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©1999-2005 jmh
email rowjimmy

November 29, 2005
Btw, I have started a blog which will be my outlet for (ir)regular tidbits and things. This page will be primarily for, erm, "features" as below.
Check it out.

November 03, 2005

Vegoose in 80 Hours

Vegoose Bound

Thursday night, October 27, I literally flew from work in Washington, DC to Las Vegas, NV to attend the first (and hopefully annual) Vegoose Festival. The air in the cabin held a charge of anticipation as many passengers were also bound for the festival and those who weren't... they were, at least, going to Vegas! How could we not be excited? We even had the requisite couple eloping (best of luck to them.)

Upon landing I met up with my kind host for the weekend, Spoogles and we collected two more houseguests before heading back to his house to call it a night. With a long weekend ahead, there seemed little point in burning up too much too fast.


Friday morning came quickly and we rose to go grab a delicious breakfast at Blueberry Hill followed by naps for some and the assembly of taping gear. For lunch we headed to the Mandalay and joined a fun group of spoogles' friends from DNC. Nothing like gorging yourself on all varieties of food with a group of total strangers! We had a great time there and afterward and made plans to meet that night at the front of the line for Gov't Mule.

And so night time found us in line for the Mule and word flew around about the presence of numerous guests. Someone had spotted George Porter (of The Meters) and another had spotted Rob Barraco (of Phil Lesh & Friends) but the most buzz came from the siting of Phil Lesh's bass guitar tech... This strongly indicated that Phil was close at hand. The doors hadn't even opened and the crowd was already buzzing. When they did open we got in and began to setup. Spoogles ran into some battery problems so we scratched using his mics and patched into two different rigs to get the job done (thanks Lee.)

Onto the Music.

I have not seen Gov't Mule since approximatly 1998 and had tried to keep up with their changes but they hadn't held my interest. this show would be their opportunity for redemption and redemption they earned. Packing power and grace and volumes of soul, Warren and co. took us all for a wonderful ride. I danced and lost myself in the music. The first set closed with our first guest of the evening, Luther Dickenson (of North Missippi Allstars) on guitar for 32/20 Blues. He and warren took that song out back and slayed it. Wow.

Warren & Luther
Warren & Luther (photo from

Set two tore it up with a great version of their classic Trane and The Beatles' I'm So Tired. The latter broke down into a drum solo which morphed into a jam featuring guest number two, DJ Logic. (Logic had performed before the show and during the setbreak.) George Porter came out next for two songs offering a glimpse at what might have been if he, rather than the (also) exceptional Andy Hess had taken the bass reigns after the Deep End era of rotating the bottom seat.

Two more 'oldies' came out to close the set, Don't Step On The Grass, Sam and Mule. This is the kind of Gov't Mule I had always loved. Meat and potatoes Mule. Unfortunatly the night came to a close without our Phil Lesh guest appearance but not without Rob Barraco climbing in behind the Hammond to help out on the stirring closer, Soulshine. We packed up, said goodnight, and split and whom did we nearly plow into in the casino? Phil Lesh, striding at a breakneck pace through the casino with his wife, Jill, in tow.


Woke feeling slightly rested and a bit restless... Time to get packed and ready to roll out to the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl for Vegoose proper. We assembled our gear and piled into the jeep. Reesey landed just before we left the house and plans were made to meet at the show. I also had plans to meet some other friends who were in from Northern California... Unfortunately, due to problematic cell phones that wasn't meant to be until much later. Reese arrived and we got inside and to the Snake Eyes Stage in time to see Devendra Banhart and his particular breed of hippiesh folk music. Towards the end of his enjoyable set he asked the crowd, "Anyone here write their own songs?" Hands shot up all over the place and Banhart plucked a tall blonde out of the audience and handed her a guitar. While she played what she'd introduced as a bluegrass song (and a half decent one at that,) Banhart and his band listened with interest, clapping along and smiling.

The Decemberists followed, playing a set of folk infused emo rock to a much deserved positive response. They really put out and I really enjoyed seeing and hearing them for the first time.

The Decemberists
The Decemberists -Photo by Crystal DiPietro

Next up on the Snake Eyes Stage came critical darlings, The Shins. For us, however, it was a dash into the stadium to get a patch for Phil Lesh's set on the Double Down Stage. The lineup for Phil's rotation cast of players had come down to the following: Jimmy Herring - Lead Guitar, Barry Sless - Pedal Steel and Electric Guitar, Rob Barraco - Keyboards, Jeff Sipe - Drums and Joan Osborne - Vocals. this is important because this band rocked. they opened with Playing In The Band > Truckin > The Eleven and, had the stadium been a dome, they would have torn the roof off. We boogied on and on and the band kept playing. Warren Haynes joined in for a few songs, taking things a bit higher. by the time they finished, they were thirty minutes past their alloted timeframe and Beck had already begun back on the Snake Eys Stage. I pulled my plug, said thanks (thanks again Drew!) and we bolted back to see Beck.

Drawing the thickest crowd I had witnessed yet, Beck and his band, dressed in Boy Scout uniforms and surrounded by fake animals (deer, owls) and a dome tent played a stellar set. Several moments stick out but two bear extra mention. first, during a solo acoustic Hot Pants, the band, while seated at a dining table and miming a dinner, broke out into a wild percussion breakdown that consisted of spoons forks, etc upon plates, bowls glasses and so on. Unbelievable. The other was amusing as hell but not actualy music-related. Beck had brought three fans onstage to join the band in 'camping'. At one point the started going into the onstage tent and beck declared, "I can't condone what is going on in the tent right now." The fans were soon escorted offstage and to my dying day, unless i see proof of otherwise, I'll believe that they were getting high in that tent. We practically fell out laughing at that one.

Ferris Wheel
Photo by Spoogles.

After Beck, we packed up and headed for the gates. With a midnight moe. show still on our schedule, we aimed for some drinks and downtime beforehand. Spoogles got us out of the lot and back to his house in no time. Interestingly, the problems that had affected our cell communication cleared up and I reached my California friends, calling them over to join in the drinks.

moe. is a band that I almost never got. I first saw them in 1997 and walked away thoroughly unimpressed but I kept hearing good things. Thinking that maybe I'd caught an off show, I downloaded one that was reportedly good. Nope. Not my thing. A year or two later, same thing. Finally, in 2004, I found a show that did it for me. Then another, and another. Late in the year, the aformentioned Reesey came to visit and took me to my second moe. show. It was a blast and now we were in Vegas headed to another.

We arrived at the Alladin and made our way through the cavernous mall to the Performing Arts Center. We got inside, found our excellent close and comfortable seats, sat down and then my body reminded me that, according to its clock, it was now three am... And the show hadn't begun. At that point I decided not to tape. I didn't want to bother with it.

The theme for this Halloween show was 'good and evil' and the band came out for the first set in their 'good' costumes (Luke Skywalker, Mr. Incredible, a priest, 'good' Elvis, and Rob Derhak's controversial Boston Red Sox player.) They opened with The Cars' Let The Good Times Roll and the cover-fest began. The band played on and on and we danced and sat and danced and sat some more. There were good versions of St. Augustine and Moth in there somewhere. Spoogles' sister, also from the east coast confessed that if she sat too long she would surely sleep but she didn't have enough energy to stand up for the rest of the show. I felt exactly the same.

The show progressed into the 'evil' set (Darth Vader (who sang the opener Dirty Deeds by AC/DC), Syndrome, an unpriestly man in black (not a prize winner, Chuck,) Evil Elvis, and Rob's supposedly evil New York Yankee.) and the fatigue increased. Someone mentioned that they'd only play until three am which was somewhat relieving until we remembered that, due to the time change, that's four am, folks, and, to my body clock... Eight am. Ouch. Perhaps I'm not cut out for the Vegas hours. I certainly hadn't become sufficiently intoxicated to void my exhaustion. moe. played on. I remember a good version of Kids and Charlie Hitchcock (formerly of Particle) sitting in on guitar during Meat. We left, tired and bound directly for bed, with mixed feelings for the show we had just seen. Only the tapes will tell if our impression was colored by the fatigue or if the set was less than it could have been.


Sunday came far too fast. I woke to the sound of my Redskins humiliating themselves and casting embarrassment upon their fans. Seeing the score as halftime approached, I tuned out and focused on packing for my flight that night and preparing to tape that day at the fest.

Notice the disgruntled Skins fan, accompanied by a Spoogles -Photo by Spoogles.

After Blueberry Hill for breakfast we slipped past traffic and into the dusty lot in time so setup during the end of Umphrey McGee's set. In the interest of positivity, I'll say that many other folks thought their set was good. It didn't do anything for me. Maybe in seven years. Umphrey's was not our goal that afternoon at the Snake Eyes Stage. We had come for Ween. I had never seen Ween. My friends, pretty much all of them, love Ween. I knew it was time that I too, come in touch with the power that is Ween. And I did. All of the negative things that people say about them (silly, toilet humour, inane songs, ugly musicians,) could be found to be totally true but, that pales in comparison to the conviction of performance and the instrumental skills that I witnessed on that stage. Dean Ween is a terrific guitar player; possibly the most underrated player (outside of his own fanbase) of the entire festival.

Evil Pumpkin
The Evil Pumpkin -Photo by Jeff Kravitz

After Ween, Spoogles broke down his stand to carry it over the the Jokers Wild Stage for The Flaming Lips while i grabbed my gear bag and went to the Clubs Tent for the first time all weekend. King Britt's latest project "King britt presents Sister Gertrude Morgan" appealed to me not just as a fan of Britt's previous work with Sylk 130 and as a DJ but because the notion of performing new, live backing tracks to vocals record more than forty years ago by a woman who had passed more than 20 years ago compelled me to investigate. I wandered about watching the band setup and waiting for the staff to open the tent and, of course, watching for a taper whom I could ask to patch into. The set began without any signs of a mic stand. Although a little more rock-infused than I expected, the performance was good and worth waiting for but... I had yet to see The Flaming Lips, so I split.

I located Spoogles and co. by the green pumpkin attatched to the top of his mic stand and plugged in in plenty of time to kick back before The Flaming Lips. over recent years I'd come to love their music and was highly anticipating my first chance to witness them live.

Wayne Coyne descending from the heavens - Photo by rowjimmy

What a thing to witness. Descending from the Las Vegas sky in a giant, transparent, sphere; singer, Wayne Coyne, came down upon the crowd and rolled about in the ultimate form of crowd surfing as the band began playing Race for the Prize. They also released a multitude of balloons onto the crowd which worried us tapers... Balloons plus mic stands equals badness (we did take a hit later on in the set; one of the oversized ballons not only hit us, it popped. Every stand got hit.) Anyway, while we eyed the balloons, the Lips played an enormous set featuring old and new tunes and a couple of powerful covers. Yoshimi and Do You Realize? blended beautifully with an unnamed new song and the (according to Lips fan, Spoogles) scarcely heard Slow Nerve Action. The covers were a boisterious sing-along of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (which rates as one of the most seratonin pumping high point of the weekend for me) and the closer, Black Sabbath's War Pigs; which came complete with a motivational challenge to get out and effect political change. Minds were blown. Hearts soared. Unexpecting souls were converted to lifelong fans in that seventy-minute set.

The Flaming Lips -Photo by Crystal DiPietro

Lastly, The Arcade Fire closed down the Jokers Wild Stage with a glorious set of the new school of roots indie rock with one foot in the David Byrne gene pool. They traded instruments frequently, shared vocal duties and beat the living hell out of a poor defenseless cymbal. Who could ask for more? Unfortunately In spite of the fact that Dave Schools' bass thundered from the nearby stadium, this ended my Vegoose experience. In order to get home and be rested for Haloween Trick-Or-Treats with my daughters, I had to beat feet to the airport for a red-eye back to Virginia. We packed our gear, took a last look around and then took off for the airport.

Vegoose was well executed and a joy to attend. Not oversold, laid out in an extremely managable fashion, my only complaint would be that trash and recycling facilities were ridiculously limited. Otherwise, wonderful... I hope to go back and dreamed of that very thing from the moment i buckled into my seat on the plane...

The Green Pumpkin
Photo by Spoogles.

Of course I should close by thanking Spoogles and his lovely wife Crystal for hosting me in their home (and for permission to use their pictures on this page.) Also A huge shoutout to Lauren, Reesey, Diane & Stan, Ian, the DNC folks (great to meet you!), SleepyPedro and anyone else I met in Vegas. Everyone made it what it always will be. "Thank you for a real good time."





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