When I heard Life is Beautiful was celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2023, I was surprised.
As someone who listens to electronic music 90% of the time, Life is Beautiful has always been overshadowed by the raver mecca EDC or venues on the strip that highlight my favorite DJs like the Wynn or Zouk.
I had only heard of this event through some longtime raver friends and had decided to go once I saw a few of my favorite bands were on the lineup, not even thinking of it as an “EDM-friendly” festival.
I’d been working in the dance music industry for over a year and half, going to an event or show almost every weekend and ten festivals in 2022
It sounds exciting and glamorous, and for a while it was. But truth be told, I had started to become burnt out on the festival scene, and so I was looking forward to something more chill and with less pressure to see so many overlapping artists I loved all at once.
But what was supposed to be a weekend getaway with friends turned into one of my newfound favorite festivals, reigniting my love for the community that I thought might have been spoiled by more and more elevated access.
I had been taking a bit of a break from the music scene mid 2023. I was writing almost full-time about artists, music, festivals, and shows and while it seems like an absolute dream (and it is), having to produce constantly, every day, even about your most favorite thing in the world, can drain you.
Nothing was new anymore. Every lineup started to look the same. I’d even stopped listening to music during the day because it felt like I was still working. Making work your play and play your work is what everyone dreams of, but it’s still work.
Like going backstage at Disneyland, some of that serendipity and magic is shattered once you see the mountains of Toon Town are actually set pieces and there’s a human being inside of Mickey Mouse’s body.
I wasn’t considering hanging up my pen or shuffle shoes, but I was considering a long break from festivals and shows to really decide what I wanted to put my energy towards, mainly focusing on spending time with my friends and family which I’d been regularly neglecting.
So when one of my best friends and her sister talked about going to one of their favorite festivals in Vegas called Life is Beautiful, I was sold.
Something about Las Vegas has always felt so special as a city fully dedicated to entertainment, fun, and live music. But highly produced nightclubs and even EDC just never felt immersed enough in the city for me. It’s almost like manufactured live entertainment.
But when I entered downtown Las Vegas for the first time for Life is Beautiful, I knew this was the feeling I was looking for from the sparkly city.
Life is Beautiful was founded in 2013 in partnership with Tony Hsieh of Zappos and SF-based promoter Another Planet Entertainment, the Bay Area staple behind Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and Outside Lands.
Since the beginning, this event has turned out a roster of top-tier multi-genre names that rivals some of the biggest events in the world. Life is Beautiful’s first festival in 2013 hosted Pretty Lights, The Killers, Zedd, Big Gigantic, Childish Gambino, and Twenty One Pilots to name a few.
But the name “Life is Beautiful” is a true mantra of the event celebrating the beautiful moments in life and as a reminder to appreciate all around us. Hence the focus on all types of art: music, painting, design, culinary, etc.
But the philosophy also centers on human connection with the city around them, using local and diverse creators to bring together those who may feel separated in today’s world—an idea that can be seen in every aspect of the festival:
From Container Park allowing year-round businesses to remain open within the festival grounds, to the promotion of afterparties in venues like DiscoPussy just around the corner from the festival entrance, and highlighting independent restaurants and artists based out of Las Vegas.
With Drag Disco and the Pride Festival promoting inclusivity, the Meow Wolf activation and murals leaning into the trippy aspects, and even the food being both aesthetically unique and vegan, everything felt like it was made for ravers.
And while other festivals have just as many activities and items to purchase, Life is Beautiful had a layer of connection along with music and entertainment culture that just felt so aligned with everything I had focused on for the past year and a half, reigniting a spark I thought was diminished.
It was historic and lively and walkable and a little unhinged but you knew everyone was there simply because they wanted to have fun. Not because they wanted to look like they were having fun.
As someone who has been to EDC and Vegas countless times, I expected a similar feeling and air of superiority that seems to plague Vegas.
But that sentiment of an authentic and genuine desire to support the community and make people feel something was an aspect I found all throughout Life is Beautiful.
Everything was specially curated to make the community feel supported, loved, and safe, going back to the early days of raving.
Not to mention how production and logistics made having a good time so damn easy. The crowding, lines, bathroom issues, waiting hours to grab an Uber, and service issues; all of it simply did not exist, meaning our only worry could be which set we were going to next and what after-festival snack we would grab on our walk back.
So I began to let go of this dance music journalist mindset that made me both so critical of a festival and so tired of the same old thing and just lived in the moment.
Life is Beautiful truly left me in awe in a way I haven’t experienced since before I started working in the industry.
Despite the fact that I am a self-proclaimed EDM girly, I found the live music sets and incorporation into electronic-focused performances incredibly refreshing.
The same way that I loved CRSSD highlighting live acts with a dance music focus or just wandering around festivals like Coachella to discover new artists, I truly experienced a festival that is about the experience and the music as one being.
So now that Life is Beautiful is in its tenth year, I fully understand why Vegas locals, with no shortage of music in their backyard love this event so damn much.
It’s everything people love about Vegas tied into an authentic, creative, curious, and connected festival where the focus isn’t on making more money. Its focus is on making the experience truly beautiful.
It’s modern Vegas with an old-school, community feel.
Life is Beautiful’s CEO, David Oehm said about reaching ten years, “As we celebrate a decade of Life is Beautiful, we are filled with gratitude for our fans and community – both in Las Vegas and beyond. This milestone represents not just a decade of music and art, but a decade of fostering connections, creating memories, and spreading the message that life, indeed, is Beautiful.”
He continued, “It’s a reminder that our mission to inspire and uplift through creativity is more important than ever, and we look forward to the exciting chapters yet to come.”
And now, with my newly invigored love for festivals, shows, music, and life, I can’t wait to keep raving for another decade and hope to be just as lively as one of my new favorite festivals.
All images credit Life is Beautiful