Before Electric Daisy Carnival made its way to the desert, we had Vegoose, a large-scale destination festival in the tradition of Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza. From 2005 to 2007, the two-day, Halloween-themed music bash brought names big (Rage Against the Machine, Dave Matthews, Tom Petty) and eclectic (Arcade Fire, Ween, The Mars Volta) to the fields behind Sam Boyd Stadium. The first year, it also packed the stadium itself. Then it declined in attendance, scaled back and ultimately went dark, leaving a void in Vegas that’s yet to be filled.
For this fifth anniversary of Vegoose’s departure from town, we caught up with Ashley Capps, whose Tennessee-based AC Entertainment co-produced the event with Superfly Events Group.
Do you still think about Vegoose now and again?
Oh, sure. People who attended Vegoose bring it up all the time.
What are the first things that spring to mind?
The cabaret show [Vau de Vire Society] was a huge personal favorite. Another moment I’ll never forget was Iggy & The Stooges’ performance. And Daft Punk that last year was spectacular.
For me, it’s also always about the people coming together to make the festival such a special experience. And I think the setting in Vegas, out at the stadium with the mountains in the background, was really beautiful.
After Vegoose ended, did you ever find yourself up late at night, thinking if only we done this or thought of that?
It’s not in my nature to spend a lot of time contemplating what could have happened in the past. We’re always looking to the future. And we’ve had a tremendous amount to keep us busy. We actually launched a different Halloween event. We’ve been doing Moogfest for the last three years. It’s much smaller in scale than what we were attempting at Vegoose, but it’s been a very successful and fun event in Asheville, North Carolina, which was Bob Moog’s adopted hometown until he died in 2005. It’s where Moog synthesizers are still manufactured by hand. And we also launched a festival called Big Ears, which we did in Knoxville for two years. We had to put that on hiatus because of some scheduling issues, but we’re looking forward to bringing it back. We’re also involved in a festival in Louisville, Kentucky, called Forecastle.
I’d also like to add, we have no regrets about Vegoose. It was a fun time and a great learning experience. And it’s not out of the question that it could be attempted again at some point. It’s just impossible to do everything. When you look at the time and energy and commitment that goes into creating these festivals, you have to make your decisions wisely.
Vegoose looked like a home run after the first go-round, but never matched that initial attendance. When you think back over everything, are you surprised it couldn’t stay at that level?
We wouldn’t have been there if we hadn’t believed that we had a great concept with all of the ingredients for success. But there’s no denying that for whatever reason, it just didn’t quite click on the level that we needed it to to sustain the event. It never really achieved our attendance goals, and we saw a number of different reasons for that.
I think Halloween is great in many ways, but it’s also a very challenging time for some people to travel. There are so many factors that played into it, but ultimately we had to make the decision that our time and energy would be better spent on some other projects.
Do you think Sam Boyd was the right site for Vegoose?
I think the site itself was fantastic, and the environment we created out there was really special. But in any community there are tricky dynamics, and I think the distance of the site from the heart of Vegas and the Strip—and the transportation issues involved—may have been one of the challenges that held the festival back. It’s not just the distance; it’s also the traffic, the time that it takes to move from Point A to Point B on a daily basis. So the site itself was great, but the dynamics of how it worked in relationship to everything else, maybe not so great.
When we spoke after the final Vegoose, you mentioned an expectation that more locals would attend than did …
To be fair, a lot of the locals in Las Vegas are working on the weekends. For people who work in the service industry, the weekends are premium work time.
[And for those traveling in for Vegoose], it gets back to the pros and cons of Halloween weekend, which for a lot of people is not the most optimal time to be traveling. If you’re a college student, you’re in school and your travel options are more limited than they are in the summertime. If you have a family, Halloween is something that you want to spend with your children. So all of those things come into play in terms of whether an event really works at the level that you want it to or not.
In terms of the acts themselves, you had a robust jam-band lineup the first year, then focused more on alternative acts—Rage, Daft Punk, Iggy. Do you think that changed the attendance dynamic?
It’s really hard to say, because the jam scene at the time was at a transitional point. I think the evolution of the festival was pretty natural … maybe a little rapid. But I don’t know that that was the factor.
Destination fests seem more popular than ever right now: Coachella expanded to two weekends and easily sold out both, and EDC has drawn well in Vegas. Might Vegoose fare differently in 2012?
Could be. Conditions have definitely changed. I think there’s been an evolution of audiences in the United States really embracing the festival concept. And obviously Las Vegas is a major destination location. I see no reason why it couldn’t support other festival events beyond Electric Daisy and so on.
When you saw EDC move here and succeed, did you sorta say, yeah, we knew Vegas could work?
It’s really hard to compare the two. Those guys do a very specific thing, and they have it really dialed in. I think that type of an event in that particular market is a no-brainer, as much as anything can be.
You still work with Superfly on Bonnaroo. Do you guys every kick around the idea of reviving Vegoose?
There has been no discussion about that, if for no other reason than everybody’s just so busy on other things.
Are you surprised no one has attempted another Vegoose-scale rock festival?
Not necessarily. I think someone probably will eventually.
If someone does launch a similar festival here and succeeds, will you kick yourself for not sticking around?
If somebody else comes in and fills that void in Vegas, then that’s great. God bless ’em. I know how hard it is. Will there be a twinge of jealousy? (pauses) Maybe.