Downtown Las Vegas’ second-year music festival Life is Beautiful kicked off Friday capped by a typically awesome and rant-filled Kanye West set.
Now three days after being just two in its inaugural year, the festival has grown in more than just length of time. The festival grounds felt like they have doubled in size and there was a much larger international contingency than last year as well. Two British gals from London told me they came out to Vegas specifically to see Kanye.
One of the widest appealing headliners today, Kanye has a little something for everybody — but managed to rub everyone the wrong way just a little bit. After toasting the douchebags in “Runaway,” Kanye launched into one of his nine-minute bouts of verbal self-fellatio, ranting about something or another, killing many people’s buzz. By the time Yeezus kicked into his next song, all was forgiven and he had the crowd feeling it in day one’s final hour.
For many, myself included, Friday was a long, long day filled with lots of ups and no real downs. Phantogram kicked things off around the time it started to cool down. They’ve really taken off in the last year, something made very evident by the large gathering that took part to see them midday. “Black Out Days” and “Fall in Love” were the songs everyone knew, but it was interesting to see the appreciation for the deeper cuts in their catalog.
People could not stop talking about how boss Phantogram vocalist Sarah Barthel was, and they weren’t wrong. Despite a hoarse voice when addressing the crowd between songs, she was on point and people fed off her energetic head bobs and dance moves. I even got the opportunity to see one of my favorite things, a bro put on the shoulders by one of his bros. It was adorable.
Vintage Trouble took festival-goers on a trip in a time machine in the best way possible. Their throwback grooves came across that much better in a live setting. Their energy was magnetic and they had a good rapport with the audience. Lead man Ty Taylor made sure everybody was having a good time. Their bass player also has a striking resemblance to Aaron Eckhart. Uncanny.
Girl Talk took things in a different direction with his incomparable skills of mixing old-school beats with new school jams — and vice versa. The first real true DJ set of the night, it was obvious a lot of people were starting to peak on whatever party favors they may have brought with them around this time. The light show certainly helped those people have an even better time. Even if you weren’t on anything, you probably found yourself dancing like a fool and joining everyone else in the cloud of “giving zero f*cks,” so to speak. The vibe all day long was one of love and happiness, proof that Life is Beautiful is more than just a catchy name. Girl Talk is in my opinion the king of the mashups and Friday he more than lived up.
Las Vegas-born and LA-bred indie rock queen Jenny Lewis started ten minutes late but still brought a nice cool-down set. A little shorter than what I anticipated, she still mixed in a couple Rilo Kiley jams (starting with “Silver Lining”) with songs off her well-received recent release The Voyager. I was that shameless guy that knew all the words and mouthed them and nobody judged me, the mark of a truly good crowd. Emblazoned in her signature rainbow-looking white suit, Lewis managed to melt most people’s hearts.
Neon Trees set the table for the headline portion of the night. One of the few holdovers from last year’s inaugural fest, few people fit the Life is Beautiful vibe as well as they do. “Animal” and recent single “Sleeping With a Friend” had the crowd singing along endlessly. There were no low points as Neon Trees did their damndest to help keep people from hitting that wall that sometimes comes at the end of a long day of music.
People seemed to be pacing themselves pretty well for the weekend and didn’t go too hard on day one. That’s always a good thing to see. Kanye West gave people that satisfaction of seeing one of music’s biggest stars belt out many of their chart-toppers, and the appetizers on the way were all delicious as well. Hopefully the rest of the weekend is as tasty going down.
Check out the photos below from Live Is Beautiful festival 2014.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Tom Dellinger
Head and the Heart
Panic! At The Disco
Want more photos? Check out the photo gallery below!