Vegoose | 10.26-28.07

veg_sm.jpgIn the western skies you can see the smoke from California’s wildfires. The long, thin, black fingers of the smoke give the sky an eerie feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Boyd Stadium
Las Vegas, Nev.

veg_gogol.jpgIn its third year, Vegoose deals a mixed-genre and globe hopping lineup, a winning hand for everyone. Similar to last year, the scene is set in Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium in the Star Nursery Field, with a backdrop of sun-reflecting mountains. Like last year, the strip plays host to late-night shows at many casinos. Having three stages—Double Down, Snake Eyes and Jokers Wild—is short just one from last year. Nice weather; sunny skies with low 80s during the day and a cool 60 at night made it pleasant.

Opening the festival on one of the three stages was Gogol Bordello, a clever gypsy-punk band from New York. With an eight-member band and being gypsy punk, there would have to be an accordion, evident in many songs, including "Super Theory of Super."

As festivals go, you’re overlapping most of the time so you need to decide who you’re going to see. Moving on to Battles, a four-member math rock band and from New York, you progress to a young MC and hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco, a Chicago native. Fiasco is a very talented, an up-and-coming artist who has had a lot of great opportunities come his way. Taking advantage of a half-hour break, you’ll need to rehydrate with a five-dollar lemonade. I would have preferred water, but it seemed to be a hard commodity to come by. I personally never found a vendor selling water.

There is lots of stuff to do at Vegoose besides all the eclectic music offered, like the Dollhouse, where you can get made up to look a rock star, or find a custom if you left yours. The sports bar was a very popular spot during the last game of the World Series. Once inside the sports bar tent, you easily forget you’re in the middle of the desert. The crowds are forming at Jokers Wild and Snake Eyes stage for the next acts. Blonde Redhead, a graceful alternative rock band, resumes the festival on Snake Eyes stage. Introducing a new genre of music, STS9 takes to the Jokers Wild stage just 15 minutes after Blonde Redhead starts. Based in Santa Cruz, STS9 is a well-established, five-person band with electronic and jam qualities.

Keeping with the beat, Mastodon takes to the Double Down Stage, adding to the festival with its raging and thrashing hard rock. Without any more breaks in the music ’til the closing band, Vegoose is now in full gear. As STS9 ends, it marks the start for Atmosphere, a laid back hip-hop duo from the Midwest. Sean Daley (aka Slug) provides the lyrics and Anthong Davis (aka Ant) is on production; the indie-rock and old-school hip-hop style likely made them stand out in Minneapolis, Minn., and made them new fans in Vegas. The crowd starts to drift off and separate to two different stages where Public Enemy will play Jokers Wild and Cypress Hill will take over Double Down. Performing many of their popular songs from the 1993 album Black Sunday, Cypress Hill had the atmosphere taking on a whole different type of fragrance. And is it smoky or just dusty? Some favorites like "I Ain’t Going Out Like That," "I Wanna Get High" and "Insane in the Brain" were just some of the crowed pleasers. 

veg_mia.jpgAt the same time off to the left at Jokers Wild and a little to close to Double Down Stage, is Public Enemy, both acts very loud, almost as in competition. Chuck D and Flava Flav are high energy; the two occasionally sharing lead vocals holds the flow through out Flava Flav’s solo. Other than their serious public messages, Flava Flav gave a personal thank you to all his reality TV fans.

The Shins slowed things down a bit, playing mostly from their new album Wincing the Night Away. Sounding a bit like a mellow, smoother indie rock-band, it was sit-down time after Cypress Hill and Public Enemy. Soon we were back up on our feet, as M.I.A. takes over the Jokers Wild Stage. Maya Arulpragasam of M.I.A. has been around the world and back. This provides her with a deep understanding of human suffering, of political and social corruption. With the use of horns, gunshots, drum lines, intelligent lyrics and video, M.I.A. gets the message out. Feeling the good vibes from Vegoose, Maya invites all her fans onstage to join her in dancing. Her eager fans oblige and rush the stage to an almost reckless point, leading M.I.A. to quickly end the open-stage dance orgy. Continuing with "Paper Planes" and "Boyz," she held the audience’s attention with her captivating videos and lyrics.

On the Double Down Stage, Queens of the Stone Age played from their new album Era Vulgaris, delivering crowd-pleasing song such as "3’s and 7’s" and "sick,sick,sick." Not wanting to miss The Stooges, I make my way through the crowds, passing Federico Aubele taking the stage after M.I.A. Federico’s use of house beats and hip-hop to make an unusual groove is poised to fill any dance floor. This will have to be another time for me. Getting to Snake Eyes Stage, I find the crowd is thick and ready. Iggy and the Stooges return to the stage as if there had been no 30-year-absence. Performing their 1970’s hit album Fun House, Iggy shows the crowd what help set a foundation for future punk-rock stars. Performing half naked and frequently losing his pants, Iggy casts his microphone into the crowd for a sing-along. Some lucky fan got a real souvenir when the Iggy reeled in an empty line. A few minutes later, the stage hands had him audible once more. Proving nothing has changed, Iggy shows no signs of slowing down; from dry-humping the amp to manically swinging the mic stand, he is in true punk rock form. Not to have M.I.A. upstage him, Iggy invites everyone onstage

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veg_iggy.jpgMoving to the second-to-last show, it’s Thievery Corporation from Washington D.C., formed in 1995 at the Eighth Street Lounge. This electronic-rock-psychedelic sound is yoga for what is still to come. As they perform songs from their album Richest Man in Babylon, the crowd is transfixed. Wrapping up the Thievery Corporation, I can’t help to notice the Double Down Stage is draped in a black curtain. In anticipation and with everyone in migration, I head to see Daft Punk. As the curtain is raised, the excitement is elevated. The black pyramid is exposed; as the top of the pyramid is lifted, through smoke and lights you see the duo, dressed in black alien space suits. With intense sound and lights, the crowd jumps to a start and stays moving the whole time, as nonstop as the visuals and audible show. Performing their last North American Pyramid shows here at Vegoose is a nice treat. The pair plays all the hits, including "Da Funk," "Harder Better Faster Stronger," "Around the World," "One More Time," "Technologic," and many others. Now around midnight, it’s back to the strip and my hotel.

On the second day of the festival, you’ll want to get a hearty breakfast before returning. This made me late to the festival; next time, it’s room service. The shuttle bus is what I used to get to and from the strip. If you’re not driving into Las Vegas, I would suggest the shuttle. It runs from noon to midnight every 20 minutes during peak times, with many dropoff points on the strip. I have used it the last three years and never had a long wait or any problems. Arriving late, I head to see a favorite of mine, Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Sunny skies and an 80-degree temperature sets the festival. Having a soulful funk, Randolph works the pedal steel with fierce enthusiasm. His vocals are graceful and the funk his band lays out is easy to move to. You get a very warm and inviting concert with Randolph, leaving like you made a new best friend.

With a possessed feeling I am drawn to Michael Franti and Spearhead. I am listening as I get closer and feel the passion in his voice. I have never seen or heard his music, so I find a nice place to set and take it in. This was made easy by the infusion of rock, funk, reggae and hip hop as, lyrically, Franti relates what he has seen in his travels to Iraq, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. He has seen how people survive and find peace among such destruction and death. You can’t sit still long before you’re standing and swaying. Though I want to stay for the whole show, I know I have to move along.

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Umphrey’s McGee will take the stage soon, so I find my spot. Opening with "Miss Tinkle’s Overture" and playing through "Resolution," they jump right into "Plunger." After four more songs, they end with "Mulche’s Odyssey." Around this time you can’t help to notice to clouds against the fading blue sky where the sun is setting. There is something else about it. In the western skies you can see the smoke from California’s wildfires. The long, thin, black fingers of the smoke give the sky an eerie feeling. Looking west, you can see a layer of dust that has been interfering with my sinus and affecting my photos.

Muse is onstage across the dusty festival. Making it a few songs into their set, I am pulled closer by the grinding guitar and an ecstatic fan. All the while, the band is laying out guitar riffs, heavy drums, catchy beats and a lot of energy, entertaining like a stadium band. Keeping the energy high and staying in motion, I head to see moe. moe. opens with "The Pit" and "Understand," plays on to "Opium," and closes with "Buster." Yet another high energy show. From tapping country, folk, rock, feel-good jams, they can bring a lot to the stage and on their albums.

Next it’s time for one of the most anticipated shows of the weekend, Rage Against the Machine. Sounding as good as ever, they start with "Testify"; we’re also treated to "Bulls on Parade" and "People of the Sun." The length of their set—just an hour and half—was the only disappointment. Not to imply it was not satisfying, though; it was perfectly executed. This year I am leaving with a wide range of exposure to music and bands I never was able to see live or had never heard before. | Dan Siverling

Photos by Leigh Ann Hines

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