Gotta love the Vegas! Especially when downtown transforms into a massive music and arts festival called Life Is Beautiful that features so much simultaneous content we can’t even attempt live coverage on the site; then again, there’s only three of present to handle six stages, a learning center and tons of activations. Instead we’ve decided to do individual recaps of our daily experience. Without further ado, let’s get into day one!
Chelsea’s Day One
Years ago there was a festival of a different breed called Vegoose that only survived its initial year in Las Vegas and was never heard from again, so it’s refreshing to see Life is Beautiful, which seems to take the spirit of Vegoose, return this year. There are arts & crafts, there’s culinary mastery classes (basically a real life Food Network experience) plus excellent above-festival-standard food vendors, music stages galore, and even a learning center geared to help you ‘Lose Your Fears and Chase Your Dreams.’
While stumbling around the grounds to get my bearings a voice reminiscent of Caleb Followill drew attention. The band was called Vacationer and while they look like your average jam band meets white boy reggae ensemble, Vacationer actually packs just even indie rock to stay ahead of the curve. Their feel good tunes set the vibe for the day and next up was Phantogram. Having previously discovered Phantogram at a Spotify party during SXSW, the excitement was building to see how the band had blossomed since March. Long story short, they made the main stage feel like a 100 person night club – intimate, intense and damn good.
But the main highlight? Kiwi Watermelon Lemonade from Hash House A Go Go. The best $4 you will spend inside Life Is Beautiful, complete with a yellow watermelon garnish. Absolutely delicious and thirst quenching (possibly habit-forming). Yes, some people do care about the food and beverage options available at a festival.
Jessica’s Day One
Holy cow, Holy Ghost! When wandering around a festival, in between the set times of artists you have scheduled to see, you may be lucky enough to stumble upon a new band you’d like to add to your playlist. From the looks of the crowd, pay no mind to the bros, grooving in front of their stage, Holy Ghost! must be doing something right. Walking the path paved by bands like MGMT, Holy Ghost!, a synthpop duo from Brooklyn, lured nearby ears to their stage. Once their beats got you, they never really let go. After the first song you’re left wanting more and demanding your concert partner wait with you until it’s over.
Properly warmed up from the Holy Ghost! set and pseudo-prepared to soulfully lose it, it was time to head to the Western Stage for Vintage Trouble. Now Vintage Trouble veterans know their set requires a certain level of endurance and strength. Front man Ty Taylor demands it actually. Whether during or in-between their soulfully rocking songs, Ty could be heard charmingly shouting orders to obedient festival goers willingly caught under the band’s spell. Even the most stiff audience members suddenly found themselves shaking their entire body along with the band. A mixture of fan favorites and a sneak peek into a few new tunes, the whole band’s energy was constant and intoxicating. Vintage Trouble gives it all. Even a shorter festival set was still enough to wipe out the entire audience and render them literally speechless after.
The end of the night brought one of those street cred moments, where you watch a well-established artist perform just to say you have. If you believe the hype about the show and ignore the hype about the man himself, you may actually enjoy the time you spend watching Kanye West perform. One man and three giant screens held the attention of thousands. But it wasn’t the mask he wore, or carefully crafted lighting, or even his celebrity reality show wife that brought thousands out to the Downtown Stage of the festival. The masterfully crafted beats and the often-controversial rhymes of the overly confident man rapping on stage were enough to assemble the enormous flock.
Trina’s Day One
The Life is Beautiful festival grounds are simply a good number of cordoned of blocks in downtown Las Vegas with music stages (feeling like a mini SXSW), a DJ/Dance stage and even a chef’s stage! Yes, folks, chefs have been rocking at music festivals for years now because they are rock stars in their own right. That being the case, the first stop of the day was made at Chefs on Stage (located in the delightful Container Park) where we watched Chef Jet Tila prepare Pad Thai, which looked pretty damned good on the video screens.
On the music side of things, the Portland, OR electro/pop band Priory gave a good showing as the second band to take the Western Stage. Their musical demographic is generally a youthful one: college age, young at heart, youthful in spirit and occasionally blowing gusts of weed in your face. When they launched into their popular single, “Weekend,” and the hands went waving and folks started dancing, it almost felt like the official start of the Life Is Beautiful weekend. Also, Philadelphia band Vacationer provided some smooth and grooved out bliss with a side of reggae. Cue more weed being blown into one’s face.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen San Diego’s Switchfoot, but holy hell, when they hit the Ambassador Stage it was like getting smacked upside the head with a memory stick and being reminded – in case you forgot – what a badass band they are. And they truly are with their awesomely emotional alternative rock-selves. And rock they did, opening their set with the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” trekking through their hits like “Dare You To Move,” while tossing in the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” And seeing how Jon Foreman interacts with the audience: that guy is all heart and soul and he shows it.
Oh, hey look: there’s Neon Trees! By far one of our favorite radio guests that we’ve ever had on the show, after randomly running into them on the street we spent some chat time with them where there was a lot of laughter and a rehash of our N Sync vs Backstreet Boys drama. So catching their set at the Ambassador Stage in a sea of scream-y fans was a sweet little cherry on the day. All pop-goodness, social and conscious uplift, tight music and frontman Tyler Glenn ditching his shoes and socks halfway through the set. We truly dig this band: as musicians and as people.