Life Is Beautiful Quick Take

LIB1

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.

Imagine Dragons (and more) @ Starlight Theater in KC

20130710-152750.jpg
Let me hurry up and tell you about this show, before it hits the two-week mark.

A few days after the weekend festival Kanrocksas was cancelled due to low ticket sales, a date was added to Imagine Dragons’ tour calendar. A sort of mini-festival was put together at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO on June 28th.

I had never been to the Starlight Theater. And, buddy, it is nice. The prices at concession stands make you feel like you are, as my friend put it, at the Disneyland of Concert Venues; but it’s a beautiful venue nonetheless.

The bands that played that night, in order of appearance, were Churchill, Family of The Year, Twenty One Pilots, Capital Cities, and Imagine Dragons. I did some research in all bands before the show, because I was only familiar with ID, but after looking them up, I found a couple of songs I had heard somewhere before (Radio? Last.fm? Pandora? Spotify? Does anybody know where they hear songs for the first time anymore?)

My friend and I made a point to get on the road super early, just because I wanted to make sure to catch Churchill (remember?), and they were set to play first, right at 5:30pm. We were just getting into the gates when I heard one of the band members introducing the band. The second song they played was “Lock Your Heart Down,” which has been on heavy rotation in my Summer playlist. I recognized the song right away and sang along all the way until we reached our seats. Churchill formed around 2008/2009 in Denver, but they seem to be a young band on stage. I really enjoyed their set, it was a bummer that most of the people that got there early (I’d say about 1/3 of total attendance) didn’t seem to be listening to these guys. C’mon, son! Am I wrong to expect a lot of enthusiasm from people that paid to come hear music?

Next up came Family of The Year, which were great! I loved these guys. I don’t know why they didn’t stand out more when I was doing my research prior to the show, because I went back to check their albums and I really like them. Now, I’m really bad at nailing music genres, but I would describe these guys and gal as Indie Folk. They started playing and dancing around the stage, with their really sweet harmonies. It makes me think of a whole bunch of friends singing along during a road trip (I may have a whole music video with their song “The Stairs” playing in my head right now). You have to check them out. Specially you, @DocMurda. You will like them. They have two full albums out, Songbook and Loma Vista.

Twenty One Pilots was the act of the night that just took me by surprise. The Ohio duo started their set with a really heavy song that made me question the meaning of life. I really didn’t know what was happening. People were stoked, which told me they have a big of a big following. They mix electronic and hip-hop, in case you haven’t heard them before. I haven’t been able to figure out what that first song was. Revisiting their music, it sounds like it was “Ode To Sleep” and maybe it was just a lot more intense hearing it live. The set totally got better. These guys, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, have a lot of energy. A LOT of energy. The set included jumps, backflips, climbing giant speaker towers, and going up the balconies above the stage. These guys either have some gymnastics experience or had taken some redbull/5-hr-energy cocktail. My favorite part of the set was when Tyler got his ukulele and played “House Of Gold,” a song he wrote for his mom (Awww.) Their latest album is Vessel, released last year.

I didn’t enjoy Capital Cities as much as everyone else in the crowd. Their music just didn’t click with me. Their set was a bit longer than the rest. Churchill and Family of The Year both had 30-minute sets, while Capital Cities went on for about 1 hour. They were OK, I just wouldn’t have paid to see them on their own. I did enjoy their hit “Safe and Sound.” But overall, I was not impressed with the music or anything else. Not even with the silver matching jackets the whole band wore (They could have been white… Forgettable, as you can see).

The headliners of the night were Imagine Dragons. A band I’ve considered rockstar material since the first time I saw them live at a small auditorium at a casino outside the Las Vegas strip. I couldn’t believe a label hadn’t snatched them up, yet. But it happened a couple of months after that first time I saw them, to no one’s surprise. @DocMurda went to their first show of the Night Visions tour and sent me a text that fueled me to drive to KC for this show. That text said something along the lines of “Holy shit. Radioactive live!” So I couldn’t wait to experience it myself. “Radioactive” came towards the end of their set, and it was all I had imagined. @DocMurda was right!

As an introduction to “Demons,” Dan Reynolds, ID’s front man, noted that it is a song about his struggle with depression. It’s one of my favorite songs, maybe because it’s so haunting. But after the confession and the song, I needed something light and playful, so I’m glad they followed it with “Rocks.” The set also included “Tip Toe,” “Round and Round,” “Amsterdam,” “On Top Of The World,” “Hear Me” and “It’s Time.”

Dan got Missouri mixed up with Kansas at the beginning, but later apologized. I thought it was funny, and I bet it happens all the time.

I sported a sign for #OperationTokyo that I tried to flash only when any of the band members were looking my way. I didn’t want the people behind me to get too mad at me. I think new ID fans would so much appreciate their pre-Night Visions music. It would also help understand whey they come from. Too bad it’s no longer available anywhere. Why, Interscope Records, why?

The Dragons are still pretty much in awe of their success in the last year or so. In a way, it seemed like they were just a couple of steps ahead of Family of The Year and Churchill.

The almost 4 hours I drove to Kansas City, MO and back (I got back at 3:10am!) were worth it. Shout out to my friend Stephen for coming along! It appears I did a poor job of informing him of what was in store, because he look at bit surprised to see there were four “opening bands”… Can we even call them that? I don’t think so. Although I also don’t think it was a mini-music festival either. A festival is a musical smorgasbord, this was more of a musical banquet. All in all, it was so much fun. Check out the bands that played and if Imagine Dragons get close to you, go see them!

I made you a Spotify playlist. You are welcome!

And on a semi-related note, check out ID’s performance in Good Morning America:

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
Continue reading

#OperationTokyo

IMG_5754

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.)