In a Glastonbury fallow year some of the crew of Supajam were wondering what could fill the gap in their Summer schedules. Having checked out a handful of some of the smaller , more interesting festivals in the UK (hello Black Deer, Neverworld and Wilderness) there was a certain event that for the last couple of years has started to build the sort or reputation that couldn’t be ignored.
And so with poker chips in our pockets and factor 50 at the ready we decided to brave the 12 hours , 2 flight stop over journey to Las Vegas to check out what many are calling this generations Coachella.
It’s not hard to see why for it’s about as far removed from the aforementioned festival as could be . Welcome then to Life is Beautiful 2018.
Now in its 6th year this utopian wonderland takes over a large swathe of the increasingly hip Downtown Vegas. Buildings are taken over and transformed into live art, streets are turned into colourful murals , some left permanently, and for 3 days a 40,000 strong crowd are encouraged to lose the schackles of every day life and think nothing but positivity, kindness and yes, being beautiful.
Sound cliched? Possibly, but it’s infectious and you can’t but help being hit between the eyes by the overwhelming sense of spirit as soon as you come within 2 miles of the festival. And with a line up that has been carefully curated and is as rich as it is diverse there’s much to fall in love with.Indie legends (Arcade Fire, Florence etc) stand shoulder to shoulder with pop and dance titans (Justice, The Weekend, Jungle etc) and even if you haven’t heard of some of the acts, that just the point. The organisers want you to explore. It’s the joy of the shock of the new and it works.
Day 1 kicked off with hip hop legend French Montana on the main Downtown Stage. Following on from him Glasgow trio Chvrches drew in a massive crowd for their 8pm slot. Taking cuts from all 3 albums and clad in a “Patriarchy is a Bitch” T-shirt lead singer Lauren Mayberry is in fine form. Air drumming one minute , pirouetting across the stage the next before delicately teasing the crowd to see if there were any Trump supporters in the house. The President having been in town 12 hours previously but judging by the boos that greeted him , thankfully not the festival.
Singles “We Sink”, “Get Out” and the rousing , crowd pleasing “The Mother we Share” went down a storm and as the set closed on recent track “Never Say Die” Mayberry lay on the stage floor presumably exhausted and satisfied that if they get invited back they could well be headlining.
Sylvan Esso at the BacardiSound of Rum stage were one of the evenings surprises. Not familiar with their much of the American duos work we were blown away by singer Amelia Randall Meath’s energy, vocal ability and dress sense (a fringed glittery black leotard was always going to be a winner in our book) Tracks like “Radio” “Hey Mami” and “Coffee” mean we will certainly be searching out more from this band when they next play the UK.
Justice felt like a slightly odd choice to take penultimate headliner slot on Friday night. The French duo’s peak seemingly a good 10 years in the distance. However as the opening chimes of “Safe and Sound” merged into “D.A.N.C.E: it was clear to see why. As the bank of Marshall speakers turned into an LED lightshow and the overhead stage lighting closed in surrounding Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnaythey had the crowd eating out of the palm of their handand for the next 60 minutes delivered a masterclass of dance and funk complete with showmanship and just a little touch of French campness and cheek. Sadly it was over way too soon and with no encore it seemed if anything a little bit too short a show.
With that it was down to the act that the entire crowd seemed to have come out to see. The Weekend are often sited as local heroes here in Vegas and a place Canadian Abel Makkonen Tesfaye feels very much at home.With 40,000 fans welcoming him in with deafening screams he delivered a knockout 1-2 of “Pray For Me” and “Star Boy” before tracks like “Can’t Feel My Face”, “Wicked Games” and “I feel It Coming” were all rolled out. For the next 75 mins even this reviewer was left scratching his head at how many hits they have in their arsenal. Closing the festival with “The Hills” it was a perfect performance and any sensible UK booker should be sharpening their pencils to bring him over to headline next season. Glastonbury take note!
Day 2 of Life is beautiful commences today with performances from Foster The People, St Vincent, N.E.R.D, Alison Wonderland and Florence and the Machine.