Las Vegas is a mirage and a mind fuck. The casinos are dark. There are no clocks. There is no intimacy (unless you’re willing to pay for it). No matter how deep your pockets may be (unless they’re really, really deep), you feel like a lot like Jeremy Lin in the New York Knicks’ showers.
As you saunter through the casinos, the tinkle of slot machines clutters your ears and fluorescent lights blur your vision. When you’re not sitting at a card table in Vegas, the world is moving fast. Which is in very strong contrast to the typical, slow moving pot smoker.
The chilled out stoner vibe does not really equate with the fast-paced, almost meth-induced feeling that Vegas emits. Sin City may be the world’s capital for late night shenanigans, sexual deviancy, and EDM (Electronic Dance Music), but the city is most definitely not synonymous with cannabis. Case in point: in the past year, celebrities such as Bruno Mars and Coolio (yup, Coolio) have even been busted with pot near the strip. Medical marijuana dispensaries do not exist (well, aren’t supposed to exist) and cannabis is just as (if not more) illegal than hookers.
But, for three days, the city acted as an oasis for a sector of the marijuana industry. From March 26th-March 28th, a small pocket within the clusterfuck of a city was transformed into a stoner’s wet dream that was: The Big Industry Show. The ironic part? You couldn’t even smoke in the Bally’s conference center transformed into a glass menagerie.
If you’re a glass blower or wholesaler, The Big Show and the AGE (American Glass Expo) are can’t miss events. The Big Show, run in part by Formula 420 is the premier industry show for glass wholesalers and retailers. Anyone can enter The Big Show, as long as they have proper credentials or have purchased a ticket.
The American Glass Expo is a more intimate and exclusive event to which only sellers and buyers are allowed. Whereas there are “chain” glass makers and duplicate pieces at The Big Show, the glass on display at the AGE is all of extremely high quality–and mostly unaffordable for stoners not named Richard Branson or Snoop Dogg.
In both arenas, bongs (and other glasswork) in all shapes, sizes, colors and forms are presented. Startups display their products and try to convince customers and potential clients why they are sitting on a future gold mine. They try to explain what sets their product apart, or above and beyond, to their potential customers or partners. Aside from glass, products ran the gambit, ranging from herbal energy powders (yeah, no thanks) to “Swag Phones” (Lougle it).
All told, the one brand that stood out was PURE Glass. Their section, smack dab in the middle of the show, was the place to be. At first glance, I nearly mistaked their booth as a Hooters (sadly Dick Vitale wasn’t on hand). But instead of wings, they were hawking glass, “Swag Phones”, and other cutting edge products. The PURE (in association with Crooks & Castles) had over a dozen chicks scantily clad handing out lighters and posters and other free trinkets throughout the show. They also had by far the most glass at the event. If you went to The Big Show, you came away from it remembering PURE.
That’s not to take anything away from the myriad of independent, smaller sale glass wholesalers that were on hand. There were a ton of brands and products that stood out throughout the day. One of those products was the Vapor Blunt, a larger version of the popular G Pen. While I couldn’t tell you if they actually work well (no smoking allowed at The Big Show), the flavored vaporizers are certainly a novel idea. And even though a bit gimmicky and phallic-looking, I expect you’ll see more of these items in the near future.
At a certain point, all of the glass starts at The Big Show does start look the same–until you enter the Galleria, which was, on all accounts, the star.
Lost in the fray and somewhat in awe of all the glass before me, I didn’t even stumble upon the crowded Galleria until day two of the event. But when I did, I was in awe. If the Louvre had a section for functional glass art (get on it, Parisiens), I imagine it’d be something like the Galleria.
Every single artist whose work was on display in the Galleria was absolutely mind-bending. The creativity and intricacies within the “Bongs” were unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. And really, calling these pieces bongs does them a disservice.
“Functional Art” is the proper term that the artists use to describe their work. And art it is. If you wanted a bong that looked like Scooby Doo, odds are one of the artists on hand could sculpt it for you.
Some of the notable, wonky designs on hand included a Samurai Sword, a Bazooka Gun, Star Wars themed bongs and accessories, a glass Pterodactyl, and much, much more.
These are a few of the artists that really stood out to me in the Galleria and these were their signature works.
Salt: I don’t know if Salt was a fan of Ah! Real Monsters growing up or what, but that’s the immediate vibe these pieces gave me.
Dellene: Believe it or not, there is a female glass blower in the seemingly masochistic field. As you would expect, her works are quite eloquent. And breathtaking. Her Dabergene eggs (among, of course, some glass high heels) were a sight to behold.
Zach P: The artist describes his work as “walking that fine line between making art and culture and being a criminal.” Couldn’t say it any better myself.
Adam G: The Denver based glass blower brought out his big guns to Vegas (literally). I spoke with him for awhile, and the big takeaway was this: some of this glass takes days, if not weeks, to create. And a lot of it is improvised on the spot.
This was the coolest thing I saw at the AGE. Straight out of Ace Ventura Pet Detective: When Nature Calls
Darby: See: Would You Pay $30,000 for this Bong?
Medicating in Vegas, as you’d imagine, is not a problem. You just have to be a little wise about it. Thankfully, our room at the Bellagio (as many of them are) was a smoking room. With a little Kush on and in our minds, all of the art on display shined that much brighter.
When you exit The Big Show and walk through the casino, you feel high, yes. But you also feel a bit more sophisticated than the “average” person, throwing their money down the toilet. When you see decrepit faces routinely pulling down a lever with false hopes in their eyes, you don’t feel like the scum of the earth pot head you’re often told you are. You feel, in fact, quite clean. You weren’t doing drugs–you were viewing art!
While a member of my party was fortunate to win a jackpost on the penny slots (that equates to around $2,500), the most excitement I found in Vegas was at Sapphire, aka “the world’s largest men’s club.”
I don’t like strip clubs. In fact, I hate them. But their silicone force reels me in. Particularly at 3 in the morning after a round of libations when a friend is offering to pay for the “entertainment.”
Before we entered, I got a little pat down from the security guard. He felt the (legal) canister of cannabis on my person and asked what it was. I responded accordingly:
“Oh that? Just a little weed man. No biggie.”
“You can’t bring that in here.”
I handed him over the Kush, and he promptly tossed it in the garbage, to which I looked at him, shrugged, and accordingly stated:
“You should’ve kept that for yourself. That was some good shit my man.”
He laughed. I walked in, wondering how the hell what I was about to do was more legal than carrying a plant in my pocket.
The subsequent four hours were like any four hours you spend with a stripper: blue in the balls.
On the last day, after we departed The Big Show, I found myself gazing upon the strip from the escalator adjoining Bally’s to the Bellagio.
I turned to one of my colleagues and remarked, “Man, I can only imagine coming here 20 years ago, without a cell phone, and without technology everywhere. With actual privacy. Without the Internet.”
My boss, who’s old enough to remember such a time, responded “Yeah, when you came to Vegas, you were OUT. You were off the grid. And you had zero concerns in the world other than what was right in front of you. Which was the same as today: money and strippers.”
For better or worse, that’s not the case anymore. Whether you’re a street performer lathered with white paint blasting dubstep (yes, this is a thing) or a hooker spinning tricks at 5 AM in front of Caesar’s, the possibility that your actions will be documented exists.
An odyssey in Vegas is not an escape from TMZ. Yes, it’s an escape from reality. But it’s not a complete escape in the sense that it once was. When you entered the Bally’s conference center, you departed Vegas for a moment–you could be in LA, Denver, Amsterdam, or any other mecca for stoners. You were in an alternate reality where everyone in the room was passionate about something other than blowing their (figurative) load in Vegas.
Like the city it was displayed in, Functional Glass making seems (I’m no expert) like it’s continually evolving into a very true craft. Vegas was once a desert. Now, it’s a (mile long) city filled with arguably the best nightlife in the world. That shows absolutely no sign of slowing down or evolving anytime soon.
Ten years ago, I thought a fancy bong was a six percolated ROOR. Now? Percs are the standard and inline worked pieces with coils have become almost commonplace. What was on display at The Big Show cannot really be called “pieces” or “bongs” anymore. I’ll reiterate: it’s real art.
So while they may make for an incongruent match, Vegas and The Big Show are, in an odd way, sort of the perfect storm.
Conclusion: If you’re into weed and art, The Big Industry show is well-worth attending. Just don’t bring your stash into a strip club at 3 in the morning.
To see a full gallery of the glass from The Big Show, click here.
To see more info on The Big Show click here.
To see more info on the Galleria click here.
To see more info on the AGE (there is another one in August) click here.