Many modern music festivals in the mass market have something Stepford-like about them. Pick up some marquee artists who recently released new albums, tinker up some legacy get-togethers, throw in a hefty helping of offspring, sprinkle a ton of art installations – and of course spicy pie – and voila! You have a money machine for the weekend.
(Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Music festivals are great and Spicy Pie is delicious.)
For all its pejorative power, a Stepford home like the one that populates the up-and-coming suburbs of Las Vegas can be a comfortable place to live, especially when the location gets to the point. So while Life is beautiful Perhaps its content wasn’t entirely unique, its execution and location set it apart.
Of course there was plenty to do, straight from Sin City and the wider, wilder west. Both Men group in blue and Cirque de Soleil headed off the Strip to stalk their things for the tens of thousands who walk in and out of the festival site on Sunday. Like many major festivals, Life Is Beautiful allows in and out privileges – not to be confused with the privilege of eating in-n-out. The Art Motel this year was filled with the colorful, interactive installations from Meow Wolf, an art collective from Santa Fe, New Mexico. And while some of the art and music at Life Is Beautiful wasn’t exclusive to this fifth year festival in Downtown Las Vegas, that didn’t detract from the experience itself.
Is that important? muse played Dig Down, his latest release Firefly and KAABOO in front of his electric set on the Downtown Stage on Saturday night? Is it important that HAIM went HAM at three west coast festivals –ALT 98.7 summer camp in Long Beach, Bumbershoot in Seattle and Ohana Fest in Dana Point – with hits from the new album Something to Tell You, before old and new standards are brought out on the Ambassador Stage on Sunday? What about all those audiences around the world that have been rocked with? Blink 182‘s new lineup or came to Humanz that GorillazSpunky Spring Release?
What made Life Is Beautiful so beautiful was not only the diverse cast of bands, comedians, speakers and chefs, but also the common environment. The sparkle of Fremont Street framed the festival grounds and waved the crowd in. The glow of Old Vegas, of long-forgotten occasions like this Golden nugget and The Cortez, tempered by the more grotesque excesses of this not-too-distant stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard.
The free ice cream and sorbetto near the main gate, courtesy of Talentswas a nice touch too.
In some ways, Downtown Vegas’ booming art culture has been covered up or pushed out of the area to make way for Life Is Beautiful and the incoming festival goers. Part of this overlay, however, preserved the spirit of the region’s quirky, creative “gentrevival”. And there were few people Another planet entertainment and Wendoh It was decided to cover up the bright, emotional murals that were already stretching across some of the buildings.
That’s a good thing. Vegas can (and often is) garish and overworked. Music festivals too. Both are prone to self-parody. Put them together and it follows that these threats would grow exponentially.
But at Life Is Beautiful, the two’s exaggeration merged into an experience that was simultaneously enchanting and engaging, insightful and powerful, belligerent and conscientious. Calling the festival Life Is Beautiful may be a bit on the nose, but in this case, it’s no less true or appropriate.
[photo via Life Is Beautiful Facebook]