BikeFest returned to Sin City for its 13th edition, gaining attendance, adding vendors and featuring headliner bands for the first time in its history. An estimated 40,000 enthusiasts rolled in from surrounding states and points unknown, covered in desert dust and thirsting for a good time. The event delivered, with a little help from nearby vice and persuasion.
In previous years, the event sent attendees down Las Vegas Boulevard for their amusements, offering only local live music under a makeshift tent. BikeFest has taken a step toward major rally status by inviting the likes of Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult and rising country star, Joe Nichols, to perform on a new main stage.
Las Vegas seems to have throttled back to its grown-up, randy roots after a largely failed attempt at being a family destination. This comes as a relief, as the town is at least trying to live up to its long running “What Happens …” tagline. Sin City is more biker-welcome than ever since daycare centers, kid clubs and Disney movie marathons have been replaced by an adult ride. Also gone are the annoying gauntlets of strip club and limo service card passers who clogged the Strip, pressing glossy, R-rated ads into your hand.
The rally met with unseasonably cool temperatures and blustery winds, which made early morning riding brisk and late evening shenanigans and concert-going chilly, but provided almost ideal conditions for vendor crawls. Only in Vegas would vendor booths include scantily clad representatives of the Chicken Ranch, Nevada’s best known home to legalized companionship, as well as well as Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, and the Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, generally regarded as the town’s best strip joint. It is, after all, Vegas.
In contrast, the Sin City Art Gallery was a surprise and welcome addition, featuring avant-garde artists at work. There was also the usual shuffle of biker parts, accessories and apparel, dominated by the standard T-shirts and leatherwear, menacing jewelry, assorted sunglasses, and ambulance chasers who promise to be on your side for a healthy fee. Interesting exceptions included LeatherPatch.com, a new company offering artsy alternatives to the regular fabric patch, and Inferno Art Studio, which offers edgy, mixed media work on canvas.
Attractions at the Vendor Village included the Miss BikeFest contest. In a town with a strip club on every corner, countless showgirls, burlesque performers and otherwise adult entertainers, it seems unfathomable that only four women would show up to compete for the $1,000 first prize. Other events included the Mr. BikeFest competition, Bikini Bike Wash, Artistry in Iron Master Builder’s Championship, Poker Walk, $10,000 Poker Run, Biker Bingo, Baddest Bagger contest, Custom Bike Show, World’s Strongest Biker competition, Tattoo Contest, the Golden Nugget Hotel Motorcycle Giveaway, a wet T-shirt contest, of course, and some expression of true American slobbery called Hog Out, where contestants ate as much pork as possible in two minutes. And people wonder how we became the fattest nation in history.
BikeFest ticket pricing felt like an exotic sports book. Admission to the Vendor Village at Cashman Center is included if registered for a Party or Ultimate Pass. This started at $35 pp and included a daily pass. If you didn’t register, prices went like this: Thursday: $15 and two-for-one admission for locals with ID ; Friday, $15 before 5:00 p.m. $30 after; Saturday, $15 before 5:00 p.m. $30 after 5:00. Children 12 entered free, and Sunday was free for everybody, I think. I boxed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, skipped Sunday, and laid 10 bucks down on the trifecta. No official word yet on next year’s program.
It seemed wrong and negligent to go to a motorcycle rally in Sin City and not sample some of the sin. In the pursuit of good journalism, we took in some typical Vegas fare. X-Burlesque at the Flamingo Hotel is a nonstop ejaculation of throbbing song and sensual dance performed by a bevy of saucy, nearly naked beauties to a packed house of mostly couples. The Travel Channel dubbed it “The sexiest show in Vegas.” That may be arguable if you compare it to more schmaltzy and ubiquitous Cirque du Soleil productions, but it doesn’t disappoint. Same goes for X-Rocks at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. A smaller but more hard-driving show, it offers less subtlety, pounding music and writhing pulchritude in a high-energy performance.
Las Vegas BikeFest will reconvene at the city’s Cashman Center Oct. 2-5, 2014. For more information, contact Las Vegas BikeFest, 866-245-3337; www.LasVegasBikeFest.com; email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority website: http://www.visitlasvegas.com/vegas/index.jsp