The term “festival season” may not have its deepest roots in the music industry, but it has certainly become a staple of the live entertainment world ever since Coachella helped to accelerate a revolution in the 2000s and 2010s. Nowadays, the schedule of sonic gatherings between April and October is so densely packed that few, if any, festivals can claim to have cornered the market on any given weekend.
Take, for example, the final official weekend of the summer. This year, Primavera Sound—which got its start in Spain back in 2001—brought its act from Barcelona to Los Angeles on the same weekend (and with many of the same performers) as Life Is Beautiful in downtown Las Vegas. But while that encroachment may have siphoned off some of LIB’s attendees, it did little to dampen the spirit and excellence of the vibrant institution that Tony Hsieh, the late founder and CEO of Zappos, first brought to life in 2013.
Situated among hotels, apartments, restaurants, bars and work spaces, Life Is Beautiful offered a wide array of artists the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of Vegas locals and tourists alike. Up-and-comers like New York songstress-bassist-producer Blu DeTiger and Australian singer-songwriter Clinton Kane—who showered his fans with chicken tenders before performing his hit song “Chicken Tendies”—doubled up with full sets on regular stages and side performances inside the cozy Toyota Music Den.
For alt-rockers like Wet Leg and NEIL FRANCES, the Huntridge Stage, named after the famed Huntridge Theater in Las Vegas, offered refuge for music that hasn’t strayed entirely toward electronica. Wet Leg’s Rhian Teasdale paired her powerful pipes perfectly with the British band’s post-post-punk malaise across its catalog, including hit single “Chaise Longue,” while L.A.’s NEIL FRANCES (not to be confused with Chicago’s Neal Francis) brought bits of dance-y disco, rock, and psychedelia to bear for the audience—as did Coin during a set at the downtown stage.
Indeed, in 2022 Life Is Beautiful proved once again to be a potent setting for artists and genres whose places at a mega-festival like Coachella seem to be dwindling. While Arctic Monkeys and Gorillaz have each gone at least a decade since dazzling fans at that desert gathering, both groups have found more than refuge in Sin City. Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys appeared to be at the peak of his powers as a pseudo-sleazy Vegas lounge singer while crooning his way through tunes like “Snap Out Of It”, “That’s Where You’re Wrong” and “505”, along with heavy hits like “Do I Wanna Know”, “Crying Lightning” and “Arabella”. Damon Albarn kept things just as weighty with his dry delivery on the likes of “Last Living Souls”, “O Green World”, and “Melancholy Hill” before busting into global bangers like “Dirty Harry”, “Clint Eastwood”, and “Feel Good Inc”—the last of which instantly became one of the standout moments of the entire festival.
Beyond those two acts, Cage The Elephant cut a similar path toward keeping its sound alive and well on the festival circuit. Lead singer Matt Shultz showed a bit more emotional skin than usual when he mentioned his father’s passing due to COVID, but still managed to wild out on stage, stripping away his outfit piece by piece. And from the defiant punk of Pussy Riot to the ethereal vibes of Beach House, the rest of the lineup afforded ample room for various forms of modern rock (and its many alternative forms) to flourish.
As is custom for most any festival these days, Life Is Beautiful 2022 reserved plenty of sonic real estate for more danceable forms of music. Charlie XCX, Alessia Cara, and Becky Hill were among those pushing pop’s relentlessly enjoyable agenda. Hip-hop got its flowers with the ‘90s- and 2000s-tinged machinations of Big Boi and Sleepy Brown, the smash hits of T-Pain, Drake-like contemporary sing-songy rap of Jack Harlow. Excellent electronic sets abounded, from rising DJs like Mochakk, Kyle Watson, Elderbrook, and SG Lewis to the triumphant return of Calvin Harris to the world of live performance after several years on hiatus.
And then there were those who so expertly combined the rhythms and methods of electronic dance music with more traditional acoustic elements. In this group landed the infectious tracks of Jungle, the inveterate vibes of Bob Moses and Sylvan Esso, and the baroque brilliance of Gryffin.
The thousands who attended each night of Life Is Beautiful had plenty of options to pursue after the festival, as well. After all, it was still Las Vegas, with all of its temptation lurking around every corner. The event has a way of dumping its relievers into the neon-crusted fever-dream-of-a-tourist-trap that the Fremont Street Experience has become.
Want to keep drinking at some raucous bars? Perhaps another dance at a nearby club? How about a zip line beneath an LED screen sky?
Those were all readily available to anyone whose head didn’t (and wouldn’t) hit a pillow immediately after a full day at a major music festival. And even—if not especially—for those who did forego “doing Vegas” in favor of “doing a fest,” Life Is Beautiful 2022 offered more than enough spectacular art, music, and entertainment to not only hold the attention of its attendees, but also continue to stake its claim as a must-go fest for any live music fanatic, especially those within a stone’s throw of the Western United States.
View daily photo galleries from Life Is Beautiful 2022 below via Alive Coverage.