Vegoose Day 1
The first day of Vegoose would be one of the most epic music filled eras of my life as I caught no less than 16 different bands and musical acts inside of a 16 hour period which included Gomez, The Coup, Cat Power & The Memphis Rhythm Band, Praxis, Yonder Mountain String Band, Medeski Martin & Wood with Maceo Parker, The Rancontuers, Yard Dogs Road Show, Damian Jr. Gong Marley, The Keller Williams Incident, Mars Volta, Black Cowes, Tom Petty, The Killers, Jurassic 5, and Sound Tribe Sector 9. The layout of the festival this year (four stages in a small area) allowed us to see more music than we could have at other festivals like Bonnaroo, Cochella, or at Vegoose last year.
I passed out around 5ish after Trey kicked off the Vegoose Late Night concert series on Friday with a Midnight performance at the Orleans a few hours earlier. I quickly penned a review when I woke up four hours later on Saturday morning as the rest of the crew (Nicky, Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot, and The Joker) finally woke up. We were pretty much on schedule as we left the Castle and drove down Tropicana to Sam Boyd Stadium where the Vegoose festival was held for a second year in a row.
At Bonnaroo in June, we started a daily ritual and ate at Sonic before we headed to the festivities. We'd chow down on Texas Toaster breakfast sandwiches in the car while we chatted about the bands we were about to see. More often than not, that would be out only meal of the day. We all pretty much took up the tweaker diet at Vegoose this year and stopped at the Sonic a few blocks from Boulder Highway to fuel up.
The traffic surrounding Vegoose was light and we pulled into the parking area with no problems around Noon. The Joker put on his UPS driver costume and got all of his props and packages ready. The Joker is a festive guy and always adds to the fun quotient of any party he attends, especially Vegoose. This year, he pre-addressed packages specifically designed for people wearing costumes like "Sexy Cow Girl" or "Hunter S. Thompson." His goal for Vegoose 2006 was to hand out all the packages he addressed. His costume idea became an instant hit last year, and he wanted to continue to share the joy. Costumes are one thing, but an interactive costume at a place with a lot of wasted people is something completely different.
Before we went inside, we wandered up and down Shakedown Street in search of party favors. Thanks to Nicky's medicinal marijuana source, we were stocked in the vegetation department. However, we were light in all other areas until I found a guy who sold us a few rolls. Several vendors in Shakedown were still setting up and we decided to return to Shakedown before we left for the night to restock supplies.
Attendance was down for this year's festival so organizers decided to not use the football stadium to house the main stage like last year. Instead, they held the entire festival on the soccer and practice fields adjacent to Sam Boyd Stadium. They squeezed four stages into the same area that held three in 2005. The main stage (Double Down Stage) was located on the far end, with a smaller stage in a tent in the middle of the fairgrounds and two other stages (Snake Eyes and Joker's Wild) on the other side of the field. The two smaller stages alternated acts and were so close to each other that you could stand in one spot and see both stages.
I wanted to see Gomez badly and made sure everyone got up early enough so I caould catch their early set from 12:20pm to 1:20pm. The English band was one of the first indie rock groups that I got into in the late 1990s. I dug their set at Bonnaroo in June and was excited to see them perform at Vegoose as they were supporting their seventh album called How We Operate. We caught most of their tight set and the highlight was a snazzy version of Devil Will Ride. Nicky kept packing bowls as we smoked tough and drank overpriced beers. The Joker showed up with a few Bud Lites and I gave him shit over drinking Missouri piss water so I wandered over to the Sierra Nevada stand and bought a couple of real beers.
We stopped to listen to The Coup for a song at the Cabaret Clubs Tent. They're a collaborative effort including Tom Morello and Dwayne Wiggin from Audioslave and a few members of Parliament Funkadelic. They were OK and sounded like a Prince cover band on one too many valiums.
The Joker went to work handed out packages. He found one sexy cowgirl and she ended up being one of a half of a dozen or so other cowgirls. As I snapped photos, cowgirls kept jumping into the frame. Where the fuck where they coming from? Then they started rolling around on the grass with The Joker. He's from Texas, so I knew he could handle himself, and kept shooting.
Several hours before at Trey's Friday late night show, the Joker spotted a cute chick wearing a Gryffindor costume. I have never read one Harry Potter book nor seen any of the films, so I have no idea what that entails aside from the fact that the chick looked sexy in a cape and a short miniskirt. Anyway, the Joker spotted her again when Gomez's set ended and ran over to give her a package. We'd end up crossing paths a few more times before the weekend was over.
We eventually made our way over to Praxis. The Joker had been talking up the legendary Bill Laswell's group that featured Brain (the drummer from Primus) along with the ultra-freaky Buckethead on guitar. Laswell's been around the block a few times and is one of the pioneers of funk with his "darkly subsonic bass."
Praxis was an interesting mix of reggae, dub, funk, and heavy metal. Yeah, depending on the song you got to sample their variety of tastes and musical influences. Their songs also featured plenty of abrupt changes. Where they started off with a heavy metal sound (that would have gotten AlCantHang's fists pumping and his hair moving in seventeen different directions), they'd end up with a mellow reggae groove. You have to hold on for the chaotic ride of your life when you listen to Praxis.
We were up close and I stood behind the guy dressed like Buckethead, who was shredding it up from the moment he wandered onto stage wearing his trademark KFC bucket on his head and a white mask. Buckethead described Praxis as, "A big binge loaf, like terror long dangler buddies on a scoop rack."
After a few songs I motioned to the Joker and Nicky to leave as we lost Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot.
"Let's go see Cat Power," the Joker suggested. "We might catch one of her nervous breakdowns on stage."
An ex-girlfriend of mine was infatuated with Cat Power's Chan Marshall. She described her as "our generation's Joni Mitchell." But Joni Mitchell wasn't a drunk and a drama queen, so that description was way off.
I've heard friends suggest that Chan Marshall's instability is just an act and she's more of a showman than an alcoholic as the music press hails her. She's been known to walk off stage due to her chronic stage fright and she's stopped playing songs midway. Marshall, who grew up in Georgia, returned to her Southern roots as she took the stage with the Memphis Rhythm Band.
We didn't catch any mental breakdowns. Instead she did an impressive cover of the Rolling Stones (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. She's got a decent voice but she can' play a lick of guitar. That's why she was playing with the smooth sounds of the Memphis Rhythm Band. If she can consistently play at the level she played at Vegoose, I'd be willing to check her out again.
I was super excited to see Medeski, Martin & Wood with Maceo Parker. I've seen the trio almost fifty times. They originally started playing all acoustic jazz in NYC and have come a long way from playing tiny clubs in the Village and dive bars in Brooklyn to playing big music festivals.
MMW were casualties over last few festivals/events that I attended. They lost out at last year's Vegoose and at Bonnaroo as I chose to see other bands that I don't get to see very often. When they announced that the legendary Maceo Parker (played sax for James Brown) would be performing with them... I inked MMW in. I wasn't going to miss that momentous collaboration. And you know what? MMW with Maceo was the highlight of the first day of Vegoose and perhaps one of the best performances overall at Vegoose. The tore the shit out of a Meters tune (that I can't recall) and they busted out one of my favorite MMW tunes... Chubb Sub.
A girl in front of us argued with her boyfriend during MMW's entire set. I felt bad for her boyfriend. He wanted to capture a rare treat with Maceo's horn filling the air with melodious funk. Instead, he got an earful of his girlfriend bitching at him.
The Joker found a Sexy Stewardess and rushed to give her a package. She was a part of a group costume that also included another stewardess, a captain, and a tarmac guy. They ended up as one of the winners of Best Costume at Vegoose... and they deserved it.
We caught the end of Yonder Mountain String Band as the Joker denied his first and only package of the festival. He had a package for Marilyn Monroe and when he tried to get her to sign for the package, she didn't get it. And kept asking, "What's this for?"
Mostly everyone gets the joke from The Joker. And they appreciate the fact that he went through all the trouble to get into costume and hammer out all the little details including addressing packages to them.
"In a way, the delivery sort of validates their costume," he said. "and they feel great that they're being recognized for their efforts."
So when people don't get it, The Joker doesn't even bother explaining it to them. He knew he'd see another Marilyn Monroe so he put the package back in his bag and gave one to girl who's costume he didn't understand. Her friend said that they remembered the Joker from last year. How could anyone forget him?
We checked out The Rancontuers which was a band made up of Jack White (White Stripes) and a few old friends of his from Detroit, which were in the Greenhornes. The reason Rolling Stone and Spin were at Vegoose were to check out bands like The Killers and The Rancontuers. I like some of the White Stripes material and The Rancontuers music is somewhat edible. We were just killing time and The Joker made fun of all the indie rock kids who were "too cool not to wear costumes." The best part of their lukewarm set was the 4:20 smoke break.
I wandered around by myself for a few songs as I went to take a leak and grab another beer. I caught the first two songs of The Keller Williams Incident. I'm not a Keller Williams fan, but he was backed by String Cheese Incident. When I heard the first few notes to the Talking Heads song Burning Down the House, I quickly hurried over and found myself dancing a puddle of Cheesekids. Keller eventually segued into another Talking Heads cover song, Once in a Lifetime and I was impressed. But not that much, because I rushed back to catch the beginning of Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. By then JW and Friedman made it to Vegoose and we all hung out for Marley's set.
JW pointed out the flag waver on stage. One guy with super natty dreads waved a Jamaican flag for the entire 90 minute set. And he never stopped. That's a full time job, along with the one dude in Beck's band who gets paid to just dance around onstage and run in place.
Damian Marley got the entire crowd grooving when he played two of his father's songs Exodus and Could You Be Loved. By then the last moments of early evening sunshine slipped away (with day light savings time due to kick in later that night) as he whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Aside from MW with Maceo, Marley was the second most impressive set of the first day at Vegoose.
I really wanted to like The Mars Volta, a prog rock band with heavy punk and Latin jazz influences headed by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. I heard some of their material and it didn't quite stick. Their album De-Loused In The Comatorium was a heavy and intense effort that was inspired by the suicide of their friend Julio Venegas, an artist from El Paso who they grew up with. I hoped that seeing them live would prove to be more enjoyable. It wasn't. I was disappointed and let down. Perhaps the expectations were too high from the hype I heard from other friends. Simply put... Mars Volta reminded me of a huge Hollyweird film that bombed. I left after two songs.
"That's one more song longer than I gave them, " admitted Friedman.
And it just wasn't me. Our entire group was eager to leave when I said, "I give up." By judging from the reaction of the crowd, they too were bummed out and started slowly leaving.
We hung out and caught half of the Black Crowes set. They were pretty good and I haven't seen them in a while. We kept arguing back and forth if their guitar player was George McConnell (formerly of Widespread Panic). Nicky joked that we should have made those celebrity heads like we did at Bonnaroo and got out Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson to try to get Chris Robinson all worked up (he and Kate recently split while she's banging Owen). Robinson still has some mojo left in his skinny frame, as he belted out a smoking version of Save Me and played random tunes off of Amorica. The Crowes also played a solid cover of Cripple Creek.
There was an elderly couple standing next to us at the Black Crowes. The were in their late 60s. The guy wore a ripped tie-dyed shirt and the woman wore a flannel shirt. The old guy whipped out a joint and started puffing down hard during Save Me. They quickly disappeared into the darkness of the audience. I never saw them again.
We headed over to see The Killers. The hometown band got a sweet spot from 8:05 to 9:35pm but were up against Jurassic 5 (we heard one song on the way to The Killers stage) and The Black Crowes. The Killers played their hit song, Mr. Brightside, which was an instant crowd favorite. Other highlights included The List and For Reasons Unknown.
We found Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot in the Sports Lounge watching movies trying to pick up spun out hippie chicks. We drank a few cocktails before we caught a few songs from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Rumors swirled that it would be his last tour. Ever. We decided to leave Vegoose and head over to Shakedown. The drugs wore off and it got very cold as soon as he started his set. We figured that Petty would play the same set at Vegoose and our gamble paid off. He pretty much played the same stuff. We didn't miss anything, because we could hear Petty in the parking lot.
The late night scene at Shakedown was hopping with plenty of entrepreneurial activity as we were offered enough drugs that could keep the entire state of Delaware high through 2020. Beers, nuggets, grilled cheese sandwiches, doses, t-shirts, opium, extra tickets to STS9, rolls, pipes, yay-yo, and heady crystals were all being hawked as we navigated the crowded area. I almost stepped on a tour dog as a spun out wookie chick lost a hold of her leash as she carried a basket of ganja cookies.
We drove back to the Castle and got ready for another late night show. Sound Tribe Sector 9 played the 1am show at The Joint at Hard Rock. The Joker busted out his Disco Santa Claus outfit and we took some party favors ready to get down. He handed out candy canes to gamblers at the Hard Rock and kids going into the late night show. The entire crowd at STS9 was lit up like the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza by the time STS9 took the stage at 1:30am.
Originally from Atlanta, STS9 relocated to Santa Cruz where the perfected their instrumental dance music. Sometimes they sound like something you'd hear at a disco in Berlin. It's not Eurotrash music, rather it's slowly become the music of choice for spun out wookies and hippies looking to groove out at 4am on a head full of molly.
One chick wearing a unicorn costume passed out behind us as STS9 played a savory set which included a jiggified Rent and a bouncy Somesing. The closed the quick set with a grandiose version of Be Nice.
The Joker met a couple of cool kids from Boulder at the show. But you'll have to wait until tomorrow to read about the misadventures of Alice in Wonderland, Ziggy Stardust, and Rainbow Brite...
... to be continued