Sam Feldt’s set was already pretty sweet.
Scoreboard: You had a guitarist ripping the lead to Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” from atop his DJ booth. You had a crowd of thousands at the Fremont Stage leanin’ back, leanin’ back and doing The Rockaway to the Terror Squad hit like it was 2004. You had Feldt delivering his bright, soulful EDM take on The First Edition’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” which conjured images of Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowksi flying over Los Angeles, bowling ball in hand.
And then Hawkeye showed up.
Yes, Feldt’s set ended with actor/Avenger Jeremy Renner perched on the lip of the DJ booth, belting out Feldt’s new single “Heaven (Don’t Have A Name)” for the first time live. Renner handled his live singing debut like a pro, exuding a confident nonchalance as he did his thing.
Hey, this guy just might have a career in entertainment, you know?
That was one but one highlight from Day Two of the Life is Beautiful music, arts and comedy festival on Saturday.
Here are a few more:
Oct. 1 remembered
The end of his songs were frequently punctuated by claps of thunder, not gunfire, and for good reason: In honor of Oct. 1, rapper Travis Scott’s DJ Chase B chose not to use the latter sound effect common to hip-hop shows out of respect for the victims, their families and survivors.
For his part, Scott was the only Life is Beautiful performer we heard address the tragedy thus far, offering condolences to the city during his headlining set at the Bacardi Sound of Rum Stage, where Scott was all about setting a murky mood then disrupting it, his hazy, auto-tuned melodies punctured by full-throated bellows.
Think about being spellbound by a hypnotist’s swinging pocket watch, then having him hit you upside the head with it. It was kind of like that.
The I’m-Not-Crying-You’re-Crying moment of the day
More than a few Dos Equis were getting salted with tears, and it was all Sabrina Claudio’s fault. It was about 7 p.m. at the Bacardi stage, and the 22-year-old singer was delivering a rapturous take on her Sade-worthy ballad “Messages From Her,” a song so emotionally charged it could make an eggplant well up. Claudio didn’t help matters any by breaking down herself at song’s end. After that, well, see the subhead above.
Revenge of the N.E.R.D.
There are some things you just don’t see at Life is Beautiful, you know, like snowboots or spiked codpieces.
Add mosh pits to the list. The fest just doesn’t book the kind of harder-edged acts that soundtrack the throwing of elbows into lips.
Pharrell Williams wasn’t having it, though.
Throughout his band’s pulse-accelerating, unflinchingly political set of hip-hop-infused hard rock at the Downtown Stage, the N.E.R.D. frontman demanded to see some circle pits open up, stopping the show and refusing to continue until he saw some action, at one point.
It worked. The crowd reciprocated N.E.R.D.’s aorta-exploding energy levels during ragers like an especially manic “Spaz” and the bare-knuckle funk of “1000.”
Seeing as how N.E.R.D.’s lineup also includes Chad Hugo, Williams’ partner in production duo The Neptunes, the group delivered a medley of some of the many hits they’ve helped craft over the years with the likes of Clipse, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar.
Nevertheless, this set was more about starting riots than parties.
“I was zen,” Williams bellowed on “1000,” “but not now.”
Best in show(s)
It took all of a 30-minute set change for the day’s best set to be bested.
Total one-upper, that St. Vincent.
But first let’s start with Blood Orange, the stage name of British R&B rethinker Dev Hynes, who was performing in Vegas for the first time.
“I’m nothing if not subtle / Heartache at its best,” Hynes sang in a lower register lilt during “Chamakay,” his voice anesthetizing throbbing emotions.
Hynes’ songs can be as blithe as the flute lines occasionally threaded through them, as dark as the night sky under which he played on Saturday, peerlessly funky when he straps on his guitar or, as was the case here, the bedrock of a command performance.
The guitarist who followed him on the Bacardi stage, though, possessed similar do-it-all faculties.
St. Vincent’s look — thigh-high pink boots, matching puffy pink sleeves, tan bodysuit-thingy — was as singular as her sound, art rock with all the ambitiousness and none of the stuffiness.
As a six-stringer, she’s reminiscent of Prince, at least in terms of style if not sound, exactly. Like him, she’s got chops for days, but deploys them in the service of the song first, with her playing ultimately being more predicated on feel than technique.
And so when, on a tune like “Masseduction,” for instance, she shears through its minimalist electronic funk with this convulsive spasm of what-am-I-hearing-exactly guitar raunch, it registers that much more forcefully.
She practically assaulted her instrument at times, hitting the strings with her fist, grinning mischievously, like a kid on a joyride — which, in musical terms, she kind of was.
Going with the Flo
First, the lady in green asked us all to hold hands.
Not really into that, but, OK, fine.
Then she asked us to hug strangers.
Pushin’ it, Flo.
Finally, she demanded that all cellphones be put away.
Over the line!
Sorry, Florence Welch, this is Life is Beautiful, not ’Nam. There are rules, one of which is that we can’t be asked to part with our electronic devices for more than a minute or two.
Oh, but you can forgive Welch for trying: She’s the ol’ eternal optimist, her faith in humanity as outsize as her singing voice, which can go from a smolder to a blaze in an instant.
Closing the Downtown Stage, Welch pirouetted about in vigorous circles, singing of love as an act of defiance and attempting to fill inner voids with outer excesses, while her richly textured baroque pop introduced the harp to the weekend’s festivities.
OK, Flo, you were right, it was worth pocketing the iPhone.
Contact Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.