Vegoose Music Festival | 10.28-29.06

Wait time for the shuttle is less than 10 minutes for the 15-minute ride, and you can bring your Bloody Mary with you; just have it in a plastic cup. (Man, I love Vegas.)


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Las Vegas

Vegoose is a two-year-old music festival held at Star Nursery at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. It's an outdoor festival with three main stages and a tent, all with the most amazing backdrop of mountains. They catch the light of the setting sun each night, followed by a blanked of stars. Starting Friday and going 'til Monday are night shows all around the strip.

Our journey begins with Trey Anastasio and Robert Randolph and the Family Band at the Orleans Area. Randolph and Co. take the stage around ten and get right to work for about an hour and half. Randolph delivers a show that is just as over the top as Las Vegas itself, working the pedal steel as if possessed from the sound he conjures from it. Taking the stage, Anastasio opens with "Simple Twist Up Dave," before being joined by Randolph on guitar for "Stone Free." A later guest appearance by Jason Crosby supplements "46 Days." Jennifer Hartswick keeps the vibe going with an amazing trumpet solo so unbelievable, it could only happen in Vegas. Anastasio ends the show with an encore of "Mr. Completely" and "Tuesday," leaving the crowd hungry and ready for more.

Day one of Vegoose can start differently depending on how you approach it. Staying at one of the older hotels conveniently located by one of the may shuttle locations (proved at a cost by the festival) is an easy and safe way to get to and from the strip. Wait time is less than 10 minutes for the 15-minute ride, and you can bring your Bloody Mary with you; just have it in a plastic cup. (Man, I love Vegas.) Once there, you can go right into the festival with little hassle, or check out the lot. I had to check out the lot before entering; after all, you never know what you might see. This year's lot offered a cornucopia: grilled cheese, glass art, posters, tie-dyed T-shirts, good craft beer, and anything you might have left at home. Once your shopping list is all checked off, you make your way into what is going to be a smorgasbord of music.

Inside I came upon Gomez playing at the Jokers Wild Stage, opening with "Shot Shot" from the newly released Five Men in a Hut. As I snuck over to the beer tent, I was pretty sure I heard a little Led Zeppelin tease. Gomez' performance of "How We Operate" from their last album was a late-in-the-set treat. Now it's almost 1 p.m., and I make my way to the Cabaret Clubs Tent for the Coup. This has to be on of the most politically outspoken rap groups in a while; the Coup makes Kayne West look like a keeper of the peace. Just as electric as Boots Riley was Slik-E, a DJ from Oakland, Calif. who joined him onstage. Slik-E has a powerful voice, moving onstage with the fire and passion of the politically charged lyrics of Riley as Pam the Funkstress mixed on the turntables. (Look for a 2007 solo release by Slik-E; I know I'm anticipating it.)

The time now calls for some metal to wash down the rap, so off to the Double Down Stage where Praxis will take the stage. I am not as close as I would normally be, but I can still see Buckethead, with his signature head gear and white mask. This proves to be as good as any place to be, with the artists' freeform motion and divers' group. Just to balance out the day, we catch a bit of Cat Power and the Memphis Rhythm Band. With a stage full of band members, the Memphis Rhythm Band delivered a nice, soulful bluesy number.

The set ended in perfect time for us to check out Yonder Mountain String Band, a personal favorite. The show was a nonstop testament to the successes of one of today's greatest bluegrass bands. Next, coming from the Cabaret tent is Dr. Octagon, a.k.a Kool Keith; knowing little about the band, I stop in. Here I find myself struggling to hear every word sung by Dr. Octagon; he is a lyrical genius and, with his cape and energy he puts forth onstage, he issquarerac definitely worth checking out. With only the briefest of set changes, the Raconteurs took to the stage, rocking some of today's best original tunes. Jack White has proven himself as a songwriter and guitarist; now that I have seen him live, I can attest to his being an all-around performer.

Just as rare as hitting the jackpot is seeing Keller Williams and the String Cheese Incident, opening with "Burning Down the House" and ending on "Freaker by the Speaker." Together, this self-proved solo artist and his longtime friends make a pair to bet on. Food break. With pizza and beer in hand, I head over to check out Mars Volta. After working with the legendary Rick Rubin on their debut disc The Comatorium, the Mars Volta's set today proved that their sophomore release, Amputechture, is right up with its predecessor.

As the sun is setting, the color of the mountains is changing, and the stars are coming out, the Black Crowes are taking the stage. Chris and Rich Robinson must have known they had and audience ready to rock, because that's what they did. Opening with "Halfway to Every Where," they got everyone wild with the crowed-pleasing "Up on Cripple Creek" before ending with "Remedy." The next band calls Las Vegas home; after the success of their first album, they were ready to bring Sam's Town to Vegoose. The crowd was more than ready to welcome the Killers home. One song after another, the Killers delivered, setting the crowed on fire. Rocking the crowd with his storytelling songs, headliner Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers crank the frenzy up a notch with an extended version of "It's Good to Be King"… the perfect way to end the night and close day one of Vegoose.

Day two starts with me missing Band of Horses and just seeing the last of Built to Spill; still, I really like the little I heard and will be seeking out their latest, You in Reverse. Having more time to explore the festival, I spy Jack Nicholson and Willie Nelson in conversation. Then I see Tina Turner giving an all-out performance of "What's Love Got to Do With It" and Jay Leno working the crowd. No, I wasn't in the V.I.P. section, just hanging out in the Impersonators' Café. This was a good way to take in Las Vegas without the strip. You can even up your ante on the whole experience by getting married by your favorite celebrity impersonator on hand at the white chapel. Don't have the right threads or makeup, or just forgot you costume? All this can be taken care of at the Dollhouse Salon and Costume Shop. With a place to upload mobile phone and digital pictures so your friends can see you having a great time at Vegoose: priceless.

Even the Sunday football games could be found at the Sports lounge, where you can also keep track of all your bets made while in Vegas. From the market and Poster Art Exhibit to the glass-blowing demonstration, there was always something new to do or see. One of the most captivating shows in the Cabaret Clubs Tent was the Yard Dogs Road Show. A recipe made up of a little vaudeville and a dash of burlesque; mix in a little voodoo and pour over a band of gypsies, and you get this pop culture take on the old acts of the Wild Wild West. From a sword swallower to the beautiful burlesque dancers and a wild-eyed hobo poet, this act by far will captivate you.

I caught just the final 15 minutes of Galactic, but they were the ones that mattered, featuring guests Blackalicious and Lady Bug Mecca from Digable Planets. I had to keep on schedule, so I headed over to soak up the sounds of the Rhythm Devils with Mike Gordon. With Mickey Hart on drums and Gordon on bass, the Dead and Phish came into a perfect and balanced alignment as the high point of "The Wedge" moved into "Fire on the Mountain" and ended with "Good Lovin." I once again sprint across the grounds to witness an almost uncomfortable, honest express of emotion from Fiona Apple. She sure has grown since I last heard from her; she is proving to be very talented on the ivories and in vocals. Wishing I could have seen a little more, I head back to see Trey and Phil. The crowd does change a bit between acts but lately I noticed fans holding their ground. Once the music starts, it's all back to the same thing: the music.

Space clears up and we are back in the sea of the crowd. Coming at us first was "Shakedown Street," then Phil proving some vocal talent with Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." Mike Gordon joins with his banjo for "Back on the Train." The duo go through as many Dead songs as not, including "Help Is On the Way," "Slipknot," "Franklin's Tower," and "Don't Fade Away." This was an all-out show. As a handful of people depart, I find a spot closer to the stage and hold my ground until Widespread Panic takes the stage. The first note struck and out came "Climb to Safety" as the whole crowd cheered and sang along and moved to the beat. The band played many of my favorites, including "Pigeons," "Porch Song," and—ending the night after three hours—"Ain't Life Grand." Exhausted, I make my way to the shuttle; after a 15-minute nap on the ride back to the strip, I head straight up to my room for I am done. | Daniel Siverling

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