VEGOOSE 2006 – The Random Chain of Broken Rules and Unrelated Events
Dedicated to Ed Bradley who knew how to balance the sweet, high life with justice.
Part I Unedited Principles of Irreverence or the Red Kimono Jam
What strange narrowness of mind now is that, to think the things we have not known, are better than the things which we have known. – Life of Johnson, James Boswell
The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in a Clam Bar at around 8:30pm or, at least they did in my existential universe. This was manager Tony LaRussa’s first series win since the Oakland A’s were swept in 1990a travesty that the Bay Area has yet to live downsome strange white dude with all his hair shaved offincluding eyebrowspeddling Eastern religionshe stops me but I give him a look like Vader gave Luke on Endor in Return of the Jedi: “don’t go there, my son”a middle-aged woman squawks to her husband (?), friend (?), poker buddy (?), that she’s been up since 8ambig freakin’ whoopty-doo, lady. Try raising twinsThe Red Kimono Lady is hanging with a key jam keyman and almost knocks the mind into the hospitalthe definition of WOW as I flip towards the entrance of the Orleansmetal detectors at a jamband show?or are they expecting some sort of cosmic knife fight between the Haters and the Flufferseither wayit’s quite strangeeven my belt bucklea refugee from the Robert Plant/Zeppelin-erais pored over by some rent-a-cop-lady like it contains a secret weapondefrocked, I segue from the Middle East to the bowels of Arville Street
The pre-festival events are underway as thousands of music and nightlife fans descend upon the strip and its intoxicating outskirts for a little bit of adult Halloween action as we shine a light on the 2nd Annual Vegoose Festival. Caveat Emptor (same as it ever was): if the reader is expecting the straight setlist scoop and who played what and where on which square foot of grass or the venue off the strip or who joined whom at the hip at the trippy Cabaret Clubs Tent and which costume was worn by the Black Crowes’s frontman Chris Robinson (he came as a heady hippie)forgettaboutitman, itain’tgonnahappen. This is VEGAS and if you haven’t figured it out already, details go out the 42nd floor hotel window along with the television for sanity and litigation purposes so hang on as we meander through the sights, sounds, observations, civic outrages and resilient fabric of a vibrant, multi-genre festival laced-up with a wonderful carnival atmosphere, taboot.
Part II “All the Authorities Just Stand Around and Boast,” Dylan Sneered
Tanks and infantry of the Soviet Union are only a few hundred yards away from the bunker’s iron door up at street level. “Hitler, trapped below, the most loathsome human being who ever lived,” wrote Trout, “doesn’t know whether to shit or go blind.” – Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut
O.K. I think I got some sleep after getting back to the hotel around 3 or 4 or 5am orthe festival officially begins and I head to Shakedown Street, which parallels Sam Boyd Stadiuma venue that is not being used this year to house acts and their blissed-out fans. Shakedown, as always, has begun operations fairly early and I head over to see my new fave rave, Toubab Krewe at the Snake Eyes Stage at the ghastly early hour of 11:30amworth every bleary-eyed incendiary minute as they rip sounds asunder and kick open the door to another wall-to-wall, two-day mix of highlights over four stages.
Shakedown is Shakedown. Time just stands still here as it does from SPAC in upstate New York to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Palo, Alto, California. I chat up the many heads and wooks and wander around chatting up some old friends and acquaintances:
”Whatcha workin’ on?” asked a fellow traveler. “Oh, a bird’s eye view of the strip and the festival over Halloween weekendsomething warm, relaxing and irreverent but positive,” I improvised. “Overall piece?” he concluded. “Goodthat’s what people like.” I continued checking out the T-shirts, jewelry and exotic glassware before making my move to the festival grounds. Same as it ever wasthe lot scene is boisterous, friendly and barter-miracle-or-currency-driven based upon want or need. And that’s alright, right? Unfortunately, my wonderful two-day bliss vibe is immediately strangled by a Vegas cop who is intent on committing a jamband felony: harshin’ my mellow, brah.
“Hi, how’s it going?” I asked one of the LVPD crew walking towards the festival gate.
“Fine,” he said.
“Seems pretty relaxed around here,” I said. “Last year was fairly peaceful, too, right?”
“The only problems we have are with people who want to tape or video the shows then, we have a problem,” he retorted without any sense of irony, composure or humor.
“Yes, I suppose that’s true,” I politely stated without any hint of my usual mischief. “But, overall, the festival scene here is quite tame, friendly and without incident, right? People are here with a pretty reasonable vibe, right?” (WRONGWRONGWRONG)
“You know what” he turned and hissed at me with a bucket of seething contempt, “if you have some questions, go to the right people.”
“Alright, fine. Thanks for your time,” I responded and continued my own journey.
I thought of many responses but I’m older now and have far more responsibilities than I did even a few years back so I didn’t want to conjure my devilish nature by any witty bursts of vitriol. However, I did ponder one sort of a debatable, existential nail biter: “Ohso you don’t have your own opinion? Is this the Bush-era I’M ONLY FOLLOWING ORDERS way of thinking? In a fix, you wouldn’t know whether to shit or go blind, would you?” For whatever reason, I sensed this was the end right here on this asphalt section of turf next to Sam Boyd, a quiet finale to “the end justifies the means” philosophy of fear and extermination we have endured since 9/11. I wasn’t insulted or anything like that_au contraire_, this was a moment of historical epiphany for me. I just felt that, in the end, the American public, contrary to what the Republican Administration has thought over the last six years, is not stupid. This is a democracy and, oh lookwe have a national election in ten days. Guess what? Next time I ask you a friendly question, answer me in a civil tone, you fucking swine_I pay your salary_.
Part III “five minutes were equal to forty ounces, etc.”
In the Middle Ages an hour was equal to 480 ounces of fine sand or 22,560 atoms…on the day John Shade wrote this, Gradus the Gunman was getting ready to leave Zembla for his steady blunderings through two hemispheres. – Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
D vu as Faken Bacon lifted through the ethereal Shakedown Street air and Frisbees hit dogs in their lurching clamped jaws; owners sat on the back of trucks, BBQing various edibles while sucking back varieties of hops, lager and pissy American ale. All good, ya understand. Time has a way of speeding up and slowing down and stopping and curling over-on top of itself into a burrito of Stephen J. Hawking-headache producing temporal mayhem. These are the fans who are here for the atmosphere, the vibe, the quick buck to make it to the next town, the way of life that is LIFE. Or something very simple like that.
I made friends with a couple of cats who coincidentally were going to turn me onto to some trippy live John Popper tapes and offered free foodwhich was outrageously delicious, by the waywhile I smoked my cigar and we talked about the Dead and Phish.
Talking about the Lot, again? Wasn’t that Part II or was it Part I? Are these sections related in someway? YOI’m having a grand old time but, where are you going with this literary crock pot of festy ingredients? “Hallow E’en not only marked the transition from autumn to winter but it also gained importance as an opportunity for deceased souls to revisit old haunts and warm their spirits by the fire and companionship of kinsfolk who welcomed them home.”
“I see dead people?”
(WRONGWRONGWRONG) Time and space and place and corporeal status = zero here.
[THEME SPOILER ALERT] D vubroken, yeshI’ve covered this ground? Or have eye? Unrelated eventsah, ha! Meandering circle around the theme of the piece and the 2006 Vegoose Festivalthe random chain of broken rules and unrelated events.
The lineup for the second annual bash over Halloween weekend was extremely eclectic (tricky word, that), exotic, erotic and defiantly (_that_ word, again) indie meets jam via classic rock and a welcome and hearty dash of pop/hip hop/acousticayou see, all of the linguistic pyrotechnics that I have at my awesome and immodest disposal don’t mean a hill of beans in this crazy world (thanks, Humphrey Bogart). The sound is DA THANG.
Everyone in the sprawling and epic Jamband Empire is up in dreadlocked smelly arms over the end of the hippie festival as we know it. The evil infiltration of gel-sculpted, shaggy dog indie music via the eternal garage rock is killing our scene, man. No, Sweet Virginiashitty drugs, lazy ambitions and aimless wandering are the prime suspects. Look in the mirrorit ain’t just the artists who need to reassess their approach to music.
Quite frankly, the Vegoose lineup approach was reassessed, damned solid on paper and even better on the stage. Toubab Krewe, as mentioned, were amazingly effective at such an early time slot with their Zeppelin and Peter Gabriel/Jimmy Cliff chutzpah after a mention in a [NAMEDROP ALERT] Mike Gordon interview I conducted in which the PHISH bassist gave kudos to their stellar ROO ’05 set.
Praxis was one of my must-sees as I have around 20 Bill Laswell-produced or arranged albums and his work continues to wrap itself around the outer galaxy edge of today’s post-post-post apocalyptic avant-garde.
Cat Power raised my eyebrows a little bit further because of the input of the Memphis Rhythm Bandan eccentric and strong choice for 2006’s version of Sinead O’Connor (and that is a compliment coming from me).
Yonder Mountain String Band achieved the first, all-important Woodstock moment with a huge heaping of bluegrass sun light while the masses drenched them in appreciation.
The Ranconteurs gave the flipside of that bit of nirvana by blitzkrieging through an hour-long set of steel trap rawk with Jack White towering over Vegas as the clear festy star.
The Keller Williams Incident proved to be a momentous occasion as it was the last Incident before the big SCI ANNOUNCEMENT: Bill Nershi’s pending 2007 departure.
[SCRIBE AS PERVERT ALERT] The Yard Dogs Road Show held forth in the Cabaret Clubs Tent and played some pretty cool Bob Fosse-_All That Jazz_ top hats-feathers and T&A music with lascivious female strippers which is a fairly good indicator of a genuine LOCK for a great review from me.
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley definitely earned the respect that his last name warrants with a communal reggae shakedown of a different flavor altogethernice, indeed.
I’m tired, it’s 1:30am as I write these timeless pearls so, the rest of the weekend sucked.
I kid therefore, I am.
The rest of Saturday was an extraordinary onslaught (heady, eh?) of nihilistic tortured ecstasy, The Mars (de)Volta, thundering Southern Rock yearning to continue its relevance in an evolving live music scene and succeeding, the Black Crowes and gargantuan reams of FM-radio rock, Tom Petty and the Pensionbreakers. The Killers played an hour-and-a-half of very dramatic and intense rock that I’m supposed to like (read: MMJ for the IQ-disadvantaged). Jurassic 5 played the Cabaret Tent, however, and delivered the most positive street music of the day with a very crowd-pleasing set that had the audience enthralled as people attempted to squeeze into the overflowing bulge.
Part IV Here Comes the Sun
Sun, you be here and I’ll be gone
Bye, bye, don’t grieve after me
Won’t give you my place, not for yours
Bye, bye, don’t grieve after me
Cause you be here and I’ll be gone – A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn
Sunday, Sunday, bawdadda, bawdaddaummmwrong song. I was going on even lesssleep because the Phil and Trey show at the Orleans ended at 4am give or take the adjustment for Daylight’s Saving Time, which even with an additional hour didn’t seem to help for the fatigued, ragamuffin populace. Speaking of morning muffins, when I arrived back at the festival prior to the second day’s events after dropping off [SHAMELESS LACK OF NAMEDROPS] two estimable music editors at the site, I noticed the lack of peoplelike large amounts of empty-no one is around-it is deserted unpeoples peoplethat kinda lack of [SHAMELESS LACK OF A WORD FOLLOWING A PREPOSITIONbroken rules=festies theme, dig.]. Anywhooif a tree falls in a forest and you’re there, does it fall on only you, grasshoppa?
Band of Horses began activities on the Jokers Wild Stage and managed to create quite a dense aura that featured Neil Young and Crazy Horse atmospherics with the obligatory and aforementioned My Morning Jacket dramatic flourishes. The frontman/guitarist displayed a slower, nuanced steel guitar waltz as the band seemed to build bubbles of harsh sounds around hima beaut. BoH closed with ELO’s “Showdown,” whichahem, went down A-OK. This is definitely a band worth checking out and I’d add them to my lengthy list of 2006 Vegoose Pleasant Surprises i.e. the Yard Dogs.
Built to Spill followed on the Snake Eyes Stage with much anticipation and then proceeded to a) tune-up endlessly like it was a 1971 Dead concert, b) bitch about the lack of a soundcheck as “only the headliners got one,” and c) deliver a raging swirl of old, semi-recent and new songs that completely wiped away all of their complaints. BTS is a live prehistoric monster and tend to ward off criticism by being sincerely passionate and direct in the moment without betraying pretension like so many other live acts.
The Rhythm Devils featured Mickey Hart, Billy Kreutzmann, Mike Gordon, Steve Kimock, Sikiru Adepoju and Jen Durkin and continued to redefine a new form of funky percussion music suited for a new timeless century. Gordon would show up in the following Phil and Trey set on “Back on the Train;” although, his guitar was plagued with technical problems so Anastasio gave him his guitar. The set was well-played but paled a wee bit in (an unfair) comparison to the four-hour Goliath of the prior late eve.
Of the remaining acts, I caught Fiona Applestill has that enormously powerful voice that seems to conjure someone from somewhere that I don’t know; G. Love and Special Sauce romances the Jokers Wild Stage and Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twinsshe really reminds me of Joni Mitchell these days and has developed quite a charismatic stage persona with or without her presence on stage for her other group, Rilo Kiley.
Duty called as I needed to make the trek south to Phoenix to help my wife tend to our three-month old twins and three year-old son after she took a rain check for next year’s festival and rubberstamped the “Randy, just get out of the house for a while” trip to Sinless City. Here’s where all of the poetic chaoticness of the weekend, festival and this feature falls into place. As I drove home, I passed numerous geographic odditiescaverns, stone hills and red-soaked mountains untouched by the hand of man.
The strands of dark confusion suddenly seemed to make sense to me. As I crossed through ageless passages sculpted by the hands of something that I cannot comprehend, I realized that nothing I would see, hear, touch, feel or do would match this perfection. Did I race home, shave my head, abandon my family and join a Yoda-lined monastery? No, but I learned that to critique the evolving, incomprehensible and confusing jamband map is human but to experience the arc of sublime Methuselah landscapes is divinean extensive list of invisible forces, of course. Or are they?
. – Randy Ray stores his work at www.rmrcompany.blogspot.com. He offers a special thanks to Dean Budnick, Josh Baron, Mike Greenhaus, Brad Sands, Ken Weinstein, Cole Boyle and David Condi for offering expert guidance during the Las Vegas adventure. However, his political commentary, literary choices and mistakes are all his own responsibility. Don’t blame these fine folks.