One Las Vegas hotel, a handful of top-drawer artists, three big concerts, influencers-a-plenty, and a core pro audio backbone were just some of the key ingredients at this year's extraordinary JBL Fest. Headliner was on the ground to take it all in...
Pulling up outside the Virgin Hotel (formerly the Hard Rock) just a half-mile or so from the Las Vegas strip, it's immediately evident to any onlooker how big a deal this week-long festival is. JBL Fest branding is in prime location outside the main doors, as well as inside the main doors, splashed across the lobby walls which surround the casino, along the corridors... you get the idea. It's a takeover, all bar the casino tables themselves – and less said about those the better, which is a story for another day.
The JBL presence is, of course, unsurprising when you consider the calibre of artist that will be performing throughout the week: Bebe Rexha, Doja Cat, The Kid Laroi, Tigerlily, and Martin Garrix.
Day 1: House of JBL
We begin our journey pre-soundcheck outside House of JBL with emerging artist, Bella Moulden, who will be opening for Bebe Rexha here this evening. Moulden was selected to perform at JBL Fest as part of Headliner’s ongoing Emerging Headliner initiative to champion standout up-and-coming artists who are making waves in the industry, after impressing at the NAMM show in June.
“I haven't even been able to think about the show, so it hasn't really clicked in for me yet,” admits Moulden, with a smile, as the stage is prepared behind us for soundcheck. “I was at Dunkin' Donuts earlier with the JBL guys discussing it, and they were like 'yeah, Bebe already approved you [for this show]', and I was like 'what?!' [laughs] and then I started getting nervous! So now I have to make sure my performance is perfect because I can't let her down, you know?”
Soundcheck is solid, and Moulden's innocence of youth allows for several more pinch-me moments as she spots herself on the various big screens, working with the house engineers on establishing the right tone for her backing tracks and vocal mic, as audio begins to fire through the JBL A8 and B18 ground-stacks and her VP 7212 MDP stage monitors. 40 minutes later, she's all set, and retreats to her hotel room to prepare for the evening ahead.
It's 8.15pm, and Moulden has her red carpet moment, which she takes to with ease, posing for photographs with team members and fans alike as she's snapped by a string of photographers, before heading into the venue, which is filling up nicely.
9pm, and Moulden is on stage, cutting shapes with her trademark double-neck guitar and accompanying synth, utilising her loop station to maximum effect during a three-song set that comprises two cover versions: Eurythmics' Sweet Dreamsand Grimes' Oblivion; and her very own Season of the Witch, which went viral with over 100,000 creations on TikTok.