Intersect Festival Day One, Friday December 6th 2019
I just spent two intense days at Intersect festival in Las Vegas, the brand new event which is rising controversy because of its main sponsor” Amazon Web Services. Amazon, one of the largest companies of the moment, is effectively getting involved in the festival business, and all I can say is that the festival looked very good and went without a glitch, something that was expected with all that technology promoted everywhere. Born out of the after-party for AWS’ re: Invent conference held in Las Vegas each year since 2012, the event is now opened to the public with a giant music party. It was an opportunity for Amazon to look good and very attractive to a young audience, although people of all ages were attending. The music lineup was diverse enough to seduce people across generations from teenagers to millennials and Gen-Xers and beyond. I didn’t notice many tech nerds, but plenty of music lovers, so I guess the festival was successful and was a real musical event. I was mostly there for the music, and if I missed the choreographies of drones – as I was inside waiting for the big acts – they probably were the most technology-oriented events of the two days.
The three covered stages offered many styles of music, although the Infinity stage was mostly about DJs, techno, house, electronica, and hip hop, the Supernova stage had all the big acts and headliners, whereas the Dome concentrated around indie and more experimental acts. the scene was enhanced by art installations and the interactive games which were giving a nice touch to the look of the festival, as well as a central giant monolith, showcasing art-videos from many different artists. It was so imposing and loud that the entire city of Las Vegas was probably aware of the existence of the Intersect Festival.
On Friday, I was able to catch a good number of performers:
Despite this high-tech side, Snail Mail seemed to have sound problems and she struggled through a sort of chaotic set filled with her loud and emotional whisper. She sounded as angry as broken, while people in the audience were cheering her up. ‘I have never been to Las Vegas’, she said, ‘I guess these kinds of festivals are inevitable,’ she added with a sort of nonchalance.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra were quite festive in comparison, a very jazzy experiment with a soaring trumpet, a sax, a Moog organ, and a flute, going R&B and way beyond, while frontman Ruban Nielson was already in the middle of the crowd with his guitar at the first song. They had surrounded themselves with green plants and a white fur carpet and they pleased the crowd with their unusual music, sometimes as emotional as a Jose Gonzalez song.
Inside the dome, Sudan Archives was also a surprise, looking like an ancient goddess with her sexy armor, she was using her violin with throbbing chords and choirs mixing ancient and modern, shining like an Egyptian princess remixing African beats with electronics.
Channel Tres was a sort of hip hop dancefloor number with infectious beats and a great choreography. His style was so hip and funny, the beats were so good that it was difficult to leave the place to catch Chvrches on the Supernova stage, but I left when he was doing his song with this unwritable title, ‘Brilliant N***’.
There was a huge crowd for Chvrches, and singer Lauren Mayberry, in her yellow désabillé, was running the stage with plenty of drama and a sweet saccharine voice. Their set was an aerobic, bombast synth-pop with electro beats and a Taylor Swift vibe, which seemed perfectly ripe for festivals.
Inside the dome, one of my favorite artists of this year gave another truly poignant set. I have indeed a soft spot for Weyes Blood and her romantic sweeping ballads, and her lovely set was a heartfelt oasis, a superb pop orchestration with a 70s eye and a stunning voice.
Everything was big with H.E.R., big earrings, big hair, big voice, big stage confidence and an impressive set of R&B songs as I had expected,… I even knew a few tunes. There were a lot of harmonies, a sultry drama, vibrating energy, plenty of hooks and a touch of hip hop at the end of her set.
I stayed exactly where I was standing for Beck, who rapped all the way to Odelay, starting with ‘Loser’ standing at the highest spot of the stage. I am happy Beck doesn’t learn many of his new songs because I only want to see him perform the old ones, and between ‘Qué Onda Guero’, Devil’s Haircut’, ‘Debra’, ‘Lost Cause’, ‘E-Pro’, ‘Where It’s At’, and a few others, I was pleased. With a costume change, a crowd-pleasing release of huge balloons during ‘Where It’s At’, Beck was in great shape, looking like a relaxed post-Scientology man (??), and so laid back that he even removed his shoes at one point, after telling us this new festival was like new shoes we had to break in. There were a few intimate ones like Sea Change’s ‘Lost Cause’, but the rest was plain fun, a restless jump around the stage and a rap with harmonica, perfectly energized by guitarist Jason Falkner’s electrifying number… After ‘Girl’, ‘The New Pollution’ and a few (just a few) new songs, they did a messy medley blending the Talking Heads and the Stones, and there was only pure joy on everyone’s face.
Kacey Musgraves was Friday’s headliner, and after Beck’s energized performance, she was, yes, this Grammy-winner songbird with a perfect physique, but also a bit too soft and predictable to me. However, this was certainly not everyone else’s opinion, as I was surrounded by an adoring crowd looking at her as if she were a new princess. Every woman was singing along, each one of the songs, without missing a line. Besides playing all the tracks from her critically-acclaimed and Grammy-winner album ‘Golden Hour’, she covered Whitney Houston (‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’), and a few older songs, with the same professionalism and fun attitude… she cursed a lot, told us to forget our worries and look at 2020 as a clean slate. In her leopard jumpsuit and high heels, she switched between country star with guitar and dancing queen in front of fairy forests and butterflies-filled landscapes,… she looked good, very good, sounded good but the entire thing sounded like a too rosy dream with a too polished soundscape… And this was only Intersect Festival day one.