Many rock stars graced the main stage on Day 2 of Las Vegas’s Life Is Beautiful festival, but Saturday’s biggest sensation was a real rock ’n’ roll animal: lovable Australian shepherd Cocoa, the mascot and official fifth member of California reggae band Stick Figure.
Cocoa has her own tour bus bunk, Instagram account (45,000 followers and counting), merchandise line, and devoted fanbase; she’s a Stick Figure music video star; and she has a place onstage next to her owner, lead singer Scott Woodruff, at every Stick Figure concert since 2013, with her easygoing demeanor perfectly complementing the band’s laid-back, feel-good sound.
“There are people who come out to the show because they’re fans of the dog, even before the music sometimes,” Woodruff told Yahoo Music backstage after Stick Figure’s Life Is Beautiful set. “We haven’t played a show in a long time where there hasn’t been a stuffed animal thrown onstage as a gift to Cocoa. By the end of every tour, we have a huge closetful on the bus. Hundreds of stuffed animals.”
While some dogs would not take well to the road-warrior lifestyle, Woodruff said “from day one she rolled on the first tour — I wanted to take her on the road instead of leaving her at home — and she just started cruising out onstage. That’s just her demeanor. She’s super chill in every environment — on planes, airports, everywhere we go. She’s got her own bunk, with a thousand stuffed animals. She’s happy. She loves it, man.”
Woodruff revealed that Cocoa’s favorite thing about festival gigs are the beach balls that audience members toss around: “Any time they land onstage, she pops them! It keeps the stage clear for us.” He added that she is helpful in other ways, acting as a sort of therapy animal for when the band members get stressed out from nonstop touring. “She’s just a go-with-the-flow kind of dog. It’s good having her on the bus, around all the guys. Her good energy and calm energy rubs off.”
Cocoa, originally a stray that Woodruff adopted five years ago from the San Francisco SPCA, is also helping out her less fortunate four-legged friends: Stick Figure recently donated $13,000 in merch sales to the Houston SPCA, to benefit dogs affected by Hurricane Harvey. “We’re trying to give back what we can to help other dogs — so everyone can have a dog,” said Woodruff. But he did admit, understandably, that “Cocoa is one of a kind.”
An far as two-legged Life Is Beautiful rock stars went, Saturday’s other phenomenon was Cage the Elephant frontman Matt Shultz, a true uncaged rock beast in an I-wanna-be-your-dog sort of way, wowing the crowd with his party tricks (a moment when he spat a giant gob skyward, then caught it in his mouth; a dramatic knee-first death drop that would have instantly shattered the patellas of a lesser man). Then he engaged in a bizarrely compelling striptease that should have had any Vegas exotic dancer taking notes.
After a stagehand wheeled out a full-length mirror à la Jerome assisting Morris Day in Purple Rain, Shultz stripped down to nothing but a pair of black boxer briefs and cropped nude pantyhose, prancing in Spanx and declaring, “I feel like a newborn baby!” Schulz explained to the delighted and bewildered audience, “I wanted to shed my skin and be real with you people.”
Shultz got even realer when he hopped into the audience to serenade a pair of security guards. While one stone-faced crowd-control worker seemed less than thrilled to have his space invaded by a nearly naked man in tights, the other one not only cracked a smile but happily handed Shultz his headset mic — which, of course, Shultz wore with rock ‘n’ roll panache.
Also on the main stage, U.K. arena-rock titans Muse paid tribute to punkabilly legends the Cramps, whose late wild-man singer Lux Interior surely has served as inspiration for Shultz. While Muse singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy took a break and the rest of the band rocked on, video screens played Muse’s video of their bass-heavy cover of the Cramps’s Bad Music for Bad People cult hit “New Kind of Kick,” which Muse released for Halloween last year.
The Elvis wig that Bellamy sported in the “New Kind of Kick” video was obviously appropriate for Halloween, although when he was onstage cranking out righteously rocking originals like “Hysteria,” “Plug-In Baby,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” and the epic six-minute closer “Knights of Cydonia,” he opted for a different kind of Halloween inspo: more of a Max Headroom look, complete with neon shuttershades.
Saturday’s other highlight was the daytime disco of festival favorites Capital Cities, who kept the summer vibe alive on this, the second day of fall, with their effervescent new single “Swimming Pool Summer” (which they also performed earlier in the afternoon at the festival’s official pool party at the nearby Downtown Grand hotel). They also offered their own unexpected cover songs — an electropop remake of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” mashed up with a bit of Tupac, and Madonna’s perennial party-starter “Holiday.”
And there was another Vegas-appropriate Elvis sighting of sorts, when a fan in full King attire crowd-surfed to a rave version of Capital Cities’s irresistible signature song, “Safe and Sound.” That was a Life Is Beautiful moment even cooler than the showgirl watching Dreamcar’s set from the front row on Friday.
Yahoo Music’s Life Is Beautiful live stream concludes Sunday with Gorillaz, Wiz Khalifa, Vince Staples, and more, starting at 5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. ET.