Last weekend, Las Vegas welcomed the 11th annual iHeartRadio Music Festival, a two-day affair that’s broken up into several events around the city. It was my third time attending since 2017, and if I have to be honest, probably my least favorite.
The main portion of iHeartRadio Music Festival has a more traditional concert format and takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings at T-Mobile Arena, promising the most current artists across genres. The Daytime Stage hosts a mix of newly-popular artists and those who’ve already had several radio hits. The daytime portion also has more of a traditional festival vibe: outdoors with sponsor activations and a party atmosphere.
However, this year fell a little flat. What used to be called the “Daytime Village” was watered down to just the singular stage in the AREA15 parking lot, and a handful of brand booths for photo opps. In the past, there have been enclosed tents (air conditioned, I might add) for more immersive experiences and a break from the heat. The best we got this year was the T-Mobile lounge: an exclusive area with 2 mister fans that people could enter if they proved they were subscribers. They were giving out free drinks in the lounge during the first few hours of the festival, though, so… that was nice.
The letdowns actually started before even entering the festival, though. Per the ticket and AXS event page, backpacks smaller than 12×12 were allowed, as well as one factory sealed water bottle or an empty aluminum water bottle up to one liter. However, backpacks of all sizes were being turned away at the door— it seemed like it was up to the discretion of the security guard you got. Luckily, my Dagne Dover Small Dakota Backpack was let through.
My sealed Smartwater, however, was not. They collected multiple trash bins full of unopened water bottles, and everyone with an aluminum bottle was instructed to return it to their vehicle— a 10 minute shuttle ride away.
Luckily, Arrowhead was an event sponsor and was giving away free bottles, which could then be refilled at water stations. Though it does make me wonder– did they just not want competitive water brands visible in event photos, leading to the confiscation? Hmm…
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I actually like the single-stage set up of this festival. It operates on a rotating basis, so as one artist is performing, the crew is already setting up for who’s on next. There’s very minimal downtime between acts— the stage just rotates 180 degrees for the next performance. You don’t have to worry about wanting to see artists performing at conflicting times, or repeatedly finding good spots for different stages. On the flip side, you do have to wait through artists you may not care about before finally seeing your faves.
On that note, what frustrated me the most this year was that iHeartRadio didn’t publicly release set times for the festival– a festival that takes place in the late Las Vegas summer and lasts from 11am to about 7pm. The high on Saturday was nearing 100 degrees, and many festival-goers ended up packed under the few shady areas.
It would have been nice to know ahead of time that the first person I was actually interested in watching went on at 1pm. Without that information, I resorted to showing up at 10:30am, in case they were first.
After some research, I actually did find a singular web page where the performance schedule was published a few days prior, but it was on the iHeartRadio corporate news website— not something that normal ticket holders would be checking. The schedule was not posted on any of iHeartRadio’s social media platforms.
Additionally, unlike other Vegas-based music festivals, iHeartRadio prohibited re-entry to the festival. For comparison, Life is Beautiful allows GA guests to leave and re-enter 3 times per day, with other ticket tiers allowing unlimited exits and re-entry.
I cannot stress enough how draining it is to be outside from late morning to early evening in the Vegas heat. My friend and I tapped out around 2:45pm, despite wanting to see more artists, and took cover inside AREA15 because we were desperate to cool down.
With that said, the performances were fun. Jax, an up-and-coming singer who recently blew up on TikTok, opened the festival with her viral songs “90s Kids” and “Victoria’s Secret.” She also covered “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus, which has been trending across short-form video platforms.
The party really started when Cheat Codes took the stage, “No Promises” being a highlight of their setlist. Everyone was dancing and jumping, despite the heat.
@livemusicdiary @Avril Lavigne performs “Happy Ending” on the daytime stage at @iHeartRadio Festival #iheartfestival2022 #avrillavigne #avrillavingeconspiricy #poppunk #y2kmusic #nostalgicmusic #poppunkrevival #elderemo #elderemotiktok ♬ original sound – livemusicdiary
I personally came to watch Avril Lavigne, who played five songs: her 2007 #1 hit “Girlfriend,” her newest single, “Bite Me,” as well as older songs “My Happy Ending,” “I’m With You,” and of course the iconic “Sk8er Boi.” Avril’s voice is still effortless, even during ballads and high notes, and she’s maintained her DGAF pop punk attitude on stage. Avril was my first rock concert back in 2003, and the feeling of singing with a crowd just as enthusiastic about her comeback nearly twenty years later— seriously incredible.
As mentioned, I ended up leaving early when I couldn’t shake my lightheadedness. Other notable artists I wish I could have seen were Latto (I had been excited to get down to “Big Energy” all week!) as well as Willow.
However, I spoke to a lot of fans in various lines, and it was evident that both 5 Seconds of Summer and Big Time Rush pulled in a good percentage of the crowd. Big Time Rush hasn’t toured since 2011, so they seemed to be the nostalgia act geared toward Gen Z festival-goers. 5 Seconds of Summer has been on their Take My Hand World Tour since June.
I do want to point out that I had purchased a $25 local’s ticket, where most people paid $100+. I think I would have been extremely disappointed had I paid full price, especially as this part of the festival is focused more on up-and-comers (or in this year’s case, comeback artists) versus the well established mainstream artists that take the stage at night.
For me, it was more the logistics that made the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Festival a letdown, not necessarily the performances. Would I attend again? It would depend on the line-up, and only with the local’s deal which I unlocked via email newsletter from AXS. Make sure you fill out your profile (ie. location) to receive deal alerts for events in your area.