Vegoose Wins with Rage, Daft Punk, moe., Umphreys and More
Over the weekend, the Halloween themed Vegoose music festival returned to Las Vegas Sam Boyd Stadium for the third year in a row. As in years past, the event featured a mix of jambands (moe., Umphrey’s McGee), conscious hip-hop (Atmosphere) and indie-rock (Blonde Redhead, The Shins), but this year found promoters Superfly Presents and A.C. Entertainment delving into metal (Mastodon), rap (Cypress Hill, Public Enemy), dance (Daft Punk), alt-rock (Queens of the Stone Age) and politically-charged rap-metal (Rage Against the Machine.) Vegoose also incorporated a number of its sister festival Bonnaroo’s other activities, including the Silent Disco and a full marketplace. Though the event featured one less stage than last year’s four-stage circus, Vegoose drew approximately the same number of fans and headliners Rage Against the Machine and Daft Punk both played for around 20,000 people. Jambands.com/Relix was onsite throughout the weekend, producing the festival’s official newspaper, The Golden Goose.
The weekends festivities began Friday with late night performances by down tempo pop-stars Thievery Corporation at the House of Blues and moe. at the Joint. The latter gig found the group running through two sets of music, including a choice take on the Grateful Deads The Other One, while the former show featured the groups signature Garden State selection Lebanese Blonde and the David Byrne collaboration The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.
The festival proper began Saturday morning and lived up to its tag as a genre defying event. While bouncing between stages, a crafty concertgoer could hear the fierce metal of Mastodon mashed with the cerebral livetronica of STS9 or the stripped down garage-rock of Iggy Pop & the Stooges (which featured recent addition Mike Watt, of Minutemen fame) mixed with the layered, world music colored electronic sounds of Thievery Corporation. Of course, there is nothing like sampling the harmony driven west coast pop of The Shins before diving headfirst into, or at least on stage, the charged, Sri Lanka funk of wordsmith M.I.A.
For early risers, who managed to either roll out of bed before noon or push on through from last nights equally eclectic mix of live music, the day began with the hyper gypsy punk of Gogol Bordello on the Jokers Wild Stage and the weird, wild indie-beats of rising stars Battles on the Snake Eyes Stage. Soon after, alternative rapper Lupe Fiasco offered the weekends first set of rhythms on the Double Down Stage, finding a welcome middle ground between Jay-Zs infectious lyrics and Outkasts party grooves, before Sonic Youth inspired indie-darlings Blonde Redhead hit the right note for fans who prefer emotion over aggression. After a short, 30-minute break, where concert goers mingled in the Market place, said their vows in Vegooses onsite chapel and questioned, what, if anything was making the Great Pumpkin move, a costume-clad Mastodon took the stage for an hour set, driven by the pulsating drum beats of Br Dailor (the groups not so secret weapon). The early evening portion of the festival was dominated by world class hip-hop: rising stars Atmosphere , Los Angeles legends Cypress Hill and influential, but controversial, Long Island, NY collective Public Enemy.
Indeed. Atmosphere served as an appetizer for Cypress Hill and Public Enemy via Minnesota. Minneapolis hip-hop? Absolutely. Midwestern rap? Sure why notand complete with a shout out for the rarely seen desert clouds on a beautiful, pre-sunset Vegas afternoon. To be sure, Cypress Hill brought their A game to Vegas as well as their F word game and plenty of political commentary during a charged set that played in parallel fashion in sound and tone to Public Enemys set. The legendary group offered an early Welcome to the Terrordomeliterally and figurativelywith Chuck D and Flavor Flav on co-lead vocal raps. Their set ended with Fight the Power and an effective closing two fingers in the air monologue by Flav urging the receptive crowd to take their Peace and Togetherness away from the festival.
Later in the evening, rock-and-pop reigned again thanks to inspired performances from The Stooges, Queens of the Stone Age and The Shins. The later group showed off their sensitive side with hits like New Slang and deeper tracks such as A Comet Appears, but also got a tad bit psychedelic with a cover of Pink Floyds Breathe. If the 1990s found frontmen like Eddie Vedder crowd diving off the stage, than the 2000s is rapidly becoming known as an era where musicians bring their entire audience onto the stage. Iggy Pop and the Stooges blurred the line between a crowd party and an onstage party by inviting a group of Vegas dancers to share their stage. Meanwhile, not to be out done, M.I.A. also added a cavalcade of audience members during a DJ/percussion/turntable assault that threatened to overburden the stage. Alas, this was an unnecessary concern after M.I.A. delivered a fine, multi-cultural power funk groove machine complete with various films and videos on a backdrop. Overall, the international flavored band had an ample share of fun with turntables, rap, synchronized dancing and handgun sound effects.
Daft Punk offered the final U.S. date of their extended world tour, which is said to close out the duos pyramid-era, driven by sing-a-longs like Around the World and no less than two versions of One More Time. Whereas many bands headline various venues and festivals, the French duo owned the headline crown even before they hit the stage. A large black curtain separated the large crowd from the band inside the pyramid and the pre-show buzz was palpable. Once the music began, the sound and light show offered an overwhelming experience that overcame any earlier high expectations. Indeed, as dance electronica bands go, it is a rare feat to include several songs that are so well known within what could be considered a high energy dance blitzkrieg. And make no doubt, the band definitely delivered on all counts on that latter point as they closed the first day of the festival in a resounding manner with ears buzzing and pyramid lit as a backdrop to the Vegas autumn evening.
Umphreys McGee hosted Saturday nights most theatrical performance at the House of Blues. STS9 bassist David Murphy took the stage during the groups second set for Dump City and, at the end of the night, the grim reaper appeared onstage and killed the entire band during the first version of Ain’t No Fun since October 2, 2005. Meanwhile, Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz DJed a party at the nearby Beauty Bar.
Likewise, Sundays festivities mixed-and-mashed styles with ease, with a particular emphasis placed on hip-hop. Jokers Wild Stage opened with a performance by Pharaoh Monch and later hosted performances by electro-rockers Ghostland Observatory (who describe their sound as a RoBot making Love To a Tree), Israeli-psyche trance masters Infected Mushroom and techno-influenced indie-rocks UNKLE (who were backed by Lake Trout spin-off Big In Japan).
Not far away, the Snake Eyes stage hosted most of the weekends jam-friendly artists. ALO opened the days festivities dressed in pirate costumes and performed their rare early song Rotting Pumpkin for the special occasion. Robert Randolph & the Family Band confused many fans by stopping their 90-minute set a full 30 minutes short, but did perform their popular cover of Jimi Hendrixs Purple Haze. Longtime friends Umphreys McGee and moe. closed out the stage to sprawling crowds, with the former group climaxing with a segue connecting Alex’s House and Mulche’s Odyssey and the latter group closing with a mammoth Buster.
Vegoose’s large scale Double Down Stage featured the weekends most eclectic mix of artists, ranging from hip-hop to indie-rock to the space between. Despite desert temperatures, Wu Tang Clan-alumnus Ghostface Killah took the stage in a heavy hooded sweatshirt and, along with his funk band The Rhythm Roots Allstars, paid tribute to his fallen brethren O.D.B. Michael Franti & Spreahead were up next and ran through a feel good set that featured his now standard medley of Sublime and Sesame Street, before modern indie-sensations Muse played to one of the weekends largest crowds (drummer Dominic James Howard marked the occasion by dressing as Spider-man).
The recently reunited Rage Against the Machine closed out Vegooses festivities to the weekends largest crowd and, not surprisingly, largest mosh pits. The quartet first flirted with the festival in June when guitarist Tom Morello played Bonnaroo as the Nightwatchman and sat-in with festival headliner Tool. While Rage Against the Machine shied away from any overtly political speeches, the group did offer anthems like Testify and People of the Sun.
After the groups powerful set, concertgoers were shuttled off to Las Vegas for a variety of late night activities, ranging from STS9 at the House of Blues to the final date on the Shins current tour at the Joint. For more on Vegoose please check out the Saturday Sunday editions of The Golden Goose.
report by Josh Baron, Mike Greenhaus and Randy Ray