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
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
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 (photo from www.mule.net)
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 -Photo by
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
The Flaming Lips -Photo by
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...
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."