Alligator at The Tropicana- Atlantic City, NJ

Alligator at the Tropicana

I meet a group of friends on the first Saturday of the month in south Jersey right near the Atlantic City airport. This month they wanted to meet an hour earlier which was fine for me as I was heading to Philly afterward to see a friend for the night and Sunday morning. While en-route, I learn tonight won’t work well for Philly but morning will still be ok.

“Great you’re here, catch up quick because we’re leaving soon.” A strange welcome but apparently I’m the one who forgot about the show tonight. The Dead cover band Alligator was playing at the Tropicana in Atlantic City for free. It was only a 2-hour show so we all wanted to make it there on time.

Atlantic City is a shell of a town. The last scene of Boardwalk Empire should have been a slow dissolve to its modern state. The Tropicana is one of the few hotels still around. The others are still standing but are empty and probably worth more in scrap than in real estate. Once inside, the Trop is like any other casino. No windows, no clocks, confusing pathways, bluehair tourists, over-priced stores of useless products, and gaggles of bridesmaids dodging stacks of bros.

The show was in what typically would serve as a meeting room for a convention. They had built a stage and brought in two bars. We were given mardi-gras beads with a guitar pendant on it and ushered in passed security (no pat-down or metal detectors) to the box of a room made of movable walls. Lights projected dead-esque images on the wall. A jolly roger, some roses, a random skeleton, a sea turtle (not a terrapin), a cowboy, and a bridge that looked a lot more like the Verazzano than the Golden Gate. Two sets of chairs sat in rows of 10 and formed a V in front of the stage. Oddly, they were mostly full. Some people looked like fans and others looked like they were there because it was free.

There was no chance we were going to sit. More than fans and dancers, we became social content for people in the chairs. We danced into their text conversations, Instagram feeds, and facebook posts. I can only imagine the comments about us. Here’s a video of them watching us:


Throwing Stones brought more people to the dance floor. By the end of the show, the floor was packed. The setlist was dynamic and included some songs I rarely hear from cover bands including Mountains of the Moon. We joked about the pop nature of the rest of the setlist. Lots of songs featured on Skeletons in the Closet and a Touch of Grey encore solidified that sentiment.

They playing was solid, the sound was better than the Sweetwater 420 festival I saw last month, and ending at 10 left us time for a local bite. Free shows are always great. Even if it’s not a miracle show, there is still some added excitement. A free surprise show is an extra bonus. But nothing beats a free, surprise show surrounded by new and old friends dancing to tunes you love as social media fodder for old casino goers.


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