Kacey Musgraves Tops Intersect Music Festival’s First Day Of Festivities
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.
Snail Mail was the first act to grace the main stage (“Supernova”) on Friday. The indie-rock brainchild of Lindsey Jordan, Snail Mail released their debut album Lush in 2018, and have been touring relentlessly since its release in support of it. It’s quite a tall order for someone who basically just graduated from high school, but the hard work has been paying off as their fan base has steadily grown while their cuts have been receiving millions of listens on the interwebs. I was eagerly anticipating their performance, not only because Lush is a phenomenally mature work from a young artist, but because it would be my first time seeing them on a stage as I missed out on their two prior Los Angeles gigs.
The performance had a bit of a rocky start as there were some technical issues- none that I noticed out in the audience, so it was probably an issue with the monitors. Lindsey seemed a little annoyed to begin with, motioning to the wings for some assistance, but once everything was sorted out, she seemed to get into a zone and fell into her dreamy rock grooves.
With her messy hair falling over her face as she plucked notes on her electric guitar while cooing her at-times melancholy lyrics, I felt like she really hit her stride in pulling on the heartstrings of the audience. Lindsey closed her set with a cover of another emotionally packed song, “Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls, and as she sang the lyrics “I just want you to know who I am,” I couldn’t help but think that everyone in the tent knew just that.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra performances are always a good time. Though their essence is definitively chill, you can’t help but want to nod your head to the beat and maybe sway a little bit with the groove. I’ve always felt that UMO’s live shows have always had a kind of psychedelic “jam band” kind of vibe. Their sonics are somewhat atmospheric, and it’s easy to simply zone out for a minute as they let their instrumental passages, as a trumpet or keys danced around the melody. Ruban Neilson’s voice was as warm and dulcet as I remembered it, and that definitely added to the soothing mood of the set.
This UMO was a first on a couple of fronts. This was my first time seeing Ruban’s dad, Chris Nielson, play with him. In fact, it was his dad who did most of the jamming on the trumpet and keys throughout the set. It was also the first time I had ever seen Ruban leave the stage and jump into an audience- definitely not a small task as the stage was quite high and the “pit” was quite wide.
As a whole, UMO’s performance was as sublime as ever, and an expected pleasure.
Sudan Archives was an artist that I was extremely keen on catching perform. I had seen her perform a few years back, impressing me at a Stonethrow’s Superfest back in 2016, and I have been keeping my eye on her musical development ever since. Her much-anticipated album, Athena, was released on Nov 1, 2019, and I haven’t been able to stop streaming it on my computer.
That first- and only- time I had seen her perform live she performed with a full band and a string quartet, it was only her, backed by tracks, at Intersect. While a full band would have made the sound feel a little more organic, I have nothing but praise for Sudan Archives’ performance and the new music that she put out into the world. Her performance was mysterious and earthy, with the mood she set accentuated by the darkness in the “Dome” tent as lasers and fog enveloped her. The sense of mystery was also accentuated by the ensemble she wore which was a futuristic mashup of Mad Max and gothic elements, that not only looked fierce but also revealed her strong/fit physique.
It feels like Chvrches have been touring for an eternity. Their last album, Love Is Dead, was released in May of 2018, and their performance at Intersect would mark one of the final show dates in support of the album … which is a shame… because I’ll never get tired of seeing them perform live. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again about Chvrches, but there’s nothing like bit synths and bigger hooks to put you into a good mood, and Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty have that in spades.
There was something about this performance that just felt a bit “extra”. I think Intersect’s stage production for Chvches was exceptional, and it really made the performance that much grander. Big lights with big hooks. It really was a perfect match.
Lauren’s performance (both vocal and stage) was both flawless and effortless, clearly evidencing how in synch she has become with the material for this album cycle. So comfortable was she on stage that she even bantered with the audience between about random subjects that caught her fancy. She even expressed relief about taking a long nap after the tour concluded. Good for the band… bad for the fans. I guess we’ll just have to wait until the next album is done before we see them back on stage. Hopefully, that won’t be too long.
The “Infinity” tent housed most of the DJ’s slated to perform at Intersect. TOKiMONSTA has always been a favorite of mine, and though I had already seen her perform twice this year, I figured I’d catch a bit of her performance before I had to run into the pit to photograph the next main stage act. Plus, with TOKiMONSTA, there’s always a decent chance, especially at a music festival, that someone may jump on stage for a quick collab.
Anderson .Paak did do a feature on TOKiMONSTA’s “Realla” back in the day, so I held out the slight hope that he may show up a day early to the festival to surprise the crowd. No surprises this time around, but it’s always a pleasure to hear a few TOKi bass drops.
Gabriella Wilson p/k/a H.E.R. absolutely slayed 2019. 5 Grammy nominations with 2 wins (Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song) is validation enough, and she showed festival fans exactly why she deserved the kind of global recognition she received the past few years with a majestically soulful revue of her musical stylings.
Gabriella’s p/k/a H.E.R. is an acronym that stands for “Having Everything Revealed” and what was revealed at Intersect was that she is a multitalented musician, who not only plays the guitar, keys, and drums, but also a writes ballads that are so vulnerable, it can make the eyes of the most hardened person well up. H.E.R. performed wearing glasses, and at moments during the performance, I wondered whether the glasses were worn to conceal the emotional depth Gabriella was emoting through the lyrics. It was a truly lovely downtempo performance, that revealed H.E.R. to us.
The last time I saw Kelsey McJunkins p/k/a Kelsey Lu perform live, she performed a midday set, outdoors on a main stage that was packed with equal parts sensuality and eccentricity with a full band. It was a much more intimate affair at Intersect, where she took the stage in the enclosed Dome solo.
Even without a live band to help add texture to her otherworldly, experimental sonics, Kelsey was able to create a mesmerizing tone amidst the warm lights filling the room. With this performance, Kelsey’s soulful vocals were on full display; vocals that really tie her dreamy yet eclectic music production/arragements into a cohesive, mystic whole.
Kelsey brought a bit of drama to her set when she performed her popular cover of 10cc’s “I”m Not In Love”. She made her way into the crowd and sprinkled some of her magic upon the audience. As she sang, “I’m not in love, So don’t forget it, It’s just a silly phase I’m going through,” I have a feeling the crowd was having the opposite reaction. We were all falling in love with her passion … and it was magical.
The good times kept on rolling when Beck took the stage and he performed a hit-laden set that included hits like “Loser”, “Girl”, “Devils Haircut” and more. His latest album, Hyperspace, was released late last year, and he also performed a couple of cuts off that album.
If there’s one thing about Beck in a festival setting, it’s that he knows how to cater to an audience. With such a huge repertoire of chart-topping hits, he obviously knows how to give fans what they want, and even if you weren’t even born when his first breakthrough hit “Loser” hit radio waves, it’s hard to deny that his “classic” jams are still bangers, and rock as hard as they ever did.
When Spinal Tap joked about their album cover being “none more black”, I don’t think they actually fathomed a color that could actually be blacker than black. Apparently, they had never heard of Vantablack before. Vantablack, a material, developed in the UK, and is one of the darkest substances known to man, has been used as part of some of Gesaffelstein’s (colloquially known as “the prince of darkness”) live shows recently, and it was on full display during his performance at Intersect.
Vantablack erases visible features on a 3D surface, and it creates a visual effect that can literally play tricks on your mind, and it made for an extremely exciting performance in the aptly named Infinity tent.
With his tall Vantablack walls absorbing light, and his stage production bursting clean, dancing white lights that violently clashed with the darkness, it truly was an intriguing experience. Any video clips you see online really don’t do it justice. It really is something that needs to be experienced in person. With his frenetic beats playing, and his ghostly shining outfit standing out in the burst of lights amongst the darkness, the contrast was quite exhilarating.
The last performance we got to enjoy on the first day of Intersect was by the lovely Kacey Musgraves. Now, it’s taken me a while to jump on the Musgraves bandwagon, but after watching her performance, I can admit that I am now fully on board. It was a performance that showcased her lovely singing voice, her quite lovely dispositions, love for weed and the fond relationship that he has with her fans.
I thought the pace of her performance was ethereal. Kacey floats and glides through her performance with such an effortlessness that one can’t help but have their mindset at ease. Her “Slow Burn” opener seemed to hark the tone of the set, and, boy it sure did smolder. “Butterflies” and “Merry Go Round” were sure-fire crowdpleasers, and I particularly enjoyed her cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” as it came across as a statement to me that she truly is as much pop as she is country. Even when there was a slight technical hiccup with the video display behind her with Windows projected behind her, Kacey took it all in stride an made an off-the-cuff joke that had the room giggling.
Unbeknownst to me, Kacey is a fangirl of the sticky-icky. I wouldn’t have discovered this without her noticing the faint aroma of weed in the room and enjoying the contact high, which caught me a bit of guard, because I remember when simple possession of even a tiny bit of weed was a felony in Vegas. My, how times have changed.
Kacey had me, and the crowd, eating out of her hands throughout, and as she got closer to the end of her performance, she had fans singing along, particularly during “Follow Your Arrow”, enjoying the high times at Intersect with her