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Mixing It Up

It’s here, even if the patchouli-scented dudes aren’t.

The Hacky Sacks will gather dust when Vegoose kicks off this weekend at the Star Nursery Field at Sam Boyd Stadium, as their presence is no longer a given.

Now in its third year, the carnival-esque two-day music fest boasts perhaps its best lineup yet, topped by reunited rap-rockers Rage Against the Machine, synapse-frying French electronic duo Daft Punk, punk legends Iggy and the Stooges and more than two dozen other acts.

While this has engendered Vegoose’s most diffuse, electric lineup, it also means a reduced role for the type of rootsy, improv-heavy jam bands that once formed the heart of Vegoose’s schedule.

There’s still a solid selection of acts of this ilk, highlighted by well-traveled noodlers like moe., Umphrey’s McGhee and ALO, but they don’t set the tone for the weekend like they have in the past.

"The big difference this year is that the programming has gone in a slightly different direction," says Ashley Capps, founder of AC Entertainment, which co-produces Vegoose and the Bonnaroo music fest in Tennessee. "We don’t feel like we can be successful if we’re trying to re-create the same festival year after year."

Seeing as how the jam band community and the rabid following that comes with it have previously formed a healthy portion of Vegoose’s identity, it remains to be seen how this aesthetic shift will impact the Vegoose demographic.

"The lack of jam bands is something that deterred several of my friends from attending this year," says Ted Croft, 39, of Stowe, Vt., who attended Vegoose in ’06 and is returning again this year. "My guess is that there will be less people traveling to the show from other parts of the country due to the fact that people who are into jam bands are far more likely to travel than fans of, say, Mastodon, Rage or Public Enemy."

Still, others welcome the change as a sign of increased diversity.

"I love the jam band thing, but it was actually getting a little old," says Amy Cinnamon, 39, of Miami Beach, Fla., who will be attending Vegoose for the third time. "I absolutely love the lineup this year. Less hippies, more punks and club kids."

Regardless of how all this will affect the makeup of the crowd, it’s hard to argue that some kind of tweaking wasn’t needed to add some juice to the fest this year.

After averaging more than 30,000 attendees a day in 2005, Vegoose drew half that last year when Tom Petty and Widespread Panic headlined.

"We did have a little bit of a dip in attendance," Capps says. "Things are looking to be much more solidly on track this year. Our sales are definitely stronger."

It doesn’t help matters any that Vegoose has plenty of competition.

During Halloween weekend, it has to go head to head with the Voodoo Music Fest, a three-day event in New Orleans that also features Rage Against the Machine this year, in addition to other big names like the Smashing Pumpkins and Fall Out Boy.

Locally, there’s always a bevy of entertainment options on a nightly basis that can draw attention away from Vegoose.

"The main challenge is that there is so much going in Vegas itself," Capps says. "In Manchester, Tennessee, where we stage Bonnaroo, we’re the big event. But there are big events in Las Vegas every night of the week. We’re one more attraction in a sea of attractions."

Still, Vegoose clearly has taken a step forward this year in terms of booking the kind of rare and exclusive performances that can make a fest stand out.

Daft Punk only sporadically visits the United States, and this will be the last American show where they’ll utilize their dazzling current stage presentation, which is dominated by a towering pyramid of lights. The Stooges will perform their seminal "Fun House" in its entirety for the first time in America, while British electronica troupe UNKLE is stopping at Vegoose on its first tour of the States as a full-fledged band.

Additionally, headliners Rage Against the Machine are playing their first shows in seven years, though two of those concerts were in Southern California, at Coachella in April and as part of the Rock the Bells tour in San Bernardino in August.

Considering that Vegoose draws most heavily from California, much more so than Las Vegas even, this could siphon off some of the crowd.

And then there’s the question of what type of fans a band like Rage may bring to Vegoose. The fest has been buoyed by a communal, laid-back atmosphere in the past, and there’s some talk that a group as combustible as Rage could disrupt the fest’s friendly feel.

"The vibe last year was super mellow. No fights or any rubbish along those lines," says Kolby Capelouto, 24, of Costa Mesa, Calif., who’s returning to Vegoose this year. "I really hope that (Rage) doesn’t throw a wrench in the gears."

When Rage played Coachella, some fans grumbled on message boards that the band’s fans were too rough and unruly compared with other concertgoers.

"Some people were there just to see Rage," says Josh Erickson, 19, of Vancouver, British Columbia, who attended Rage’s Coachella set and is also going to Vegoose. "However, at all the other bands I went to, I experienced no problems due to a rowdy Rage fan."

These concerns aside, there’s little doubt that Rage and the rest of the Vegoose lineup is generating substantial more advance buzz than the ’06 installment.

"It’s Vegas, it’s Halloween and the freaks come out," Cinnamon says. "Can’t frickin’ wait."

"The momentum going into the event is stronger this year," Capps says. "We’re anticipating a really good turnout."

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