Music And Technology Converge At Intersect Music Festival In Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV- Music, and technology have been entangled in a complex dance from day one. From the photograph record to the magnetic tape … the transistor radio to the walkman … the compact disc to the iPod … … streaming services … technology, and the means and methods of experiencing it, are inexorably joined at the hip.
Artists and companies have even been utilizing technology to enhance the “live” music experience. From musicians live-streaming performances from their living rooms to bands like U2 giving fans an augmented reality concert experience through their Experience and Innocence app to even deceased recording artists coming to life as a hologram. Some artists even worry that technology (artificial intelligence) will make live music obsolete at some point. Hopefully, that’s not the case.
Amazon Web Services (“AWS”), with a little help from Production Club, decided to celebrate the idea that technology and music/art is meant to coexist with each other. Borne out of AWS’ yearly re:Invent Conference, which typically draws over 25,000 guests, AWS debuted its Intersect Music Festival in 2019, turning the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on the Las Vegas Strip on December 6th and 7th into a showcase of visual and aural delight, bring some of the most state-of-the-art live installations to the music festival experience with top-line musical performances by the likes of Foo Fighters, Kacey Musgraves, Beck and Anderson Paak as its soundtrack. But if you needed a little break from the music, there was plenty to explore and observe on the festival grounds.
On the festival grounds, there were four tents built for the occasion, three of which showcased music, and a fourth ten designated the “Experience” tent that was, in essence, a playground for adults. With a full arcade of free-to-play games (both classic and modern) and a huge play-fort featuring ball pit filled with over 200,000 balls, you could easily lose track of time and run around like a kid in a candy store. But there were also immersive art installations in the Experience tent created by Nonotak (a performer at the festival) that hypnotized you as lights and lasers danced around a blacked-out room (see video samples below).
There were other activities and art installations all throughout the festival grounds, including the “Mixed Mirrors” art installation by Tigerlab and a dodgeball arena where people could challenge other festival patrons to a fun match of – mostly drunken- ball throwing. But the most impressive installation of the festival was the 60-foot video tower that continued to feature multimedia artwork by Beeple, Ouchhh, and others from around the world. I quite enjoyed laying on my back at the base of the video wall for a few minutes just watching the imagery morph from one artist’s work to another.
But some of the most impressive exhibitions of music and tech were displayed during musical performances. In two of the larger music tents (Supernova and Infinity), the stages production and lighting effects were some of the best I have ever seen. Clearly, a large amount of this festival’s production budget went into all of the lighting effects designed to fill out the entire space of the venue. It’s one of those things that an everyday spectator may overlook, but if you took the time to step back and look around during the performance, you saw lights and lasers shoot out from everywhere throughout the space. It was quite breathtaking.
Another quite breathtaking moment of the weekend was the 500 Intel-powered drone show outside that preceded Kacey Musgraves’ live performance on Friday. Programmed by an all-female team, 500 drones moved to a meticulously crafted dance in the sky to Kacey’s “Oh What A World”. For five minutes, tens of thousands of eyes were glued to the choreographed lights in the sky in awe. It was truly stunning to watch.
Intersect Music Festival wasn’t without it’s growing pains though. There were definitely some technical difficulties during a handful of the performances (most notably Flying Lotus’ calling out the sound issues that prevented him from performing what he had planned) and the “opera” drone show on Saturday, which didn’t suffer from technical issues, but was rather simply a disappointment as it was basically a non-impressive 5-minute commercial for some Amazon Prime web series.
But those missteps were far outweighed by all of the positives that the weekend had to offer. With plans to offer up Intersect’s second music festival in 2020, I can’t see how AWS and it producers improve upon 2019 and give something even grander in scale later this year.