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Vegoose 2005


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Vegoose 2005 -

Sam Boyd Stadium Las Vegas , NV

October 29-30th

Show Review

By Jay McConnery

Images courtesy of Vegoose

Not normally being one for large sprawling festivals, I bought tickets to the first annual Vegoose festival with some trepidation. Was this going to be a Bonnaroo style sardine fest? A painful Vegas cash-gouging affair? Was it going to be a logistical nightmare, a la Coventrey? Anxieties aside, the price was fair for the number and caliber of acts they had landed for the event, so I figured it was a good excuse to get my ass to Las Vegas for the first time and try my hand at something new.

Umphrey's Mcgee

Arriving Friday night, armed with Umphreys late night tickets, we checked into our hotel, quickly hooked up with our crew and got our party on. Singing songs of Shelbyville, we took the Monorail over to Mandalay Bay 's House of Blues, where the Umphreys McGee late night throwdown was getting underway. Entertaining various guests, (Warren Haynes, Al Shnier), pulling out some hot covers (Helter Skelter, Seek and Destroy, Immigrant Song) and offering an array of their terrific originals, UM showed that they are truly the young lions of the scene, and that they were hungry for blood that night. After a solid throttling, we stumbled back to our hotel to get some rest for the festival which was to get underway about 5 hours later...

We woke up and started the process- stunted, yet determined, we forced some water and Advils down our throats, and launched ourselves into motion.

The main part of the Vegoose challenge, was it's location.. about 12 miles off the Vegas Strip. Basically, in the middle of nowhere- (at UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium, and on its surrounding lawns). We considered renting a car, and taking taxis... having learned that the shuttle program was to cost 50.00 per person.. but in the end that proved to be the safest and most reliable bet. They delivered people to and from their hotels with surprising ease. Besides, nobody wants to jocky the sobriety horse at a party like this.

Arriving at around 3:15pm.. (bands take note- If you are going to have a name as humpbacked as 'Slightly Stoopid', it's going to be highly unlikely that fans will drag their asses out of bed to watch you play at noon, sorry, but im just being honest).. our posse walked though the gate quickly and easily, and surveyed the grounds. There were three main stage areas in relative close proximity- the actual stadium bowl and two other large stages. In the centre of all the stages, lay the Vegoose market area. Umphrey's McgeeMarked by a monstrous foaming-at-the-mouth Jack'o'Lantern creation, surrounded by hundreds of smaller Jackolanterns. This ended up being a great meeting place. Around the perimeter were food vendors (enjoying the longest lines imaginable) , clothing and paraphenalia vendors selling the the usual fares. Along one edge was a creepy chapel featuring a drunken priest preforming fake nuptuils, on the other side was an impersonaters tent. At the far right end, there was a cabaret tent featuring some freakshows and spoken word preformances. On the other end was the Hip Hop themed Club's tent.

We heard the alluring sounds of Blackalicious emanate from the Club's Tent. It was packed and impossible to see, so we walked by, but not without regrets, as this was one of the most talked about shows of the weekend. We caught a little bit of Govt Mule who were playing a mean sounding version of 'No Quarter', as we continued to get our bearings. The Decemberists seemed to have stopped early, and The Shins had come on dressed as Nuns. It was funny and they sounded great, but I was looking forward to catching Phil and Friends, so we meandered over to the Main Stage to check it out.

Phil and FriendsPhil and Friends were sounding crispy and delicious. Phil's bombs were shaking my bowels (in a good way, not like the Golden Nugget Buffet), and Barraco's keys pinched my nipples like a cheap escort. We arrived in time for 'Truckin' and stayed for most of the set. The vibe was amazing as the sun started to sink- Sierra Nevadas were flowing, and we felt like we were starting to get some great music value for our tickets dollars. I had never seen this lineup, but was particularly impressed by Jeff Sipe on the drums. I've heard him in Aquarian Rescue Unit, and on the unreal live album ' Temporal Anologues of Paradise ' with Jonas Hellborg and Shawn Lane , but being able to watch him on the big screens was just amazing- the man is so fluid. Following and leading the odd time changes effortlessly, and dropping some fills that sounded remarkably like both the Dead's Kreutzzman and Hart combined.. Jimmy Herring was delivering the definition of tasteful guitar playing, while Barry Sless went for the 'Jerry' sound which he seemed to capture nicely, as well as some nice pedal steel work on some tunes. Joan Osbourne even sounded great. Warren Haynes came out for a ' Shakedown Street ' and the party really took off.

After checking the time we realized that Primus was to start shortly. We made our way over to the 'Jokers Wild Stage' and got a spot right inbetween the sound board and a terribly located single Portapotty, which was eventually knocked over. Primus had two massive inflatable Rubber-Duckies flanking the stage, and some great lighting perspective changes. They came out to wild applause. Unfortunately the volume coming off stage seemed really weak, and the low end was not coming through at all. Everyone in the crowd was letting the sound man know to no avail. After a while it didnt seem to matter anymore, as they ripped into 'To defy the laws of tradition', 'Ground hog's day', and a host of other ' Frizzle Fry' and ' Sailing the Seas of Cheese' selections. I was loving it. I've been a large Primus fan since early highschool and not many bands still give me the urge to jump around in mosh pit- but Primus still does.. having seen them a half dozen times, I felt I should take the opportunity to run over and see another favorite artist of mine, Beck.

Beck and his band were dressed as boyscouts and had the stage set up as a boyscout camp-out. Complete with a tent, campfire, deer and owls. The band was often pausing between songs, searching the crowd with flashlights, looking for "lost children". I always appreciate when a band has fun with a theme and takes time to be silly. They even took time to earn badges in important pursuits like 'tambourine-jammin' or 'turntable-spinnin'.. Beck played a range of material from 'Odelay' through 'Guero' , with a crowd pleasing


of hits at one point, completely bringing down the house. The stand alone hi-lights were 'New Pollution', 'Hot Wax', 'Where its at', 'Debra', as well as some slower accoustic numbers like 'Nobodys Fault' where he even invited an audience member to pump his melodica organ for him. A dangling camera offered an interesting view from high atop the band.. especially during another high point of the set was when his band brought a table of glasses and cups out on which to plan some really interesting percussion during 'Lost Cause'. It turned into a full on table-jam after the tune.. Beck was a major highlight for me.

beckRealizing pretty quickly we werent interested in Dave Matthews set- we hopped a shuttle back to our hotel, and got a little bit of resting in before dressing up for moe.'s latenight, good vs evil set, at the Alladin. A few of us became characters from Kill Bill, whereas I opted to become a 'Friendly, yet Misunderstood Douchebag Scoutmaster'.. the transformation was breathtaking and perhaps even awe inspiring.

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The Alladin is a pretty large venue, 7000ish, and is reminicent of the NAC in some ways. Security had some cute old ladies, perhaps paying off gambling debts, tightly enforcing the assigned seating. moe. had the venue at about 3/4 capacity and were scheduled to play two sets- the first one high-lighting good themes and the second evil. They opened with a kickass cover of the Car's 'Let the Good times roll', the rest of the set was definitley on the feel-good side of things, musically and lyrically, but seemed a little too dreamy for a crowd of festival goers who were 14 hours into their day of music and probably could've used a touch more rage. After set break, moe. played some great Evil selections and a couple odd picks for good measure.. moe. brought out Ex-Particle guitarist Charlie Hitchcock for 'Meat' which was not really a surprise as we spotted him walking up and down the aisles of the venue throughout the first set. Lots of treats in this set including ACDC's 'Dirty Deeds' with Jim on the vocals, crowd favorite 'Ghost of Ralphs Mom', and most pleasing to me was an awesome rendition of ELO's 'Evil Woman'. They really nailed it, and by that point we were all ready to get some rest for the next festival day, which was really the musical cash cow we were waiting for.

Arriving at the festival 15 minutes late for Umphreys afternoon set, we sprinted over and manged to see the majority of it. They were once again, slinging their guitars like machine guns, and happily murdering the blissful afternoon crowd. 'Jajunk, 2x2>Bridgeless' was jawdroppingly good. Once they wrapped up, and we brushed the cinders off of each other, we headed over to see Sleater-Kinney. After the tightness that is UM, SK sounded much like a garage band in need of a garage. or a shed. or a dumpster. They had the smallest audience we saw all weekend and rightfully so, in my opinion.


Our group split on the Ween/moe. timeslot. I opted to catch the first half of Ween, and the second half of moe. Ween started out with their live staple, 'the AIDs song.' They continued the diseased theme into 'Spinal Menningitis'. 'Happy Colored Marbles' continued the browness into 'Buckingham Green' and a selection of newly composed tunes. I stuck around for about a third of their set, and knowing I'd be able to enjoy a full set on Halloween, I decided to go see how moe. was faring on the Main Stage.. the answer- awesomely. They sounded huge and flawless, with the exception of some minor feedback trouble. They played a tight high energy set that seemed to have the whole stadium dancing. 'Timmy Tucker> Tailspin, Wind it up' was exceptionally tight. I also cant help but get excited when they play the Stone's, 'Can't you hear me knockin'. Rock and Roll, yeah, i love it.

Our whole contingency of Skanks seemed to hook up just in time for the Meters. This was a special treat, as it was the original Meter's reuniting, and thats not a regular occurance. They played classics like 'Sophisticated Cissy' and 'Fire on the Bayou'. They definitley seemed a little bit old, and didnt carry the hot spark found on the ' Live on the Queen Mary' recording, but it was hot funk in the desert sun, and people were loving it. After about 40 minutes, I realized I was missing my chance to judge, errr, i mean... see Trey Anastasio's 70 Volt Parade set on the main stage. My partner and I decided to go over and give him a chance, being big fans of Trey's previous 'projects'.. We walked into the middle of 'Tuesday', a number from Trey's new record, "Shine". First impression - forgettable. trey.jpgAlthough the band sounded full and was obviously packed with top notch players, there was something missing. They dropped into 'Night Speaks to a woman' which is a great Trey band number featuring some trademark Trey soloing, but then he followed that up with two more new ones.. then '46 days'. The cowbell intro sounded like RocknRoll salvation as they began the late-era Phish standard. Sounded wonderful and it led to a great jam. After this treat, Trey picked up his accoustic and gave his usual, 'Thanks for listening and supporting me through the changes', speech I've heard at the last 3 TAB incarnations I've seen live, and my stomach started to turn a little bit. He played 'Waste', and 'Inlaw Josie Wales' which were charming as usual. Then 'Back on the train', where the lyrics reminded me that 'Now he's gone and he'll never look back again'.. so timely.. yet angering. Faintly, in the distant background, I could make out the pulse of The Flaming Lips playing 'Gash' and this was our cue to get up and run, having forgotten about their start time.

The Lips were amazing. They played some Yoshimi classics, a couple of new ones, and some older classics like, 'She Dont Use Jelly' and even earlier stuff I didnt know. Wayne Coyne gave a passionate speech about how the festival goers, by and large, are society's 'free-thinking, smart ones' and we need to think up a solution to the Iraq war scenario.. I felt extra lucky to be Canadian as they kicked an amazing version of "War Pigs"- the screen behind them synched with disturbing war imagery ,and a collage of Bush, Cheney and other American political icons looking sinister during the chorus. It was heavy and very effective.

flaminglips.jpgFollowing the Lips, we broke off from the group of Spread-heads heading up to the Stadium to get a good spot for the big Headliners set, and went to check out a little bit of Jack Johnson. What can I say? The ladies love his laid back, charming, surfer-dude songs with good reason.. They are written and designed with the explicit purpose of getting him and guys like him, into their pants. Just kidding... sort of. I was able to appreciate his 'laid back grooves', right up until he mentioned he was, "..wishing he could make love to us all right now".You seem like a nice dude, but sorry Jack I'd rather you didnt make love to me or my girlfriend. I went over to get a good spot for The Arcade Fire.

Arcade Fire came out charged, dressed in black. Looking extremely focused, they came out with their anthemic chant number, with lyric '..hearts grow colder' from Funeral . I've misplaced my copy, so Im not sure what it's called, but it was an inspiring opener. They never stopped rocking from start to finish, playing almost all of Funeral , and a couple covers I didnt recognize. The sound was so amazing that I was tempted not to move for the whole set. Of course, one needs beer.. but for the most part I watch the entire set and loved it. They were really unified as they preformed the music and appeared undividedly moved and energized by what they delivered, a trait often lacking in the jam community. I was really impressed by the fact that they were all switching intruments throughout the show, and was especially wowed by Regine Chassagne who rocked the keys, vocals and drums. Definitley a lot of skill in this band. I think you really need to see them live to also realize how great Winn Butler's singing voice is. I left the show singing 'Everytime you close your eyes.. Liiiiies, liiiiiies' all the way into the stadium for Widespread Panic.

widespread.jpgWe got picked up some drinks, and grabbed seats at the back of the stadium for Widespread Panic. The sound and view was truly beautiful.. Panic was really impressive in their smooth delivery and pocket playing. They really sound like a tight unit, as they should having been together over two decades. Southern flavoured, high energy jam rock, is how I would describe them, and the audience was definitley the most spirited I saw all weekend. The entire stadium was bobbing and moving under the lights like an overflowing bucket of Baby Duck. Panic had a number of guests including Trey and Colonel Bruce Hampton, and rocked for over 3 hours straight. Which is no small feat.

Expecting to be hating it, I walked away after a good 6 or 7 tunes, interested in the band and hoping to one day be able to check out a full night.. Although at this point, I was ready to catch a shuttle to our hotel and avoid the throngs of partiers looking for a ride out, and grab some zzzz.

As we got onto our luxury shuttle, I realized the festival had really left a good taste in my mouth. The taste of well thought out scheduling, diverse musical programing and solid organisation. The taste of high musical standards and envigorating spirit. The taste of Sierra Nevada and cigarettes. We returned to the hotel for a little more gambling and a solid nights rest before halloWEEN... but leaving the grounds of Vegoose, I couldnt help but wonder... how are they going to get me back here next year? I hope they find a way.

Umphrey's Mcgee

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"Expecting to be hating it, I walked away after a good 6 or 7 tunes, interested in the band and hoping to one day be able to check out a full night.. Although at this point, I was ready to catch a shuttle to our hotel and avoid the throngs of partiers looking for a ride out, and grab some zzzz."

Good review - I'll tell you how they're going to get me back next year. Widespread muthafucking Panic baby!

That show in the Sam Boyd is one of the best I've seen... it was a treat. One of the great things too, Panic is very easy to be social during. ie. you can dance with all your friends... its not introverted like some dancing can be... Its hanging out souther style with a few drinks and having a good time watching the sun shine

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