The Joker rolled into our room around 6am as the eye piercing sunlight screamed through a tiny crack in the curtains. After catching STS9's late night show a few hours earlier, we were a little late getting to the second and final day of the Vegoose music festival. Most folks were heading to church, but thousands of spun out neo-hippies and indie rock hipsters were converging on Sam Boyd Stadium to soak up the last remnants of Vegoose.
On Saturday, we saw 16 different bands and musical acts. For Sunday, that list would be much smaller since there were specific artists that we wanted to see and wouldn't be wandering around as much. The Sunday lineup was much stronger and featured Widespread Panic closing out the festival with a three hour set scheduled on the main stage along with a highly anticipated Phil Lesh and Trey Anastasio collaboration that also featured John Medeski on keyboards.
We quickly showered and changed into our costumes. The traffic on Tropicana was light and we stopped off again to get Texas Toaster breakfast sandwiches at Sonic.
"We should get two," suggested The Joker. "Today's going to be a big day. We need the extra energy burst."
The Joker and I ate two each in a matter of minutes while Nicky only had one. By the time the night ended, she wished she had two.
We got into the lot later than expected and missed the tail end of Built to Spill. When I asked BTreotch his recommendations for Vegoose, Built to Spill was at the top of his list. Originally from Boise, Idaho, I first heard about Built to Spill when I lived in Seattle. I caught one show in the late 1990s in a shitty dive bar in Seattle and another show in San Francisco in 2001. They're often listed as indie rockers but their sound is more like a combination of Neil Young meets Modest Mouse.
Sadly, we missed Built to Spill but could hear the last few songs of their set as we wandered through Shakedown Street which was jumping with activity. I didn't take two steps into Shakedown before I was offered a plethora of party favors. The doctor's costume attracted a bevy of pill heads and kids slinging drugs. I couldn't walk for more than five seconds without hearing faint whispers of "Rolls. Pharmies. Heady nuggets. Opium. Doses. Molly."
I stopped one scruffy look kid with a tie-dye shirt. He had a Southern accent and I realized the influx of people in the lot were Spreadheads in town to Widespread Panic's Vegoose set and their Halloween show on Monday.
"Pharmies. Pharmies," he whispered.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Zannies bars," he answered in his twang
"Break for five?" I said.
"Five for 25," he answered as he put his hand into the pocket of his hoodie and cupped his hand over mine. I slowly unfurled my hand and saw five Zannie bars. I slid him a twenty dollar bill and a five spot and we both disappeared.
In case you don't know what went down, I'll translate that last passage for you...
"I'm selling pharmaceutical drugs. Are any of you law abiding American citizens interested in purchasing pharmaceutical drugs?"Yeah, I picked up a fistful of Xanax which helps insomniacs like me fall asleep after partying for a few days straight. A crusty chick sold me a couple of rolls and I scored some molly off of a sketched out kid with dirty fingernails and a STS9 hat which he wore sideways. We stocked up before the show and headed into the show, but not before I was stopped a dozen times by random people looking to buy drugs.
"What are you selling?" I asked.
"Xanax. 2mg Xanax pills," he answered.
"If I purchase bulk quantities, can I work out some sort of discount?" I asked.
"Yes. I can sell you five pills for $25."
"Hey Doc, you got any nuggets?"
"Hey Doc, any pharmies?"
"You selling rolls, Doc?"
"Doc, I have back pain, can you hook me up with medical weed?"
That pretty much went on for ten straight hours as random people walked over to me to either try to buy or sell me drugs.
We got to the stage where Galactic was playing just in time to see them come out at 2:30pm. Nicky and I caught the boys from New Orleans a week earlier at the House of Blues in Hollyweird and I saw three shows at the end of the summer in Colorado with The Joker. Those four shows restored my faith in Galactic as they finally got their groove back after the Houseman left the band and after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their city, homes, instruments, and practice space.
Galactic opened up with The Moil as we noticed a group of chicks wearing all pink with pink boas and other feather like accouterments. They were part of the Pink Flamingo crew and we'd see them over the next few hours. Rich Vogel experienced technical problems with his keyboard so Stanton Moore did a quick drum solo while they corrected the problem. After Vogel's keys were fixed, they ripped into FEMA which is a dark and funky song with serious political undertones. The highlight was an ass shaking and slamming version of Doublewide.
The G-men introduced Blackalicious onto stage and he rapped while they played. Galactic got a bunch of hip hop artists to do vocals on their new album and we caught a glimpse of some of that collaboration. I dig Blackalicious, but I would have preferred to have seen Galactic play by themselves for an hour. He left after a few songs and they busted out Spiderbite before they introduced Ladybug Mecca from The Digable Planets. She sang on a few songs including a cover of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir to close the set.
We were buzzed on the verge of getting properly fucked up when The Joker told me about his idea for a costume next year.
"I want to dress up like Chewbacca and hand out stickers to everyone around me that say 'I partied with Wookies' or 'I danced with Wookies'," he said in a straight face.
I couldn't stop laughing. His idea was so good that I wanted to make t-shirts and sell them at various concerts and music festivals.
We skipped Guster at the Cabaret Tent and headed over to catch the second half of The Rhythm Devils featuring both drummers from The Grateful Dead (Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart) along with Mike Gordon from Phish, Jen Durkin from Deep Banana Blackout, Steve Kimock, and Sikiru Adepoju.
The played a couple of Dead and one Phish song which seems to be the "cool thing" these days as members of Phish and The Grateful Dead have been playing with one another and covering each band's songs. We caught a hot version of The Eleven which segued into The Wedge with Mike on vocals that got the crowd all fired up. They also played Fire on the Mountain and Lovelight (which they started at exactly 4:20pm) before they closed with Good Lovin'. The Joker was worried that we'd be seeing two hours of drums and space. We were pleased with their Phishy-Dead related efforts.
During the Rhythm Devils set, The Joker sought out more people in costumes to deliver packages to. We found two guys dressed as characters from The Big Lebowski, which included The Dude and Walter. They even had a red Folgers coffee can which they carried around with "Donnie's ashes inside."
The Joker also delivered a package to a bunny with big tits who was at the festival with a dude dressed as Jack from Jack in the Box. As I tried to scribble down notes about the Joker's deliveries and write down the setlist for the Rhythm Devils, I was stopped by people wanting drugs. Without skipping a beat, I turned my small notebook to a new page and wrote down a faux prescription.
This one frat boy ran over and began screaming, "Doc, I need you to hook me up. Vicodin. Percosett. Klonapin. Oxycontin. Doc, you got get me some oxycontin."
I wrote down, "100mg Valium," and ripped off the piece of paper from my pad.
The frat boy looked down and screamed, "What the fuck? Valium? Fucking Valium? Fuck you Doc! I want something stronger."
We walked over to see the end of Fiona Apple. Another fragile female singer/songwriter took the stage and just like the 100,000 people who show up to watch every Nascar race because they might catch a glimpse of a wreck... we went to see Fiona Apple to see if she had a meltdown on stage.
What we did catch was her announcing that would be her last live performance. Ever. I dunno is she's being melodramatic or bummed out at the low attendance on her most recent tour. Regardless, she's got more musical talent in her left pinky toe than Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson combined. I kept teasing Nicky asking her, "What's the name of this song? I know you know!"
She actually knew the titles to a few of the songs. I pretty much zoned out and smoked up or ran to the beer stand to get Sierra Nevadas as The Joker sought out possible deliveries and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot made fun of all the indie rock kids who were "too cool to wear costumes."
At 5pm, we met Friedman, JW and some of The Jokers friends at the Ferris Wheel. That included Ziggy Stardust, Rainbow Brite, and Alice in Wonderland. Except Alice wasn't in her costume. Instead she wore a red wig and had wings.
"Nice butterfly costume," I joked.
"I'm not a butterfly," Alice insisted. "I'm a fairy. The anti-drug fairy. I'm going have to report you because you look like you've been doing drugs."
We made our way over the the main stage to see Phil and Trey's set. Since Daylight Savings Time kicked in, the 5:15 set was under complete darkness when they took the stage. Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell played a series of shows in San Francisco in April of 1999 with Phil Lesh. It was only a few months after Lesh's liver transplant and a friend had given him a few Phish bootlegs to listen to when he was in the hospital. Lesh dug them so much he asked Trey and Page to be a part of Phil and Phriends for a three show run at the Warfield Theatre. I caught one of those epic shows and that was my first glimpse into members of my two favorite bands playing on stage with each other including each other's original material.
When everyone asked about Trey & Phil's Vegoose set, I told them, "A for effort but a C for execution."
They gave it their all, but without being able to practice with everyone parts of their set were sloppy, chaotic, and flat. But when they clicked, it was amazing.
Also in the lineup with Trey and Phil were Jon Medeski from Medeski, Martin, & Wood (keyboards), John Molo (drums), Larry Campbell (guitar), and Christina Durfee (vocals). It was a tight lineup and Molo was a part of the 1999 Phil & Phriends shows with Trey and Phil.
The crowd went a little crazy when the opened up with the Grateful Dead's epic song Shakedown Street before Trey played one of his solo songs that we heard a few nights before at The Orleans. They segued into Row Jimmy and Trey fucked up. He was playing/singing in the wrong key. He apologized and started over as the crowd gave him a round of applause for admitting his mistake. I dig Trey, but no one could play and sing Row Jimmy like Jerry Garcia.
There's an entry in my notepad where I wrote in extremely sloppy handwriting:
6:48 Take mushroomsBy that point, the roll had already kicked in and I hit peak fuckedupness of the entire weekend. I'd be chasing that high the rest of my time in Las Vegas. That was just around the same time when I found our group dancing in a circle around our stuff and I huddled everyone together for a group hug.
Trey played another one of his slow songs before they did a lukewarm cover version of Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. Then the crowd erupted in jubilation as Mike Gordon took the stage. He started out playing Trey's guitar before he switched over to banjo.
"Possum?" JW said to me.
They started playing a jam which resembled the beginning to Possum when it took a turn and they played Get Back on the Train (Phish song). Mike left the stage and they closed the set with a Dead sandwich that included Bird Song segueing into Help > Slip > Franklin's Tower.
Like I said before, Phil and Trey get an A for effort but a C for execution. I'm harshly critical of Trey's solo band which I've often referred to as his Phish cover band. At Vegoose, I dug Phil and Trey's Dead cover band. But if I want to see Dead covers, I'd go see Dark Star Orchestra.
After Phil & Trey and just before Panic, the Vegoose organizers announced the three best costumes. One of them were these dudes who dressed up like Ghostbusters and had ghosts on poles chasing them around. The flight crew from Two High Airlines (who the Joker gave packages to) also won along with three people dressed as a BLT.
By the time Widespread Panic took the stage, my brain was waterlogged in a mental puddle. I told JW that they'd open with Surprise Valley. I wanted to hear it but would have to wait for the second song. Instead they opened up with Climb to Safety which would be the beginning of three straight hours of Widespread Panic.
If you have a chance, download the show because it's the best Panic show I've seen since Mikey Houser died. After a one-two punch of Climb to Safety > Surprise Valley, I knew we were being treated to a special musical performance. The boys from Athens, GA never let up. Because they played one set and didn't take a break, they kept momentum going.
As one Spreadhead admitted, "I love Jimmy Panic!"
He was talking about new guitarist Jimmy Herring who shredded it up and took Panic's jams to places they had not been to since Mikey died.
In the first hour they also played Henry Parsons Died and Pigeons and a I lost my shit during a seventeen minute stretch when they busted out a funkified Rebirtha featuring Dave Schools on bong-rattling bass and a high-powered Tallboy.
Everyone in our group was properly intoxicated after a few dippies and at one point Nicky turned to me and said, "Rainbow Brite just smacked me in the ass!"
Girl on girl action always gets me hot. The Joker's friends from Boulder brought in a bottle of Jim Beam and I'd pick it up and take a swig in honor of Mikey Houser. I'd walk over to people in our group and say, "As your doctor, I advise you to take a swig of the nectar of the Gods."
The bottle of Jim Beam brought more flashbacks of my college days. That was the drink of choice back then and the shots brought that early 90s wild streak out in me. I kept feeling the rolls and mushrooms in waves. Just when I thought I was sober, I'd be attacked by a wave of wastedness.
There was a forty minute stretch of intense insanity when Panic played just three songs: Fishwater, Conrad > Thought Sausage and I got blown away by how amazing Jimmy Herrring sounded and was astonished by how one musician could elevate a band. He's no Mikey. No one can ever replace him, but for the first time since he died, Widespread Panic actually has a bright future with Jimmy Herring in the band. I hope they lock him up for a few years because I'm looking forward to see more Panic shows in the future.
I called Senor's cellphone during Papa's Home because that's his favorite Panic song. I never heard them play Little Wing before and I was impressed especially as they segued into a nostalgic Porch Song which gave me flashbacks of sitting on my porch at my fraternity house in Atlanta and listening to Panic while drinking cheap beer and smoking even cheaper weed.
The soul-numbing and funky Ribs and Whiskey has become one of my favorite Panic songs and I saw the best version of Good People with lots of JoJo jamming. They had been playing Good People at almost every show I saw in the past year either in New York City, Red Rocks, or in LA and they finally sucked me in.
At one point, JW pointed to the Eastern sky and we looked at a dozen or so planes getting in line to land at the airport.
"Bags of money," he said. "Bags of money."
He was right. Those planes were filled with loser who were ready to lose their shirts in Sin City. But not us, we were dancing our asses off.
They ended the set with a dark and devious Chilly Water and I ducked everytime the chorus came around. I was one if the tallest people in my group and being tall at shows is great except during Chilly Water when everyone throws water and the rest of their drinks around. Then there's that Panic Urban Myth that southern frat boys piss into water bottles and toss it around during Chilly Water. I'm sure that's just an urban legend, but I didn't want to take any chances and get drenched in piss so I ducked during the "As long as there's water, chilly wet water..." parts.
They rushed Ain't Life Grand for the encore because I think they ran out of time. Three hours of Jimmy Panic? Unreal and the highlight of Vegoose and the entire weekend. Shows like Panic's Vegoose performance restore my faith in a particular band and gets me all fired up to see them again. And again. I had all but given up on the notion of Panic in Atlanta for NYE. But after that show, I put it back on my list of potential NYE parties to attend.
After Panic's set we headed back out to Shakedown and I scored some more supplies during the post-Vegoose firesale. I actually drove as The Boulder crew climbed into the backseat. Eight? Nine of us? I forgot how many people I drove to the Orleans, but I made it safely. That was the biggest gamble of the trip and I came out ahead.
We were at The Orleans to see String Cheese Incident's late night 1am show. Nicky had never seen them but Alice was excited because it was her favorite band. The Cheese are from Boulder and their fans are an eclectic mix of happy Colorado hippies, spun out wookies, and Cheesekids.
The stage was decorated with a jungle theme including two huge screens on either side of the stage playing jungle images and animals like chimps and other monkeys.
Hunter S. Thompson gets a package
The Joker handed out more packages and we hit the floor when Cheese took the stage. Balloon monkeys were dropped from the ceiling as the band dressed up in animal costumes. A few Cirque de Soliel dancers were suspended above the stage on swings.
The Cheese plays light jammy music which was perfect for me as I came down from a mind-bending day of music and getting wasted.
Our favorite LA girl was weirded out by the high percentage of wookies and hard-core hippies at the Cheese show. 90% of the crowd was dressed up, but most of them wore rave-related party costumes more so than Halloween costumes.
"The wookies are scaring me," mentioned Nicky as a dreadlocked girl in a pink Jellyfish costume (which included an umbrella and tentacles illuminated by glowsticks) wandered by us.
... to be continued