Technology, by and large, is not intrinsically moral. The good, bad or indifferent of it depends on who is using it and how. The same could be said for the tech giants that have built the modern world—and profited handsomely from those efforts. In the case of Amazon, while there are certainly some bones worth picking about the ways in which it operates, there is no doubting Jeff Bezos’ brainchild’s ability to put on a top-flight entertainment event, as attendees of the inaugural Intersect Festival in Las Vegas will surely attest.
Intersect Festival 2019 – Official Recap Video
[Video: Intersect Festival]
Granted, Amazon’s own employees have known this for years. Since 2012, the Seattle-based company has held its annual re:Invent Conference in Sin City, where Amazon Web Services (AWS) routinely unveils its latest products and treats those on hand to a private afterparty—that is, until this year, when Amazon opted to open its tricked-out playground to the public.
Indeed, there were gussied-up favorites from pre-Gen Z childhood including dodgeball, a bounce house, a ball pit, and an arcade filled with retro machines. For the newer school, there was a giant video game tower, among a slew of large-scale digital art installations.
The creature comforts were well-accounted for, as well. The food court was well-stocked with options for vegans, carnivores, and everyone in between. The three cavernous stage tents were each climate-controlled, and there were plenty of bars and bathrooms situated within the spacious yet easily navigable confines of the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, tucked between Circus Circus and the Sahara Las Vegas hotel.
But folks didn’t shell out $100 for two-day passes (a steep reduction from the original retail price) just to eat, drink and be merry. They descended on the north end of the Strip to catch some world-class music—of which there was plenty for all palettes.
Craving country? Kacey Musgraves had that covered as Friday night’s leopard-printed headliner. She capped an opening day dedicated to women, from vibrant vocalists like CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry and producers like TOKiMONSTA to gifted singer-instrumentalists like Weyes Blood, Sudan Archives, and H.E.R. (not to mention a mind-blowing drone light show, powered by Intel, called “UPLIFT”).
Wanna dance to the DJ? The Infinity stage was the place to be. There, Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bear went heavy on the ones and twos, while Gesaffelstein was heavy every which way—metallic costume included.
Feeling funky? Thundercat and Beck brought their own brands of it to bear, as did Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals.
Fixing to rock out? Unknown Mortal Orchestra supplied the psychedelic side on Friday. Come Saturday, Spoon fed the alternative vibes and the Foo Fighters got heads banging and pits moshing to close out the festival.
To be sure, Intersect wasn’t without its hiccups. Some, like Brandi Carlile’s case of laryngitis, were beyond anyone’s control—even Amazon’s. Others, like Kacey’s occasionally glitchy display and Flying Lotus’ malfunctioning monitors (which led to an unceremoniously truncated performance), were not unusual for a festival that, despite its prior private productions, was in its first year at full scale.
Others still—namely, the departures of Black Madonna and JPEGMAFIA from the original lineup—were the byproducts of protest against AWS’s occasionally controversial business partnerships. More than 1000 artists, including Atmosphere and CAKE, pledged to boycott Intersect and all other Amazon-sponsored events.
As disappointing as those down notes may have been for some, they did little to detract from an experience that, overall, embodied the beauty of what technology can be when applied to sights and sounds. Like any tech giant worth its salt nowadays, Amazon took a great concept (i.e. the modern music festival) and founds ways to improve and streamline it—and, in the process, raised the bar for all of its kind to come.