The 60,000+ attendees of the inaugural Life is Beautiful festival were pleasantly surprised when they found that all the trappings of an expensive Las Vegas vacation were conveniently repackaged into a reasonably priced two day extravaganza. On paper L.I.B. claimed to have everything that one could expect from Vegas -- delicious food from top chefs, eclectic music, weddings officiated by Elvis, art (read blinking lights fixtures galore), Cirque Du Soleil, gambling, alchemical cocktails, and cheap booze. Though many were skeptical that it could be done, to everyone’s delight the gamble paid off as the promoters were able to bring together all of these elements which typify the experience of the Vegas strip in the oft neglected Downtown Las Vegas area.
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Taking advantage of Zappos.com’s $5 billion project to reinvigorate the downtown area, L.I.B. managed to secure an unprecedented 14 blocks of prime downtown real estate which was thoughtfully reimagined into an adult wonderland for festival goers. Other music festival often suffer from the pitfalls of turning remote areas into makeshift cities while Life is Beautiful expertly sidestepped these problems. From entrance to exit the entire festival experience delighted the senses while presenting very few if any problems. Getting in & out of the festival was easy, security was helpful, police were patient, lines were practically non existent, bathrooms were impeccable, food was plentiful as well as delicious, attendees were never further than a stones throw from an alcoholic beverage, and everyone in attendance seemed genuinely intent on celebrating the festival’s namesake. After bearing witness to L.I.B.’s impeccable production it is evident that the event could have been a success regardless of who played, but the fact that they had one of the best culinary and musical lineups of the summer was just icing on the cake.
For most music festivals the food is usually an aspect to be glossed over as either adequate or terrible, but Life is Beautiful earned itself the distinction of being a full fledged culinary festival in addition to a music festival. Though traditional festival foods like the ubiquitous super heady tacos were available to fuel the partiers, those with a more refined palate were treated to a smorgasbord of culinary delights. Top Chef contributors like Hubert Keller, Rick Moonan, and Todd English (+ many many more) were on hand representing their respective restaurants as they schmoozed with attendees, displayed their cooking talents, and served up delicious tasting menus. The lineup of famous chefs and michelin star restaurants was so extensive that it was almost impossible to taste all of the delicious food, especially if you planned on seeing any music.
One look at Life is Beautiful’s remarkably diverse musical lineup was all it took to sell out the sizeable allotment of presale tickets in less than a day. Unsurprisingly so given that the lineup literally had something for everyone -- Zedd & Pretty Lights for EDM fans, the Killers & Kings of Leon for rock aficionados, Jurassic 5 & Childish Gambino for hip hop heads, Passion Pit & Beck for the alternatives, and the list goes on and on. Widely heralded as the last festival of the season, L.I.B. culled an impressive lineup of bands/producers/DJ’s who spent the summer touring the festival circuit and seemed eager to close with a bang. All the headliners brought the energy and intensity that you would expect from a production of this caliber, but it felt like the undercard really proffered the most memorable sets of the weekend. Everyone who played at the up and coming Huntridge stage put on tour de force performances, from Earl Sweatshirt and Danny Brown’s raucous raps to Big Gigantic and Portugal the Man’s expert instrumentation attendees within an earshot of this stage were constantly met with aural bliss. An unexpected fan favorite was the performance by the Capital Cities in which fans leaving after the band performed their hit “Safe and Sound” were taunted by the ensuing 10 minute live remix session where they treated the die hards to several new versions of the song punctuated by a shirtless dance off. Of the headliners, Vegas locals the Killers and Imagine Dragons hit the stage with something to prove and both ended up pulling off what many would say were easily the most enjoyable sets of the weekend. However, I would argue that the best set of the weekend award should go to hip hop legends Jurassic 5. The recently reunited crew of 4 MC’s and 2 DJ’s had the best energy, the most impressive stage show (YouTube the performance to see Cut Chemist scratching on a giant turntable and playing a guitar mounted CDJ), and got the entire crowd involved in their jubilant reunion.
It seems intuitive that music festivals and Las Vegas would go hand to hand together, but remarkably Life is Beautiful is one of the first. Besides EDC and the long forgotten Vegoose festival there haven’t been many promoters with the cajones to challenge the casino hotels for supremacy over sin city. However, in light of the overwhelming response to and huge success of Life is Beautiful hope springs eternal that one day Vegas will host a multitude of eclectic festivals like this one. One can dream of the future but for now just live it up, Life IS Beautiful.