Rehan Choudhry, Life Is Beautiful kingpin, couldn’t hide his excitement: “This is the best First Friday yet,” he declared. “Twenty-five bands—these kids came and crushed it. I think it gave the city a good representation of the breadth of music that’s here, the breadth of talent that’s here. And it’s just a taste of what we’re bringing to the festival in October.”
It was definitely a different First Friday. Food trucks enveloped one parking lot. Behind Artifice, roller derby players smashed into each other. And those were side notes to the five stages sprawled across the Charleston intersection, ranging from parking lots to the side of the Arts Factory to inside Artifice, the bar that held the first local LIB showcase.
Some performers, like Dusty Sunshine singer Summer Soll, felt the weight of the night, knowing it was the last chance to impress LIB programmers. “There’s a little bit of pressure to do your best so you don’t get passed up by such a great opportunity,” she said. Others, such as bassist Jason Aragon, who already has one band in the fest (Same Sex Mary) and was attempting to grab another slot with country-rock outfit The Clydesdale, saw it no differently than any other gig. “I don’t feel pressure,” he said. “I take it as seriously as any other show. Whether it’s this, an audition or a small house party, I try to maintain a good level of quality throughout.”
And some didn’t even have time to think about it. Drummer Courtney Carroll, of both Dusty Sunshine and The Clydesdale, whose bands were playing on two different stages back-to-back, didn’t even have the luxury of using her own kit, instead borrowing drums from Goldboot (whose dance rock was the best performance I saw) on one stage and Black Camaro on the other.
The bands were solid throughout. In fact, the only major glitch came from the sound team at the First Friday stage. Black Camaro barely escaped and Dusty Sunshine had their entire set compromised by it.
By the time I caught up with Craig Nyman, head of music and live performances for LIB, I was watching my fourth band of the night. He was on his 17th, immersed in the Super Duper Downtown Music Showcase. After the night was over, his team, which had scouts at each of the five stages, huddled to figure out which bands will get the remaining slots. And while that might be a difficult process, nobody was enjoying it more than Nyman. “This is awesome. This is what the community is about. You are seeing Vegas at its finest because people are embracing the arts and the music and the culinary.”
The big news is that it won’t just be more local groups added to LIB, even after big-name acts like Vampire Weekend were recently confirmed for the bill. Choudhry assured me there are still more surprises to come: “Hell yeah, you’re going to see more announcements.”