Life Is Beautiful 2015’s upturned feathers charged through the weekend and left us mesmerized — and, sure, just a little hungover — once again.
For out-of-towners, Las Vegas is always a shit-show. A good shit-show. But a shit-show nonetheless.
But a Vegas trip when there’s a music and art festival to attend isn’t exactly like all other Vegas trips. It’s a little more planned, with a dedicated follow-through. The time spent there leans in more of a productive atmosphere than, say, blowing rent on a few rounds of roulette. It’s also a good reason to get away from the glitz and the glam, except, a music festival in Vegas is the glitz and the glam.
In late September, the Life Is Beautiful music and art festival's upturned feathers charged through the weekend and left us mesmerized, away from one glitz, into another glam — and, admittedly, just a little hungover — once again.
On any night, in the sprawling resort-from-responsibility, there’s any one of a thousand shows visitors can attend. Anything from magic acts to reunion tours, burlesque routines to watching a shitty drunk get rowdy on the strip for free — it has something for all types. For a music festival to be successful in a town like this, it has to be its own entity. All encompassing. Entertaining. Extravagant. And most of all, unique.
The Life Is Beautiful Festival is unique … in every way possible.
From first drop of its artist announcement, this year’s festival proved to be on par for being one of the more over-the-top destinations the nation would see this music season. The founders of the festival not only put together an affirming getaway event, but also spent its time transforming the “E-District” all year as a backdrop to its celebration — a culmination of wanting to make the place better.
It has long-term goals.
To add value to an area forgotten by the rest of the city.
According to the locals we spoke with, the E-District, where the festival takes place, was a shit-hole a few shorts years back. Relate it to our own Colfax Ave. in Denver, areas torn apart by drug use, hookers, poor city planning, poverty, fuckwads — or just the threat of time — they’ve all shared a part in making the places a dump. Sad, sure, but it’s a reality of civilization, a common thread of every city.
What’s no so common is someone wanting to change it, and having the means to do so, while providing entertainment and using festival experiences as the catalyst to rebuild. Founder Rehan Choudry and his team reportedly give local merchants money to start businesses there, continue to add viable art to its walls year-round, maintain the alleys and streets, and generally make the area hip enough for people to want to move there. Call it gentrification, or whatever, but for this area, it's a new found progression … ification.
Progressionification? Can we use that?
In fact, people are moving there, and even in one short year (since we attended last year’s festival), the impact can be seen for blocks. It showcases a transformation built around hope, and it’s done so with the backing of music and art — the eternal connectors of positivity.
So there we were, back at it for another round in the money-pit that is Sin City. It’s sweltering, we’ve tossed back a few shooters of breakfast whiskey, and the bands are beginning to draw crowds of fans willing to brave the harsh desert elements. But as shitty as 105-degree weather is, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Find shade, drink more, take off a few clothes and dance like nobody's watching (except on social media). That’s ok — it’s 2015, and life is beautiful.
And the music? There’s not much to be written about the performers that isn’t pushed on all major blogs about 15 times a week already. Sure, AWOLNATION packed a ridiculous amount of fervor into its afternoon set, GRiZ wailed away like a beast, Twenty One Pilots went ballistic as always, Snoop garnered (one of the) biggest crowds of the weekend and there were so many new artists to catch that any seasoned vet would have their heads spin off trying to keep up.
The curators know how to throw a party, and built a superb lineup to back up the grandiose affair. Everyone from Big Data to Lindsey Stirling, Cashmere Cat to Walk The Moon — even Kendrick Lamar (who unfortunately closed out Sunday, when we were already gone) … and the inimitable Stevie Wonder performed — Wonder dripping the attendees with catalog hit after catalog hit, pulsating his soothing contribution to the end of Friday night, creating a vibe to calm down, cool down, and get oneself amped for the following day.
The music is only half of it, however, because there’s learning exhibits (one of them featuring Bill Nye the Science Guy), award-winning food and the entire area’s grounds are covered in visual stimulants. Really, the entirety of the landscape is the art, with multiple installations, murals, blow-up characters — hell, even the imported sod (so as not to deal with asphalt all weekend) is a damn piece of beauty. It’s a massive experience for those privileged enough to attend.
We can say, the Life Is Beautiful Festival is an event of details. There’s no square inch that doesn’t play its part in the execution of the weekend. Best of all, it’s comfortable — unlike many in its class that feel the bottom line is more important than an attendee being able to prop themselves up somewhere cool amidst a properly placed water-mister. That kind of behavior builds loyalty, and it will take a brand to the next level in its industry. In the days of the over-saturation of mega-festivals, it’s the only thing promoters can do to set itself apart from the rest of ‘em, is pay attention to details.
Life is one big set of details.
Leaving Vegas, we couldn’t help but reflect on a weekend of over-indulgences, except this time it wasn’t about dreading Ramen soup dinners for the next week because we lost so much money at the tables, or about the raging hangover we accrued from lowly well drinks in cigarette-blown casinos (we had just a little one this time). It was about the excess of life, and how one festival can encompass everything that‘s still great left in the world, while we have one, a life.
Coming from a city of sin that succeeds on debaucherous refuge, the Life Is Beautiful Festival is the breakthrough ray from a gloomy dump shredded by its neighboring elements. It's a thing of beauty, transforming something that turned very, very ugly for too long. Surviving by its credo, the Life Is Beautiful festival does many things for people and the city of Las Vegas. It builds where no one wanted to touch before, it thrives where others failed. It reminds us of what we can do with the forgotten and worn out. It reminds us, Life Is Beautiful …
– photos by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images for Life is Beautiful and Brian Frederick for The Rooster