The crowd was excited to see the dude who just might have been even more excited to see them.
As Saturday night turned into Sunday morning and the inaugural edition of the Intersect music, art and tech festival worked its way towards its conclusion with a headlining set from the Foo Fighters, a sort of mania cloaked the Las Vegas Festival Grounds like nightfall.
Now, it’s hard to tell who digs the Foo Fighters’ songbook more: the band’s legions of adoring fans — who know all the words as if they were tattooed upon the backs of their eyelids — or Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
To be clear, we don’t mean this in an egotistical way. Grohl is so down to earth, he practically reeks of topsoil.
It’s just that the man takes such obvious joy in performing his tunes — howling as much as singing while grinning like the cat who not only swallowed the canary, but the canary’s sister as well — that even if you’re averse to the band’s many hook-heavy rock radio staples, at the very least you’d be hard not to be moved by the fury in which they’re delivered live.
Such was the case at the Supernova stage on Saturday.
From a show-opening “All My Life,” the room become one big communal karaoke session between band and audience.
Next up, the group dug into a nearly 10-minute reading of “The Pretender,” which is more than twice as long as its original recorded time, before “Learn to Fly” eased the tempo a bit, if not the crowd’s passions, any.
And so it went for two hours as the Foos ended Intersect in climactic fashion.
As far as year one of festivals goes, Intersect, which was put on by AWS (Amazon Web Services), got off to an encouraging start with a diverse mix of attractions — including dodgeball and interactive video installation pieces — a novel, navigable footprint, a well-curated artist line-up and what seemed like a solid, if not spectacular draw — this despite the fact that a growing list of artists have boycotted the event due to AWS’ business dealings with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The festival has already announced its return on Twitter, so expect another go-round next year.
Until then, a few other takeaways from Saturday’s show:
His set began the way others frequently end.
After but one cut, Anderson .Paak introduced his band, The Free Nationals, player by player at the Supernova stage.
It was a telling move: Paak may be the frontman and star attraction of the band, but this is a band, a collaborative unit as opposed to mere supporting players — and what players they are. Moreover, Paak is a part of it: He intro’d the group from his foliage-adorned drum kit, where he began the show and returned to frequently in addition to working the stage on his own, mic in hand.
“Don’t I make it look easy?” he wondered rhetorically on “Come Down,” singing and rhyming in equally smooth tones, frequently flashing a wide smile that gleamed in unison with his Elton John-worthy bedazzled shades.
Hip-hop, R&B, funk and, upon occasion, rock — Paak gave lyrical nods to both Papa Roach and Soundgarden during his performance — all get compressed into an indivisible whole in Paak’s equally heartfelt, sensual, socially aware, puckish and sweat-slicked repertoire.
He can do the slow jams with the best of them — see: “Make it Better,” which made more than a few couples cling together as the band played it on Saturday — but when he returns to that drum stool and locks back in with his bandmates, it’s like the musical equivalent of watching a hand tighten into a fist.
Bummer of the day No. 1
Two songs in came the apology.
“I sometimes lose my faith in luck,” Brandi Carlile sang on “Hard Way Home,” the second number of her soon-to-be-truncated set at the Supernova stage.
Afterward, she explained why.
Battling laryngitis, Carlile was forced to cut her performance short, an announcement she made with clear disappointment.
Playing around 15 minutes total, Carlile gave voice to a couple of tunes before ceding to the mic to her bandmates and brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth, who delivered a beatific take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”
“I came and saw all your faces out here and I wanted to come and do a couple of songs for you,” Carlile explained beforehand, later promising to make up for the truncated performance. “I just didn’t have it in me to leave.”
Bummer of the day No. 2
It was like attempting to quench a deep thirst with a medicine dropper of water: You just wanted more.
Upon taking the stage 10 minutes after his scheduled start time (no biggie) and leaving after performing for not much longer than that (biggie!), DJ-producer Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) abruptly ended his Infinity stage performance because of technical difficulties.
Announcing that he was having trouble with the stage monitors early in his set, Ellison soldiered on before leaving in frustration shortly thereafter as crew members attempted to remedy the situation.
Upon returning to give it another go, Ellison exited for good when it was clear that there were still issues with the sound, which were discernible to the audience at this point.
He apologized to the fans, but fumed at the situation on hand.
“This is some negligent (expletive),” he said upon departing. “I’m not dealing with it.”
Too bad, because Ellison’s 3D enhanced set — complete with phantasmagoric visuals of fiery terrain and hallucinatory landscapes complementing his ever-shifting soundscapes, which deftly interwove the discordant and the melodic — was shaping up to be a highlight before the high-tailing.
He shook his right hand with demonstrable vigor after the song was done, as if to loosen up his overworked appendage.
It was an understandable gesture.
Bass virtuoso Thundercat (Stephen Bruner) was putting his fingers to the test at the Infinity stage, his playing so frenetic, yet precise, it was like watching someone expertly steer a speeding car sans brakes through an obstacle course with no orange cone touched.
Thundercat’s set was largely divided between prog-jazz endurance tests and free-range funk jams frequently featuring lyrical references to felines. The latter was a blend of Bruner’s airy falsetto and lithe grooves; the former, a series of full-on, down-the-rabbit-hole plunges into instrumental bedlam.
Drummer Justin Brown, a phenom in his own right, seldom laid back when Bruner went on one of his runaway-train solos, instead preferring to up the ante with equally feverish playing, while keyboardist Dennis Hamm got after it just as hard.
It was total music geek euphoria, with not one, but two songs dedicated to Bruner’s pet kitty.
“Everybody wants to be a cat,” Bruner sang on the first of them, “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II). “It’s cool to be a cat.”