This past Friday, July 12th, Wes on Acid invited me out to The Union House in Downtown Las Vegas to hear his new project. For those unfamiliar with the venue, the location operates during the day as an art studio, music venue and is home to one of my favorite local brands, The Sarap. I showed up around 8 PM to Wes setting up for the evening and bumping “Say You Will” off of 808’s and Heartbreak (this will come into play later). As about 30 to 40 of Wes’s fans arrived, I soaked in the ambiance of the location. The Union House has wood floors with paneled white walls and was dimly lit by neon lights. The energy was right for a night filled with Wes’s sound. The Las Vegas artist has gained a solid base here in town with his dark and melodic sound.
The evening began with a few words from Wes, explaining his reasoning behind the beautiful madness that is his new project: Heaven or Las Vegas. There was a round of applause and the artist explained that he had gone through a tragedy. His wife had recently passed away, and he had used his music to get through the pain. The project comes only five months after he had to go through this trauma, showing how deep the artist is letting us in on his emotion. Needless to say, the room could feel the weight and meaning behind Heaven or Las Vegas.
Wes played through the project with a few short explanations before each song. The first song, titled A Body Still, creates a soundscape that invites the listener into where he has been these lasfew months. Dark and melodic vocals are layered on top of hi-hats that stab at the synth that guides the song. Wes bares his emotion.
The piece transitions into Wonder, a track that Wes told us was meant to evoke a grunge vibe. I could hear its influences from the jump. The guitar riff that rolls beneath Wes’s reverberated vocals could be an unreleased take from the Nevermind sessions. The song scratches the itch that Nirvana left us with 20 years ago; the sound of a traditional rock drum kit, now updated with a trap-infused baseline.
The next song, When I Die, is a rebuttal to a specific group of people. Wes explained to his audience,
“Everyone was saying they’d pray for me and was a sweet gesture, but no one was checking on my family. And I was frustrated one day and I wrote this track.”
When I Die features an incredible chord progression that haunts the percussion. Displaying his versatility, Wes described the following song to be more of an R&B vibe. Lost Myself featuring Tatum the Dreamer is a journey, a tale of love lost and heartbreak that sits perfectly in the body of work.
As Wes played through the project, I found myself struggling to find a comparison. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced such a versatile body of work. Floating in and out of genres all while encompassing itself in hip-hop, Heaven or Las Vegas is something that feels like a culmination of the moment; a project that could only have been made in today’s day and age.
Heaven or Las Vegas is riddled with powerful pieces. Whether displaying his pain or frustration, Wes knows how to artistically engage his feelings to the listener. The Raven is one of the LP’s standout songs. The premise came to Wes in a dream, influencing the piece’s overall soundscape. At one point Wes croons ‘feel so blinded by my eyes, it is what deceives what’s wrong from right.’
It is a story of guilt and wonder that still manages to incorporate one of the coolest chopped and screwed sections since Bryson Tiller’s TRAPSOUL. The instrumental features co-production from Magna, a talented local production duo.
Willows has a vocal layered in FX. With a harmonic delivery, Wes shows he’s as much an MC as he is a singer, producer, and engineer. burningforestboy co-produces, providing the up-tempo slaps. Willows seamlessly moves into Demons featuring local MC Asaiah Ziv. His chemistry with Wes is undeniable, adding on to the LP’s already established sonic diversity. This is arguably one of my favorite songs on the project and ends with a beautifully layered vocal sample. It was at this point that I understood where the Kanye influences appeared.
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas needed a home and this was the perfect home for it. The second half of the record I created the day Ke’era passed away. I made this beat and I was just sad and talking over it and I just made the record.”
The song had been previously released, but it hit harder being a member of the listening party. As such, Heaven or Las Vegas is a piece better listened to in full, ALA Tyler the Creator’s Igor. As each track goes by, the album begins tofit together like a jigsaw puzzle of tragedy and pain.
“The next song is called Service. It’s me trying to make a phone call to heaven but I’m having problems with the connection…”
Service is one of the most memorable instrumentals on the LP. It was both busy and calm, and a crowd favorite. Lots of head-nodding ensued, and I was just as enthused.
The project closes with Please, Don’t Let the Sun Set on Me. The two verses are a depiction of a conversation between the artist and his late wife. The first half is meant to be his own words, while the second is hers. The instrumental matches the emotion of the halves, as Wes’ portion is slower, sadder and darker. When it comes to the second half the emotion picks up in the beat. The way he put this project together in such a short period while going through such a tragic event is incredible.
Heaven or Las Vegas is a project that can help comfort you in your darkest times. Wes on Acid perfectly relays the emotions he’s gone through. As the night concluded, I couldn’t help but hope that we’d hear more from the Vegas artist sooner than later.
All of these incredible shots were done by the amazingly talented photographer @mcnvst