Foo Fighters Cap Off The Exciting New Intersect Music Festival
LAS VEGAS, NV- Stepping into the music festival ring for the first time can be a daunting proposition, but if you have the clout, and the resources, your first time up to bat can be a momentous score especially if you are an entity as large as Amazon Web Services (“AWS”). From high tech, state of the art, stage production to a star-studded line-up of top-notch talent, AWS and it’s production partner Production Club hosted the first-ever Intersect Music Festival.
For $259 ($99 if you were lucky enough to score last-minute discounted tickets), you had the chance to see an amazing line-up of acts, spanning the genres, including performances by Chvrches, Gessafelstein, Beck, Kacey Musgraves, Anderson .Paak and Foo Fighters. Of the 36 recording artists slated to perform, Blurred Culture was able to catch 18 of them.
My peers have been raving about Japanese Breakfast for a minute now, so I was very excited to see Michelle Zauner and company do their thing to kick off the music on the second day of Intersect.
I really enjoyed Japanese Breakfast’s shoegaze sprinkled indie rock. Michelle’s deceptively delicate vocals had enough edge to give each song, even the bedroom pop ones, a bit of a bite. The fuzzy guitar licks went big when they needed to, and I thought that their music played well in such a large room. They included a performance of a cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams”, which was cute for its recognition factor, but I’ll be honest … I personally liked them performing their original material better.
While some of the emotional gravitas in the lyrics would have had more impact in a smaller or more intimate venue, I thought that this was a very solid showing, especially if you weren’t familiar with the band or their music. I was impressed.
NONOTAK studio is the collaboration between the illustrator Noemi Schipfer and the architect musician Takami Nakamoto who create immersive art installations fusing light and music. They had two installations on display in the Experience tent, and I felt it necessary to check out their live performance as well. After the visual display during Gesaffelstein’s performance the other day, I felt like it Nontak’s performance would have a high bar to reach.
Most of the live videos I have seen of NONOTAK online seem to have them performing within lighting. Either surrounded by walls of light amongst projections. This performance seemed to take a slightly different approach, with the LED screen behind them emitting synchronized pulses of light that were choreographed to their beats.
With their backs to the screen, I noticed that Noemi was constantly looking over her shoulders to make sure, I assume, that everything was synched up. With them facing the audience, I really didn’t get to see them working their tools, and I really wanted to see Takami create music, who in all of the video I previewed online ahead of the festival, is wildly animated and intense.
Spoon always puts on a good show, and they did so again at Intersect. They played their most popular songs including “Indie Out”, “The Underdog”, “Hot Thoughts”, “Do You” and “I Turn My Camera On”. They’ve recently added a cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation” to their repertoire, and it was the first time I’ve heard them perform that song.
Other than the cover, there weren’t any deep cuts or surprises in their set. It was a set filled with songs that any Spoon fan would enjoy and songs that could possibly find new fans. That’s the proper recipe for a festival outing, and when they the closed their set playing the garage rock-leaning “Rent I Pay”, and had their lead singer, Britt Daniel, wail out the final “And if that’s your answer, no I ain’t your dancer,” we didn’t need him to be, because the crowd was already dancing.
I love the way Leon Bridges’ sound is style is evolving. At one point during his Coming Home album cycle, I questioned whether his was a career that would follow in the Charles Bradley or Lee Fields path. Now, I absolutely love Charles and Lee, but for such a young artist, I hoped that he would take some risks with his sophomore effort, and really reach to find a wide audience, kind of like what Kacey did.
Leon’s sophomore album Good Thing did that just. Good Thing, in my humble opinion, still has those “classic” vibes the define Coming Home, but it also has fantastic production value, with a distinctly modern edge. The soul vibes are strong on this album, bordering on neo-soul, with some disco and funk moments sprinkled here and there. Good vibes all around.
With the words “Good Thing” illuminated in huge LED fonts behind him, Leon was able to get those good vibes to easily manifest on the stage during the performance. His confident swag gave his soulful crooning an additional level of veracity.
It’s always a sonic adventure when you catch a Thundercat (nee Stephen Bruner) gig. He’s one of my two favorite bassists ever (the other being Victor Wooten), and it’s a guaranteed trip in another atmosphere whenever he starts to play. His melding of everything … jazz, funk, blues, hip-hop, soul … is a revelation and the way his plays and manipulates is 6 string bass is otherworldly. At times it can be overwhelming… but overwhelming in the best possible way. A flurry of notes that you can’t imagine are really being played even though it’s happening right in front of you.
Accompanied by Dennis Hamm on keys, and (I think because I couldn’t actually see him because the room was so dark) Justin Brown on drums, Thundercat took us on what was essentially a 40-minute jam session of his work. I thought there were a few songs that I wasn’t familiar with (or at least not on the vinyl albums in my collection).
But the music aside, perhaps the most noteworthy moment of the performance was when Thundercat casually announced that his next album is almost done. Something his fans have been waiting patiently for close to two years.
In what was surely a disappointment for many fans in attendance, Brandi Carlile’s Intersect performance was significantly truncated due to her suffering from a bout of laryngitis. Brandi’s 50-minute set was cut to just a little under 20 minutes.
But Brandi, being the wonderful human being that she is, gave what she could given the circumstances, and performed what I thought were perfect renditions of “Every Time I Hear That Song, “Hard Way Home” and “The Eye”. She admitted that they were the “easy” songs to sing, but she still sounded lovely.
Ironically enough, the highlight of the performance wasn’t actually by Brandi. In between “Hard Way Home” and “The Eye”, she gave the stage to her longtime bandmates, twin Phil and Tim Hanseroth. They took on Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and did an extremely admirable job on the number with pristine two-part harmonies. I appreciated it and spying on Brandi who stood in the wings, I could tell that she appreciated it too.
Not only has Anderson .Paak released three fantastic albums- his latest being his 2019 LP Ventura– but he has the innate ability to bring the joie de vivre in those albums to life with his stage show. It’s not often we find a lead singer who spends a large portion of time on stage behind a drum kit. Phil Collins, Don Henley … even the soon to be addressed Dave Grohl .. all got their start behind a kit, but they eventually took center stage in front of their instrument when given the chance to front their own projects.
Anderson .Paak embraces the experience to perform while seated at his drums. While he would often leave drumming duties to the alternate drummer on stage so he could sing and strut the stage, he always came back to the top of the elevated platform to whack out some insane drum riff, all the while smiling for the whole world to see. And when he was away from his kit, he still had the rhythm of the music pulsing through his body, as he danced and strutted the width of the stage.
The Free Nationals, the band he plays with, were also seriously on point. The performed cuts from every album in Anderson’s repertoire, and even did a surprising- at least to me- cover of “Suede” off of his Yes, Lawd! collaboration with NxWorries and Knxwledge. I can only imagine how difficult it can be to keep up with the energy and spirit that Anderson oozes, but his players were on point every step of the way. He gave them moments to shine during extended jams throughout the set.
Scoring the Foo Fighters as the festival’s grand finale was, in my humble opinion, quite a feat. First, I was surprised that Dave and company would do this one-off as I had heard (and Dave confirmed at the show) that they were currently working on a new album. I deal with recording artists on a regular basis, and it’s not often I can get any of them to leave a studio to handle other business while in a creative state. Second, while I’m sure AWS paid a pretty penny to get the commitment, having as exciting a marquee name like the Foo Fighters top your bill not only gives the event cachet but also a legitimacy that tells possible competition that you aren’t messing around. Intersect was basically proclaiming, “Only top-shelf here, baby.”
Having spent a lot of 2019 on the road hitting up the festival circuit, Foo Fighters’ setlist was as polished as could be. “All My Life”, “Learn To Fly”, “Times Like These”, “Best Of You”, “Everlong”… their setlist was a veritable “best of” from their entire repertoire, and their hardcore fans (fans who rushed the festival grounds when doors opened, and faithfully stayed up at the front of the rails all day to get a front-row view) sang along to every songe, rapt with glee.
Though I had seen video clips of Dave taking the drums to let Taylor Hawkins take lead vocal duties on a cover of Queen’s “Under Pressure”, it was a treat fantastic to see happen live. I’ve been a fan of Taylor’s non-Foos projects. His self-titled, debut album Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders is a very underrated album, and watching him turn on the front-man charm, on such an iconic song, was a real treat.
Also plentiful on the interwebs are impromptu moments when Dave engages the crowd to have some lucky fan join the band on stage to jam out for a song. That didn’t happen at Intersect though. Dave Invited someone to the stage … but it wasn’t to rock out on a song. It was to chug a beer (a Coors Light, apparently) with Dave! Before “Big Me”, Dave shotgunned a brew with a “big boy” wearing a Santa cap, who, as Dave quickly noted, wasn’t getting down the chimney this year. After pounding the beer, Dave wiped his face with the Santa Cap. Hilarious. Yet another footnote in Foo Fighters’ concert history.