Excepting the bomb people I have the privilege of calling my friends and family, my three favorite things in life are music, food, and traveling. So naturally I did a double take when I caught wind of the inaugural Life is Beautiful festival, which promised to gloriously marry the three. A festival in Vegas featuring some serious musical heavyweights, a cavalcade of celebrity chefs, local art, and performances by Cirque du Soleil? Uh yeah. That had my name all over it.

So it was that I arrived in Vegas last Saturday afternoon for what was easily one of the most highly anticipated festivals of the year for me. Apprehension I may have had about first-time festival hiccups was mollified upon clearing an unbelievably efficient security check — 5 minutes tops! I then walked into a sprawling, cordoned-off hipster explosion of a block party in the heart of downtown Las Vegas.

Having spent the vast majority of my time in Vegas on the shitshow that is the Strip, this was Sin City showing me a totally different side of itself; a local bar with arcade games galore, seriously sick 3D graffiti art, and streets lined with old school Vegas-y light panels that could take down an epileptic in seconds? I was digging it.

Life Is Beautiful
Photo by FilmMagic

First stop upon entering? The mystical wonderland known as the culinary village. Hamachi sashimi accented with jalapeños and ponzu sauce by famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Hubert Keller‘s scrumptiously savory shrimp mac and cheese, and a heavenly tiramisu from Payard Pâtisserie were a mere fraction of the offerings available at this sprawling bazaar, which was filled to the brim with pop-up stands from Vegas’ premier dining establishments.

If that wasn’t your style, festival staples Spicy Pie and Gerard’s Paella were also on hand along with a multitude of food trucks. Simply put, this was without a doubt the best food I’ve had in terms of quality and selection at any music festival. Ever.

Life is Beautiful

After washing down countless delicious calories with coconut juice straight out of a freshly cleaved young coconut, my satiated self wandered over to the Ambassador stage to catch Angelenos Capital Cities, who put on a show that can be best summarized in one word: spellbinding. From the bleepy bloopy hooks of “Kangaroo Court,” to a bizarrely awesome cover of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” to their beloved finale track, “Safe And Sound,” Capital Cities straight up killed it.

From there, I hopped a nearby ferris wheel and caught Vegas-natives Imagine Dragons playing “It’s Time” from the motherfucking sky (excellent decision on my part, 10/10, would do again). Afterward, I meandered more toward the front of the stage to catch the last half of their set, which concluded with “Radioactive” featuring a WTF-worthy spectacle of acrobats from Cirque du Soleil. Vocalist Dan Reynolds summarized it best: “Doin’ it the way Las Vegas does: over the top!”

I stuck around for Beck, who was without a doubt the most anticipated act of the festival for me. I don’t use the term “musical genius” lightly, but in Beck’s case, there really is no other way to describe him. His live set served only to cement his super-musician status in my book. Much like his records, he covered an incredibly broad array of genres, taking care to throw in a jaw-dropping harmonica solo and a stupidly awesome cover of “Billie Jean” before closing it out with “Where It’s At.” Beck’s set was undoubtedly my favorite set of the festival, which is saying a lot.

Life Is Beautiful Festival - Day 2
Photo by FilmMagic

Wandering over to the Huntridge stage, I caught an expectedly solid set by Portland-natives Portugal. The Man that was reminiscent of their earlier set at this year’s Coachella. After hearing their closer, a sick rework of “Purple Yellow Red & Blue,” I jetted off to close the night with sexy beats and bass courtesy of Pretty Lights.

Life is Beautiful