Considering the opening of the Sands Casino in Bethlehem is the biggest thing to happen to Lehigh Valley since New Tripoli got its first traffic light, I had to go check it out. Unfortunately, sitting in front of a machine where all you do is hit a button and hope you win isn't exactly what I consider fun (although I know there are a lot of people out there who say otherwise).

Lucky for me, the Sands isn't just slots.

After coming down the glass elevator from level 5 in the parking deck to the watery lobby, Kent and I wandered around the casino floor, taking in all the lights and sounds and incredible decor. But our real reason for going to the Sands Sunday night was to see local songstress Sarah Ayers and her band perform in the Molten lounge.

I've been a fan of Sarah Ayers for many years now. With her bluesy voice, she's like a modern-day Janis Joplin. She's powerful enough to cover Aretha Franklin and Sheryl Crow with ease. But my favorite is when she belts out "Amazing Grace" acapella - if you don't get chills during her rendition of this song, you need to get the cotton out of your ears.

As we sat at a little cafe-type table beneath the dim colored lights of the lounge, I felt like I was in a swanky bar in Chicago. After perusing the drink menu (with its Chicago prices), one of the sparkly dressed cocktail waitresses came by to take our order: a Corona for Kent and a Steel Monkey (chocolate, banana and buterscotch liquers shaken with cream) for me.

With its fantastic sound quality and no cover charge, Molten isn't your typical bar/music venue, which makes it my new favorite place in Lehigh Valley to see bands perform. But I haven't checked out St. James Gate, on the opposite side of the casino, which also has live music every night, so my ruling may change.