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.”