Life is Beautiful is a three-day event, running this year from September 22nd through 24th. The festival was founded in 2013 by the late and beloved Tony Hsieh. Hsieh used the fortune he built with Zappos to fund his mission to make a cultural hub out of the decaying stretch of downtown Las Vegas where the festival takes place. Penske Media and Rolling Stone bought Life is Beautiful in February 2022. This year was the 10th occurrence of Life Is Beautiful, and one in which the artistic elements of the festival’s footprint seemed to be in resurgence.
This festival, which occupies the area just East of downtown Las Vegas’ casino hub is a throwback to what how Vegas used to look. The festival stages and stands are interwoven among the historic motels, shops and bars which occupy the area between Stewart Avenue and Fremont Street heading away from the canopied fantasy overrun by tourists. Here, instead are the motels, record stores, local restaurants, and the well-known Atomic Liquors where patrons once enjoyed beverages during atom bomb testing.
As always, the music was the star of the weekend. There are certain twists to what happens at this festival. One in particular is a favorite: the JammJam put on by Elmo Lovano. Lovano, a respected drummer took over the JBL stage this year and brought Cory Wong and an assortment of musicians who collectively got the first night bouncing in the Llama lot off Fremont Street. Life is Beautiful lineups are broad, with enough variety to satisfy most musical preferences, with a broad range of choices from up and coming acts, to long established headliners and a solid commitment to the EDM artists who are now a staple at almost any live music performance.
Rolling Stone CEO Gus Wenner was in attendance. It is obvious he and their team are making investments to improve the overall feeling of being within a space which is different from most other festivals. Life Is Beautiful already has a significant differentiation from other festivals, it is not held in a distant field, or in a city which closes early. Walk outside the gates of this festival and you are in the middle of a thriving city which runs all night. The downtown casino hotels are walkable, the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip are just a short car ride away.
Art has always been a hallmark of the Life is Beautiful experience. The buildings within the festival footprint are painted with murals both inspirational and aspirational. This year there were posters everywhere with affirmations and positive messaging. It enhanced the emotional experience as fans walked the streets between stages.
Art is being expressed in three ways at Life is Beautiful: by the musicians, by the artists creating visual elements on the structures, and by the ever-growing presence of chefs who are behind key food locations throughout the festival, including the sold-out series of Omakase dinners. The core idea of a music festival is morphing into an immersive experience for all senses.
There are now significant festivals taking place nearly everywhere. Differentiation is the key to maintaining audiences. Life is Beautiful already has an infrastructure advantage because of its location in Las Vegas, where fans are well supplied with hotel choices and airline access. It has a reputation for being more than just music, it’s also ambience, art and a breadth of both food and musical options.
Next year will be the eleventh edition of Life is Beautiful, and as anyone who has ever set foot onto a casino floor knows, eleven is a winning number. Life is Beautiful, like dice in play on a table is on a roll. But, unlike with dice, everyone wins when Life is Beautiful is rolling.