I'm walking down the neon-canopied downtown branch of Fremont Street with a camera in one hand and a double Bacardi pineapple concoction in plastic-cup-glory in the other. People are milling about; some on the traditional Vegas quest for gambling, glitz and boozy glory, others are most definitely of the "I just festivaled for three days straight, I'm covered in dirt and I don't know where my hotel is" variety. It's a scene to behold. The festival has just ended and I'm celebrating (commiserating?) with something decidedly punchy and strong. My body aches, my camera is almost dead and my ears are ringing; it's the glorious post-fest haze and despite my exhaustion, I don't want it to be over. Three days of color, phenomenal music, delectable food, exceptional art and glorious photography.
While still relatively in its' infancy, Life Is Beautiful proves itself a mainstay in its' sixth year as part of the American festival circuit. With an absolutely stunning lineup in this and years’ past, I'm thoroughly impressed with the diversity, effective scheduling and harmony of artists and bands across four immaculately contrasting stages.
Artist highlights on Day One include Robert Delong’s passionately creative take on a one-man-music show, and Chvrches’ perfectly coiffed Lauren Mayberry leading the synth-pop standard in a delicate “Patriarchy is a Bitch” ensemble (we dig). Sylvan Esso popped their signature slick moves and silky vocals in a flawless set, and I’d be amiss if I didn’t credit The Weeknd with the most heart-stopping 90 minutes of the festival. He is so smooth, so sexy and so deliciously deserving of headliner status. We love. I love. Who doesn't love The Weeknd? See Day One for more.
Day Two saw an even bigger and better lineup (is that possible?) with the magnificent fairy-godmother headliner so eagerly anticipated by, well, absolutely everyone. I struggle to find words worthy of describing the magic of her performance. Florence + the Machine was prodigiously extraordinary. She floated through a set of her best indie rock in a foresty mint-green gown and I quite literally saw people cry.
“Florence is my fairy godmother… I cried, I screamed and I maybe need new panties”
- co-festivaler, who later requested to remain anonymous over said dilemma.
Earlier in the day, we are treated to a deliciously diverse kaleidoscope of music, art and genre; from Cleveland’s gritty rockers Welshly Arms, to our predictably perfect Cold War Kids, and the flawless force of Foster the People. The rock front was certainly not amiss. The Bacardi stage gave us the pink punk energy of Yungblud and later the polished futuristic perfection of St. Vincent. We manage to satisfy our appetite for electronica courtesy of our favorite Aussie, Alison Wonderland, before tearfully (and gratefully) attending our aforementioned headliner in awestruck adoration. Day Two’s blog is HERE. And yes... I kind of liked Florence + the Machine, just a little.
Our third and final Day began with hometown rock heroes, O Wildly, trailed by the golden grace of a purple-clad Fletcher. Some deliciously racy riffs from The Dirty Hooks and an energizing set from Lovelytheband. We caught a tummy-warming romancy moment of LAUV before heading over to cultivate our hip-hop repertoire with the quirky grammy-winning King T-Pain. On to an epic moment with Odesza and the entrancing excess energy of Tyler the Creator. Later we found ourselves in close quarters with just a handful of in-the-know fans at T-Pain’s soulful secret acoustic pop-up show in the hidden Bacardi lounge. T-Pain twice in one day? Sure, why not. The pinnacle of our final festival day was the quirky effervescence of Arcade Fire’s 90-minute set. And just like that, Day Three was over.
Aside from a flawless lineup of power-hitters of multiple genres, LiB also managed to incorporate the neon, the glitz and the glam of Las Vegas culture without taking away from the music and art. A festival successfully establishing itself with a unique identity is a rare thing; and they're adding a culture of creativity, color and acceptance. Embracing an open mind, and refusing to cater to a limited demographic - I was floored by the diversity of festival-goers and the ease in which such a significantly varied crowd blended into a beautiful 175,000-strong community in the city streets of Downtown Las Vegas.
“This has to be the biggest, craziest experience of my festival life. Can you even match this lineup ever again?” - attendee, 2018.
The the art and creative culture embedded within the festival, on top of flawless music offerings, was a beautiful thing to behold. Featuring an extreme variety of mediums; from robotic flame-throwing metal mantis art, an eclectic selection of murals, to the interactive and sometimes secret tunnels of creativity, light and color. It added an element of visual discovery and delightfully granted attendees an escape from the hot and often overwhelming crowds.
And that was quite honestly one of the most-appreciated elements of this festival; Options, Escape and Alternatives abound. When I was tired, hot, fatigued... I discovered the deep, mysterious, entertaining and design-art-adorned recesses of the Cooling Station. When I was hungry, thirsty and burgeoning to escape the crowds for just a moment, the Cookout and Craft Beer Garden was there for me, along with a rocking set from The Dirty Hooks. Comedy from an outstanding list of local and national comedians layered an aspect of frivolity without removing from the music and art mainstays. And the icing on the cake was the readily available variety of food, drinks and treats - which were conveniently dispersed in so many areas with great seating and shade around the festival grounds.
As always, my favorite part of any festival is seeing the diversity, beauty and energy of the attendees themselves. LiB saw an incredibly diverse turnout and I was humbled over and over to be among such an incredible and enthusiastic popup community. From blue neon kittens in kitten heels, to scantily-clad ravers in the most incredibly creative festival EDM getup. I met stunning drag queens adorned in better makeup and more exquisite gowns than I could ever hope to dream of wearing, and I met down-home leather-clad rockers of the most brutally polite variety. All were there in celebration of the beauty of the festival scene, and none were weighed with the voice of judgement or poor ill. A beautifully incredible crowd.
All things aside, I had few gripes about my Life Is Beautiful experience; aside from the aforementioned physical toll, I can only comment on the youthful mode of a majority of the crowd. I'm quite positive that 75% of my fellow festivalers were under 25 and with that comes a certain self-centered lack of consideration for others. Yes, I get it that you're 12 shots, a molly and some sort of dirty street psychedelic in, but there's a lot to be said for basic festival etiquette and personal responsibility. I observed a greater-than-average portion of the festival population beyond toasted on a cocktail of intoxicants. Perhaps it's endemic to the Vegas scene, or perhaps it's just the age bracket. I'm not sure. But as a veritable festival veteran, I can vouch for the necessity of basic festival etiquette and consideration for others. Please... Don't go drunkenly staggering through a crowd, don't run yourself rudely into photographers and staff, don't be belligerent about your status and location in the crowd (we can't all get to the front row), don't puke on your festival partners' feet, and (does this really need to be said?) don't find yourself unconscious in your friend's lap on the sidewalk. Eat, drink water and protect yourself from the sun and heat. Be responsible for yourself and keep an eye out for your friends.
Ok, PSA/rant over.
I enjoyed the weekend thoroughly. I cannot say it enough; this was an exceptionally well-planned and well-executed event, from top to bottom, start to finish. Life is Beautiful leads the way in an innovative, creative, unforgettable and truly unique Vegas fashion. I attend a lot of festivals: some of them I love.. some are mediocre. Others are just plain terrible (not naming names) but this was most definitely not one of them. Phenomenal, A+, exceptional. I’ll be back. I'll be there next year to savor, sip, listen, taste, laugh and admire. Life really is beautiful and this festival gives us a reason to revel in that. I hope you’ll join me in 2019.
Here you'll find archived band, festival and concert stories... plus blog entries from Team dRiFFt as they travel, photograph, interview and adventure!