Hitting the Low Notes

Our city was the center of the music universe last week—mostly for all the wrong reasons

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Las Vegas found itself this week at the intersection of music and tragedy in a way that wasn’t at all unexpected—yet, when it happened, you still kind of weren’t prepared for it. Nothing can prepare you for it, really, no matter how much logic tells you that it’s inevitable.

Yes, Taylor Swift put the kibosh on the Yahoo! live stream of her May 15 Rock in Rio set. Fans around the world were devastated, leaving them no other option but to publicly consume Taylor Swift, profess their love for Taylor Swift, angrily shout down anyone who dares criticize Taylor Swift and find out where Taylor Swift might be at any moment so they can try to sneak into Taylor Swift’s hotel room by hiding underneath the table cloth on a room-service cart.

Wait, it gets worse: Not only was the city home to Rock in Rio for a second straight week, but we got the Billboard Music Awards on May 17, making Vegas the undisputed home of every terrible song that’s going to dominate the rest of the summer. That doesn’t even take into account Ed Sheeran headlining Tiger Jam at Mandalay Bay on May 16. Our deepest apologies, America.

The Billboard awards had newly minted Vegas headliner Mariah Carey in the fold, but Carey freaked out show producers when she didn’t show up for dress rehearsal the day of the show—just a few days after she canceled a show at Caesars Palace because of bronchitis. She had a doubleheader that night, with the Billboard performance followed a few hours later by her Colosseum show. Although if Carey’s plan is “back-to-back shows with bronchitis in order to deliver a performance worse than Rockefeller Center in December,” it shows her troll game is in rare form.

The one really good thing to come out of Rock in Rio’s pop weekend was that John Legend got called in to pinch hit after Sam Smith bowed out with a vocal cord hemorrhage. We say “good thing” not necessarily because of anything to do with John Legend, but because he brought wife (and Billboard Awards co-host) Chrissy Teigen with him to town. The couple posted up at Hakkasan Nightclub’s restaurant on May 15 with friends. Rita Ora was also there, and it had to be tough for her fall to No. 2 on the list of women in the room guys are trying to secretly take pictures of while their wives and girlfriends aren’t looking.

Then there’s B.B. King, whose death at 89 wasn’t a surprise, but was still a big ball of suck. The Memphis Grizzlies did the super classy thing and offered a tribute before their Game 6 playoff elimination tilt against the Golden State Warriors on May 15—which the Grizzlies lost, 108-95. King must’ve been a big Steph Curry guy.

The one bright spot in all of this is that Daniel Platzman and Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons scoped out the third of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s five shows at Planet Hollywood on May 14. Yankovic signaled the Vegas band truly arrived when he recorded “Radioactive” parody “Inactive” on his most recent album Mandatory Fun. The Killers only made one of Yankovic’s polka medleys. If you’re keeping score at home, that puts the Dragons way in the lead.

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I arrive 10 minutes after the Riviera liquidation sale begins. Already, the line stretches past the hotel’s convention center, around a corner, up and down the loading dock, then twists back on itself. There are women pushing carts, men pushing dollies, parents pushing strollers—because a three-hour line ending in a roomful of kitchen supplies is what 2-year-olds really enjoy.



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