JBL Fest got here to Las Vegas for the primary time this yr, partnering with the music competition Life Is Stunning to deliver a mix of sound, festivity, and shock to the strip. It was solely my second time in Las Vegas and my first time at a music competition in a few years, so I wasn’t precisely certain what to anticipate. However performances by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Killers, late-night appearances from Bruno Mars, and loads of quirky touches created a nostalgia-fueled journey that concurrently introduced me again to the previous and anchored me absolutely within the whirlwind current.
The competition was primarily based on the Park MGM, a proudly eco-friendly lodge that charmed me from the get-go. After grabbing some snacks (and a complementary pair of bluetooth headphones) at JBL’s hospitality lounge, I spent the primary afternoon of the two-day competition wandering across the spacious pool space and exploring the lodge’s array of eateries, outlets, and naturally, brilliantly coloured slot machines. One spotlight from the lodge was Haus of Gaga Las Vegas, a set of a few of Woman Gaga’s most notorious outfits and paraphernalia from over time, which jogged my memory of simply how modern Gaga has at all times been fashion-wise. (The final time I used to be in Vegas, I used to be in the midst of a cross-country street journey and stayed in presumably the seediest motel of my total journey, so a lodge blessed by Woman Gaga herself undoubtedly felt like an improve.)
That night time, media professionals in attendance gathered for dinner and drinks forward of the large JBL Authentics Sound Lounge occasion. The activation was in honor of the launch of JBL’s trendy new Authentics audio system, which include built-in WiFi and bluetooth and also can optimize their sound to suit the room they’re in, to call a number of of their capabilities.
The launch passed off in a membership known as On the Document, which, in true Vegas vogue, may very well be accessed solely by weaving by means of many rows of slot machines. Stars together with Olivia Culpo and her sisters Sophia and Aurora in addition to Rocky Barnes posed on the small pink carpet outdoors the occasion as cameras flashed, and inside, a DJ performed whereas influencers and executives milled across the retro-style lounge. I grabbed a Mai Tai from the open bar and wandered into the karaoke room the place my interviews could be happening, observing the classic album artwork that lined the partitions.
From the get-go, the conversations turned to nice musicians of yore. I chatted with Ashlee Simpson, herself a 2000s icon, about her lifelong love of Gap and different grunge icons, whereas her husband Evan Ross marveled at attending to see his mother Diana sing onstage with Beyoncé. I additionally spoke to Madison Beer, whose model new album “Silence Between Songs” additionally attracts closely from classic favorites like The Beatles and The Seashore Boys. Finally, the entire occasion felt like a tribute to nostalgic musical icons, a lot of whom smiled or glared at us from their album covers plastered throughout the partitions. As I exited the room after talking with Ellis about his love of assorted musical greats, I brushed shoulders with none aside from Kravitz and knew the night time had actually begun.
I would heard whispers about Bruno Mars showing all through the night time, and after midnight, we had been lastly instructed he was set to look. He saved us ready for a short while longer, and eventually emerged to sing “Locked Out of Heaven” whereas encouraging the group to bop. This crowd, although, appeared extra inclined to sing alongside — or at the least I used to be, tucked away on the VIP part’s leather-based couches — although ultimately the music’s infectious refrain and Mars’s plain star energy had everybody tapping their ft. Afterwards, I stole away from the celebration with a brand new buddy and tried my favourite drink of the night time: the Verbena Cocktail on the close by Cosmopolitan Resort, a lemony margarita garnished by a spicy yellow plant known as a Szechuan button which made my total mouth really feel delightfully fizzy.
The following day, all of us gathered for an illustration of JBL’s sound merchandise, which included all the pieces from their waterproof audio system to their new Authentics line. Then I set off for the primary day of Life Is Stunning, taking a shuttle by means of downtown Las Vegas till I reached the competition grounds. I used to be amazed at how sprawling the competition was, and the way many individuals had been in attendance; it felt like a miniature metropolis.
I walked to the VIP part on the JBL stage, the place I waited till Bebe Rexha stepped out carrying a bejeweled corset high that appeared to replicate each one of many stage lights. She belted out her hits whereas futuristic imagery swirled behind her, however a spotlight of her set was when she paused all the pieces to have two viewers members compete in a dance-off onstage. One among them — who instructed us he’d had a little bit of 100-proof liquor earlier than the present — appeared poised to win, nevertheless it was a Las Vegas native who garnered the loudest cheers together with her strikes.
Later within the night time, a brand new buddy and I headed over to the primary stage, the place the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had been mid-set. Frontwoman Karen O had the group in her grip, and he or she was giving off David Bowie vitality in a fringed pink jumpsuit. When she introduced that it was the autumn equinox that night time and there was “extra magic in the air,” it virtually felt like she was placing some form of witchy spell on us — and it undoubtedly labored, as a result of by the point she was swirling her microphone over her head and throwing it onto the stage, I used to be absolutely in a trance.
The night time’s remaining efficiency was reserved for The Killers, one other nostalgic favourite whose songs certainly introduced me method again to when I was younger, singing alongside to their hits at music camp and attempting to unpack the lyrics of “Mr. Brightside” for the primary time throughout a karaoke session in somebody’s basement. Brandon Flowers was instantly magnetic when he took the stage in a velvet go well with, and he confidently promised us that the one sure factor in Las Vegas that night time was that “The Killers are gonna deliver.” Regardless of his extraordinary vocal prowess and a formidable cowl of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” I admittedly wasn’t fairly as enchanted with their well-oiled, high-octane present as I had been by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s uncooked efficiency. However nonetheless, when “Mr. Brightside”‘s unmistakable guitar intro started taking part in, after all I (and what felt like each single different crowd member) screamed alongside to each phrase.
Forward, see a number of the highlights from the competition.