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Smoking Section: Kanye West, Linkin Park at the RS 40th Parties in Las Vegas

It’s VMAs weekend in Las Vegas, but this Saturday was Rolling Stone day. Celebrating our 40th anniversary, we took over the Hard Rock Hotel for a slew of parties and performances that were simply off the hook.

Starting things off yesterday was the inaugural Rolling Stone poker showdown. With over 150 entrants, first prize was more than $20,000, and vying for that big money was an odd cross-section of stars. Rapper Nelly had a solid chip-stack early on, but squandered it by the fifth round. “I wish I could just keep buying in,” Nelly told the Smoking Section in the elevator, afterwards. “Then I’d be here all night.” Elsewhere, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme hung on until the bitter end, and later informed the S.S. of his VMA duties. He will be playing bass on the Violent Femmes classic “Gone Daddy Gone” joined by his bandmate Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar), Dave Grohl (drums) and Gnarls Barkley frontman Cee-Lo. Josh was pleased to be infiltrating the awards ceremony, and might have even scored a short slot on the show with his other band, Eagles of Death Metal, whose bassist, Brian O’Connor, mercilessly knocked the S.S. out of the poker tourney. Also doing well at the tables was pop tart Ryan Cabrera — who, with his greasy hair pulled into a ponytail, his hat, and his white v-neck T-shirt, and his white skin, looked exactly like a Pepsi-era Michael Jackson. Not doing well was svengali dad Joe Simpson, as well as every member of the Swedish trio, Peter, Bjorn and John.

Last night Tom DeLonge’s band Angels and Airwaves put on a hot set at the Hard Rock’s legendary swimming pool. Also under the stars, thousands of Linkin Park fans crammed into the hotel’s outdoor venue to see the band rip through Minutes To Midnight cuts like “What I’ve Done,” “Hands Held High” and, their best song ever, the epic “The Little Things Give You Away,” a stinging epic that the band wrote in response to the nightmare that was Hurricane Katrina.

Rolling Stone’s current cover stars, 50 Cent and Kanye West, had head-to-head sets at the Hard Rock. Out by the pool, 50 rocked a full house, but West hosted a massive blowout at the Joint, the Hard Rock’s 1,400-seater. Kanye attended a slew of parties in his honor yesterday (including a topless pool party), but his joint at the Joint was incomparably insane, with VIP tickets fetching more than two grand a pop. The S.S. kicked back shots of Patron with Aussie sensation Daniel Merriweather, who will sing “Stop Me” (the highlight of Mark Ronson’s album, Version) at the awards ceremony tonight. He told us that Ronson is producing his upcoming album, sure to be a blockbuster. The party raged on until the wee hours.

VMA weekend is turning into a beautiful blur. Tonight we’ll be partying at the Palms Hotel — site of the VMAs — in the Foo Fighters mega-suite. Anything that keeps us away from the money-sucking blackjack tables is fine with us. - By Austin Scaggs


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