Written by Mara M. Mannella
Photo credit: Life Is Beautiful
A lot can happen in 5 years. In 2013 when Life Is Beautiful took over the streets of downtown Las Vegas for the first time no one knew what a dog filter was, people were spontaneously Harlem shaking and James Franco took spring break to a whole ‘nother level. The local energy was electric when word got out Las Vegas was doubling down on the festival craze by unveiling an event that would not only feature red hot headliners like The Killers and Pretty Lights, but also the coolest in art, food and learning. Now here we are in 2017, and the 5th annual Life Is Beautiful is in the books, an event that sold out in record time and brought together legends like Gorillaz and Blink 182 while also booking innovative crowd-pleasers like Kaskade and Chance the Rapper.
Perhaps abiding by the motto “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, Life Is Beautiful seems to have truly hit their stride, greeting attendees with effortless entry lines and ‘gram-worthy scenery at every turn. The festival’s promise of music, art, taste and ideas delivers on all accounts. The transformation of a few city blocks never ceases to amaze, and proud locals get to enjoy the fruits of Life Is Beautiful’s labor long after the festival gates are disassembled; each year the event leaves behind new murals and installations for enjoyment all year long.
Musically, each stage offered its own flavor and most are positioned in a way that it’s very doable to split sets and get the most beats for your buck. Some highlights included Pretty Lights’ melodic journey through space and time, the stylings of viral rap star gone platinum Lil Dicky and the feel-good sound of Big Gigantic. 2 Chainz rolled onto the stage on 2 wheels, a broken leg confining the gritty rapper to a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop him from delivering the hits. In the throwback category, Sean Paul drew a surprisingly large crowd, considering a good chunk of festival goers may have been around 10 years old when his first hit climbed the charts. The energy was high throughout the feel-good set and yes, everyone happily sang Beyonce’s part of Baby Boy. A major enhancement to the musical offerings at Life Is Beautiful are the art car takeovers. Comparable to EDC Vegas, the art cars were taken over by an assortment of imprints and local event companies. Attendees had a whole menu of genres to choose from, like getting filthy at Trollphace thanks to powerhouse promoters Ravealation, vibing out with Dr. Fresch courtesy of house experts Collective Zoo and heading to the underground with techno connoisseurs MNTRA, the masterminds behind Techno Taco Tuesday. A second art car featured a dynamic roster from L.A. based Space Yacht and a trip backwards in time piloted by Emo Nite who filled the air with tracks from Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco to name a few.
As the masses filtered out of the Life Is Beautiful festival grounds Sunday night, no one would could have imagined the horrific events that would play out on the Las Vegas Strip just 2 weeks later. A music festival like the one we had all just attended was held hostage and turned into a place of fear and misery. It didn’t seem real or fair or possible, as many attendees looked back at their own festival memories that were filled with joy and celebration. The events of October 1 changed many lives forever. The evil of that evening remains incomprehensible. The events also uncovered a side of Las Vegas that doesn’t usually make headlines. That Las Vegas is a place to call home, not just a getaway. The community came together in a matter of minutes and continues to support one another not just monetarily but also emotionally. There were and continue to be walks of remembrance and heartfelt construction of memorials. Fittingly, the local music community banded together, organizing concerts and shows benefitting those affected by the tragedy, a true testament to the healing power of music.
Life Is Beautiful, while at its core is just another music festival, is a source of pride for Las Vegans. Like-minded people from all over the country flock to our little footprint in the desert to hit pause on the worries and responsibilities of home. While the tragedy of October 1 will forever weigh heavily on our hearts, hopefully the love and unity that a music festival can provide will continue to outweigh the ills of the real world.