Life Is Beautiful Quick Take

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Life is Beautiful

This past weekend @begt and I had the pleasure of attending Downtown Las Vegas’ inaugural Life is Beautiful festival. This festival was a mixture of music, food, art and education. A more hearty review will be forthcoming, but in the interest of timeliness, here are a few highlights and lowlights from the festival.

Highlights:

1)      In my opinion, the festival did its job. It provided an event unlike any other in Las Vegas while showcasing some of the best food, art and music that Las Vegas has to offer.

2)      Las Vegas can be a great host to an eclectic group of performers and festival attendees.

3)      The performances were great and the performers were fairly diverse. From hip-hop to electronic and funk the attendees had many choices to fit their moods.

4)      Performances from hometown heroes Imagine Dragons and The Killers that were impeccable and which contained pleasant surprises.

5)      Do you want to eat something you’d not normally eat at festival? They had you covered. The choices were endless.

6)      The art…THE ART. The new murals were incredible and such a great addition to downtown.

Lowlights:

7)      Whether it be the culture of Las Vegas, of the many southern California attendees or the micro-culture of festival, trash & recycling were an issue. This needs to be addressed next year. The festival organizers should look at larger festivals and events in more progressive parts of the country and see how they handle waste. There is every reason to believe that this festival can be a “no waste” event when it comes to handling food/drink waste.

8)      Some of the scheduling choices seemed to be not well thought out. Placing hip-hop staples Jurassic 5 at the same time as Janelle Monae and crowd pleasers Empire of the Sun and the Killers opposite each other didn’t seem to support fans with consistent tastes. Somehow, someway, I was able to catch most of J5’s set, and the last few songs of Monae’s set while still seeing 2.5 songs from one of my local favorites Most Thieves at the unfortunately located Homegrown stage.

9)      Drinks were club prices. I didn’t expect to find cheap drinks, but $13 for a one-shot cocktail is really too much. A $9 beer? No thank you.

10)   The lack of “Vegas” spirit from the attendees. I realize that many (a majority?) of the attendees were not from Vegas, but the amount of people at both the Killers and Imagine Dragons who were not into the show was disappointing.

11)   Native American Headdresses? Really people, what the hell are you thinking? Not cool. It is not a thing. It is equivalent to wearing blackface or dressing like a Nazi. It is not cute, it is not cool.

Local Music: Avalon Landing

Being over 30, and wanting to get 8 hours of sleep has really prevented me from discovering more local Vegas music. However, I’ve been out and about enough to hear my favorite local band (not including the Killers or Imagine Dragons), Avalon Landing.  They are not Vegas natives, rather they are originally from Buffalo, NY.

I was already sold on the band because they are named for the novel that plays a prominent role in one of my favorite movies, Finding Forrester. However, I first heard them when I was preparing for a show when they were opening for Imagine Dragons when ID released their Continued Silence EP. I purchased their first full length: Demos, Dead Ends and Do Overs, and listened to it religiously until the show. They play Las Vegas pretty frequently, but have only ever seen them one other time when they again opened for Imagine Dragons.

Their sound is reminiscent of The Fray, but their lyrics are a lot less “Jesusy” than the Fray. They pack a lot of energy into their live shows, and they are big supporters of the local music venues here in Las Vegas. They have been recording their next record, and I am excited to see what it has to offer.

Here is “Old Phone Books”

And “Erie County Welcomes You Back”

TBT: Imagine Dragons – Continued Silence EP, February 2012

The second Throwback Thursday post today is the review I wrote for Imagine Dragons first release after signing for Interscope Records. Here it is:

Do you remember I told you about Imagine Dragons last year? They turned out to be my #1 music discovery of 2011.

They signed to Interscope Records at the end of 2011 and started recording new material right away. And as an awesome Valentine’s present, their new EP was released yesterday. Continued Silence EP is, in one word, epic. You have to listen to it. It contains a re-release of “It’s Time” and five new songs. I got it last night and it had me hooked after the first full-listen.

There is something about Imagine Dragons’ poetic lyrics in combination with their anthemic melodies, that make songs like “Demons” raise all the hairs in your arms. It’s hard to pick favorites from the new songs. So far, I’ve five-stared three out of the five. The other two have four stars. There’s not even a good place to start to listen to them, just hit play.

The first notes of “Radioactive” will probably give you that feeling you get when you’re about to experience something incredible. When I listened to the iTunes preview of that song, I thought it was a bit too on the electronic side for my taste. But the first full listen of the song erased that lame preview impression. You see, Imagine Dragons create complex songs. There are layers to their songs, there are intros and high points, there are resolutions, there are story lines, there are waves of melodies and vocals that hit you from different directions. This is all good. No, not good. It’s great. It’s what keeps their fans loyal. I first noticed this quality when I heard “Cover Up” for the first time (from their Imagine Dragons EP).

When I heard they’ll play at SXSW in March, I knew this was it. They will most likely explode in the music world after that performance. And it’s about time, because they have all the right elements to make it happen. Their stage presence is powerful, their lyrics are catchy and poetic, the music makes you want to move around and it makes your soul want to pop out of your body. If you think I’m exaggerating, just go catch their live performance.

Just do me a favor. If you’re at work, wait until you get home to your quality speakers before you listen to them. Laptop or PC speakers just won’t do it. Also, if you have never listened to Imagine Dragons before, start with their new EP. Don’t try to listen to all their music at once, because it might cause some kind of awesome-induced attack and I don’t want to be responsible for anything like that.

TBT: Imagine Dragons @ Club Madrid, September 2011

Happy birthday, America! For today’s edition of Throwback Thursday I bring you a couple of Imagine Dragons post I published in the last couple of years. I’m still high on awesomeness from the ID show I attended last week (and still owe you that write up) so I thought these posts were appropriate for today. This post was originally posted in September 2011 after a show in Las Vegas. Look, Dan with no mohawk-mullet! Enjoy:

Imagine Dragons @ Club Madrid
All photos by B “Café con Leche” Gutierrez

On Friday, Sept. 16, Imagine Dragons played a show at Club Madrid at Sunset Station in Las Vegas. The show was part of the afterparty for the 107.9FM listeners appreciation show that featured Lit. The Dragons were at home in Vegas, and looking around the crowd, it was clear that Club Madrid was full of fans and friends and not tourists. Everybody knew the songs and sang along, clapped at the right times, jumped and danced through the whole show.

Imagine Dragons @ Club Madrid
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#OperationTokyo

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You may not know it (yet) from reading this blog, but I am a HUGE Imagine Dragons fan. I first saw them on Friday December 10, 2010 when they opened for The Temper Trap at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Las Vegas Strip. I was there to see Temper Trap. I had heard of this up and coming local band, Imagine Dragons, from a friend who had seen them about a year earlier and had become a mega-fan. I was skeptical, some of the local Vegas bands I’d seen were just not that good. However, as soon as I saw lead singer, Dan Reynolds start singing, I knew this band would be huge. The stage presence of Dan, Wayne Sermon (guitar) and Ben McKee (bass) and former members Brittany and Andrew Tolman (keyboards and drums respectively) was incredible. I do not think Temper Trap had any idea that the opening act would totally destroy anything they could put on as a band. I am still a fan of Temper Trap, but I am a super fan of ID.

Other than the crazy energy and catchy tunes, I do not remember much of the show beyond the feel of the band and of the crowd. However, I do remember one song. That song is “Tokyo”. Since that day, this song has remained one of my favorite ID songs, and one of my favorite songs ever. I have had the good fortune of seeing this song performed live 4 times including that first occasion. However, since the band changed members and released Continued Silence and Night Visions, they’ve not played Tokyo live in Las Vegas (at any public show I am aware of). Tokyo is also my wife’s favorite ID song. And when I say it is her favorite song from ID, I mean, this is the one song she wants to hear them play. She knows all the other songs, but this one song is what represents Imagine Dragons for her. Not having heard Tokyo live in almost two years has been a tough pill to swallow. This is why, with the help of @begt and other ID fans, we are spearheading #OperationTokyo in hopes that Imagine Dragons will play Tokyo live at the Life Is Beautiful festival which @begt, my wife and I will all be attending here in Las Vegas. For my wife and I it will our 6th wedding anniversary the week of Life Is Beautiful and it would be amazing to see them perform this song again. “Where do I have to go to find a honey with a little soul?”. I’ve already found her but I would love to dance with her to “Tokyo” again!

“Tokyo” did not appear on Continued Silence or Night Visions (or the Deluxe Night Visions). You can find it on the It’s Time EP though. You can also watch the complete gem of a video that was made for the song. The band asked fans to submit video of themselves dancing and singing to the song. It is pure, unadulterated gold in my opinion.

Enjoy the video. If you feel the inspiration to assist in our mission, make sure you let Imagine Dragons know that Life will be even more Beautiful when they play “Tokyo” for the Vegas fans at the Life is Beautiful music festival. If you use the twitter, make sure to use the hash tag #OperationTokyo.

(The picture of the #OperationTokyo sign was created and displayed by @begt at Imagine Dragons latest show at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO.)