Welcome to the party. Life Is Beautiful (which is owned by Vegas Seven’s publishing company, WENDOH Media) is three solid days of cuisine, art, learning and music, and we want to help you experience it in full. Here are some suggestions, neatly tailored to the way you’re living.
For The Hip-Hop Head
When it comes to hip-hop at Life Is Beautiful, Kendrick Lamar reigns supreme. But he’s not the only rap act who should be on your radar.
When the nasally, rambunctious Chance the Rapper hits the stage, he’ll likely bring his band, the Social Experiment. Expect a range of music that spans from spoken-wordy raps to gospel-inspired sing-alongs, all led via Chano’s intricate, animated flow.
Craving a brutal aural assault instead? Try Run the Jewels. The incredible tag team of El-P and Killer Mike have been on a warpath, with their abrasive albums and live shows garnering high praise. They brought out Zack de la Rocha and Travis Barker at FYF in August, and recently hit the studio with Nas—our fingers are crossed.
Life Is Beautiful is one of the few festivals, if not the only one, to have both Canadian jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah onstage together. Their collaborative album, Sour Soul, went down like honey thanks to Ghost’s imaginative rhymes and BBNG’s authentic nod to ’60s and ’70s soul.
Dress like a boy, talk like a girl/ I am a individual, I live in my own world, Leikeli47 asserts on “Miss America.” The Diplo and Jay Z-endorsed emcee always wears a ski mask and baggy clothes, concealing her body to let her confident rhymes and aggressive sound grab your attention. A strong set here could propel the Brooklyn-based mystery woman out of 8-point- size font.
SZA is not a rapper, but she is the only vocalist signed to Top Dawg Entertainment (the same record label as Ab-Soul and Kendrick Lamar). The 24-year-old emanates a rasp warm and spicy as apple cider, poured over tripped-up drums and hazy production. Plus, she’s written lyrics for Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé. –Zoneil Maharaj and Camille Cannon
For The Retro Romantic
Chef Hubert Keller may have been trained in traditional French kitchens, but his cuisine has taken those fundamentals and made them modern. It’s allowed him to not only play with the staples of France, but with small plates from Japan and Italy, and even old-fashioned burgers. Head from Fleur’s stand to find one of Andrew Pollard’s cocktails; they’ll likely be the ones with well-worn names, but newer ingredients and taste profiles (Pollard created the updated classics at Vesper Bar at the Cosmopolitan). End your early Friday tour by taking in Andra Day’s set. The R&B singer’s cover of Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” earlier this year earned her comparsions to Simone, Billie Holiday and even Ms. Lauryn Hill. –Robert Spuhler
For The Punk/Indie Snob
Begin Day 1 by taking in a first leisurely breath of fresh festival air. Just kidding! Sleep in, because there isn’t much going on today. Grab lunch and catch Dan Deacon. He’s big on crowd participation, so you might just be able to whip and nae nae on stage with him. You’ve heard enough AWOLNATION on the radio, so next, see North Las Vegas’ own Shamir sing and dance his ass off at his homecoming gig. And you should cap off with violinist Lindsey Stirling, because her beautiful melodies, hard beats and pixieish demeanor basically make her America’s next sweetheart.
On Saturday, chug yourself a Red Bull and head Downtown early because local punk rockers Mercy Music open the fest (Yeah, that’s right, a punk band is playing this festival. You didn’t know?). Giraffage is the only DJ you should be seeing all weekend; he makes tasteful remixes of classic ’90s throwbacks without the awful dubstep wobbles. Since you’re staying away from the Troubadour stage, catch dance-y music created by people who actually play instruments by seeing synthpop powerhouses Clean Bandit and Metric. End your second day with Baltimore’s synth-pop quartet Future Islands, because you probably have yet to rid your brain of the catchy keyboard intro from “Seasons (Waiting on You).”
Finally, Sunday brings the grand finale! Well, not really, but there are still a handful of winners. Look beyond the big-name DJs and you’ll find that girls rule Day 3. Head in late and check out the pop tunes of Ryn Weaver. After, you’ll have to choose between the sun-soaked tunes of Best Coast or the electro pop of Halsey. Get a double-dose of nostalgia via back-to-back sets from Weezer and Death Cab for Cutie, then end the weekend with Kendrick Lamar. Yawk, yawk, yawk, yawk! –Ian Caramanzana
For The EDM Fan
This year, the Life Is Beautiful squad has teamed up with Insomniac to bring in more DJs. There’s now a dedicated stage where the majority of our favorite party-throwers will be showcasing their music and mixing skill.
Highlights from the Troubadour stage include the chill, trappy vibes of Cashmere Cat and Claude Vonstroke’s signature house-heavy booty-bass; they’ll set the tone for the weekend on Friday night. Porter Robinson also brings his live show to the festival on Friday, which is a special change from his usual DJ sets that he plays at his resident Strip nightclub, Marquee. Saturday’s electronic kings are Jauz, What So Not and Giraffage. Sunday closes out with deep sounds from Tchami and our favorite “Internet Friends,” Knife Party.
The two big EDM acts playing outside of the Insomniac umbrella, Major Lazer and Kygo, appear on the Ambassador stage. Major Lazer is given Friday’s headlining spot on that stage, and rightfully so, because their dancehall-driven ragers have developed a reputation for pleasing party-hungry crowds. Norwegian Kygo has pioneered a rather interesting tropical house subgenre, and his panflute loops will help to bring the fest to an exciting close on Sunday. –Kat Boehrer
For The Visually Oriented
We’re all aflutter over the 11th-hour addition of Banksy to the 2015 lineup, even though his (or her) level of participation in the festival is a big fat unknown to us at press time. But even if you take Banksy out of the equation, the arts lineup of Life Is Beautiful still adds up.
It’ll be easy for you to check out the fun street art of D*Face, Bikismo, 1010 and others; it’s plastered all over the buildings you’ll need to walk past to get to the stages. And you’ll easily spot the sexy and deranged cast of Absinthe, lurking about in front of Container Park. But the Art Motel is a commitment, and it’s one you should make, because this converted motel represents the Las Vegas art scene in miniature. Here you’ll find solo exhibitions by Juan Muniz, Anthony Bondi, 3 Baaad Sheep and many more, alongside curated exhibitions from Sin City Gallery, Lil’ Art Bodega and other local gallerists. Nearly every medium will be represented at Art Motel, from acrylics to robotics. It’s a must-see.
It’s difficult to say too much more about the visual arts program, because I haven’t really seen many of the works yet. I’ll discover most of these pieces at the same time you do. However, I can and will make a conjecture about Banksy’s contribution: It is either that goddamned Slotzilla—sitting right in front of us this whole time!—or it’s The Fat Jew pretending to be Banksy. –Geoff Carter
For The Worldly
Traveling around the world is almost as easy at Life Is Beautiful as it is at Epcot Center. For food, maybe start in the Caribbean with the animal-free Strictly Vegan Jamaican cuisine, before heading to Mexico for one of the drinks from tequila ambassador Jaime Salas. The Brazilian influence on Thievery Corporation has always been obvious, but maybe never more so than now; the Washington, D.C.-based downtempo duo recently released a bossa nova-inspired album Saudade. If you miss that set, check out a post-festival DJ set by the group’s Rob Garza at Commonwealth, 1 a.m. Friday. –RS
For The TED Talk Junkie
Bill Nye is making a solid comeback. Before very recently, I wouldn’t have put him on my list of people who needed to be part of Life Is Beautiful’s Learning Series. (I never watched his PBS show as a kid.) Then the science nerd appeared on Dancing With the Stars in 2013, and earlier this year, he made a hilarious appearance on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, explaining how the universe really works: “Scientists once believed that the universe was a chaotic collection of matter. We now know that the universe is essentially a force sending cosmic guidance to white women in their 20s.” See, I knew that bobblehead
nodding at me in Walgreens was the universe’s way of telling me to buy those Prada shoes, and to see Bill Nye speak at Life Is Beautiful on Friday.
Another must-see for the techie and foodie crowd is Kimbal Musk. Maybe you’ve heard of his brother? While Elon is busy with Tesla and SpaceX, Kimbal has made it his mission to revolutionize food culture from every angle, from getting kids to eat more vegetables, to building gardens, to making farming profitable again. Catch him Saturday.
Bringing more of that celebrity power is the beautiful Rosario Dawson, closing the Learning Series on Sunday. Dawson delivered a strong performance as Claire Temple in Netflix’s Daredevil series, but that’s only the most recent of an impressive list of film credits (Seven Pounds, Sin City, Rent). If that weren’t enough, the leading lady also has her hands in several charities that deal with environmental and social issues. –Nicole Ely
For Those Who Got Free Tickets
It’s tempting simply to stick with the names that you know. And that’s fine; Duran Duran, Brandon Flowers, Imagine Dragons, Hozier, Snoop Dogg and Stevie Wonder are top-billed for a good reason. But there’s more to a city music and arts festival than the headliners. There’s the chance for discovery.
Listen: Only a handful of local venues can afford to make the kind of risky, six-people-show-up bookings that the Bunkhouse routinely made. This market has little in the way of alternative radio. (KUNV’s excellent Neon Reverb and Nightshift programs account for only a very small portion of the station’s programming, which is predominantly jazz.) And many bands only come to Las Vegas only after they’ve played virtually every other major city surrounding this one. Thing is, Life Is Beautiful offers a prime opportunity for you to double your knowledge of the current musical landscape, and all you need to do is simply be there.
Walk around with your ears wide open. You might pick up on the sludgy garage rock English duo of Royal Blood, who could be the next Black Keys; Madeon, who’s achieved a Daft Punk-like mastery of booty disco at the tender age of 21; or the piano-driven dance pop of Saint Motel, whose catchy “My Type” is that one song you keep hearing every time you stock up on V-necks at American Apparel. Or you might discover something else entirely. You just won’t know if you don’t show, so do yourself a favor and come to the festival a few hours before the band you’re there to see. Perhaps you’ll add some fresh names to your existing collection. –GC