misidentified, compared to Wes Welker, which in retrospect wasn’t totally off since both are white and played for Denver. It was like bizarro world sports radio. I’ve heard worse.
For a Saturday night, Vegas seems fairly empty. McCarran was quiet, the car rental was quick, traffic from there to the Venetian was practically nonexistent, and the casino buzz was mostly from pockets of revelers here for bachelor and bachelorette parties, young people in modified formal wear and brightly colored hair — pink and purple were popular — while the guests of honor all seemed to be wearing “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” sashes. That’s a thing now, I guess. Maximum embarrassment is the goal, and sashes are step one. But there were fewer people than I’m used to seeing here in front of whom to be embarrassed — walking around in wacky attire and a sash is less mortifying if there’s no audience, and there weren’t that many people hovering, though when I checked in (practically no line — the clerk apologized for making me wait, and I informed her that I was waiting for all of perhaps two minutes), I was told that two of the hotel’s tall towers were sold out and only the wing I was in had any vacancies. Someone’s here, I just didn’t see them.
But I imagine that by the time the NAB Show, the convention for which I’m here, gets underway in full on Monday, there’ll be the usual convention mobs. The NAB Show isn’t on the level of CES, but it’s big, and it’s survived by pivoting from being primarily a broadcast TV convention with some radio involved to going all-in on online video, movie making, and other new media things that aren’t necessarily about broadcasting, which is relegated to management and engineering tracks and a couple of luncheons. And it’s worked; the new media stuff has created buzz where there’d been none just a few years ago.
Needless to say, I won’t get to be where the buzz is. I’ll be covering the radio-related stuff. And radio-related stuff tends to involve the desperate quest to get FM chips and the NextRadio app onto every cell phone, plus the obligatory and desolate HD Radio booth and a series of panels of increasing mind-numbing boredom. But there’s also the RAIN Summit, which takes place on Sunday and is all about digital audio like podcasting and streaming, although it’s also a day for me to sit in the back and think, hey, I’m more of an expert on this stuff than these guys are. But I always think that. And there ARE conventions where I get to prove that, like at the panel the other day at the Worldwide Radio Summit and one at the upcoming Conclave. This isn’t those, unfortunately.
So, I’m here. On a Saturday night. Alone. In my hotel room. No time for fun; I have to be up early tomorrow. I have conventioneering to do….