The seventh annual Life Is Beautiful festival brought electrifying moment after electrifying moment to the streets of downtown Las Vegas Friday (Sept. 20) with its dynamic presentation of music, art and food within 18 blocks.
Taking over parking lots, motels, restaurants, street corners, empty storefronts and every other space imaginable, Day 1 was filled with major only-in-Vegas moments.
Check out all the highlights from the opening day of the festival.
Jonathan Van Ness Gets “Lit”
Starting things on the Fremont stage at 2:55 p.m., the masses poured in to see Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s Jonathan Van Ness, who recently revealed that he’s HIV positive. Van Ness took the stage with a well-choreographed acrobatic routine that included flips, cartwheels and pirouettes. He launched his set with a story about how he was once kicked out a hotel room in Sin City before marijuana went recreational, congratulating the crowd, “You’ve come a long way, Vegas.” The 45-minute talk included comedy, video, politics and Van Ness’ distinct fashion sense. Embracing the spirit, he said “this festival is lit, with so many amazing performers,” and also admitted he was already “kinda drunk, even though it was only four in the afternoon.”
Walk the Moon Performs With Cirque du Soleil
Just after sunset as temperatures dropped at a perfect 70 degrees, Walk the Moon took the main stage and performed all their hits to the swelling crowd. One of the biggest moments of the night came as Cirque du Soleil joined the band onstage during “One Foot” for a stunning aerial acrobatics routine. Cirque du Soleil pop-ups have become a signature of the festival. Last year, Foster the People performed with The Beatles Love cast in another main stage event.
Fred Armisen & Alaska Thunderf–k Showcase Musical Talents
Fred Armisen showcased his musical talents with a very “instrumental” set in the festival’s Kicker comedy showcase. Tailored to the event, his impressions all centered around music and he demonstrated that he could do every accent from every state before grabbing his guitar to play The Beatles “Blackbird” and then drumming to a little Donna Summer. Drag queen Alaska Thunderf–k who also played the Kicker used audience members to curate a Life Is Beautiful megamix.
Foodies Find the Secret Cantina
Since food is such a big part of the scene in Las Vegas, Life Is Beautiful always offers unique dining experiences to its attendees from local businesses and bars, including even a cocktail school that festival goers can attend. This year the big food frenzy is the Omakase Cantina, a 12-person dinner with three seatings located at Hatsumi inside the festival at the newly opened Ferguson’s retail, dining and business complex. Produced by local business secretburger.com, each night features a prominent local chef duo. Friday was hosted by Jennifer Murphy from Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace and Roy Ellamar from Harvest at Bellagio. Saturday features Chef Gary LaMorte and Justin Hall, and Sunday Chef Josh Smith and Marc Marrone.
Billie Eilish Duets With Her Brother
The queen of the night was Billie Eilish, who gripped the main stage for more than an hour, working the crowd into a frenzy. The 17-year-old demanded a mosh circle and she got it from her adoring fans, many of whom were dressed just like Eilish, buns and all. Still in a black cast with a red heart from her summer ankle sprain, the trendsetter wore what has become her signature, an oversized graffiti-adorned top and shorts that took on a Vegas appropriate neon effect under the lights. A major advocate for Friday’s Climate Strike, Eilish delivered a soulful set and was even joined by her brother, actor and musician Finneas O’Connell, for a duet of “I Love You.” The occasion marked the first time Eilish played a proper concert in Las Vegas.
Chance the Rapper Makes it a Three-Peat
2019 marks the third time that Chance the Rapper has performed at the festival, and his second turn as headliner, making him the unofficial mayor of Life Is Beautiful. He “soft opened” his set the same way he ended it — with “No Problem” and even led the crowd to chant “Life is Beautiful” during a song interlude. He also gets the award for the most costume changes of the night for a festival set with three.
Also Seen and Heard Around the Festival
Carly Rae Jepsen joined dance-music producer Gryffin on stage; Tash Sultana left the audience in awe; and Louis the Child closed the night with a big street party.
Life is Beautiful returns for day two (Sept. 22) with headliners The Black Keys and for day three (Sept. 23) with Post Malone. The festival is live streamed from more than 50 cameras around Downtown Las Vegas on LiveXLive’s Life is Beautiful link.