Las Vegas’ answer to Coachella and Bonnaroo, the two-day Vegoose fest (now in its third year) featured a comparatively small collection of popular acts, but offered a fairly eclectic lineup that delivered to several segments of the disparate audience. There was plenty to see and hear this weekend for jam band fans, hip-hoppers and indie rockers alike.
Saturday headliners Daft Punk’s eye-popping live show — incorporating enough lights to rival the Vegas Strip itself, and a massive pyramid which houses the DJ duo – was the perfect way to cap off the day’s festivities. With looped vocals (both human and robotic) Daft Punk offers a warm alternative to the often-times cold aesthetics of electronic music – they rage with the machine. Running through their catalogue of familiar hits (including the Kanye-approved “Harder Better Faster Stronger”), the masked Frenchmen sent the crowd out on a high.
The reconstituted Iggy and the Stooges (with former Minutemen/fIREHOSE bassist Mike Watt) were on hand to play their 1970 album “Funhouse” all the way through, but those songs took up only about a third of the band’s performance. The legendary proto-punkers — led by ageless, shirtless and nearly pants-less front man Iggy Pop — padded out their set with standards “I Wanna be Your Dog” and “No Fun” (during which fans were invited to rush the stage), as well as tracks from their poorly-received 2007 album “The Weirdness.”
California rockers Queens of the Stone Age have been on a touring frenzy recently, and their blistering live show has been honed with a deadly precision that benefits raucous tunes like “No One Knows” and “Go With the Flow.”
Portland’s indie rock darlings the Shins seemed to be the only act embracing the date’s close proximity to Halloween, as all five band mates wore matching costumes and interjected some “scary” shrieking between each song.
Earlier in the day, Gotham rap pioneers Public Enemy celebrated their 20th anniversary with some sloppy, but still compelling political hip-hop, with many of the songs — “Shut ’em Down,” “Bring the Noise”- still sounding fresh after nearly two decades. Their decision to bring a live band (which seemed to be the trend with the weekend’s rap acts) was a miscalculation as the musicians failed to gel and too often ended up repeating simple, uninspired hard rock riffs, much of it drowning out MCs Chuck D and Flavor Flav.
Minneapolis’ Atmosphere (with MC Slug sporting a sleazy cowboy look) also brought a live band, one that gave songs like “Shoes” and “Woman With the Tattooed Hands” a vibrant, organic feel. The group primarily relied on newer material, but dipped into its increasingly prolific back catalogue to get the heads bobbing as well.
Sunday allowed fest-goers the chance to slow things down, with a bevy of jam bands playing during the warm desert afternoon. Pedal steel wizard Robert Randolph led his Family Band in some gospel-inflected blues-rock, surprising the crowd with an instrumental cover of Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.” Michael Franti & Spearhead offered plenty of peace, love and pot to go along with their Bay Area reggae-hop.
Wu-Tang stalwart Ghostface Killah also featured a live backing band, the Rhythm Roots Allstars, who brought Latin rhythms to the rapper’s rhymes, but failed to mesh with Ghostface and his oversized posse of backup rappers.
U.K. sensations Muse, opening with their hit sci-fi epic “Knights of Cydonia,” appear to be growing in popularity at an ever-increasing rate, working the crowd into a cult-like fervor. Drummer Dominic Howard also showed some holiday spirit by dressing up as Spider-Man.
Meanwhile, British trip-hop pioneers UNKLE, in a rare appearance with a live band, brought things down to a more mellow level, but they failed to engage the impatient audience, many of whom could still hear Muse from the not-so-far-away opposing stage. UNKLE picked things up at the end, bringing out Chi rapper Lupe Fiasco (who performed his own set on Saturday) for their final track.
Since reuniting earlier this year, Sunday headliners Rage Against the Machine have opted to play only large-scaled event shows (they played New Orleans’ Voodoo Festival the night before), and their fans treat their performances as one-of-a-kind events, although their Vegoose set list and performance seemed nearly identical to their comeback perf at Coachella six months ago.
Taking place outside of UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium, two-day event offered three stages laid out in a row, all within easy walking distance, making the fest easy to navigate. Saturday’s set times, however, provided a few conundrums. Why, for example, were three of Saturday’s four hip-hop acts booked to play opposite each other? Likewise, Queens of the Stone Age and the Stooges’ sets overlapped, much to the chagrin of fans who crave both acts’ hard rock. In a strange temporal twist, many acts took the stage on time, but finished their sets early (including the Stooges and Daft Punk).