She almost never gives interviews, especially to a wild-eyed punk in a Pig Destroyer t-shirt on LSD.
A few weeks ago, a PR rep at Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino asked me to drive a few hours into Eastern Connecticut to interview Lauryn Hill. Now I like L-Boogie as much as the next guy. She’s known to not like white people all that much, Sister Act II has a great post-colon tagline (“Back In The Habit”), and The Miseducation Of… would have been perfect if it weren’t for the clips of kids learning between tracks. It seemed like as good a time as any to take a bunch of acid.
The guy pictured above is my friend “John” (not his real name). I wanted to go with him because in real life his last name is Hill, and he’s a magnet for thuggish behavior. He’s a crazy ex-Mormon that’s been mugged four or five times in the past few months. One of those times he was hacked in the head with a machete. Those two brown squares on his mouth are tabs of lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as acid.
We arrived at the casino around 6 PM. With more than 10,000 employees, Mohegan Sun is the second-largest casino in the states. It’s located on a reservation, and according to the brochure, it’s “inspired by the spirits of the four winds.” It’s home to three casinos (Earth, Sky, and Wind), the world’s largest indoor planetarium, and a 10,000-seat arena that regularly showcases “top bands and entertainers like MC Hammer, Gin Blossoms, and Max Weinberg Big Band.” Most importantly, “at any one of Mohegan Sun’s many bars, clubs, and lounges, any night of the week can turn into a party.” It’s basically a gaudy, capitalist isolation chamber, perfect for a horrible, gut-wrenchingly bad trip.
Before the show started we strolled through the lobby, getting the lay of the land, waiting for the acid to kick in. That squiggly monstrosity is a 10,000-pound glass sculpture that slowly changes color, like Olafur Elliasson on a Jersey Shore commission. John couldn’t wait to see it later. The ground floor of the casino is basically a giant mall, and John was getting giggly. “I’m seeing light trails, and little spots,” he said. We were mesmerized by the trashiness of the whole scene, and I tried to start up a misguided conversation about the consumerist hellscape we were privy to. “There are hot girls here, dude,” John said meditatively. “Boobs all over the place.”
About ten minutes later the acid hit him quick, and he plopped down next to this noble bear near the Hall Of The Lost Tribes. He jammed a pack of gum into my hands, nervously saying “I don’t want this stuff on me. I’m gonna say right now, don’t lose me dude.”
John lost his shit completely when he saw this three-story painting. Look at his hand in the universal “metal is fucking awesome” pose. After this he started complaining about the number of “adults” in the lobby, and also the number of handicapped people, although he did reflectively admit “it wouldn’t be so bad--you get to sit in a wheelchair all day,” adding that by this point he had achieved “supersonic hearing.” It was almost time to pick up the tickets, but John started moaning “sweaty… sweaty,” like a zombie. We went back up to the hotel room and he tore off his shoes. He was wearing thick wool socks, and had to pull them off.
By this point we were really excited to interview Lauryn Hill but first we wanted to check out the Casino Of The Sky, which is nestled beneath a glowing crystal mountain and that enormous indoor planetarium that supposedly breaks world records. John was completely gone by this point, staring up at the cheesy “sky” and pointing up at stars. He started shouting “What the fuck!” like he was on salvia. “Is that the star of Christ? That’s where Jesus was born!” He took that last picture to see if he could capture the star of Christ.
We picked up our tickets and grabbed a seat in the stadium. Right after I took this pic, John told me to “cool it with that flash—the light is stuck in my brain now.” He started going on and on about how much he fucking loves Lauryn Hill, how “the Fugees are for everyone,” but it was hard to hear him over the thumping bass of the hour-long pre-show, some laptop DJ spinning 90s hip-hop. The crowd around us was drunk and rowdy, making out and singing along to megahits by Bel Biv Devoe and Shai. John kept talking about how “diverse” the crowd was, but it was basically just a bunch of middle-aged black women. Lauryn Hill was about an hour late, but finally she took the stage to a giant applause.
This is John immediately when Lauryn Hill took the stage. He was totally freaking out at this point, grabbing his face, shaking his head and laughing. Lauryn introduced the first song, and launched into a set of full-on, unadulterated, pants-shitting garbage.
If you need proof of how shitty the show was, here’s John halfway through her second song, totally bummin’. “Man,” he sighed, “this is really, really fucking me up.” It sounded like a jumbled train-wreck—her backing band sounded like they were all playing different songs. If you need proof, here’s a video of “Zion” from the evening:
We left after about five songs, pissed off. John and I made a strong attempt to get in touch with Lauryn Hill’s management team, trying to lock down the interview, but even though we’d driven up to Connecticut and were now lodged on the 30th floor of a gigantic casino, we couldn’t get through Lauryn’s shield of privacy. She almost never gives interviews, especially to a wild-eyed punk in a Pig Destroyer t-shirt. We ended up heading to try some shopping and gambling.
Our first stop was some shitty toy store. John grabbed a hold of this ugly chef character and lost his mind, screaming about how he needed to buy it for his niece before dumping it on the ground and moving on.
John tried to play the slots but neither of us had any idea how to use them and we both lost about $15 dollars before walking away in disgust, so we headed back to the room to try and order some grilled cheeses. At this point I was getting really sick of John’s crazed ramblings, so when I heard him ordering room service from the phone in the toilet, I thought it’d be a perfect photo opportunity.
By this point, John was so exhausted that he passed out wedged up against the wall under the window. We didn’t get the interview and the trip was a total waste of time, but we did learn that Lauryn Hill just is not good live, and that casinos are for idiot baby losers.
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