Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rock the Joke: Welcome to Vegas' Unofficial Festival Season

Jerry Seinfeld headlines the Comedy FestivalIt's not like you need another reason to come to Vegas. With the endless supply of conventions, new nightlife and changing Vegas Stripscape, there are plenty of excuses to hop a plane to the desert.

If you do need a little extra temptation, the next few weeks here may be just the right motivation to motor west.

With The Comedy Festival and the Vegoose Music Festival just around the corner, it's Vegas' unofficial festival season. Two festivals do not a season make, but I did label the season as unofficial.

Maybe a couple promoters will jump in with new festivals next year. I recommend a sand festival and a magic festival.

In the meantime, check out these too legit to quit fests:

The Comedy Festival
HBO Comedy Festival Caesars Palace VegasHBO's annual festival of laughs seems to get bigger and bigger. This year, Jerry Seinfeld is one of the top draws and in the world of stand up comedy, Jerry is as about as big as it gets. Although I realize Dane Cook, who's 'Tourgasm' stopped by the festival last year, and his fans may disagree.

Where to Stay:
Since the festival is based at Caesars Palace, if your expense account can absorb the costs, you should stay there. There's nothing like stumbling back to your room after a few cocktails with Dave Attell rather than having to que up in a long taxi line.

The Flamingo is one or two pedestrian bridges away and is a nice cost-effective alternative just across The Strip. If you must have luxury and Caesars is fully booked, try Bellagio across the street or grab a suite at The Venetian.

Who to See:

Robin Leach & Chelsea HandlerIn addition to the aforementioned Mr. Seinfeld, I'm really excited to see Chelsea Handler, seen here with my pal Robin Leach. She's easily the fourth hottest woman on television behind Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson and Sarah Alexander, but she's definitely the funniest. Chelsea was in the girl 'Candid Camera' style show known as 'Girls Behaving Badly.' She also had a brief stint as a guest host on 'The View' and now has her own show called 'Chelsea Handler Lately.'

Speaking of 'The View,' Joy Behar will be performing a show with 'SNL' alum, Kevin Nealon. Football fans will want to see Frank Caliendo as he takes his Rich Little schtick from 'Mad TV' to the 'Fox NFL Pregame Show' to his own show, 'Frank TV.'

Wanda Sykes, Eddie Izzard and Ellen DeGeneres are some of the other big names topping off the schedule.

Where to Eat, Drink and Be Merry:
Usually there are private, festival-related parties at some of the venues at Caesars Palace like PURE nightclub and The Pussycat Dolls Lounge. You can go for the gourmet gusto with expensive Vegas meal at Guy Savoy's or try something more reasonable at Bradley Ogden's or Wolfgang Puck's Spago.

After PURE, most of the big names will be hitting new spots like LAX down south on The Strip at Luxor or TAO up north at The Venetian.

Vegoose Music Festival
Muse the band playing second Las Vegas show.
If you're more into chaotic outdoor music concerts than civilized indoor comedy shows, you'll want to come to Vegoose. It's the punny, annual two-day music affair to remember usually occurring on the weekend before Halloween.

This year, the festival seems to have a political bent. I'm not sure if it's because we're on the cusp of what should be a long, greedy, tortuous election cycle, but Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Muse (pictured with political message backdrop) fit in nicely with the mindless, yet tasty, hum of Daft Punk and The Shins.

Where to Stay:
Sam Boyd Stadium is off of the Boulder Highway so it would be a trek from any of The Strip hotels. I'm not saying you shouldn't stay at a Strip hotel, I'm just saying it's a bit far. If you want to stay at a casino hotel closer to the stadium, try Green Valley Ranch or Sunset Station.

The Vegoose site knows their audience and recommends some campgrounds in the area. The closest are the campgrounds at Sam's Town, but be warned, it's not a short hike to the stadium.

If you want to get away from it all, but you don't want to trade a suite for a tent, explore the offerings at scenic Lake Las Vegas.

Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy to play in Vegas

Who to See:
Muse on day two is a must-see. I had the privilege of seeing them at their show at The Joint last year and to see a band that intense at a smaller venue (they're accustomed to selling out Wembley on multiple nights) was amazing. They have all the political fervor of Rage Against the Machine packaged in a UK pretty boy box along the lines of Keane, Radiohead and Travis. Incidentally, Rage Against the Machine is headlining on day two.

If day two is all about the politics with Muse and Rage Against the Machine, then day one is all about fun with headliners Daft Punk and Iggy & the Stooges. The Shins, Blonde Redhead and Queens of the Stone Age should be part of your alterna-itenerary for day one.

For the granola crowd who appreciate the fact that the Grateful Dead played at this stadium 14 times during the '90s, you'll want to put down your tobacco accessories and jam with moe., Michael Franti and Spearhead and Infected Mushroom on day two.

Hip-hop and rap fans can rejoice for Public Enemy, Ghostface Killah, Cypress Hill and M.I.A.

Where to Eat, Drink and Be Merry:

If you're looking for the celeb hangouts in this neck of the woods, you'll have to head to Green Valley Ranch. There are some swanky eats and drinks, but most of the places here are for locals. If you're looking for some good wings and things, Sunset Station does have a Hooters.

I recommend heading up 515 until you hit Downtown Vegas and hit some of the hipster spots on Fremont East like Beauty Bar, The Griffin and Downtown Cocktail Room.

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