Thursday, November 03, 2005

Vegoose Day 1
"Freaks flock together and make all the lesbians scream." - Beck

We stumbled out of the Castle and drove to the Vegoose fairgrounds early. We didn't know if there would be a long line to get in like you would experience in other types of music festivals such as Bonnaroo or a summer ending Phish festival like IT or the Great Went. There was no security check so you could drive right into the parking lots, which helped speed up the process. Using a tip that I gathered from a taxi driver, I took Tropicana Ave. all the way down from the Excalibur past Boulder Highway right to Sam Boyd Stadium. It took less then 30 minutes. We saw the festival set up from the distance. I had never been to Sam Boyd Stadium, where UNLV plays their football games, so I wondered how everything would look. The Vegoose organizers took advantage of the adjacent practice and soccer fields and that's where the other three stages and main grounds were located. The actual stadium was used for the main stage.

We parked in the lot and cracked open a few beers. The people in the car next to us were from Colorado, so the Joker bonded with them since he lives in Boulder. Our styrofoam cooler broke in the trunk so it resembled New Orleans after it got flooded with a good inch of water. I had to scoop out handfuls of melted ice water out into the gravel.

The Joker wondered if we should wear our costumes. I noticed that less than 10% of the people we saw walking around were in costume. Across the aisle, three girls who got out of a red Jetta were getting dressed up. One girl slid into her Marilyn Monroe costume. She wore a blonde curly wig, a white dress, and had a rack about the same as Marilyn's. One of the other girls wore a freaky costume with red tights, a yellow dress, and a small red fireman's hat. The Joker went over and asked her to elaborate on her costume.

"I'm sexy disco firefighter chick," she said.

"Very cool. Where are you girls staying?" the Joker responded.

"Sleep?" she said at him in a condescending tone as she poured herself a mixture of vodka and orange juice, "We're not sleeping at all. We're staying up the entire time we're here."

That pretty much summed up Vegoose. People drove and flew in from all over the country to party it up for a few days in Las Vegas and see some kick ass music. Hippies from Colorado, frat boys from Southern California, hipsters from Brooklyn, and indie rock kids from the Midwest all converged upon Las Vegas to partake in the most unique musical festival I have ever attended.

We decided that the party girls were gonna crash and burn early. In festivals like Vegoose, you really have to pace yourself. The doors open at Noon and the last band ends around 11pm. In between, the hot Nevada sun and all the dancing tends to drain you. Then add late night shows which run to 4am and if you are drinking or taking drugs... the overall grind will eventually get to you.

The Joker wore his costume and I skipped mine deciding to save it for day two of Vegoose. The Joker went as an UPS guy and even got packages to hand out. He placed party favors in each package and would go around delivering them to random people in Vegoose who were wearing cool costumes. Included in each package were candy, party snaps, condoms, Mardi Gras beads, and other fun stuff. That's what the Joker added to Vegoose. Clever generosity.

We walked into Vegoose just around 2pm. As soon as you walk into the field in front of the football stadium, there is a Snake Eyes stage on the far left and the Joker's Wild stage on the far right. In the middle was the Clubs Tent where a bunch of the hip hop acts would perform. Throughout the fairgrounds, tons of food stands and beer trucks were set up. A ferris wheel stood near the Snake Eyes stage and in the middle of the entire field was the Vegoose Market where you could check out the poster art exhibit, marvel at the Great Evil pumpkin, and hang out with your favorite celebrities at the Impersonators Cafe. Also near the Clubs tent was the Twisted Cabaret show and the fake chapel where mock weddings were performed during the duration of Vegoose.

We missed Steel Train, The Islands, and Slightly Stoopid. We caught some of Devendra Banhart and she has a lovely voice. I wanted to see the North Mississippi All Stars so we headed over to the Joker's Wild stage. Those boys know how to play an amazing fusion of delta blues-rock-funk. We ended up skipping Beans and Holy Fuck in the Clubs Tent, and I had to make my first tough decision of Vegoose. With so many amazing bands playing at once, you inevitably had to choose one band over the other. Sometimes you would make a bad choice and discover that the band you skipped hand an extra special guest or played their best set in months. But you have to make a decision and stick with it. So we missed Beans with Holy Fuck, but the North Mississippi All Stars was a great way to kick off Vegoose.
North Mississippi All Stars Vegoose Setlist

Set 1: Teasin' Brown, Stompin My Foot, Mean 'Ol Wind Died Down, Bang Bang Lulu, Shake 'Em On Down, Hurry Up Sunrise, Ship, Moonshine, "Vegoose" Women > Po Black Maddie > Skinny Woman > Po Black Maddie, Po Boy > Snake Drive, Psychedelic Sex Machine, Goin Home, Horseshoe > When The Saints Go Marching In > Amazing Grace, Freedom Highway, Goin' South, Sugartown
After the NMAS set, we wandered around the attractions. The Impersonators Cafe featured a John Travolta look-a-like singing songs from Grease. Also spotted were Tina Turner, Bill Clinton, Rodney Dangerfield, Elvis, Sylvester Stallone, and Liza Minelli. On our way over to the Cabaret Tent, the Joker bumped into a guy who also wore a UPS costume. We stopped for pictures and the Joker gave the UPS guy a package.

We headed for the packed Clubs tent for Blackalicious. He had some great beats and got the crowd, mostly 99% white, grooving on his music. We didn't stay for the entire set because we wanted to get some fresh air. Thetemperature in the tent was about 110 degrees and I couldn't stop from sweating. We wandered around and caught one song from the Decemberists and avoided the main stage and String Cheese Incident. I've seen the Cheese like 30-40 times and if they weren't playing against G'ovt Mule, I would have gone to catch some of their set. During Mule, the Joker decided to give another packagae to Papa Smurf. As soon as Mule ended, we grabbed some food. The Joker had pizza and I had curly fries with cheese. I almost got the garlic fries.

We wandered into the stadium to get good seats (well actually standing room/general admission on the floor) for Phil Lesh and Friends. We were on the left side about 10-12 rows back. Not too bad. By then, all the hash I had been smoking caught up with me and I was pretty faded. The stadium was not full all the way, but the floor was packed. We skipped Talib Kweli, The Shins, and the Codetalkers with Col. Bruce Hampton to see Phil Lesh. I heard that the Shins show was pretty good although the indie rock crowd wasn't into the show as much as some of the other fans.
Phil Lesh & Friends Vegoose Setlist

Set 1: Playin' In The Band > Truckin' > The Eleven > Rueben & Cherise > Magnolia Mountain*, Unbroken Chain, Shakedown Street**, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away**, Sugaree**, Help On The Way** > Slipknot** > Casey Jones**

Notes: * Ryan Adams song
**with Warren Haynes and guitar and Sless on pedal steel
Phil came out and he looked like he was in a great mood. He told everyone to get ready to have fun and do some serious dancing. Joan Osbourne filled in for Ryan Adams at the last minute when he had to cancel. I've seen Joan sing backup with The Dead before and she's not too bad. Although she harmonizes with the band in a better way than Donna Jean, alas, she's no Donna Jean.

The opened up with three kick ass songs... Playin > Truckin > The Eleven. I like Rueben & Cherise, a Bob Dylan cover that Jerry Garcia loved to play. Too bad Jerry wasn't there to play it. I heard that he used to love playing in Vegas. Unbroken Chain is always fun to hear since it was pretty rare that the Grateful Dead played it at the shows I saw. Then Warren Haynes came out to play and added another element to the show. He's played with Phil many times before and they sound great together. They busted out Shakedown Street, which was the highlight of the set. The entire crowd was grooving to that. We didn't stay the entire set. We wanted to get a good spot to see Beck, so we left early and headed over to the Snake Eyes stage. By then darkness had fell over the crowd.

Beck was playing against Primus and I had to make another big decision to skip Primus and catch all of Beck's set. We knew that Beck would cut into Dave Matthews and Friends set in the stadium on the main stage, but decided that Beck would be more fun to see. Besides, we'd catch the last hour or so of Dave & Friends, which was supposed to feature Trey Anastasio on guitar.

The Beck set was amazing and he was the highlight of Vegoose (both days). You can download the bit torrent here. He and his band came out wearing boy scout costumes and that ended up being the theme of the night. He cracked plenty of by scout jokes and included mentionings of is band members having to earn their merit badges. The crowd was into it and by then everyone was trashed. There was one girl who was dressed up like a beauty queen. She had on long pink gloves that covered up most of her arms. She kept holding her hand up in the air and made a sign for the number "4" as she held up four fingers.

"I'm looking for my friend Forrest," she slurred as she stumbled through the crowd. Every few songs or so she would circle back and ask us if we've seen Forrest.

Beck opened up with Loser, which was surprising. I guess he wanted to get it out of the way. The crowd dug it and I sensed that we'd be in for a great show. We didn't take down a full setlist but here's what he played: Loser, Devil's Haircut, Guero, Girl, Where It's At, New Pollution, Black Tambourine, Debra, and Mixed Bizness. I'm sure I'm missing a bunch of songs in there and he didn't finish every song. Debra was a blast! I love the opening lyrics... "I met you at J.C. Penny/I think your name tag said Jenny."

The Joker's favorite part was the ghetto blaster merit badge. During one of the songs, someone in his band kept bringing out a ghetto blaster, but each time it would be bigger and bigger until Beck wheeled out a gigantic Ghetto Blaster that was almost ten feet tall.

Beck brought up fans on stage and called them lost children. He would sing to his band in a faux campfire and even had a tent on stage. Beck also has like three percussionists banging on all kinds of stuff including plates and glasses using silverware. Beck is one of those artists that you have to see play a live show because you get to see just how much of a composer, bandleader, and music genius he really is.

We wandered over to the stadium to catch the end of Dave Matthews and Friends. We walked in during Save Me. Trey ripped it up on Circles. Then Dave & Tim played acoustic guitars for a few songs, but he played a lot of the same stuff we saw the day before. Since Dave was closing out Day 1 of Vegoose, he was the only act still playing.
Dave & Friends Setlist

Set 1: Dodo, Stay or Leave, Trouble, So Damn Lucky, Oh, Up And Away, Save Me, Circles, Some Devil (solo acoustic), Jimi Thing*** > What Will Become of Me*** > Pantala Naga Pampa ***, Two Step ***, Tell Me Something Good, Gravedigger, Hey Bulldog, Rocky Mountain Way

Encore: Everyday (with Trey Anastasio), Bathtub Gin (with Trey Anastasio), Up On Cripple Creek, Thank You

Notes: *** Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds only
We eventually got out into the parking lot and made our way back to the Excalibur. We stopped at Sonic on the way home for some late night munchies. I was so tired from smoking hash for nine straight hours that I almost fell asleep. I was fine until we hit traffic a few blocks from the Strip. That's when it became difficult. I managed to get the mother ship back home no problems. We had tickets to STS9 at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay at 1am. I knew that in order for me to make that show, I'd have to partake in party favorites like molly to get myself up. I knew that would entail being up all night and not getting any sleep. I kinda passed out on the bed for a half hour and the Joker woke me up. I had another difficult decision and decided to skip the show and rest up. We still had another day of Vegoose including Widespread Panic on Halloween. I didn't want to peak to early and crashed.

The Joker went to the show and he said it was kick ass. Oh well. I missed another kickin' STS9 show. He ended up selling my ticket right away. The kids saying across the hall from us were also from Boulder. As soon as the Joker walked out into the hall, he encountered a spun out hippie girl. She wanted the ticket but didn't have any money. She went into the room for 15 minutes before she finally came out with a fistful of fives and one dollar bills. The Joker gave her the ticket and her friend stumble out into the hall.

"I'm so fucked up!" she shrieked. The girl had been rolling all night long as well. "Who are you?" she screamed at the Joker.

"I just sold your friend a ticket to Sound Tribe," he answered.

"I'm soooooo fucked up!" she screamed again before laughing and stumbling back into the room.

... to be continued

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