Jauz, Jauz, and Jauz.  Here’s where we admit that one of the biggest reasons we wanted to attend Life Is Beautiful this year was seeing Jauz on the lineup.  We’ve been following his rise for the last year, and what festival-goer has not seen the video from Hard Summer of Jauz taking a moment to tell the audience he had a general admission ticket only the previous year and was inspired to create his first song by his friend, Tchami.  Spoiler alert:  He was not only a festival highlight, but bigger, better and crunchier than we imagined.  But first, we had to get to the bottom of something important – how do you actually pronouce Giraffage?
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Jer-Raff-Faj

Giraffage – Charlie Yin has been steadily gaining notoriety for his R&B remixes, and his set on the Troubador Stage showed off his patient building and layering of tracks, accentuated by some dramatic twists and drops.  “Be With You” was a hint of the feel-good set to come that quickly transitioned into a tongue-in-cheek “Marimba classic ringtone” mix.  Visual anime of little white dog clouds brought back memories of Porter Robinson, and by the time Yin played an upbeat “Impressions of You,” he was on a unique path that set him apart from his Troubador comrades.  Oh, and just to answer the question, it’s “jer-raff-age,” although we heard some pretty great variations from people who couldn’t wait to see grrr-off-ajay…
 
The Art Motel – This abandoned hotel transformed into a pop-up museum that could only be found in downtown Las Vegas,  In fact, the original call for artists from Life is Beautiful announced 80% of the artists featured in the motel would be locals and teased, “Each of the 15 motel rooms are approximately 10′ x 10′, with primed white walls. The entire room is your canvas. Each of the large courtyard murals are approximately 8′ x 20′.  There is no creative spec. What would you like to create?”  And create they did.  Everything from a blue neon sign that simply stated, “live” to a room plastered with original black and white wallpaper featuring llamas and phrases that echoed the sentiment, “create.”  Our favorite room, though, featured a bar with two stools, a chandelier and a painting.  The twist?  They were all stationed on a vertical wall, making the room appear to have been turned on its side.  Watching festival-goers position themselves in the room and help each other figure out the most gravity-defying poses inspired some truly creative interactions.  We could spent much more time here, but not when the Shark Squad was heading for the stage where Jauz was about to hit the decks-
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JAUZ – Four words – “Welcome to the Jungle,” and that’s how his set began.  The crowd was ready, and it was that festival feeling you get that says you’re about to witness something that will make your friends incredibly jealous.  As he began to build his set, the wub kicked in with Tiga’s “Bugati.”  Jauz knows how to play to audience favorites, and sincerely looks like he loves it as much as we do.  He demonstrates expertise with unique mixes that amp up his signature sound and clever transitions.  He moved easily from his remix of “Gotta Get Through This,” to Kanye West’s “All Day,” back into the mega-wub with Riff Raff’s “Tip Toe Wing in My Jawwdinz,” which set off the shark frenzy for his #1 Beatport electro house tune, “Deeper Love.”  For dessert, he served his new tune with Knife Party, “PLUR Police” featuring the “bad boys, bad boys whatchya gonnna do” then dropping off into uncharted territory.  His mix was solid, but when we heard Knife Party serve up the same dish the following night, we had to call a win for Rob and Gareth.  Though Jauz goes on our new favorites list for sure, a side-by-side comparison with Knife Party showed that extensive experience playing to festival crowds contributes to that genius ability to find the sweet spot for really big sound.
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Downtown Culinary Stage – Starving after the shark feeding frenzy, and off to our favorite village eating spot.  Think Nobu rock shrimp, Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches, and Prisoner Wine.  Nuf said.
Duran Duran – Though this oldie but goodie was not on our “must see” list, our culinary break brought us to a newly installed grassy patch just in time to see Simon Le Bon break into “No-no-notorious.”  Simon looked damn good in his all-white ensemble with his crooning back-up singers.  Duran Duran was on point and clearly ready for their return to the touring scene.
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What So Not – We took to the two-story 7-Up structure at the back of the Troubador Stage for this set and witnessed a whole different point of view.  What So Not played crowd favorites, but the lasers and light show reflecting off every surface of the tent created and almost underwater, neon scuba-diving experience that synced and culminated with the sounds of the standard, “Jaguar Trap.”
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One final observation about transportation from our second day:  Though we purchased shuttle passes on the festival website for $45 a pop, we discovered that the wait for the shuttles was long (half an hour the first night from the SLS, which is midway between the strip and the festival) and the drop off point near Fremont Street was a good 10-15 minute walk.  We opted for an Uber after the first day, and while one meandering driver brought us in at $16, a more knowledgable local driver got us to the festival for $9.  Moral of the story?  Do your homework, and figure out what makes sense for your stay.  That said, we ended up with a friendly pedi-bike driver the second night, and though we were only going to go to a taxi drop-off point, we ended up going all the way to the hotel. The cost was more than a taxi or Uber, but well worth it to travel the back streets of residential Las Vegas in the middle of the night, greeting passing festival attendees on their way home on their bikes.  Did I mention there was a bike valet service at the festival?  Again, a part of Las Vegas I have never seen in multiple trips to the city, and another surprise from Life is Beautiful.
Contributing Writer: Shonna Diskin Kline