From roots rock to future shock, day two of Intersect was a study in sonic contrasts. Relive it with us now. (And rewind to day one here.)
One of Intersect’s running themes is finding spaces where two seemingly opposite ideas overlap. Day two put that theme in the spotlight, as artists pulled from the past and pushed into the future, often at the exact same time.
The afternoon kicked off with Japanese Breakfast on the Supernova stage. Front woman Michelle Zauner is a student not only of contemporary country superstars, but of classic indie rock, and she and her band got the early crowd’s energy up quickly with a performance bursting with big pop hooks and an energy that made their locked-in coordination feel effortless. After they finished, many in the crowd trekked across the courtyard to the Infinity stage where Nonotak delivered a live performance that took the same elements of their art installation in the Experience tent–tightly laced minimalism, retro-futuristic synthwave sounds, and grids of high-contrast white-on-black lights–and added in a more organic human presence, leaving their audience stunned when it was over.
Following Spoon’s lean, tightly wound Supernova set, Texan soul sensation Leon Bridges gave the day a glittery boost with a set of new material that injected rootsy vintage R&B with a little disco strut, like a Deep South juke joint band given a Soul Train makeover. While Bridges delivered his tour of throwback styles, Max Cooper was on the Infinity stage, taking his audience on a different kind of journey, a spinning animated orb on the video screen behind him as he laid down waves of electronic ambience. After a while, the orb grew brainlike wrinkles and Cooper dropped a beat into the mix, shifting the mood from chill-out to club.
When Thundercat came on after Cooper, the Infinity structure was packed shoulder to shoulder halfway to the door, which in a space of that size, adds up to a couple thousand fans eagerly awaiting one of the most unique artists of a weekend full of them. Thundercat speaks a singularly complex musical language, based on breakneck bass riffs and songwriting that follows its own dreamlike logic, but while it’s unabashedly geeky and happily weird, it’s also proven to be accessible outside the usual fan base for prog-inflected jazz-pop. All that warped bass riffage had his audience as rapt as Brandi Carlile’s honey-sweet country pop had hers over in the Supernova structure.
By the second day, Intersect goers had figured out that the Dome was one of the best places on the festival grounds to kick back and re-energize (at least until it switched over into rave mode later on in the day). Many of them took in Miya Folick’s performance while reclined on the grassy floor, taking in the constantly morphing laser patterns that chased themselves across the Dome’s interior. “This room is wild,” Folick commented partway through. “I feel like we’re in the future.”
After dancing through Toro y Moi’s DJ set, which packed an entire night’s worth of sonic peaks and valleys into 50 minutes, the crowd gathered in the courtyard for the weekend’s second performance of the Intel Drone Light Show. This time around it was themed around the cult sci-fi show The Expanse. With the show’s booming theme song as its soundtrack, the show took on a more epic feel than the night before, and the space-opera theme gave the Intel team a chance to take a more abstract visual approach, using their fleet of 500 drones to create an entire galaxy of color-shifting stars that made the evening feel downright cosmic.
"I feel like we’re in the future." – Miya Folick
“Does anybody feel like dancing tonight?” asked Anderson .Paak near the beginning of his triumphant Supernova set. From the number of hands in the air and bodies moving to his music, the answer was an emphatic “yes.” Dressed in a holographic tracksuit, oversized shades, and a bucket hat covered in psychedelic swirls, .Paak took on the role of co-headliner and chief party starter with gusto. On top of singing and dancing his way through his hit-filled catalog, he cracked jokes, took an occasional turn behind a vine-covered drum kit, and turned the stage over to his band for a mini-set of soul and hip-hop covers. During his time on stage he never took a break from entertaining, even during the breaks between numbers where he led the crowd in sing-alongs to Nineties alt-rock classics.
Taking the stage directly after .Paak, Foo Fighters took the same energy and same crowd and pushed them over the top, mixing new material with their greatest hits stretching back to the band’s beginning. Their performance brought together every type of music lover who’d come to be part of the Intersect community, with ravers and hip-hop heads joining in with classic rock fans to belt out “My Hero” at the top of their lungs. (And who could forget when Dave Grohl invited a fan in a Santa costume onstage to shotgun beers?)
When the Foos were finished, the night wasn’t over. In the Dome, Goldroom whipped up a neon-streaked dance party, while over at the Infinity stage, beat maestro Kaytranada used house beats and vintage club-culture visuals to make the space, with its massive stage full of video screens, feel just like the kind of underground event that usually happens in unmarked warehouses. Adding to the excitement, he announced midway through his set that he’ll be releasing a new album named Bubba the week after. Even after two days of nonstop entertainment and activity, people didn’t stop dancing until the music ended and the lights came on.
The music. The games. The Drone Light Show. Day one of Intersect gave music fans from across the country a whole new festival experience. Rewind with us now.
As the crowd streamed in through the gates to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds for the first day of Intersect, you could watch their faces shift from expectation to joy as they rounded the corner and saw the audiovisual playground where they’d be spending the weekend. From the start, the festival’s nonmusical features were nearly as popular as what was happening on stage. The video arcade stayed packed with players soaking up the glory days of arcade gaming on perfectly restored classics from the Eighties and Nineties. Festival goers lined up to explore the giant, house-sized ball pit. Inside Nonotak’s immersive art installation, audiences slipped into a darkened space mostly taken up by a massive minimalist cube covered in white LED light strips that flowed through a series of shapes, while outside in the courtyard crowds gathered to explore the ring of video screens that make up Tigrelab’s “Mixed Mirrors,” laughing as their faces were combined with their neighbors’, or simply kicked back in bean bag chairs to watch the video art towering above them on the Monolith. Pics were taken for socials, of course, but even the most camera-happy of the crowd still took time to put their phones down and enjoy being in the moment.
Music was still the main focus, though, and one after another Intersect’s musical acts kept their audiences riveted. Unknown Mortal Orchestra served up their hits with a side of freeform instrumental jamming, including a fiery trumpet solo, while frontman Ruban Nielson waded out into the crowd for some up-close interactions with fans. Sudan Archives took the stage dressed in a part-couture, part-armor costume that made her look like some kind of sci-fi warrior-bard when she lifted her violin bow towards the laser light show playing on the ceiling above her. Weyes Blood played to a rapt audience in the Dome, while video projections of light-filled water tied the performance in with the aquatic themes of her recent album Titanic Rising. The band’s lushly psychedelic sound was a perfect match for the Dome’s unique acoustics, where the natural reverb makes the sound seem to come at you from all sides.
Funky experimentation quickly emerged as one of the days’ big themes. Channel Tres brought out two dancers to an otherwise bare stage to help him deliver a stacked set of cult hits that blur the lines between house, soul, and hip-hop. (It was only 6pm, but he made the Infinity stage feel like a club with the amount of movement he was getting from the crowd.) Across the courtyard, Chvrches used the same dance music roots to set off an explosive performance big enough to fill the hangar-sized Supernova structure. H.E.R. melted down the Supernova stage with a rendition of “Make It Rain” that swelled to epic scale as she tore into an electrifying guitar solo in front of a video screen streaked with digital rain.
TOKiMONSTA’s set slowly morphed from genre to genre, with a lot of overlap: disco blending into house music, classic Miami electro mixing with synthwave atmosphere. “I want to turn up so hard with you guys right now,” she told the crowd, who responded by turning up even harder than they’d already been going. Jamie xx summoned up the spirit of UK rave and club culture by taking an ecstatic crowd on a tour of styles built on funky breakbeats, from hip-hop to drum & bass to Chicago-style footwork.
Beck’s hard-hitting performance of “Loser,” and the hit-filled set that followed, put Intersect into overdrive as the spectacles began to get more spectacular. Dressed in a glittering costume under bright spotlights in front of his light-absorbing Vantablack stage, Gesaffelstein was a study in visual contrasts while his music inspired the crowd to pour whatever energy they had left over from the earlier performances into dancing through his set to close out the Infinity stage. Above the courtyard, the Intel Drone Light Show inspired cheers from the thousands-deep crowd watching as its 500 light-carrying drones danced through the night sky to form a spinning globe, a beating heart, and Kacey Musgraves’ signature crying smiley face logo in pulsating rainbow colors.
And then there was Kacey herself, who began her performance simply, with dramatic backlighting and nothing but an acoustic guitar, then built it up to an energy that lived up to the Supernova stage’s name as she led her stadium-sized audience of superfans through hit after massive hit. When it was all over, the crowd streaming out of the festival grounds was full of beaming smiles. “I couldn’t believe it,” one happy attendee said. “It felt like my first time at an amusement park.”