What do you get when you bring together street art, bristling with current cultural commentary, culinary creations culled from some of the best foodie minds in Las Vegas, legendary musical acts of rock, electronic music and hip hop, and speakers who seek to inspire as much as they, themselves are inspired?  You get a beautiful life, or in the case of the three year-old festival that filled 11 blocks of downtown Las Vegas from September 26-28, you get Life is Beautiful.

Approaching the gates of Life Is Beautiful is like entering no other festival experience.  Imagine a festival taking place inside what is already a party.  The downtown area of Fremont in Las Vegas has been having a resurgence over the last few years with everything from speakeasy bars to refurbished hotels, and one glance skyward reveals a light show over the Fremont Experience, punctuated by the hollers of soaring zip liners.  There’s also that guy in the tie-dyed coat pulling his goat across the intersection, and you’re not even inside yet.

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Once inside, the sights and sounds immediately amplify with an animatronic sculpture who quickly became the Instagram darling of Life is Beautiful, a giant metal preying mantis shooting flames from his antennae to the the rhythm of music piping from his metallic exoskeleton.  Before heading for the Troubadour stage which featured most of our favorite EDM artists (think Sahara tent at Coachella with a lot more elbow room and lot less unicorn heads),  a left turn took us to another sculptural highlight,  “Meerkats” by Bordalo II.    Artur Bordalo somehow crafted a bus from all kinds of scraps into a leering school of meerkats who simultaneously entertained and shamed us into thinking about our wasteful ways.  While our initial impetus to attend any festival is always the music, it’s the punctuation of these types of artistic experiences that take Life Is Beautiful to another level.

As strains of “Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better)” drifted from the Troubador Stage, we changed directions one again and walked into our first live introduction to Felix Jaehn.  Nice to meet you, Felix, and nice to see a massive tent with great visuals on large screens, lasers and a constant light show on the ceiling that turned a full red moon weekend into a constant celestial experience.

Here are some of the highlights from our three-day extravaganza of music, food, art and speakers:
DAY ONE:
Bill Nye the Science Guy:  He’s more than a science guy now with a new generation of admirers who got their first win of him on “Inside Amy Schumer,” pronouncing “Try to imagine the universe as a giant dream board on which women pin their wishes.”  Bill is speaking out to his new fans, urging them to get involved in the future of our planet and begging someone, anyone to go into the solar hot water business.  After an audience member shouted his support for Nye as Kanye’s running mate, the scientist explained that four things are desperately needed on our planet right now:  1)  better batteries  2)  better electricity transmission  3)  desalinization of water and 4) a fee on carbon dioxide to help redistribute wealth.  We are still not sure if this means there will be a Vice President Nye, but seeing our childhood idol in the flesh certainly made a case for adding inspirational speakers to the festival circuit
Signature Drinks:  There were several drinks created by mixologists just for the festival, and from the Banana Slip to the Ketel One Dutch Mule, our favorite was the Pina Verde which featured tequila, lime, pineapple, mint and green chile…because we weren’t hot enough on the weekend that featured one hudred degree temperatures.  Just kidding – one night aroundmidnight, we looked up at the illuminated thermometer over Fremont, and it read 95 degrees.  The heat was definitely noticeable, but there were plenty of places to cool off, and unlike other festivals, i.e. I still have PTSD from being over-sprayed in the smoldering tents at Electric Zoo in New York, the heat never stopped the dancing.
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Major Lazer on the Ambassador Stage:  We’ve seen Major Laser everywhere from Ultra Music Festival to the frozen tundra of Snowglobe, and this was one of their best shows.  Washy Fire and Jillionaire were there to amp up an audience full of fans, and the dancers were fire.  The sound system on the Ambassador Stage also carried the most bone-shaking bass, which was also clearly evident in Kygo’s set.  Bonus:  an appearance by Flosstradamus, who couldn’t resist encouraging the formation of a mosh pit.  By the time Diplo jumped up on the decks with the top of his jumpsuit rolled down and transitioned from Jack U’s Febreze to Original Don, the crowd was wrapped around his finger, which was in the process of busting another shot.
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Porter:  Do we even need to say his last name.  This was a great showing for Porter Robinson, as it felt up-close and personal.  The audience knew him, they knew Worlds, and they loved him.  He was part mad-scientist on his keyboard and percussion and part audience member, splashing water on his side-swiped hair from his Solo cup and taking a seat under his pled-deck to watch the visuals unfold along with us.  Classics like “Lion Hearted,” “Say My Name,” brought the biggest reaction from the crowd, and “Sad Machine” turned into a sing-along of, “She depends on you…”  We depend on you, Porter Robinson, and you did not disappoint.
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Contributing Writer: Shonna Diskin Kline