Life Is Beautiful Festival Breathes New Life Into Las VegasArticle by: Ryan Simoneau
Tue September 29, 2015 | 00:00 AM
For too long, Las Vegas has been primarily known as being the biggest party destination in the world, lacking any real culture outside of the Strip. Well, the third annual Life is Beautiful Music and Arts Festival set out to challenge that outdated perception as 90,000 people flooded the revitalized downtown area to experience firsthand what Sin City is truly made of. How? We count the ways below.
Live Art That Completely Transformed Downtown
While there aren’t many festivals mired in 100 degree heat at the end of September, that didn’t deter people from coming out for three full days of music, art, gourmet food and educational workshops. The expansive grounds featured four stages that were spread out across the heart of Vegas' newly revitalized downtown, brightly infused with vibrant works by talented street artists who were brought in to add ambience this year. Large-scale pieces from popular artists D*face and Banksy proved to be big hits with attendees; Banksy’s transformation of a New York delivery truck regularly had lines snaking around the Art Motel.
The Art Motel was hands-down one of the most creative aspects of this year’s fest, in which over 30 artists and progressive galleries worked together to completely transform every room of a long-shuttered Las Vegas motel into an interactive space. I, like most everyone who attended Life Is Beautiful this year, marveled at all the exceptional art hiding around every corner.
The Mind-Expanding Learning Series
In addition to the art, organizers also took a lot of pride in providing attendees with ways to educate and empower themselves for the betterment of our planet. Dubbed “The Learning Series,” a wide-ranging collection of brilliant minds are assembled each year to impart their wisdom through presentations and personal success stories, allowing you a chance to empower your mind and soul, while recharging your body before the next musical excursion. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shared some of the innovative success stories behind his Las Vegas-based company and the Downtown Project’s efforts to restore Downtown Las Vegas to its past glories. Bill Nye, everyone’s favorite science guy, was welcomed to the Learning Series stage like a rock star. Closing out this year’s Learning Series was first-time speaker and attendee Rosario Dawson, who along other scheduled Sunday speakers, spoke about coming from humble beginnings and how she conquered her fears to achieve great success.
I found taking in a few of the Learning Series sessions each day really served to inspire me to not only better myself, but the importance of coming together if we are to truly change our world for future generations.
Far-From-Ordinary Festival Food
Despite what anyone thinks, Vegas is a culinary mecca, and Life Is Beautiful went to great lengths to honor that with a stunning amount of outstanding food and drink options. Culinary delights from celebrity chefs and some of the finest restaurants in Las Vegas were very much in the spotlight. My personal favorite was from award-winning chef Hubert Keller, who absolutely dazzled with an in-depth presentation of his ultimate Fleur hamburger from his Mandalay Bay resort restaurant of the same name. It was easy to become a hardcore foodie while savoring Life Is Beautiful’s playful dishes and sipping on signature cocktails each day.
Eclectic Music as the Perfect Soundtrack
While Life Is Beautiful is much more than your typical music festival, make no mistake that it always packs a standout lineup that can rival even the biggest bills. There was a particularly strong buzz in the air about this year’s headliners: the legendary Stevie Wonder, Vegas' own Imagine Dragons, and the current hip hop king, Kendrick Lamar. In addition to these three heavyweights, attendees were treated to a stacked undercard that included Snoop Dogg, Duran Duran, Chance The Rapper, Thievery Corporation, Metric, Major Lazer, and many more. There was a brand-new stage devoted entirely to dance music and curated by the creators of Las Vegas’ other big fest Electric Daisy Carnival, Insomniac Events. There were also plenty of smaller musical performances scattered throughout the festival each day, such as the Emerging Artists stage at Container Park.
While each day was packed with powerhouse performances, Life Is Beautiful saved some of its most memorable sets for the final day. Las Vegas native and The Killers’ frontman, Brandon Flowers, surprised everyone during the middle of his solo set by bringing out his fellow bandmates to perform their biggest hits. But it was the two sets which closed out the festival that still have people talking. First up, Ghostface Killah teamed with Badbadbutgood, a young Canadian trio of jazz improv specialists who coaxed a particularly inspired performance out of the enigmatic Wu-Tang Clan member.
This marked the perfect way to transition into the most anticipated musical performance this year, Kendrick Lamar. Tasked with closing out the festival’s main stage, you had a feeling King Kendrick would have something special in store for Sin City, and sure enough he came out backed by a full live band. Bringing a boisterous energy that wouldn’t be out of place at a Rage Against The Machine show, Kendrick and his band delivered blistering live renditions of all his biggest hits to date. As the last notes echoed out into the blood-moon soaked skyline, thousands were still chanting his name as they proceed to file out in satisfied exhaustion at nearly 1 am.
You Are Beautiful
Over the last three years, Life Is Beautiful has cemented its reputation as one of the most eagerly anticipated festivals of the year, but more importantly, has also become integral to further establishing the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas. Life Is Beautiful serves as a reminder for attendees that much like how we can see Sin City in a whole new light, the same can also be said for ourselves. After spending three days getting to know the city (and myself) better, the term “Viva Las Vegas” never seemed more fitting.