Members of No Doubt pose with Billboard's Andrew Hampp and their Billboard cover from August 18.
"It's sort of the Super Bowl of music," Clear Channel's programming chief Tom Poleman told Billboard days before the official start of the second annual IHeartRadio Music Festival, which began Friday night at Las Vegas' MGM Grand. And indeed, Clear Channel pulled no punches when it came to the first night of its two-day confab, with headlining performances from No Doubt (featuring a special appearance from P!nk), Miranda Lambert, Lil Wayne, Usher, Rihanna and many others, a surprise performance from "Gangnam Style" star Psy and superstar presenters like Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and even Olympian Ryan Lochte on hand to lend additional star wattage to the proceedings. Oh, and an unexpected, guitar-smashing finale to Green Day's abbreviated set that is already the stuff of Vegas legend.
In fact, Billie Joe Armstrong also delivered one of the most memorable lines that attendees and those who tuned into the show didn't get to hear as well. In an impromptu reunion between Green Day and No Doubt backstage in the media room, just an hour before their set kicked off, Armstrong exclaimed to Gwen Stefani (and anyone within earshot) "If I wasn't married, I would f--- the sh-- out of you!" Immediately handling retort duties for a non-plused Stefani, No Doubt drummer Adrian Young barked back, "And if I wasn't married, I'd f--- the sh-- out of you!" saving the moment and restoring irreverent laughter to the room.
Green Day publicist Brian Bumbery was nearby to witness the exchange, as was No Doubt's co-manager Lisa Kidd of Rebel Waltz Management, the latter of whom shepherded her band through a quick media tour that included stops for The CW, "The Ellen Show" and a quick Backbeat photo shoot in which the band happily posed with their Fall Music Preview cover story from Billboard's August 18 issue. "I still haven't seen this!" Stefani said excitedly, praising the cover's ska-tinged design and walking away with the copy as a keepsake.
Another big fan of Stefani's was P!nk, who teased her surprise appearance during "Just A Girl" by visibly singing (and dancing along) backstage to the band's opening, hits-heavy set. The singer was spotted from Clear Channel's VIP section, which included the company's top brass like John Hogan, Bob Pittman, John Sykes as well as ad sales gurus Greg Glenday and Michele Laven, whose sponsorship deals with Macy's, State Farm, MGM Grand, Amazon's Kindle Fire and Dish Network's Hopper helped offset the event's considerable costs.
Although Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff was spotted backstage moments before showtime, the corridors of the MGM Grand were otherwise largely absent with industry heavy-hitters, several of whom seemed to still be in transit for the weekend. Scooter Braun, for instance, tweeted that he was en route to Vegas just hours before start time, later showing up for IHeartRadio's after party at 1 Oak Las Vegas featuring Usher.
Still, there were plenty of celebrity cameos in the media room to keep things interesting. Miley Cyrus told Billboard she's been working on new music all year, and talking to new labels after parting ways with Hollywood Records after 2010's Can't Be Tamed. "By the end of this year we'll have a single out," she said, noting that Pharrell Williams and hip-hop production team Da Internz (Rihanna's "Birthday Cake," Big Sean's "A$$") are among her recent collaborators. "Right now I'm just kind of meeting with labels and enjoying making the record I want to make. I want to know what I want to do before anyone else comes into the equation."
Also prepping new music is Jon Bon Jovi, who recently penned and sang a couple new songs for the upcoming Al Pacino/Christopher Walken drama "Stand Up Guys," and whose namesake band has a new album due out in March 2013. Although Bon Jovi was happy to play a radio festival that celebrates the diversity of the modern airwaves, he was nevertheless realistic about his own chances of getting played next time out. "To be honest with you," Bon Jovi told Backbeat in an interview, "I really can't think about what radio means to that record. I'm very excited like everyone gets on one of their albums, but you can't be thinking about radio because it's so formatted. It's very different to be in the business for 30 years and think you're gonna cross over to top 40. The truth is that's probably not the reality. You just gotta go out every night and if someone picks up on the radio, that's great." The band will start hitting the road in February to support the new album, which was produced by longtime producer John Shanks ("he's like the fifth member of the band at this point," Bon Jovi added.)
As for who the "Livin On A Prayer" rocker was most excited to see at the festival? That distinction goes to Korean pop sensation Psy, who stopped by Billboard's booth to reflect on his crazy last few weeks (appearances on the VMAs, "The Ellen Show," "Chelsea Lately," "Today" and "Saturday Night Live," among others, and a freshly broken Guinness Book record for most-liked video on the Internet). "Everything's moving too fast. I didn't have any 'breathe' moments to realize what's been going on," the otherwise ecstatic dance sensation told Billboard. He credited Braun for being a "creative manager" who's been able to make many of these opportunities happen often within hours, but noted that he has yet to personally meet his manager's biggest client, Justin Bieber.
"He's out on tour right now but we made a phone call [recently]," Psy said. "I said, 'hey so many people ask me did you meet Justin Bieber?' I don't like handsome boys, but honestly I got so many questions. And what he told me was he is really good at my dance."