Life Is Beautiful Festival founder Rehan Choudhry promised big-name music acts, and Monday night he delivered, in the form of The Killers, Kings of Leon, Beck and more. So the Downtown fest’s inaugural two-day run ought to sell, great news for anyone hoping the event is more than a one-year wonder.
Choudhry also pledged LIB would bring more bands to the stage than any two-day festival in Las Vegas history, and he appears to have accomplished that, too. Vegoose’s final edition, in 2007, featured 28 acts; Life Is Beautiful already has more than 50. As for whether LIB rivals Vegoose in overall scope, the latter’s final installment included Rage Against the Machine, Daft Punk, Muse, M.I.A. and Iggy & The Stooges among others that would sit near the top of this year’s Life Is Beautiful poster, so that bar was set awfully high.
In the end, though, Vegoose pulled the plug after three years because it didn’t succeed, not in booking great music but in drawing enough bodies. Life Is Beautiful seems cognizant of that business necessity, evidenced both by its musical choices and its Las Vegas focus. Where Vegoose marketed itself as a destination fest, LIB appears primarily concerned with locals, clear not only from the top of its bill, where successful scene exports The Killers and Imagine Dragons reside, but also from the bottom, home to more than a dozen Vegas bands like Rusty Maples and Kid Meets Cougar. That marks a well-deserved opportunity for those acts to play alongside bigger touring peers, and a smart marketing move by LIB, with most of the local bands already hard at work promoting the festival through social media.
Where Life Is Beautiful’s lineup falls short, at least on paper, is in extra zing. Beck, reunited rappers Jurassic 5 and throwback rockers Living Colour were unexpected unveilings, but only relative to the rest of the bill, heavy on acts that have played Vegas in the not-too-distant past. By comparison, FYF Fest, held in August in LA (with tickets at the same two-day price point), annually scores gasp-worthy surprises—rare gems that have cultish fanbases grinning gleefully upon the lineup’s reveal (i.e. Death Grips, Charles Bradley and Solange this year). Considering Las Vegas’ long legacy of getting skipped over by interesting underground acts, sprinkling in a few could have gone a long way toward mobilizing music geeks whose favorite “gets” on the LIB bill might be small-font names Poolside and Robert DeLong.
Still, the news is overwhelmingly good for Vegas music fans. LIB passed its festival eye test by booking a serious lineup with the stuff to succeed. And Choudhry lived up to his predictions, serving notice that his dreams for Downtown are more than just words.