Daft Punk, Iggy Pop, QOTSA, M.I.A. @ Vegoose Fest Oct 30, 2007 21:46:14 GMT
Post by willyt on Oct 30, 2007 21:46:14 GMT
The Queens of the Stone Age don’t preach.
Iggy Pop doesn’t age.
Daft Punk doesn’t lip-sync.
These are the things that make The Vegoose Music Festival so much fun. The music notwithstanding, Las Vegas is already the right place to celebrate Halloween. A city with no preconceived limitation for extravagance and an undisputed reputation for all things so sinfully hedonistic will always be the obvious epicenter for a Halloween jump-off. It’s a freak breeding ground, and pedigrees abound. Pirates walked hand-in-hand with vamps, and Mexican-wrestlers ate Spicy Pie. While parties elsewhere in America were filled with sexy-nurses, sexy-nuns and sexy-schoolgirls, Vegoose was much more likely to have a sexy-Rosa Parks, or people just having sex.
Everything at Vegoose is something a little different, a little more than what it should be. The tickets were scratch-n-sniff, (the doorman says “don’t do it…”) and revelers could get hitched at the on-site wedding chapel. As is true with nearly everything in this town, organizers took every opportunity to say “I bet you haven’t seen it done like this before.” A few confused folks sat at the sports bar and watched the World Series game before getting serious about the party.
Standing between the Snake Eyes Stage and the Jokers Wild Stage at sunset, the music of The Shins and M.I.A. came together for a strange mash-up of adorable pop silliness and vicious baile-funk.
M.I.A. did to the desert what she’s done to so many Brazilian favelas and Sri-Lankan slums; she turned the whole place into a psychedelic, hipster version of Dance 360. The nerve-racking sound of gunshots mixed with trumpets for a violent fanfare that announced she was here to party, but she wasn’t going to be very nice about it. Behind her the screen showed images of impoverished youths popping and locking in the ghetto, and incredibly attractive people dancing amid colorful cubes and puppets. It looked like a Jim Henson interpretation of “City of God.”
Political undertones aside, M.I.A.’s mix of “Blue Monday” samples, electro-funk vibe, Jamaican reggaeton, and rapid-fire lyrics make for the best dance party since Madonna died, or converted to Hindu, or whatever it was that happened to her. Sexy-fat-Mexican-brides danced with sexy-Amish-guys and everyone else in the extremely receptive audience. Finishing her set by not merely inviting but demanding that the audience comes up to dance with her, M.I.A. got a huge crowd on stage. Standing in front of the colorful, dancing mass, M.I.A. looked like the “can you hear me now” guy standing before his Verizon network, if they were all tripping on acid at a costume party. Watching her perform “Bucky Done Gun,” one might ask is she a rapper? A dancer? A DJ? A politician? It would be fruitless contemplation, however, so most audience members just listened to M.I.A.’s suggestion, “we need to get drunk.”
Queens of the Stone Age wanted the crowd to get inebriated also, by any means necessary. “Nicotine, Adderall, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol, and you’re guaranteed to get laid” Josh Homme declared in an impromptu version of “Feel Good Hit of the Summer.” Forgoing the colorful lights to focus on the music, QOTSA continued to stridently ignore the world’s problems, louder and faster than anybody else.
QOTSA is one of the funniest bands on the circuit today. Just ask “Bulby” the band’s cartoon spokes-bulb and album cover model. In his much-loved YouTube promo for the band’s “Era Vulgaris” album, he says, with a Brooklyn accent, that he’s “willing to bet that ya into the Queens, dancing around in ya tight-ass jeans.” Here in gambler’s land, that’s a safe bet. The crowd was enormous, and almost everyone was dancing in some way.
QOTSA played songs from across their 5-album repertoire, each one just a little dancier than the album version. Homme took a moment to point out “everyone knows you dance like you f**k,” an observation that made some wallflowers a little nervous, and most moshers a little milder. With so many fun, universally adored rock songs, one thing is certain; Queens of the Stone Age deserves more tribute bands.
Whoever decided to schedule QOTSA’s set during Iggy Pop’s was likely killed or tortured by one of the many livid attendees torn with indecision during the 45-minute overlap. Iggy Pop and the Stooges walked onto a stage that hasn’t changed much since the late-‘60s, when they redirected the sound of rock and roll towards a rougher, murkier terrain with their timeless, filthy candor. In fact, the stage probably hasn’t changed much since James Osterberg got his ‘Iggy’ moniker playing drums for his Michigan High School band The Iguanas. It’s still just a stack of Marshall Amps and a plain drum kit. There are no insignias, there’s no screen, there’s no fog, and there’s no need for any of it. The American national treasure that is Iggy Pop doesn’t need much external flair to convince a crowd that he’s worth his legacy.
Iggy ran onto the stage wearing your girlfriend’s tightest jeans. Twisting and gyrating across the stage like a maniac who doesn’t realize there’s anyone else in the room, let alone thousands of screaming fans, Iggy steps up to the microphone like the meanest kid in school about to scream at the audience for being a bunch of dorks. Instead, he wishes everyone a “Happy Halloween.”
It’s a perfect example of the polarity of Iggy Pop. He’s mean, violent, dirty, vulgar and obscene, but he’ll stop and look at the crowd with a grin that’s so genuinely benevolent that your presence is unmistakably welcome. That’s the difference between Iggy Pop and the many rock stars he’s inspired. While others might perform for sheer promotion, dancing on the wallets of their admirers, Iggy behaves like he’s paying us for the opportunity to act this way.
Joining Iggy are the Asheton brothers Ron and Scott on guitar and drums, former Minuteman Mike Watt on bass, and saxophonist Steve McKay. One vital member of the stage crew is the “Iggy Wrangler,” a guy who follows Iggy around onstage constantly, picking up mic-stands, fixing knocked over drum kits, and untying knotted cables that Iggy gets twisted. This man is never introduced, but he works as hard as anyone else on stage, a testament to Iggy’s exuberance.
The sexagenarian punk seems to wear everyone out, including his band mates, none of whom seem remotely as enthused as their front man. Guitarist Ron Asheton actually walked off stage before the set was over, until the “Iggy Wrangler” stopped him and turned him back towards the stage. Asheton looked confused, and shrugged in a manner that said “I guess Iggy wants to play some more.” Iggy then screamed “Happy Halloween!” for about 5 minutes, while the rest of the band tried to find something to do. Whether it’s dancing, singing, or playing with the audience, Iggy Pop is just vehemently trying to have more fun. One has to wonder what, if anything, is going to kill this man. It’s hard to imagine a day when he won’t be wrapping his mic cable around his neck, humping his amplifier, punching himself in the face, rolling up the sleeves of a shirt he’s not wearing, and playing with his Dick like a curious 4-year-old.
Some lucky fan got the ultimate souvenir after Iggy threw his microphone into the audience, and pulled back a severed cable. When a replacement mic wouldn’t work, Iggy was irate. Not that it was hurting the performance, but he clearly needed an outlet. He started taking his frustration out on his mic-stand, to the delight of the crowd.
In a clear exhibition of timelessness, girls still swoon when Iggy declares it’s time to “do an animal song,” and the illustrious three chords of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” invigorate the crowd. The band performed many songs from their seminal self-titled album, and all of the songs from their 1970 Fun House album. The Stooges were equally excited to play songs from this year’s The Weirdness, their first true album together since Raw Power. In a display of overt disregard for evolution, the new songs sound a lot like the ones they wrote 4 decades ago. “My Idea of Fun (Is Killing Everyone)” is a classic Stooges song, and luckily, the lyrics are still dumb. “Deep-Fried! Re-Fried! Stir-Fried! I’m Fried!” isn’t much more intelligent than “We’re gonna have a real cool time tonight!”
In stark contrast to The Stooges celebrated, yet idiotic punk rock, The Thievery Corporation played their smooth psychedelic dub-jazz-lounge music for the music intelligencia. It worked as a segue, almost an eye of the storm between The Stooges and the looming juggernauts, Daft Punk.
Daft Punk does not lip-sync. Behind their welder-from-space helmets, they’re saying exactly what you think they’re saying, whatever that is. Their power over the audience is immediate, and the size of their music is colossal.
Standing in the control booth of the now iconic Daft Punk Pyramid, the two androids went to work. The words “human” and “robot” exploded across the desert, battling back and forth. It was the thesis for their performance. Maybe they are humans doing robot things, and maybe they are robots showing humans why being alive is worth it. Either way, one thing is obvious; EVERYBODY dances at a Daft Punk show. Even security personnel had to ignore the unwritten rule that they are not allowed to dance. Part of the magic in Daft Punk’s music is the ability it has to make people think they can dance well, not realizing that it’s just being made incredibly easy for them.
In many ways, Daft Punk and Iggy Pop are trying to do the same thing. Daft Punk’s name even comes from a genre Iggy is all but universally credited with creating. They’re both saying “f**k it,” at times, literally. While Iggy does it by flipping off the crowd, Daft Punk does it by flashing the words “f**k IT” across an 8-story-tall screen in large red letters repeatedly to the tune of “Technologic.”
For Iggy, the show is the man, a singular being, dancing, jumping and writhing for entertainment. For Daft Punk, the show is the lights, the music, the patterns, and the flash. The fact that the two men making it all happen are even visible is just a way to expose the man behind the curtain. The audience isn’t watching them, but can see that they’re there. This isn’t just a prerecorded light show. At least, those two men are ostensibly creating all of this in real time. Well-rehearsed and flawlessly, yes, but live nonetheless. Therein lies the greatest similarity between the two obviously different acts. Both are telling a story about power, life, and intensity, right in front of your very eyes.
One important aspect of Daft Punk’s pyramid-themed stage is the ability it has to become so many different things. The lines outlining the pyramid can become white droplets, slowly descending during the bridge of “One More Time,” or it can disappear while the screen behind it becomes a frustrating static of white fuzz. During “Face to Face” that huge screen became green lines, drawn as on an Etch-a-Sketch. It all looks like a future that Max Headroom tried to show us in the ‘80s, only enormous. The intoxicating euphoria that goes with their performance would weaken with a single mistake, but there are none. It’s all so clean, so svelte, so Daft Punk.
How can such extravagance be genuine? If Iggy Pop has taught us that the truth comes from the basic nature of a raw performance, isn’t this the height of falsity? The crowd certainly believes in it, and that’s what makes it real. Your hippie dad might watch Daft Punk ‘perform’ the guitar solo part of “Aerodynamic” and wonder, “wouldn’t it be better if someone was playing a real guitar?” Then again, your dad’s an not a very nice person. If this band can spawn as many bands as Peter Frampton, the future of music is pretty substantial.
Daft Punk has been accused of being repetitious, but then again, so has the rotation of the earth. Indeed, many themes in their music occur over and again. Being a human is natural. Being boring is unnecessary. Being a robot is fun as hell.
Having nearly paralyzed the crowd, (superstar DJ Steve Aoki did leave during ‘Da Funk’, I saw him,) Daft Punk launched into their grand finale and answered the question posed in their thesis by playing “Human After All”.
After their encore, the two robots and the thousands of humans in front of them applauded one another for a job well done. With the seems of their space suit illuminated bright red, the DJs turned their back to the audience for the first time. The back of their jackets read “DAFT PUNK.”
As day one of The Vegoose Music Festival came to a close, everyone seemed to have the same thing to say about the bands they came to see. Ultimately, it can be summed up with one happy accolade;
It’s come to this.