Emerge insists that festivals should have all the raw energy of protests and that social change can spark emerging creative voices. “We’re setting up a hub for creative energy to engage some of the most wrenching, challenging questions right now,” says festival founder Rehan Choudhry.
The creative energy will be palpable at the festival’s second edition, as its first round of confirmed artists and speakers proves. Headliners will include artists Andrew Bird, Big Freedia, Talib Kweli, JID, Bedouine, Leikli47, Culture Abuse, Doja Cat, Hobo Johnson, J.I.D., Laura Jane Grace, Marian Hill, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Tasha, Yoke Lore, and The Ladies of LCD Soundsystem; and activist David Hogg (March for Our Lives), Patrisse Cullors (Black Lives Matter), Jonathan and Paula Williams, Jose Antonio Vargas, Miki & Radha Agrawal, and AlecWithPen.
If this lineup departs from those of other major festivals, there’s a reason: Emerge aims to create a radically different experience. The festival unites calls to action, insightful discussion, and engaging artists, both established and emerging, to grapple with topics vital to our times. This year’s themes include Protest, Self, Brave and Sex.
“I like to imagine it like a fantasy dinner party, where your most admired thinkers and activists from the past and present get together and talk art and the way things could change for the better,” Choudhry says.
For two days, the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas will be transformed into a platform for emerging voices and creative connection. The festival will make full use of a wide range of spaces on site, but with a focused schedule that encourages festival goers to dig deep and get engaged.
It kicks off Friday night with HopeXHuman, a celebration that merges the best of human endeavors: exquisite cocktails, artist showcases, and meaningful social change work. The party will provide a fun dive into the festival ethos, as sensual delight and progressive creativity collide. Four showcases will explore the four themes and weave speakers, poets, artists, and performers into four-hour immersive experiences. Shorter studio sessions curated by collectives like Vegas’ post-punk art instigators Depressed Monsters will provide more intimate environment for savoring provocative thought and art. There will be intriguing opportunities to meet like-minded creative thinkers and doers at several carefully crafted Collides, networking events designed to increase the connection and reduce the cringe.
PROTEST (Friday night)
Marching in the streets is one of the oldest forms of speaking truth to power, but what does it mean in our increasingly connected, yet fractured world? What other forms, media, and modes of expression will define the protests of the future? How do we move the needle to bring change, equity, and happiness for all via political means?
During PROTEST, we will celebrate the pivotal protests throughout history while exploring what the future of protest movements will look like in a world that is both highly connected and incredibly divided. Topics will include telling your own community’s story; the effects of police militarization; new forms of protest in a digital age; fighting for tangible policy change in women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and gun reform that leads to less violence.
SELF (Saturday morning)
Mental health and a beautiful life starts with you, yet it’s a struggle in the age of the face-tuned selfie. No more filters: let’s talk about seeing who really you are and coming to love yourself, inside and out.
From body positivity to mental health, and everything in between, we will explore how identity is shaped and transformed, how it evolves over time, playing an integral role in being your best self. Topics include body perception; self-care; ego and compassion; giving/charity; addiction; identity; social media dependency, wholistic wellness.
BRAVE (Saturday afternoon)
Fear is universal. We’ve all felt it, but some confront it on a daily basis. Meet a series of speakers who’ve grappled with fear and found courage in the face of violence, harassment, ignorance and intimidation.
To turn our fears into strengths, we need to confront more than what scares us as individuals, but what threatens safety in our community. We will dive into the sources of fear and celebrate those who have overcome their own traumas and achieved their own triumphs. Topics include overcoming fear and finding bravery; first-person stories of coping with or combating fear and violence; the current state and future of our union; and how holding onto fear can either keep us stuck or save us from ourselves.
SEX (Saturday night)
Sex has never been more accessible than it is right now. It’s on your phone. It’s on the street. It’s questioning monogamy and exploring new tangles of relationships and bodies. At this VERY NSFW panel, it’s all on the table: sex positivity, consent, sexual health, kink, and dating in the age of Bumble.
This showcase will be a forum for discussions around consent and relationships, and also a celebration of the diversity of circumstances, gender non-binariness and sexual positivity.
Topics include sex positivity, consent, sexual health, dating, gender as a social construct, polyamory and love in the app era.
Tickets go on sale March 1.