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Matador fest: Our interview with label head Gerard Cosloy

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Yo La Tengo

"If this has come off like a big 'fuck you' to Las Vegas, it was really, really not intended that way," Matador Records co-owner Gerard Cosloy says. Still, he concedes that, "At no point were we thinking: This is gonna be a great event for us to put on for the citizens of Las Vegas. And I know that sounds really cold and rotten. And I feel bad about that."

With the contentious on-sale (through Ticketfly.com or in person) for Matador at 21: The Lost Weekend — the three-day festival that will bring most of the label's biggest bands to the Pearl at the Palms October 1-3 — looming for Friday morning, the Weekly caught up with Cosloy by phone on Wednesday to discuss the particulars.

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Twenty-first birthday aspect aside, what led you to Las Vegas with this?

We kicked a bunch of ideas around — the West Coast or the New York City-area or London. And one idea that really appealed to us we appropriated from our good friends at All Tomorrow's Parties. Those shows, especially the shows at the holiday camp in England, force the fans and staff and bands to all essentially have to deal with each other for a period of three days. You're sleeping and partying and socializing with like-minded music fans from around the world, and you're hanging out with the bands and you're hanging out with the people who put the thing on.

So we were trying to think of something similar that we could do in the U.S. We like Las Vegas and have had a good time in Las Vegas over the years, so we thought it would be both fun and maybe a little humorous to do kind of the polar opposite of what would be expected. I think when people think of our label and its roots in the underground music scene, they don't usually associate that with Las Vegas casino-resorts.

The other factor was thinking that it's not hard to travel to Las Vegas if you live in California or if you live in Arizona or if you live in New Mexico or if you live in Nevada. That's a pretty huge section of the country that isn't always served by these super-cool events.

Cat Power

Cat Power

So all that figured into it. At one point there were a couple of other properties we were talking to, places far less glitzy than the Palms. But in the end, the Palms was the most enthusiastic about helping to put the whole thing together.

I'm just hoping people have fun with it. I understand that this particular aesthetic is not for everyone. I have had a number of people say, "I can't stand Las Vegas. I don't want to go to a place like that." And everyone's completely entitled to their own opinion. There's a lot of people who don't want to sit around in a tent for three days. There's a lot of people who don't want to go to Coachella or Austin City Limits for three days. We're not putting a gun to anyone's head and insisting they attend. I'm hopeful this will be fun for everybody who goes and that they'll feel like it was worth it.

A Matador festival in Las Vegas feels particularly strange given that many of the label's core bands — Pavement, Yo La Tengo, GBV — have never played Vegas. Sure, that's less a label's call than a matter of booking and routing, but can you speak to the notion that Matador never cared about us; why are they plunking down here for their big party now?

Update: A reader tells us Pavement has played Vegas once: Huntridge Theatre, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain tour.

Pavement

I can understand how it would seem that way. But I can't think of any particular reason why our bands, especially our smaller, up-and-coming bands, would willfully ignore Las Vegas. I think some of the booking agents might argue that if anyone had wanted to put on a show with one of these bands, they would have tried to make it happen. The vast majority of promoters are gonna work on whatever they think there's a demand for, and if they believe there's a demand for those bands they'll put a show on.

I actually saw a Spoon show at one of the Station casinos about nine years ago that was attended by about 15 or 16 people. And that was part of the inspiration for picking Vegas. It was like, "Hey, imagine if we had all of our bands play and 15 or 16 people showed up!"

Let's run down some of the ticket details.

Okay.

The cost [$200].

I haven't heard many complaints about $200 for a 25-band bill. I think if you look at the ticket prices that are typically charged to see, for example, Pavement, Belle & Sebastian, Yo La Tengo, Cat Power and Guided by Voices back when they were active and headlining, those combined alone would run you over $200 in most major American cities. I also look at what we charge for this festival versus what it costs to go to Coachella, what it costs to attend ACL, what it costs to attend ATP, and I don't think it's that bad.

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth

I don't mean to be unsympathetic towards persons who can't cough up $200 at the drop of a hat; I'm not trying to be cavalier about that. But at the same time, the bands are not playing for free. Putting this thing together is not a free enterprise. And compared with the ticket price for other major festivals, both here and around the world, I think it's pretty reasonable.

The ticket limitations [2,100 total will be issued] of doing it in a venue the size of the Pearl.

We had discussions about trying to do this in a much larger venue, not necessarily in Las Vegas. But we're trying to do something that's similar to an event that we would be excited about attending ourselves.

Requiring many ticket buyers to book rooms at the Palms.

Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian

Our intent was to do something that had that ATP feel — everybody together in the same place. That was a big part of how we were able to essentially go to the Palms and say, "We kinda want to take over your hotel." They need some assurance that we're actually going to use most of the rooms and not just a few of them and leave them hanging. That's a big part of the reason why we put the room requirement on there.

After the not-so-insubstantial outcry over the room policy, we did backtrack and decide to make a limited number of tickets — a healthy percentage of the overall tickets for sale, I might add — available Friday for $250 with no room reservation requirement attached.

That's not to be confused with the 100 tickets we're selling at Zia, which are reserved for Nevada residents only, for $199. So at the moment, a pretty large percentage of the overall ticket pile has been carved out for persons who won't, for whatever reasons, stay at the Palms

The Zia ticket allotment [originally 50 total, now 100].

At no point were we pretending that there are only 50 people in Vegas who want to go or only 100 people in Vegas who want to go. But by the same token, I think there's more than 100 people in New York City who want to go. I think there's more than 100 people in San Francisco who want to go. I think there's more than 100 people in Austin, Texas who want to go. And yet, Vegas is the only town where we've reserved any portion of the tickets for those residents.

I'm sure it's gonna be frustrating if you live in Vegas and you support interesting music, to know, hey the circus is coming to town and I don't get to be a part of it. That's gotta feel rough. The thing is this: We're seriously not trying to disrespect music fans in Las Vegas. We're not trying to disrespect the actual, existing musical subculture in Las Vegas. But I also feel like the burden of us completely looking out for that subculture at the expense of everybody else who we consider to be our constituency, that's just not realistic.

The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers

I will totally cop to the fact that when we first looked at Vegas and thought about it, it was: What's it gonna be like for people to fly here? Where are people gonna stay? At no point were we thinking: This is gonna be a great event for us to put on for the citizens of Las Vegas. And I know that sounds really cold and rotten. And I feel bad about that.

We've certainly had a lot of correspondence the last couple of days from people saying, "Hey, how could you do this?" But we're trying to make some accommodations. And if people feel like they've been shut out, I do generally feel bad about that. At the same time, ours is not the only game in town. Ours is not the only label. These are not the only bands on earth. And there are other things that are happening that people can support locally, I'm sure.

If this has come off like a big "fuck you" to Las Vegas, it was really, really not intended that way. And I do hope that some people who live there get to see the show.

Reserved seats or general admission?

As far as I know it's gonna be reserved, with a standing area up front. Update: According to an afternoon post on the label's Matablog: "Regular tickets are general admission. You may watch from the standing area in front of the stage (capacity of 900, first-come first-served each day), or sit in any available, non-reserved seat. VIP tickets are reserved seats in the front."

Ins and outs for the Pearl?

We are allowing ins and outs. People are not obliged to stay inside the Pearl for six hours.

Other stages to be used inside the Palms?

I cannot confirm that right now.

Other venues besides the Palms? Pollstar has Spoon listed for October 2 at Henderson Pavilion.

That's a mistake. We had actually been in negotiations at one point with the Henderson Pavilion to do some of the shows there. But Spoon are not actually playing Henderson Pavilion that weekend.

In terms of securing the bands, did you just put a general invite out to everyone?

We kind of asked them all one by one, and almost everybody has been pretty psyched about taking part. That whole end of things has been pretty smooth. There are a few people we'd asked who could not perform for various reasons, like scheduling conflicts or members being indisposed, but the overwhelming majority of the people we've asked have said yes pretty quickly.

As far as additions to the lineup …

We will be announcing, I would say at a minimum, three more bands. I would say they are not necessarily going to be the biggest bands in label history. They're gonna be bands tied more to the label's old days. Actually, in one case, someone very, very new as well. They're not gonna be headliners, let's put it that way

So no Boards of Canada, I assume?

That's correct, yes.

A lot of people are asking about Mogwai.

No, they have other stuff they're doing overseas at that time, which is unfortunate. We would have loved to have had them be part of this.

And Interpol has dates in Europe.

Yeah, that's correct.

Mission of Burma is also a no-go, correct?

Yeah, we did ask Burma and Roger [Miller] unfortunately has Alloy Orchestra commitments that weekend.

Rolling Stone reported Liz Phair as confirmed ...

Yeah, that I will neither confirm nor deny (laughs).

How tough was it getting Guided By Voices to reunite, especially with that lineup?

We just kept asking. We just kept asking. And I think ultimately Bob decided it would be fun.

In terms of the schedule, are we looking at three nights of music? Or will there be daytime stuff, too?

It's gonna be music starting in the early evening, going to late evening, probably a good 5-6 hours of music each day We're not doing any live shows in the Pearl during the day. Whether or not we do some things during the day elsewhere on the property, something of the smaller and more intimate nature, is still being worked out.

How long a set time can people expect from the bigger bands?

We're still working on that. We're trying to give the headliners as much time as possible. Obviously, asking GBV to play a 45-minute set is not a great idea. I can't give you any exact info, but we are sensitive to it.

Anything you'd like to add in closing?

The main thing is, we're trying to put together an event that's similar to the types of things we ourselves would be psyched to attend. I do wish we'd had everything a little more in order on Monday, when it came time to make that announcement. At the same time — and this is something I don't apologize for — we're not Live Nation; we're not Clear Channel. We've put on gigs before, but we've never done anything on this scale. There must be some aspects of our handling of this that strike people as a little amateurish, and I'm sorry for that. I guess in some ways we're still very much a do-it-yourself record company … a do-it-yourself record company that's in business with the Maloofs (laughs).

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is Las Vegas Weekly's Managing Editor, having previously served as Arts & Entertainment Editor, Music Editor and a ...

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