The word "nuclear" has powerful meaning. From the Cold War days when atomic weapons threatened the annihilation of our planet, to creating energy in power plants at places like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, to the time when President George W. Bush mispronounced the word. Then you have the word "cowboy." Cowboy evokes the image of reckless, rowdy Hollywood heroes like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Want to make it more extreme? Throw proper spelling and grammar to the wind and add a "z" on the end. Combine the title with pyrotechnics, an arena from the mid 70's and some motorcycles - what do you get? "The Nuclear Cowboyz."
I'm no moto-cross fan. I have no idea how to ride a motorcycle and had seen this "Nuclear Cowboyz" thing advertised on t.v. It didn't really interest me until the local blogging legend known as 5chw4r7z offered me a ticket to go with him. He had a good point, it would be a challenge to photograph and could be fun to watch.
The challenge would be two-fold: 1) Awful lighting and having to shoot at a really high ISO. 2) US Bank Arena doesn't permit "professional" cameras with detachable lenses (and for good reason to! Not like anyone can take video with a cell phone these days). So you gotta get the DSLR in, then you have to try and make some decent photographs with it. Getting it in was fine, no one hassled me or noticed the lens tucked under my coat. Decent photographs? Not as easy as crossing the arena border with a contraband camera. So with that in mind, please understand that these are not the best photographs in the world.
Anyways, I was looking forward to hanging out with 5chw4r7z again and to see what this event had in store for us. I cleaned up my desk at work, grabbed my camera and hopped in the car. Something was going on at the convention center and nearby on street parking was sparse. I sucked it up and offered the iPod listening parking attendant $10 in exchange to house my car in one of the city's many 1960's era garages.
I met 5chw4r7z on the street and he showed me the new lensbaby he got for his camera. Bob is not only a good guy, but he's a good photographer. If you don't read his blog, you need to check it out. He's got a great eye and posts some cool stuff.
We made our way to the Riverfront Coliseum/The Crown/Firstar Center/US Bank Arena, passing the old coliseum guide signs.
If you haven't been to the arena in awhile, its gotten some improvements. While it would be considered "antiquated" by "modern" arena standards, it can still host the Chili Peppers - one of the greatest bands of all time.
The scoreboard has been fixed, no more rear projection. They installed some LED Ribbon boards and painted the walls. The bathrooms are still incredibly disgusting, but at least there's some cross advertising with businesses at The Banks:
- Johnny Rockets at The Banks apparently offers BFFR, SPTRTTS and F00D.
The biggest improvement to the aging arena though: HUDEPOHL AMBER LAGER on TAP! One of the greatest local beers was a nice surprise to find... too bad I didn't see it until after I paid $6.50 for a PBR. Beers and cameras in hand, we waited for the show to start.
I didn't know what to expect. I assumed it was some kind of moto-cross competition. In a way it was, but there was an elaborate storyline that begins with dancing girls who we'll call the "Nuclear Stripperz."
The girls dance and two different teams of motorcycle riders come out. A narrator explains that "the great war has come and gone" and apparently during the night when it's too dark for humanity to re-build the cities - two motorcycle gangs race in some kind of futuristic version of the musical "Grease."
Pyrotechnics explode and some awful dub-step music plays insanely loud while these guys jump over things on their motorcycles. It's extremely impressive when these guys jump. What they do is insane.
So while these two motorcycle gangs duke it out, a third party comes in and screws it all up. The narrator explains that an evil computer hacker known as "The Tempest" has built a cyborg army intent on enslaving the rest of humanity. A scantily clad woman comes out riding on a chariot of machine guns while her robot army performs a synchronized dance. Apparently that woman is the evil "computer hacker."
- Shit is about to get real as the cyborg army commanded by this lady descend on the arena floor.
- Cool story, bro.
So apparently the world got involved in a big war. What was left of humanity was attempting to re-build while these motorcycle guys goofed around at night. After the bombs fell and the radiation cleared, men had to ride motorcycles while any surviving women had to dance around during these races. The computer hacker wants to enslave the few people left and creates dancing robots to help her do so. The two motorcycle gangs have to come together, but they refuse an alliance which allows "The Tempest" to gain the upper hand.
- Not only did she program these robots to dance, she programmed them to use lazer guns and ride motorcycles.
Just when 5chw4r7z and I had become emotionally invested in the story and worried if the humans could pull through, they cut to an intermission. The arena staff wheels out giant fans to try and suck all the fog out while we await the outcome of this perilous plight.
The lights drop and our evening at the theatre resumes. The two motorcycle gang leaders are the only humans left on earth who didn't get enslaved by robots. And as an aside, they never really explained why the robots wanted to enslave the humans, what the hell were they going to build? Maybe a better arena?
- "Dude, we're the only two left. Wanna put aside our differences and work towards a common goal?"
The leaders put aside their mutual hate for one another and begin to battle the robots while freeing their friends.
Not be outdone, the "Tempest" calls upon her lazer beams to try and defeat the good guys. A 20 minute montage of techno music, lazers and motorcycle jumping ensues.
- The lazers threatened to cut through the tin roof of the US Bank Arena.
*SPOILER ALERT* Stop reading unless you want to know what happens at the end of the show.
Ok, you sure you wanna know? I bet you can't guess what happened!
Good guys win.
The two rival gangs come together to form "The Nuclear Cowboyz" and celebrate with another twenty minutes of jumping, lazers and techno. The Nuclear Stripperz dance around. There's some more fireworks and then the end.
The kids in the audience were going nuts. The motorcycle stunts were cool and I like to think that the cheesy sci-fi storyline was a modern allegory reminding us of lessons we learned in the Cold War. See, the United States and Russia were once like two rival motorcycle gangs... screw it, not worth rationalizing.
Regardless, while it was more geared towards kids, that show was a blast and I thank 5chw4r7z for taking me.
We left the arena, relived that humanity had triumphed and snapped some photos around downtown.
- The one, the only Bob 5chw4r7z.