Life is Beautiful
2021 Recap Article & Photography by Megan Williams
On a hot Vegas weekend in the middle of September, nearly 180,000 people converged onto the streets of downtown Las Vegas. Block after block being cut off to put together a festival that encompassed the very idea of happiness, joy, love, and energy. “We exist to build a more beautiful world” is the tagline of the now famous three-day festival known as Life is Beautiful. Started in 2013, the music, art, and culture festival was created to bring a major transformation to downtown Vegas. Since its inception, Life is Beautiful is estimated to have had a $350 million dollar impact on downtown Las Vegas and surrounding areas.
Life is Beautiful has people swarming to the desert every September by providing impeccable lineups, vast cultural, eccentric, and jovial experiences, and overall showing people how beautiful life can be. With art installations throughout the grounds, interactive experiences, comedy shows, culinary wonders, and a diversified portfolio of artists throughout the weekend, the festival gives an energy unlike any other.
Friday started with a bang with a performance by Bia on the Downtown stage. With her neon green apparel, and her Bia Boys going to work on her choreography she slayed the stage. Her song, “Whole Lotta Money” got the entire side of the festival bumping. Her smooth voice, and command of her space made her one of the more memorable artists of the day.
Throughout the weekend we saw a ton of great queer artists, and queer allies performing. One blew the roof off her performance on the Bacardi main stage Friday night, a firecracker named Remi Wolf. With hits like “Liz”, “Photo ID” and “Disco Man” she pinged from stage left to stage right with a fever pitch. The crowd fed off her party vibe and the foundation was laid for an incredible night.
Just after Remi Wolf’s performance was Ashnikko’s blinding performance. She is best known for her queer forward song, “Slumber Party”. Other hits include “Stupid” featuring Yung Baby Tate and “Daisy”. With her nearly straightjacket-esque attire, and her bright blue hair she was a force to be reckoned with.
When Willow Smith took the Bacardi Main Stage, we didn’t know what vibe we were going to get from her. Recently coming out as pansexual, and getting edgy with her new song “transparentsoul” featuring Travis Barker, we were all excited to see what the newly morphed Willow would bring. With her signature shaved head, scrappy attitude, pink dress, and high black boots, she brought the rock and roll vibe with her. Her set was something we haven’t seen from her before. Willow’s maturing voice put an exclamation point on her finding her musical pocket.
Friday night’s headliner was the notoriously nasty Megan Thee Stallion, and she did not come to play. With her orange leotard, signature twerk and tongue out, and raunchy chorus she was easily the most entertaining act of the day. Her sex-laden lyrics, back-up dancers, and rapping alone made her the most memorable, but it was her stage presence and the way she demanded everyone’s attention that was the most impactful. We couldn’t take our eyes off her, for good reason, she knows exactly what to do with a crowd of people that big.
Saturday brought big crowds, big smiles, and even bigger acts. One of the surprises of the Saturday line-up was Anabel Englund, newer DJ on the scene, who took the Fremont stage by storm. Englund is relatively new to the dance circuit, putting out her debut album “Messing With Magic” in just December of 2020 she acted like a veteran onstage. Her road to Life is Beautiful was an serendipitous one as she was a last-minute replacement for another artist. She honed her craft during COVID, writing loads of music and DJing during livestreams she quickly found a following that led to bigger and better gigs. Watch out for the music she puts out in the coming year.
The iconic Ludacris took the Bacardi Main Stage as the night died down and hit us with all the oldies but goodies. Decked out in head-to-toe Keiser Clark, his smooth fashion matched his rapping. Per usual, his no-holds-barred attitude, and ability to interact with a crowd showed us all exactly why he’s been in the game for so long.
Just after Ludacris, the band of all of our teen hits, All Time Low, took the Huntridge Stage. With their most popular hits like, “Dear Maria, Count Me In” from as far back as 2007, mixed with some of their newer material like, “Monsters” featuring blackbear, they mixed some nostalgia with new wave. No matter what material they were pulling from, one thing was completely obvious…they’ve still got it. Jumping off drum sets, playing guitar with their tongues and rocking out as hard as they did in 2007 was an experience I didn’t know I needed, but I’m happy I witnessed.
Sunday was arguably the most talent-packed day of the weekend. With headliners like Billie Eilish, A$ap Rocky, and Gorgon City all closing out the night, it was going to be nearly impossible to decide where to land at the end of the night.
To start the day off was the incredible indie-trio Shaed who is best known for their hit song, “Trampoline”. Lead singer Chelsea Lee announced her pregnancy with her husband and bandmate Spencer Ernst. Spencer’s twin brother Max, who is an out and proud member of the gay community, rounds out the trio. Max came out when he was 19 and has since been on a mission to be a visible, vocal member of the queer community. Their performance was unique, eccentric, but powerful and left us all standing a little taller.
When we rolled up to the Fremont Stage, we didn’t know what to expect from the up and coming UK DJ Joel Corry. With hits like “Head & Heart” and “Bed” we knew he could make a hit. Especially during a pandemic and nearly two year hiatus, but what else could he bring to a large festival set on the heaviest hitting day of the weekend? The answer to that was, the most inclusive, heaviest dropping, rave shuffling set of the day. When he played his hit songs people went bananas. You could see totems bopping from the front to the back of the enclosure, and you could feel the bass in your chest. With his signature sound coming from primarily his gut instinct and what he thinks will work on the dancefloor, and musical inspirations like Calvin Harris, David Guetta, and Tiesto it’s no wonder he’s packing dancefloors all over the world. Corry had a very impactful experience in Ibiza that resonated with him hard enough to continue to push on and continue doing what he feels is his true passion….DJing.
You can find Corry releasing new music, touring, and popping up at festivals all over the world in the next year, and with his signature sound, bass-laden drops, and great stage energy he is going to be one to look out for.
To round out one of the best festivals I’ve had the privilege of covering was the personification of talent and stage presence herself, Billie Eilish. Headlining the Downtown stage, in the heart of Las Vegas, Billie Eilish turned it all the way out. With her existential graphics, incredible musicality, and that voice it was an hour and fifteen minutes we all wanted to live in forever. With mega-hits like “bad guy”, “lovely”, and “Ocean eyes”, and a newly released album, “Happier than Ever” with more mega hits it was hard to picture what songs she would sing in the limited set she had. Limited or not, she worked her signature smile, her mischievous attitude and snark, and was incredibly interactive with the crowd, which, only made us fall in love with her more. A crane transported her up and over the audience. We watched in awe as she sang her ass off and played with everyone while suspended 40 feet off the ground.
As Sunday came to a close on Life is Beautiful, I for one had a hard time leaving. The energy, the vibe, the art, the humanness of Vegas was nothing short of life changing. I left exhausted, tired, and sore, but was ready to do it all again immediately.
Right on the Life is Beautiful homepage is the disclaimer that they want to shift people’s perspective. Through shifting their perspective you shift their reality. Life, after all, is what we make it, how we react to it, and how we see the world. If we decide to see the world and our lives as beautiful, over and over again we are changing the trajectory of our viewpoint. And maybe, just maybe we incrementally change the world. One weekend in September at a time.
Life is Beautiful will be coming back to downtown Las Vegas September 16th-18th in 2022. I would highly recommend grabbing tickets early. You can follow Life is Beautiful under all social media platforms under their name. Guaranteed it’s unlike any festival you have ever been to. It’s one of a kind, it’s life altering, and it will absolutely be beautiful beyond compare.
This article was originally published in the 2022 New Year Issue of Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine, and can be read in its original format here.