Fans of the Las Vegas music and art scene watched intently over the weekend as two indie music festivals — Neon Reverb and the new Pastel Project — vied for the patronage of concertgoers. While staging the festivals on the same weekend was unintentional, the timing made comparisons of the two inevitable.
With Neon Reverb and the Pastel Project returning for another run as early as the fall, here’s what to expect (or avoid) in the future.
Since 2008, the biannual Neon Reverb festival has provided a great opportunity for local bands to get exposure and popular indie acts to play for Las Vegas fans. The festival stayed true to its DIY roots, hosting shows at multiple venues. With low-cost single and multiple-day passes, it's a deal that's tough to beat for fans.
It also gives back to local businesses and organizations. This year’s lineup featured a showcase for the local nonprofit group Girls Rock Vegas.
Organizing a festival this expansive is no easy task. But even after accounting for the usual delays and mistakes, things at Neon Reverb felt a little sloppy: bands changed venues multiple times, artists were shoehorned into different lineups at the last second, and bands' sets were delayed up to 2 hours. Also, with so many venues to choose from, it was nearly impossible to know what show was going on at any given time.
Due to a near 2-hour delay at Saturday’s “early show” at the Junkyard, 708 S. First St., headliner Yacht was cut off after playing just four songs. Moreover, the Junkyard, already too roomy for a nighttime festival, had emptied by the time Yacht took the stage. That was thanks in part to the fact that the Pastel Project began letting folks in for free due to its dismal attendance. Awkward.
The Pastel Project
Kudos to organizers for an excellent, professional setup. The Royal House, 99 Convention Center Drive, with its large outdoor stage for more popular bands and an intimate indoor space for up-and-comers, was a great venue. Outside, vendors lined the edges of the lot, leaving plenty of space for walking and dancing. Tents lined with couches were set up near the stage for anyone needing a break. There was even a Ferris wheel and gourmet goodies.
Pastel's lineup wasn’t as focused on local acts as Neon Reverb's, but it was more refreshing. Artists ranged from established favorites like Brazil’s CSS to rising electro buzz bands like Glass Candy, all of whom were considerably more raw, edgy and high-energy than the twee indie pop sounds that come standard at Neon Reverb.
Nobody came — that is, until organizers began letting people in for free, realizing that the only folks in attendance were with the bands or the media. That empty, abandoned-carnival feel can be chalked up to prohibitively expensive tickets (around $70 a day or $119 for the weekend pass). Unless the festival has the kind of names and reputation to draw folks from out of town — which, at this point, it doesn’t — organizers need to adjust the price to locals’ standards.
Big-draw bands Le Butcherettes and HEALTH both canceled at the last minute, inevitably knocking some of the wind out of the festival’s appeal (and cost); even with the draw of free admission, popular acts like the Whigs and Autolux played the outdoor stage to just a handful of people.