I conquered Day One of Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas, NV yesterday. Wow, what a scene. Nothing could prepare me for this one; from the sheer size of it (...that's what she said...), to the colorful variety of music, culture, art, comedy and food. LiB knows how to put on a show. It's now a gorgeous sunny Saturday morning and I'm sitting here sipping my third coffee waiting for the painkillers to kick in. No, I'm not hungover... I'm festival photographer-over. It's amazing how physically demanding these festivals are, even when you're not dancing the night away. I know I walked at least 36 miles and my feet aren't hesitating to tell me all about it. Help.
Anyway, I realize you don't give a shit about my feet. On to the good stuff... Arriving at the festival was harrowing. Friday afternoon Vegas traffic is no joke. I showed up to my assigned parking spot to learn that our paid passes were actually invalid and the City of Las Vegas had messed up big time; the garage wasn't accepting cars and I was shit outta luck. So (of course) I got in a pointless argument with a parking attendant on a power trip (really dude? Clearly you manage this lot like a true warrior... don't let my paid parking pass, which you won't let me use, negate your general badassery..) and I was left to drive blocks in a cranky panic looking for a spot. Great start to my day. I settled on the Golden Nugget garage and nabbed probably the worst 6th-floor rooftop spot remaining available and grumbled about spending $40 on this all the way down the endless parking garage stairs. It was, it seemed, an eighteen mile hike to the grounds through the shadiest of shadytown, but at least I wasn't hassled about entry when I did get there. The festival was strict about bag policies (for good reason) but it was nice to see friendly, personable staff and security. It's not always like that, but appreciated when it is. Kudos again, LiB.
I blasted through the grounds to catch the first of my assigned artists; Sir Sly (dang, yass!) and Hinds (total Spanish popgirl crush here..) and then had a few moments to rest and enjoy the art installations on the grounds. Holy overwhelmingly oversized Super Art, batman! A giant flame-spouting robo-mantis won me over, sitting in front of Container Park and robo-dancing to a disco jam with flawlessly choreographed flame throwing antennae. I stopped for a few to sip a Tito's strawberry lemonade (decidedly delicious, do not miss these) and take in the fire mantis show. I really should look this one up... the artist(s) deserve cred here. Almost every building was adorned with stunning art and murals. A Trash installation, interactive touch-and-feel art built entirely from - you guessed it - trash. Lights, neon, color, kitsch and so many little touches to discover. I could spend a full day just wandering the grounds. Mental note to arrive earlier on Saturday to take in more of it.
Next up was a set by Elohim in the fantastic industrial lightshow canopy of the Fremont Stage. I couldn't believe just how packed this stage was already. The sheer size of this festival and number of attendees was already overwhelming, and I'm a people-loving people-person. It was only 6pm, but jammed full. I'd been dying to photograph her (after a failed attempt earlier in the year) and Elohim did not disappoint with a futuristic, intimate, soulfully entrancing set. Dangerously delicious. Robert DeLong was next and once again, proved his grit on stage with some raw, aggressively excellent new material. I love the animalistic, passionate side of his shows; he's such a seasoned, proven musician now, but his passion for his art still peeks through. I first met and photographed him years ago at a college campus show and remember making a mental note to follow this guy, because he was excellently insane even back then. I knew he'd only get bigger and better. And here he is. Photographing his set is nothing short of magnificent (Robert, can I just follow you around with a camera, like, forever..?).
Delightfully, Chvrches are next on the Downtown Stage; an impressively scaled gargantuan of a structure spanning hundreds of feet in the air. It was a little intimidating walking into this pit... and this ain't my first pit. The crowd was ready and roaring, but these guys (and gal) took it all in stride with a visually breathtaking compendium of their best music. What a treat. I blasted over to the Bacardi stage, to catch another favorite, Sylvan Esso. Bacardi, why you gotta be so far away? Seriously, I need a golf cart or a scooter by this point. Or a drink (oh look, the Bacardi/Atomic Bar, right there! Mental note...) Feet are complaining, but this set makes it worth it. Yet another I was entirely enthusiastic to photograph again. Amelia and Nick's energy and the slick, smooth, funky dance moves that I only wish I could emulate = a grand ol' time. This is a band you should not miss, if you ever have the chance to see them. I stick around for The Neighborhood and I'm glad I did. I'd be lying if I said Jesse Rutherford didn't mildly incite the emo punk fangirl in me and generally make me happy to be alive. He's deliciously energetic and, well, it was slightly okay when he ripped off his shirt and threw it on the mic stand. I caught the end of Dvbbs and What So Not (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!) and failed at grabbing a snack at the food trucks before our headliner. Seriously, guys... I was so hangrily bummed when they literally crossed "Carne Asada Fries" off the menu one person ahead of me. Ugh - add this to my Saturday "must eat" list.
Yes, I have one of those.
Finally, I meet our media escort for the biggest of big headliners, The Weeknd, and impatiently wait by the Downtown Stage pit. By this time, the crowd was overwhelmingly massive and I had a nostalgic "if only my teenage self could see me now.." moment. The Weeknd arrived on stage with a presence I cannot describe and hit me squarely in the feels with that soulfully, velvety angelic vocal power that was so flooring, I almost forgot to photograph. Except I didn't, and despite severe photo restrictions (we get it, The Weeknd don't need no photogs), I snapped a new personal favorite:
I'm in love all over again ...Marry me, sir? So you can John Legend my Chrissy Teigen all night, every night??
So Day One down, two more to go. What an impressive, inspiring, collective example of artistic, cultural, musical festival madness. I need to go rest my feet and my brain, and charge the cameras probably. Today's lineup is killer and I just cannot WAIT to get there (oh yeah, it's worthy of all caps). Welshly Arms, AJR, Yungblud, Cold War Kids, Foster The People, St Vincent, Alison Wonderland, Florence + The Machine, Travis Scott, Wolfmother, Galantis... I'm oh-em-gee-ing all over myself.
(Get that nasty image out of your head!) Stay tuned, follow along on Instagram and Facebook and I'll see you here again this time tomorrow! Rock On, love each other to the moon and back, and remember; You are Beautiful, even when you're festival-hungover AF. XO.
Here you'll find archived band, festival and concert stories... plus blog entries from Team dRiFFt as they travel, photograph, interview and adventure!