If you haven’t yet experienced this part of Vegas because, you’re enamored with pool parties and mega clubs and strip clubs and other touristy whatnots found around the strip, attending Life is Beautiful might just change your perspective where to spend your time in the city.
The Downtown Landscape
It wasn’t sizzling like EDC in June, but it was hot, which made the shade cast on the streets from the casinos and mural-adorned buildings nice spots to avoid the sun throughout the day. And because you are in fact in the middle of the city you had air-conditioned options like bars, record stores, pop-up art galleries, stores at the Container Park and numerous other methods of escape—even a giant slip-n-slide. The footprint was nice, too; spread out throughout a few city blocks, the ebb and flow actually ebbed and flowed like it should and never felt like a big trek going from one end of the festival to the other. And you could do it with an adult drink in hand—aka you’re weren’t stuck in a “garden.” Because Vegas. And you know what else was oddly fascinating? The fact that there were apartments inside the show with people living in them.
The grass man, it’s all about the grass. It’s great; we know this. But kicking it on the green stuff in the middle of downtown where asphalt should be while listening to music just elevates the entire experience—especially when all the people around you actually throws their trash in the cans, which leads me to…
I’m not sure what it is about music festivals but from my experience they tend to bring out the pigs in people. I’ve seen fools with trashcans right beside them just toss their shit on the ground like it was meant to be there. Not cool. That wasn’t the case at LIB. You didn’t walk down the street kicking trash out of your way, or need to clear a spot around you to have a seat on the ground.
Frozen pizzas, and maybe the occasional food truck or whatever is what comes to mind when I think festival food. LIB shut that notion down. I wagged my ass more than a few times over to STK to chow down on mini Wagyu burgers and a fried lobster tail. You could also get sushi from Nobu, quesadillas made by a Michelin chef, and a plethora of other gourmet bites—even vegans had options.
I put a fair share of finely crafted cocktails in my belly over the weekend. I’m not talking about simple premium pours mixed with juice or soda. Though I had those too, I mean drinks like these, which you could take them along with you as you stroll the streets. Vegas is cool like that.
With so much focus on the art, Life Is Beautiful was indeed pretty damn beautiful to look at. DTLV was basically turned into one big canvas. Artists like Fafi (fun fact: Fafi painted a mural on one of our walls at Insomniac HQ), Felipe Pantone, Mark Drew, Shepard Fairey, and many more spent weeks putting up massive murals on the buildings. There were art installations like giant blow-up rabbits and Laura Kimpton’s “Monumental Word.” Art cars like Mike Ross’ “Big Rig Jig,” the Beyond Wench and Kalliope. Cirque du Soleil troops performed in the streets. The standout for me, though, was the Crime on Canvas pop up art gallery inside the Western hotel-casino. Featuring an electric mix of over 80 artists like Shag, Brandon Boyd (he plays in Incubus), Shepard Fairey, Frances Bean Cobain (the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love), Buff Monster, and even 9-year-old artist, Elisabeth Anisimow, you could actually purchase the work should you be willing to drop anywhere between $100 to $50,000.
The Lectures and Talks
If LIB wanted fans to leave the show smarter and more enlightened than when they walked in, their mission was most definitely accomplished. With plenty of cerebral detours choose from, it wasn’t hard to find someone speaking smartly on a topic of interest. Kicking off the weekend with Shepard Fairey, I also caught Luis Calderin’s inspiring story of how he ended up the Director of Arts, Culture and the Youth Vote for Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign (he’s now the current VP of Marketing and Creative for Rock the Vote), RuPaul’s 25-minute speech to all the “sensitive, beautiful souls” at LIB, Karla Williams fascinated me with the concept of “time banks,” Dr. Kate Stone wowed the crowd with her hi-tech inventions, and the girl power of Emily Greener and her mission to change the corporate system was pretty rad to hear. I learned things.
The Eclectic Music Lineup
I admittedly didn’t catch too many live acts because I was enjoying everything else so damn much. Tegan of Tegan and Sara jumping down into the crowd to chat with some girl named Anna who tried to throw her panties on stage was a moment. Flume absolutely killed it, proving he can indeed hold the attention of a mainstage festival crowd. Bob Moses had my brain and feet meandering into unexpected places. I caught a bit of Mumford & Sons, J Cole, Rezz, Jane’s Addiction and the Banks and Steel collaboration between Interpol frontman Paul Banks and the RZA of Wu-Tang Clan fame. The music was diverse—I even heard what’s best described as German taxicab techno coming from the Kalliope art car.
The Age Range
The people-watching game at LIB is strong. There were babies with headphones on dancing to DJs. I saw kids on the shoulders of their dad listening to Mumford & Sons. There were grandparents in wheelchairs being pushed through the streets. I watched totem-carrying ravers trade kandi. There were plenty of just off the Playa steampunk burners. All in, there was no typical festivalgoer—all demographics were well represented.
How easy it was to love this festival
I’ve been to many festivals and LIB is definitely one I’d come back to again and again—the culture, the art, the food and drinks, the thinkers and doers—it was hard not to get sucked into the energy as you walked around the streets exploring. There was a vibe happening and I’ll be coming back next year to absorb more of it.