About This Festival
Life is Beautiful is a newcomer to the landscape—its first was October 2013—but it debuted with an expansive, ambitious agenda celebrating music, food and learning. Founder Rehan Choudry, CEO of Aurelian Marketing Group, operates under a kind of radically hopeful idea for our cynical times—that life is indeed beautiful. To that end, the festival’s programming suggests and reinforces that idea at every turn. Organizers created a myriad opportunities to illustrate this ideal, whether it’s through a creating ad hoc greenery via a pop-up park, enormous urban murals, or offering seemingly endless food and music options. Furthermore, organizers wanted to encourage attendees to “embrace fears and chase their dreams.” Pulling it off, this festival is a partnership among Aurelian Marketing Group, Downtown Project Entertainment and Maktub Marketing. And it’s gunning for the idea that a big, splashy festival can help add depth and dimension to Sin City’s image.
2015’s three-day celebration ran from 2 pm to about 1 am each day, with 50 bands across four stages (including the new Troubadour stage, co-produced by Insomniac Events), and exceeded expectations by attracting about 90,000 people altogether. Attendees found themselves sampling food from celebrity chefs such as Duff Goldman, Hubert Keller, Kim Canteenwella, and Elizabeth Blau, wandering through a repurposed motel whose rooms were set up like art galleries, and taking in more than a dozen murals on the sides of buildings. The lineup included Stevie Wonder, Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Hozier, and Major Lazer.
Capitalizing on its location in Las Vegas, where casino restaurants continually try to outdo each other by upping the star-chef ante, Life is Beautiful sets up a few different food experiences for festivalgoers. First, you can encounter dozens of vendors including those catering to vegan and vegetarian eats. Choose from several different Culinary Crawls, designed around themes like pairing food and beverages. Countless other opportunities abound, from hanging out in the Alchemy Gardens with brewers, distillers or winemakers, or watching live demos at Chefs on Stage (both were covered in admission price). Grills & Guitars—the festival’s kick-off event—brought together some musicians and 15 rock star chefs including John Smith, Akira Back, and Sam Marvin, among others, to celebraty chef Jonathan Waxman. Spoon performed; Wirtz Beverage's Andrew Pollard mixed specialty drinks..
Urban Art Experiments
The festival showcases two separate art programs; one, Rise Above, includes street art/murals and the other, Art Odyssey is a more immersive, interactive experience. In 2013, Rise Above was curated by Charlotte Dutoit and featured works by nine different artists from Las Vegas, Portugal, Brazil, New York, the U.K. Puerto Rico, San Francisco and Houston. One of the murals required 3D glasses, which were provided. Unfortunately, the mural by Interesni Kazki (Ukraine), which illustrates hands emerging from the desert, was painted over by its building owners who did not feel it reflected the spirit of Las Vegas. The incident, though, has sparked a dialogue about the role of art in urban areas. The Rise Above program was so successful that they took it to Miami for Art Basel, where four murals were created in Wynwood, the arts district.
Art Odyssey, the other experiment, involved taking the shuttered Travel Lodge and transforming more than 20 of its rooms into mini art galleries. Artists were present and onsite to answer questions and interact with visitors. Some artists transformed their spaces completely; others left some of the old motel furniture intact and worked around it and with it; others decided to create something on the spot. Expect bigger and better next year, we’re told.
In 2015, Life Is Beautiful partnered with Insomniac Events to elevate the electronic dance music production at the festival. Along with the new Troubadour stage, two art cars, Wide Awake Art Car and Mayan Art Car, made their debut at LIB.
Talkin’ about Beauty
Why is your life beautiful and how did you discover that fact? The festival’s learning component asked this question of dozens of creative pioneers in their fields, and gave each of them 15 minutes to an hour to answer it. Presenters included folks who may not all necessarily be recognizable household names but whose creations/companies are—Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress); Tony Hsieh (Zappos CEO); Daniel Kraft, M.D., (FutureMed); and Marcia Wieder (CEO/Founder of Dream University), among many others.