Off of the main highway and down a dark two lane road is a small sliver of a sign for the Kutsher’s Country Club. I drive past it. I make a U-turn. I make a right. The Envoy’s temperature gauge reads 67 degrees. Shit. I am wearing long shorts and a wimpy sweater. This is one of the downsides of spontaneity: unpreparedness and in this case, discomfort. I am surprised that there are no other cars on this road the size of a large residential driveway. Trees envelope the vista, eventually opening up to reveal the venue, a relic from the 1960s corporate retreat circuit.
It is hard to tell from the outside what awaits us for the next 5 hours. The facade brings to mind Dirty Dancing and summering with the family, swatting mosquitos off of bare arms and barbquing with seasonal friends. We drive past the glowing building and into production parking, which will be our start off point for sneaking into the venue which we quickly discover is actually held inside of Kutsher’s and not outdoors. This seems strange to me, as I have become used to the arid outdoorsiness of Coachella but am all too thankful nonetheless.
The path is as dark walking as the road was driving. A stagnant body of water that seems too small to be a lake but too large to be a pond reflects light from the windows of the Country Club. Bodies move in the distance. The bass line of otherwise indecipherable music thuds out from somewhere within the massive building. I feel like I am ten years old again.
Large glass doors open and close and kids come in and out freely, most carrying a cup of brown noodles or some other form of concert food. It takes me awhile to realize how strange the place is. And when I say strange, I mean disgusting. Over the course of the next few hours, the obvious rot of the place will become ever the more apparent.
At first glance, however, it just strikes me as an odd place to host a concert for 2000 people. It is one part casino, one part airport terminal, one part summer camp. Hallways wind around for what seems like an eternity, leading us to various lobbies, a bar or two, a heavily chlorinated swimming pool, and what have been described as terrifyingly filthy bathrooms. I do not know when this was an operating hotel. It is unclear when the carpets were ever clean, the sofas untorn, the ceilings unmarred by water damage. The building brings to memory my ex-stepdad’s fifteen year old golden retriever, Mel, during its last few months. The poor thing dragged it’s hindlegs behind useless, arthritic hips. It’s skin was covered in sores, continence was no longer an issue, and hey layed all day next to the TV because the vibrations from the lower speakers were the only way in which he was able to register sound. Mom would speak for the dog, woofing, “PutMEtoSLEEP! PUTmetoSLeep!” Ex-stepdad didn’t think this was very funny.
Like Mel, the Kutshers Country Club has an owner that just won’t give up the ghost. There is someone on this planet that looks at this disintegrating piece of shit and wistfully thinks, “Wow, I remember the good old days…” Despite the fact that some of the tour goers are actually sleeping in this place (shudder), the Country Club is not a Country Cash Cow by any stretch of the imagination. If they were netting a profit of any sorts they could at least hire a dump truck to haul out the broken furniture or plug up some of the bigger holes in the walls. And if these owners were someone even existing in this plane of reality, they would find it in their hearts to research a more appropriate name, perhaps one less outrageously ironic.
Our group mills through the halls looking for the first ballroom, which turns out to be a low ceilinged, floral-pattern rugged, plastic stalagtyte chandeliered fiasco of a place. A band is on already. The acoustics in the room are muffled. The crowd doesn’t move. The stagnation is similar to what’s festing in the “lake” outside. This is weird. There are maybe 115 people in a space that fits nine times that for the bar mitzvahs that probably went down here in 1979. In high school I used to go to a spot called the Cobalt Room next to an Italian sandwich shop and watch my friends bang around on their guitars, dreaming about when one of them would actually think I was attractive. I’d sit on the soda soaked carpet and sway to the music coming out of a crap PA system. Tonight is kind of like that. But this time around I am too consumed with germs and other contagions to even care what I look like.
The first band plays a song I recognize and I look over at Danny’s sister and yell, “Oh my God! I know these guys! I love them!” The song ends and is subsequently followed by a steady stream of garbage and then I remember that I only have one of their songs, the only good one that they played. I want to yell over at her again, denouncing my now ownership of this band and resurrecting myself as one with exemplar taste but I refrain. The damage has been done.
Hunger nips at us simultaneously and we head for the outdoors once more. The cafeteria is a large wooden lean-to that would be more appropriately decorated with sawdust on the floor and a mechanical bull in the center. I survey my options: pizza, falafel, asian noodles, old cake. I forfeit $8 of hard earned money for a chicken pita with white sauce that I suppose is meant to taste like tzatziki sauce. Danny describes his falafel pita as the most undercooked ball of chickpea mush he’s ever tasted, and not in a good way. His sauce is brown and we are confused as to what it is supposed to be.
No one gets sick and Danny and Matt and I walk back towards the innards of Hell. I pull down my striped sweater like I did the time before, hold a half eaten plate of food in one hand and my blackberry in the other. This is supposed to be an “I look like I belong here” diversion for the security guards who are supposed to be looking for yellow wristbands. The first attempt went badly for 2 out of the 7 of us: a security guard chased down Mike and Sarah and I ducked through the crowd like a first class self-preservational pussy, a strategy that was quite successful. The con works again and I walk towards the new band, a Japanese psych rock group.
They are on stage doing sound check when Danny and I realize that ear plugs might be a sensible choice for this act, whose audio is already grating against my eardrums allowing me to assume that long term damage is looming. For just one dollar I am ensuring that I might be able to hear my grandchildren ask me what being born in the 80s was like. I lodge the orange foam into my ears and feel it expand, sluggishly drowning out most everything except the sound of my own voice, which insists on echoing around in my skull. This is punishment for my incessant need to chatter.
Whatever psych rock is, it’s grinding against my earplugs and through synthetic materials deep into my sense of what is right and wrong in this world and it is decided that a 12 minute song consisting solely of reverb and feedback is not in my repertoire of the former. A man who looks like John Lennon in a pink and purple button up shirt offers us “special brownies.” We decline. Danny contemplates entrapment and pot busts. I sit on the floor, unwilling to support this band enough to stand. I am saved by three other friends who feel the same way.
Matt states that he is heading up to the “Executive Card Room” with the Executive Wrist Band he finagled from Danny’s hookup. I volunteer to follow him to what turns out to be just another crappy, if not crappier, wing of Kutsher’s. Despite the overzealous use of kindergarten room violet paint and emerald carpet, the hallways on this side look decidedly “REDRUM” and I imagine crows flying overhead, pecking their way through half demolished walls and removing my eyeballs. Still, the “Executives” seem to be quite possessive over their territory and stare at us Non-Execs who dared to follow the 8×11 signs leading us this way.
The rest of the night slowly hurls towards the main event, the reason we came here…The Flaming Lips. The previous four hours have leaved me a little befuddled. I am more than happy to see them perform in what is essentially a banquet hall for old people, but what would they want to perform there? Do they have bad self-esteem? A bad tour manager?
Midnight comes upon us. I am led down yet another hallway, accompanied by throngs of boys and girls. The hallway ends at a set of swinging doors. And when they swing open I see a blinding half moon of neon blue lights shining down on orchestra seating and hundreds of heads. This room and this room alone is the only reason why Kutsher’s Country Club exists. It is like the Coca Cabana in the Catskills. It’s so out-of-place that it doesn’t seem real. The band tests their instruments, girls dressed as sexy sherpas flank the stage, and they’re off. Giant balloons appear from no where, confetti sprays into the air, sherpas dance, music plays, we bounce up and down, the same three people crowd surf in front, and then…it’s over.
We walk into the night. The stars glare above us and I am convinced I can see the Milky Way. The crew piles into the car for the two hour ride back. By 4:30 in the morning, just twelve hours after the inception of this harebrained idea, we are back in the city, back at another Avis, armed with the hope that days like this will be remembered forever and that work that morning won’t kill any of us.
All in the name of a Party.