New music conference on Strip to feature up-and-coming artists

Updated June 20, 2017 - 6:31 pm

Displayed on the video screen behind the stage is a picture of scraggly haired Nirvana playing their first show in 1987. It’s a fitting visual for what was unveiled at Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel on Tuesday: the Emerge Music and Impact Conference, whose aim is to discover the Nirvana of tomorrow, today.

Debuting Nov. 16 to 18 at multiple venues along the Strip, including stages at the Hard Rock Hotel, Brooklyn Bowl, Caesars Palace and Harrah’s, Emerge will feature 100 up-and-coming artists along with various “thought leaders” who will speak throughout the event.

The list of curators and industry figures involved with Emerge is long and impressive, including Vegas rockers Imagine Dragons, EDM superstar Kaskade, former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Dave Matthews Band, Linkin Park) and former MTV VJ and A&R executive Matt Pinfield.

The initial list of performers features hip-hop hybridist K. Flay, Philly punks Beach Slang and pop singer Billie Eilish along with Vegas favorites Mercy Music and The Lique, among others.

“These are the very best next-generation headliners on the planet,” explains Emerge founder Rehan Choudry, who used to curate the Life is Beautiful Festival. “These are the people who in the next 12 to 24 months from today are going to be household names.”

Only 25 percent of the music lineup has been revealed, by design.

“To be an emerging music program, you have to be pulling from relevant talent,” Choudry says. “If we booked all of our talent today, who knows what’s going to be upcoming and exciting in the next six months?”

The next 50 percent of the lineup will be announced in August, with the remaining acts detailed in October.

“I really believe in this concept,” Cavallo says. “I thought, ‘Wow, you can actually take a ride with some of these bands.’ You’re going to get to see them early.”

The idea is to cap the number of acts at 100 no matter how the fest develops, so attendees aren’t overwhelmed with too many performers.

“I’ve lived through many a festival and conference,” says Pinfield, citing the CMJ Music Marathon, the New Music Seminar and South by Southwest. “Everybody had good intentions, but they got so much bigger than they needed to be. The original idea of caring about and promoting new artists was completely lost.”

In another departure from events of this nature, the music component and the speaking/educational side won’t be separated.

“We’re not going to say, ‘Look, if you want to be a smarty-pants, go to this venue over here, and if you want to have fun and be entertained, go over there,’ says speaking curator Lisa Shufro, who’s recruited such voices as MTV World founder Nusrat Durrani, “food futurist” Miru Kim and feminist activist Madame Gandhi. “We’re going to mix and merge these two things together.”

In case the idea of learning stuff threatens your idea of a good time, fear not.

“Don’t let the word ‘conference’ fool you,” music curator Mike Henry says. “This is going to be a whole lot of fun.”

Early-bird passes go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday for $195 at VIP passes are $425. From 10 a.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Saturday, two-for-one tickets will be available.

Contact Jason Bracelin at or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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