No longer the new kid on the block, Life is Beautiful roars back into Downtown Las Vegas with even more sensory appeal.
A mural by Bordalo II, who returns to Life Is Beautiful this year.
When Life Is Beautiful founder Rehan Choudhry and his team debuted their music and art festival in 2013, it was met with near-universal praise. For a less ambitious group, those accolades might have stymied the festival’s evolution. But judging by its growth—this year it will take over 15 Downtown blocks between September 25 and 27—the creative machine behind it is just revving up.
A new partnership with Insomniac Events brings a stage dedicated solely to electronic music, adding even more diversity to a roster rich with rock and pop acts, plus hiphop, rap, and reggae artists. “I’m extremely proud of the lineup,” says Craig Nyman, Life Is Beautiful’s head of music and live performances. “Fifty percent of our attendees are from Vegas, so we really try to dial in to what we believe the city wants to see and hear.”
Two Vegas-raised acts who played the festival in 2013, Imagine Dragons and Brandon Flowers, will return to the stage, along with fellow headliners Kendrick Lamar and Nyman’s “bucket-list artist” Stevie Wonder.
The Killers’ Brandon Flowers will perform solo.
“What’s interesting about our headliners is that they’re fans of one another,” he adds. “Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar have actually performed together at the Grammys, and Stevie Wonder has said how big a fan he is of Kendrick. It’s a really unique situation.” Hozier, Weezer, Death Cab for Cutie, and Duran Duran—playing their only US festival of 2015—will also perform.
While it may be hard to look beyond the marquee names, Nyman also recommends checking out the smaller acts, like Royal Blood (“the fastest-rising pop band right now”), Andra Day, and Badbadnotgood, who will perform with rapper Ghostface Killah. “It’s three classically trained musicians playing hip-hop beats while Ghostface raps over them,” he explains.
Sbagliato will adorn the city with his eerily lifelike work, like the clothing seemingly hanging from this train.
But the spectacle won’t end with the music. Back for a third year are the speaker series and the celebrity chef–driven culinary segment, as well as an expanded art program, curated by John Doffing, creator of “Painted Rooms” at San Francisco’s Hotel des Arts. More than 35 painters and collectives, including APEX, Anthony Bondi, Cory Bennett, and Eric Vozzola, will leave their marks on the rooms of the vacant motel formerly known as the Town Lodge.
Outside, a coterie of painters—led by 1010, a German street artist noted for his colorful depictions of layered portals—will continue Life Is Beautiful’s now-celebrated mural tradition, flooding the streets with Ruben Sanchez’s prismatic schemes, Sbagliato’s eerily lifelike doors and windows, and the wide-eyed animals of Bordalo II, Bikismo, and Pixel Pancho, among others. Also returning is British artist D*Face, whose Roy Lichtenstein–inspired murals “I Gave Her My Heart and She Left Me For…” and “Love Forever,” created in 2013 and 2014, are now neighborhood landmarks.
Life Is Beautiful’s long-term plan is to reach prospective fans in cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix. The festival is, after all, produced in partnership with Another Planet Entertainment, the force behind San Francisco’s massive Outside Lands and Treasure Island music festivals. Still, Life Is Beautiful’s organizers remain true to their commitment to keep the event focused on the locals who first supported it. Says Nyman, “At the end of the day, we’re still just a rock show.” September 25–27. $255–$2,495. Downtown Las Vegas