Intersect brought a lot of new ideas to what a festival can be. But what does it actually feel like to be immersed in all that art and technology? We spent two days on the cutting edge finding out.
According to the calendar, Intersect 2019 was one of the last music festivals of the decade—a time where the music festival itself grew in a million different directions, to the point where it seems like you can spend the whole year bouncing from one big gathering to another as you circle the globe. Walking through the Intersect gates, though, it felt like the first peek at a new era, a few weeks before the next decade officially kicked off.
The Vegas Strip was the ideal place for Intersect to be held. Since its early days, the Strip has drawn dreamers with big ideas for revolutionizing entertainment and technology, often at the same time, and provided fertile ground for testing them out. The cumulative result of all those experiments is the larger-than-life light show of the Strip itself, which gave the members of the Intersect community a sensory-stimulating warmup as they streamed towards their destination at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds.
On stage, Intersect’s musical talent did their part to add to the city’s legacy of musical innovation. The lineup was stacked with artists who enjoy pushing limits, exploring new corners of the musical map where no one else has been before, and the crowd was given a far-ranging tour of all the best parts. Kacey Musgraves filled the space with laser-streaked glam country and arena-rock swagger. Thundercat transformed it into a spaceship on a cosmic jazz odyssey. Channel Tres turned it into the funky post-electro nightclub of the future. And even though they all sounded radically sonically different, you could find the same people popping up at all of them–a demonstration of just how free and borderless the musical landscape has become.
The atmosphere of free-floating creativity didn’t stop at the stage’s edge. From the curiosity seekers interacting with the art to the adventurous types climbing through the enormous ball pit (which was more like a multistory ball castle), the people who came out to Intersect weren’t a passive audience, but fully engaged participants in the action. From the theatrical performances happening in front of Mixed Mirrors to the stunning festival fashion looks on display, the space between the megastructures housing the stages became a place for audience members to become performers themselves.
It was easy to tap into that energy of exploration in a place so full of unique ways to stimulate the senses. The 60-foot-tall video tower called the Monolith lived up to its awe-inspiring name, drawing the eye skyward with giant, surreal animations so unbelievable that they stopped more than a few people dead in their tracks just inside the gate. Nearby others played in front of Tigrelab’s Mixed Mirrors installation, where they could pose in front of video walls and watch their images be remixed with the people around them. Beyond that a line formed to join the action on the Battleball court, a post-apocalyptic fantasy complete with pyro effects and taiko drummers hammering out an intense real-time soundtrack.
Technology played a strong supporting role on stage as well: stage-filling video screens, next-generation nano-materials, and enough lasers to take down a UFO invasion. There was so much happening on stage that there was a very real fear that taking a second to get your phone out and snap a pic would result in missing out on some new mind blowing special effect.
And yet some of the most exciting things to happen on stage over the weekend didn’t have anything to do with technology at all. Dave Grohl shotgunning a beer with a fan, Anderson .Paak leading his crowd in a singalong of vintage grunge songs, Kaytranada announcing a new album from the DJ booth—it wasn’t cool new tech that produced those memorable moments, but the very old-fashioned connection between performer and audience. It was the feeling of community, and of shared experiences lived in real time.
That feeling lasted all the way through Intersect until the very end. After Anderson .Paak and Foo Fighters brought the Supernova stage to its triumphant close, the Infinity structure filled up with people who still had energy to burn, and wanted to dance with Kaytranada until the very end. With a screen behind him and one on the front of the DJ booth he stood in, Kaytranada seemed to be floating inside computer-generated imagery as he served up disco, funk, and house music with the same human touch and attention to the crowd’s energy as an old-school DJ from back in the vinyl days.
“Everything is about to change,” he told his audience as his set peaked. After a weekend at Intersect, it was clear that they already have.