The Las Vegas festival season kicked off with a bang is past weekend. With both iHeart Radio Music Festival and the beloved Life is Beautiful in town, music lovers from all over the country flocked to Vegas for the return of the two beloved celebrations. Since many wonder what a post-lockdown Vegas festival might look like, we’ve got the inside scoop on the opening afternoon at the festival grounds. Life is Beautiful sent me a press pass so I could see, hear and feel the experience at the 2021 festival.
Arriving at Life is Beautiful
Walking from will call at Downtown Grand to the main entrance of Life is Beautiful around the corner of 7th and Carson felt almost like an average Vegas weekday downtown. Arriving at the gate, spirits were high as festival-goers reveled in the art displays. The vibe felt cautiously optimistic—many people in line still took extra care to stay socially distant. Most people still kept their masks on as well (not an easy task since the humidity was considerably higher than usual due to a damp morning).
Security and Health Check
Once in line, security rotated through the line to process the health check. Since all ticket holders were required to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, security carefully checked for these requirements. Unvaccinated ticket holders hoping to test only once for the weekend were required to test Thursday, September 16 or Friday, September 17 since health screenings were required daily for those providing negative tests. Security after the health screening was relatively quick given the “clear bag” policy.
Inside Life is Beautiful
Festival-goers were energetic and cheerful all around on Friday, and many still kept to their groups and kept a little distance while moving around the event. Even the crowds at earlier shows seemed a bit thinner and more spaced out than expected, with more people mingling at the back of the lawn. With that exception, the concert grounds didn’t feel much different than a typical pre-pandemic performance.
Inside activations like the much-anticipated BACARDÍ Art Motel, small groups of people were spread out, allowing for some extra social distance (and walking space). Inside the Art Motel, multiple activities were set up (ring toss, custom bracelet making and several photo ops), and some still opted to keep their masks on despite the heat.
Lisa Pfenning, Vice President, BACARDÍ for North America, expressed excitement over BACARDÍ's return to the beloved festival. “BACARDÍ was thrilled to be at Life is Beautiful and bring the rum vibes back to Las Vegas once again. We missed being together just as much as festivalgoers did, and we were glad to be able to do so again safely surrounded by incredible live music, delicious new BACARDÍ cocktails, surprise performances, and stunning artwork. The joyous feeling at the BACARDÍ Art Motel and by the BACARDÍ Stage all weekend long was contagious and definitely proved that live music is back!”
Numerous activations throughout the festival offered some fun freebies to those who wandered into the space. Zenni Eyewear had a photo opp set up and offered a refreshing lemon Yuzu shave ice treat in partnership with Stella Solstice Rhythms. Weedmaps X Laurie Shapiro set up a gorgeous art display and gave out goodies like hand sanitizer—one of the main new features of the 2021 festival.
Various food trucks and water stations were arranged throughout the grounds, with space for festival-goers to eat, sit and take a breather. The longest lines I saw were for the bars strategically situated all around the area. Local Las Vegas restaurants and vendors had also set up shop for the weekend, and many along the festival route were decked out and ready to welcome visitors. Fergusons Downtown was especially popular with its close proximity to the East entrance (which was much less crowded than the main entrance).
Some come for the art, some come for the food, and some come for the music. While several large stages were set up (BACARDÍ, Huntridge, Downtown and Fremont stages), multiple activations also hosted performances of their own, like the BACARDÍ Art Motel, which hosted a show by Jhay Cortez.
I asked performing duo Brijean about their experience back at festivals and if they noticed any differences in the energy and vibe between now and pre-pandemic times. “It feels amazing to be back at the festival. It’s a really special time to be out together,” they told me. “I think there’s an energy that’s familiar but distinct. People are ready to celebrate.”
The celebratory vibes were definitely strong at Life is Beautiful, and the feel-good vibes didn’t stop there. Charlie Rocket and the Dream Machine Tour will be traveling around the United States to give away $1 million in the next 45 days to help those struggling with achieving their dreams. The team started with a once-in-a-lifetime performance for Musco “King Kell” Adams at Life is Beautiful and helped the 21-year old barista live his lifelong music dream. King Kell performed three songs including a newly recorded track with the help of The Dream Machine.
Life is Beautiful will return in 2022.