Downtown Las Vegas used to be known for a few things. Cheap booze, cheap shrimp cocktail, and all the garish Schadenfreude you could want. It was the counterweight to the other end of Las Vegas Boulevard… where the Strip was the glitter, Downtown was the gutter. Over the past few years, Tony Hsieh and other local entrepreneurs have labored to change Downtown for the better. Where once there were only porn shops and boarded-up Bail Bond shops, now there’s coffee shops and craft beer bars. Pizza places and art galleries. Slowly but surely, Downtown is finding its own culture.
Last year, the city rolled the dice on the inaugural Life is Beautiful festival, a multi-day celebration of music, art, and food that took over several blocks of Downtown. After all, if you’re going to gamble on a festival, might as well do it in Las Vegas.
The gamble paid off. The festival tore the roof off of Downtown (figuratively speaking… the iconic Fremont Street Experience roof is still intact), and this year they’re going even bigger.
2014’s headliners are Arctic Monkeys, Kanye West, Foo Fighters, and Outkast. It’s got old hands like Lionel Ritchie and Flaming Lips, and new blood like Phantogram and Broken Bells. Like any good festival, it’s an eclectic lineup. Any time you can hear ‘Hello’ and ‘Hey Ya’ in the same show, you know it’s something special.
The festival also features rock stars of the culinary world, including Giada De Laurentiis, Cat Cora, Hubert Keller, and divisive ‘Chopped’ judge Scott Conant. It’s a far cry from the hot dogs and overpriced burgers that tend to be festival staples. Local artists will be working with the festival to paint murals over the broken and forgotten facades of Downtown, creating beauty from neglect.
Life is Beautiful has become the flagship event for Downtown’s rebirth. For three days this October, Fremont St. won’t be a joke, or a tourist trap, or a novelty act. It will be beautiful.
Written by: Ryan Myers