Las Vegas is home to a culture all its own—one that’s constantly shifting with the passing of time. The Vegas of yesteryear is still alive and well: showgirls roam the streets, Elvis impersonators can be found on the Strip at any hour and the slot machine-lined casino floors never completely empty out. While today the city might be as well-known for its world-renowned restaurants, high-end shopping and more family friendly entertainment, the city’s past will always be a core part of its identity. Blending the past and present, the annual Life Is Beautiful festival takes over Downtown drawing together art, music, stand-out food and contemporary visionaries in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. This year’s event intimately brought a diverse range of culture to the masses thanks to Renaissance Hotels, making Life Is Beautiful more than just a festival, but an experience.
At the literal crossroads of a culinary market, two continually packed stages and a sprawling sculpture installation stood the Renaissance Hotels pop-up space. With in-house DJs, a photobooth, phone-charging stations and designer furniture to catch a few minutes much-needed relaxation, the space served as a point of exploration and experience for festival-goers. Throughout the day one could find their favorite acts meeting with fans or snapping a few pictures. With so many simultaneous experiences—from catching Kanye’s set to listening to a lecture from Pussy Riot—Renaissance made it possible for attendees to share their experiences online via a swipe from their festival wristband. And with so much going on, there was little time to spend posting, Tweeting or hashtagging.
Of course what brought many out to the festival was the eclectic mix of music on offer. Everyone from chart-topping headliners like the Foo Fights and Outkast to club favorite producer Ryan Hemsworth and country darling Kacey Musgraves took to the stage. No one genre dominated the line-up. While Vegas is a city that pulls in people from around the world and all walks of life, it’s no doubt the city loves a show. Which is why West’s “Yeezus” set and the incredibly sexy and classic rock and roll show from Arctic Monkeys were equally at home on the main stage.
While music might have been one of the main draws, street art installations throughout the multi-block grounds were never short of festival goers snapping an Instagram or simply enjoying the expansive pieces. Dublin street artist Maser took over an entire vacant motel, covering the two-level structure with competing geometric shapes in colors fit for the Vegas skyline. Depending on the time of day and angle, new patterns emerged making the “Maser Motel” a crowd favorite.
The art however wasn’t just limited to the streets—or the artists. Ample opportunities to participate in exhibits both inside and outside of the expansive gallery space set up in a vacant casino. Spanning paintings, sculpture and photography, the multimedia show featured local unknowns and internationally renowned artists alike. One born-and-raised Vegas artist Jevijoe Vitug stole the show with his immersive sculpture of a rubber band ball-like sphere of used shoes in a dark, blacklight-lit room.
Contributing to the diversity of both the crowd and the experience itself were a series of informative talks from key influencers and experts in a range of topics. Local Vegas legends Penn & Teller weighed in following one’s dreams in the face of skeptics. However it was Russian punk activists Pussy Riot that drew a standing-room only crowd. Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina compared Russia versus the West’s perception of human rights—with human rights in the US becoming a celebrity cause, momentum among the young and mainstream has increased. The duo touched on their time in Russian prisons, revealing that the ludicrousness of their captivity and the ability to laugh at it was their only way through.
It wouldn’t be a festival without food and the best of Downtown’s culinary scene was all present. Ranging from quail egg-topped slider to Georgian dumplings, inventive offerings were found throughout the festival. Unlike most food festivals, the fare was eclectic, local and inexpensive—prices weren’t inflated to allow attendees to try the best of what Vegas has to offer. Best of all, a selection of chefs were on hand to give lectures, demonstration and Q&A’s on everything from DIY preserves to food security. Ultimately the well-rounded festival brought culture to the masses and the masses to Downtown Las Vegas and it was all made possible by lifestyle forward brands like Renaissance Hotels.
Images by Hans Aschim