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Published: 2005/11/14
by Randy Ray

VEGOOSE, BABY!Plenty of Green, the Hunt for Red in October & Blackalicious Grooves

“Did I just say that out loud?” – Raoul Duke, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

We were somewhere outside the Hoover Dam when the traffic kicked in. I remember thinking: “HIT THE BRAKES FOR CRISSAKES!!! Will this project ever get done?!” The roadwork leading in and out of the dam between Phoenix and Satan’s Playground has been undergoing a massive overhaul since 2003. The signs read 2003-2008. Great. The five-year project coupled with post-9/11 security checks of every car. Welltimes have momentarily changedthey waved the thundering auto herd on ether through the checkpoints and we were on our way. It was 8pmthe late night Trey Anastasio gig starts at Midnight. Plenty of time to get to the Tuscany Suites, check in and get about two hours of sleep before the night really began.

We got through the dam, pulled over at a gas station to take a restroom break and were finally hit with all of the cheesy Vegas merchandiseeverything from hats, posters, shot glasses, whips and chains and T-shirts emblazoned with the best of Sin City’s slogans: “What happens in Vegas, stays in…” “The cards don’t lie but YOU will.” “I went to Vegas last year and I’m bound to leave next weekI thinkhonest(send more $$$).” We pulled the black beast into the Tuscany, got out and spotted our first gaggle of Wooks. Smiles lit our faces. “Ahhhmust be the place.” Let’s get upstairs and sleep. Wellthe non-writing members of the heady populace were too excited so they left for the strip and I slept for about an hour and a half before anticipation said, “Fuck ityou’re in VEGAS, baby!”

Changed clothes, hit the strip and caught up with the group at the Harley Davidson Cafe. Two STRONG stomach-rotting coffees, two beers, one heaping plate full of Nachos (hey, Vegas requires fine eating at all times) and one shot glass filled with some sort of bizarre concoction of whiskey, radiator coolant, rum, lighter fluid, mouthwash and the juice from some odd fruit and I was ready to hit the Aladdin Theatre to see my old beleaguered friend, the redhead himself. Visions of Phish, 12/6/96, at the old Aladdin danced in my nostalgic head, fueled by a three day menu of jam, rock, pop, funk and hip-hop. I was bouncing around the booth with a mixture of giddy anticipation, tourist moonshine and tourette’s syndrome. My wife laughed and asked: “You’re pretty excited, huh?” My psychotic blood shot eyes shot back the answer“YESH!!!!!!”

The first annual Vegoose festival over Halloween weekend succeeded on every level and a few invented ones, as well. The three days coasted along with nary a lull, a momentum lapse or a technical glitch. The outstanding music included the kings all lined up outside the gate’: Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, moe., Mule, Umphrey’s McGee, Colonels Hampton and Claypool and the Bad Lieutenant himself, Mr. Anastasio. From there we got an incredible dose of genre-less transcendent tunes from Beck, Primus, Blackalicious, Talib Kweli, Steel Train, The Decemberists, The Shins, The Meters, Arcade Fire, Flaming Lips, Spoongloriously eccentric beauty from Devandra Banhart, the epic ragged glory of the mind-melting ROCK from Ween, a ball busting set of nitro garage punk from the searing trio known as Sleater-Kinney and a massive menu of late night gigs that stretched from the Joint to the Hard Rock.

Quite frankly, my only two complaints once I was back home and my own mythical backpack was sprawled on the floor next to me in a chair contemplating the ceiling during a period of 72 seconds of soul-searching for the proper level of rock critic cynicism sprinkled with a healthy dose of “there just HAD to be something that reeked of rank stanksville, eh?” Well, no. Two complaints? Walked back to the Tuscany from the Aladdin at 3:30am on Friday eve/Saturday morn with a whiskey buzz without getting a cab which required about a mile of just-off-the-strip comments: “hey, homeboy, wazzupcan I get ya anything?” and “ditch the chicks and I’ll show ya a good time;” meanwhile, where’s this damn hotel again?!

Second minor quibble? Sunday’s crazy dance back and forth to see Beck and Primus. Alas, those dark days of running five miles in baseball practice finally paid off. Knees be damned! This is Hanson and Claypool, gots to checks dem BOTH out. Overall, Vegoose was a masterpiece mixture of stellar music, fantastic weather and, as Relix and writer Mike Greenhaus suggested, filled with the warm vibe of Captain Trips smiling down from jam heavena 72-hour grin lit the strip from the Mandalay Bay to Circus Circus to the southeast corner of the city where the festival took place on Halloween Weekend ’05: Sam Boyd Stadium. Let the games begin.

Friday, October 28
Scribbled Notes on Coffee & Whiskey-soaked Pages from the Aladdin Theatre

Birds of a feather flocked outside and I loved itnothing like hundreds of beer bottles, glassware, hipsters and Wookies hittin’ the strip for The Invasion of the iPod people. Met up briefly with Relix’s Benjy Eisen, Mike Greenhaus and a visiting dignitary from Relix Japan and we entered the Aladdin for the unofficial festival opener. Later, Michael Franti would joke to me, “It was great to see the freaks descend upon Las Vegas for a little while!” And more to the point, Umphrey’s McGee’s Brendan Bayliss would quip: “Vegoose was fan-fucking-tastic.”

That alliteratively awesome aftermath assessment aside, it has been a rough fan base year for the definitely NOT ex-Phishheads. A year after Coventry, a civil war exists between former Phish front man Trey Anastasio’s supporters and the hardcore fans who DO NOT appreciate his new melodic adventures. Well, that all got thrown out on Friday night as Trey and his band, 70 Volt Parade, tore through a set of torrid rockers which included the recent obligatory acoustic sequence with solo Trey playing a combo of new work and Phish gems like a sublime “Pebbles & Marbles.” “Ether Sunday” was dedicated to those in attendance: Trey’s best friend since childhood whose name I forgot to scribble, Shine producer, Brendan O’Brien, and old friend, Les Claypool who Anastasio wanted to embarrass: “He always hates when you show him attention so let’s give him yet another round of applause!” And we did. An enchanting “Bug” with the requisite crowd sing-a-long and, then, the mythical 2nd Set’ of the show bumped the energy level through the roof as the band tore through the nod to The Ghost of Guyute Reba’s past, “Goodbye Head” which segued into the glorious crunch of “Mr. Completely” before the heavy riff rock of an extended “Low.” The strip beckoned as I bypassed a taxi for a stumble/walk. You can turn your back on a man but never turn your back on whiskey.

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