Recapping Las Vegas' 2022 Life Is Beautiful festival – Las Vegas Weekly

Recapping Las Vegas' 2022 Life Is Beautiful festival – Las Vegas Weekly

This year’s version of Downtown Las Vegas’ Life Is Beautiful festival felt a bit like a blast from the past, as we saw the return of many beloved performers from previous lineups and more of the same beauty we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. 
Before we get to the music itself, are a few stray observations from the festival’s now-familiar footprint: 
• Dance parties dominated many festivalgoers’ schedules, as everything from silent disco and emo nite to Stoney’s line dancing lessons in the Western Hotel and Ferguson’s DJ sets offered new ways to gather under one roof. 
• The Comedy Kicker’s return was also met with mass enthusiasm, at one point drawing such a long line, the crowd wrapped around The Venue in hopes of seeing big-name stand-up comedians such as Fire Island’s Joel Kim and Hacks’ Hannah Einbinder.
• Dynamic art was significantly scaled back compared to previous years. There were less interactive pieces overall (no ferris wheel?!), and the absence of the Art Motel, the malleable installation space curated by the likes of Meow Wolf, was greatly felt. However, JUSTKIDS, the international creative group that curated most of LIB’s past murals and immersive  art installations, stuck around for another year to supervise the creation of a few larger-than-life pieces, mostly notably Leon Keer’s giant 3D “Crypto Casino” slot machine mural. 
• Foot traffic appeared light overall. It wasn’t difficult to find parking close to the festival entrance, even in the late afternoon.
• We’re not sure when the “bike valet” service disappeared from LIB’s offerings, but they need to bring it back. Every bike rack surrounding the festival grounds was full.
• LIB continued to honor Tony Hsieh’s Downtown legacy, with tributes to the late Zappos founder hung on banners from light poles and flashed on stage screens between sets. 
• Accessibility seemed to take a back seat again this year, with only the Downtown Stage receiving an American Sign Language interpreter.
• Surprisingly, the long-shuttered Bunkhouse Saloon was reopened for the festival and pressed into service as a “cocktail school.” None of us managed to make it over to see one of our all-time favorite music venues reopened, probably for the last time. That’s just as well, because at least a couple of us might have chained themselves to the building in hopes of getting it reopened permanently.
The 2022 music lineup heavily featured British artists like Arctic Monkeys, Jungle and Gorillaz. From other corners of the globe, the anti-Putin Pussy Riot, Kiwi pop star Lorde and Canadian singer Alessia Cara captivated fans, while Lexi Jayde and Blu DeTiger covered the U.S. from east to west coast. Gen Z and millennials alike enjoyed the worldly, eclectic assortment of solo artists, DJs and bands. 
Blu DeTiger (Friday, Huntridge Stage) The bass prodigy delivered a dreamy, funky set filled with her own catchy songs like “Cotton Candy Lemonade” and “Crash Course.”  She also put her own twist on covers of “Feel Good Inc.,” “Ms. Jackson” and “Paper Planes.” It was a playlist full of bops, perfect for the last days of summer. –Evelyn Mateos
Wet Leg (Friday, Huntridge Stage) After getting their feet wet touring North America and playing The Late Late Show in spring, Wet Leg returned to charm fans who, since, have had a chance to listen to the band’s self-titled debut album. Stepping on stage to the Shire theme from Lord of the Rings, the Isle of Wight duo and their touring bandmates brought tongue-in-cheek femininity to Life Is Beautiful with dreamy indie rock numbers like “Being In Love” and “Angelica.” Breathy and whining vocals in “Chaise Lounge” conjured textbook female hysteria, flipped on its head in punk-rock fashion. Inviting the audience to join in, they had everyone screaming during “Ur Mum.” –Shannon Miller 
Joel Kim Booster, Hannah Einbinder and Andrew Lopez (Friday, The Kicker) “So, you folks came to a music festival and said, ‘You know what would be great right now? Some mental stimulation!’” Comedian Hannah Einbinder opened her set by poking fun at the audience on night one at the festival’s comedy venue, then gave the stage to self-described “Midwestern emo Asian” Andrew Lopez and headliner Joel Kim Booster, who released the Netflix comedy special Psychosexual this summer. 
Though Einbinder’s comment was delivered in jest, the Kicker did proffer a more thoughtful pace compared to the rest of the festival. Attendees were asked to obtain tickets from the box office and be in line at least 25 minutes prior to show time – meaning that those who made it inside were clear headed and sober enough to follow a schedule and chain of logic. Audience interactions featured heavily, as well. “By show of hands, who here is on MDMA?” Booster asked. –SM
Jungle (Friday, Downtown Stage) A collective boogie ensued from the moment this UK duo and its seven-piece band took the stage. “We need you to go absolutely f*cking crazy with us. Can you guys do that?” frontman Josh Lloyd-Watson asked the crowd, setting the table for a slew of funkified hits like “What D’You Know About Me” and “Keep Moving.” A slave to his own rhythm, Jungle’s Tom McFarland shimmied around the stage, hips rocking as he rattled a small percussion shaker and alternated between playing his guitar and synthesizer. Meanwhile, backup vocalist Lydia Kitto embraced her role as queen of the Jungle, offering gorgeous runs on new single “Problems” and bringing refreshing, female air to an already breezy set. –Amber Sampson 
Arctic Monkeys (Friday, Downtown Stage) Frontman Alex Turner weaved through some of Arctic Monkeys’ most iconic eras, leaving us absolutely ravished by the end of this midnight set. The stage screens displayed a mid-70s film grain over the band, heightening the vintage aesthetic it’s become synonymous with over the years. The buzz kicked in at the opening stomps of AM favorite “Do I Wanna Know?” Turner’s voice was deep and sexified to the delight of fawning fans. But those who preferred the riotous punk of years’ past weren’t disappointed. The band railed through everything from “Brianstorm” and “From the Ritz to the Rubble” to “Do Me a Favour.” Drummer Matt Helders, at one point, drummed so fast, he lost a stick, but quickly recovered to hammer out the songs at sweat-inducing speeds. Arctic Monkeys seemed happy to indulge themselves with these older cuts and longtime fans were too. –AS
Alessia Cara (Saturday, Bacardi Stage) Working a festival crowd can be challenging. But 26-year-old singer Alessia knew what to do. She shared personal antidotes behind the songwriting process and how Life is Beautiful was one of the first festivals she ever played. When the crowd wasn’t singing along loud enough, she stopped to urge them—waving her arm enthusiastically until she was satisfied—and suddenly a chorus was singing “How Far I’ll Go.” She even saved her hit song with Zedd, “Stay,” for last to pump the crowd up for their next set.  –EM
Lorde (Saturday, Downtown Stage) A returnee from Life is Bautiful 2017, Lorde reminisced about the first time she played the festival and pointed out a few things have changed since then. “I’m 25 now, I’m blonde now, and I’m wearing a hot pink outfit.” She also now has three studio albums under the belt, which can make producing a setlist challenging. Her 80-minute set included five songs off her most recent album, Solar Power, and a sun-themed stage setup. But she still played a few hits the crowd loved, including “The Louvre,” “Green Light” and “Royals.” –EM
Gorillaz (Saturday, Downtown Stage) Even for confirmed fans, it can sometimes be difficult to take Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s virtual band seriously, what with the interviews given in (cartoon) character, the occasional goofball single (“Superfast Jellyfish,” “Cracker Island”) and the dumb things Albarn said about Taylor Swift’s songwriting and immediately walked back. (My dude, you wrote “Superfast Jellyfish.”). But when this collaborative project hits, it hits hard. The hooks grab on, the beats dig in and you’re simply launched. Such was the case with Gorillaz at Life is Beautiful, as the band delivered a near-perfect set composed entirely of bops and bangers, including “Kids With Guns,” “Feel Good Inc.,” “New Gold,” “Momentary Bliss” and “Clint Eastwood.” 
As always, the music was synched with Hewlett’s visuals, but the band was so damn good that the cartoon band was often forced onto its back legs. Albarn was the very picture of a charismatic frontman, frequently wading out into the crowd, trying on attendees’ hats and grinning with genuine delight. A mind-boggling raft of guest stars—The Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown, Fatoumata Diawara, Sweetie Irie, JPEGMAFIA and De La Soul’s Pos—delivered surprises at every turn. And the VIP pit contained yet another unannounced guest: Hawkeye himself, Jeremy Renner, was spotted checking out Albarn’s ever-growing cadre of skilled musical Avengers. –Geoff Carter
Lexi Jayde (Sunday, Huntridge Stage) Newcomer and rising TikTok star Lexi Jayde performed at her first-ever music festival over the weekend. (Like several others in the lineup, Jayde built her career in the midst of pandemic lockdowns; according to SetlistFM,  LIB was only her seventh live appearance overall.) She delivered her heart-wrenching songs with the appropriate melancholy, but still had fun interacting with the audience in a hot pink two-piece suit. –EM
Pussy Riot (Sunday, Huntridge Stage) The feminist punk collective (all donning signature balaclava ski masks except for frontwoman Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who rocked a latex nun habit and a pink whip) made the most of their set, speaking against the overturning of Roe V. Wade and demanding action. “We are the power, not those who hold power right now,” said Tolokonnikova, who was previously imprisoned for protesting against Vladmir Putin. “That’s why we need to combine our efforts and my role here is to inspire you. So when I say Pussy, you say …” “RIOT!!” the crowd responded. Together they shook the ground underneath the Huntridge Stage with their explosive, frenzied punk, also encouraging fans to raise their fists as the Ukrainian national anthem played in support of those at war. “It’s not just [about] fighting for their freedom,” Tolokonnikova said. “It’s our freedom as well.” –AS 
Satin Jackets (Sunday, Toyota Den) The Toyota Den might’ve been smaller than the stage Satin Jackets performed on earlier that day, but it offered the perfect nightcap for festival goers looking to unwind and let loose on the dance floor. The mysterious Den Ishu, outfitted in his signature “Mr. Satin Jackets” golden mask and bomber jacket, delivered an intimate set of polished electro-pop and disco under the mirrorball, playing cuts from Satin Jackets’ new album, Reunion, and Spotify favorites like “Northern Lights,” featuring David Harks. –AS 
Jack Harlow (Sunday, Downtown Stage) The Louisville rapper swaggered out to”Nail Tech,” working the stage as fans chanted the chorus. And for an opener it was certainly … fire. “I thought I lost my eyebrows for a second,” commented Harlow after getting too close to the onstage pyrotechnics. “That sh*t was hot!” 
That charm carried him through the set and revealed an interesting duality between Jack Harlow, the emcee dripping with confidence as he rapped about wanting to see some ass, and the Jack Harlow sheepishly waving at his fans in the front row. The hitmaker dredged up cuts from his 2022 album, but the heaters from his debut, That’s What They All Say, were clearly what the audience anticipated, and this Kentucky boy delivered for the most part. –AS 
Beach House (Sunday, Bacardi Stage) If I had a dollar for every time someone said something like, “If only there were other acts I liked on Beach House’s day” to me about Life Is Beautiful’s 2022 schedule … I might have, like, six bucks. But the sentiment holds: Why book a beloved indie band and then put it on an island? 
Sure, LIB, like many large festivals these days, blends genres, and it’s possible a Calvin Harris or Big Boi fan might also love Beach House, or wander over and fall in love. But considering the fest’s 2022 edition didn’t sell out, why not entice local indie listeners to buy a day pass to catch Beach House and a couple more acts from the early-2000s Pitchforkverse? Because plunking down $180 plus fees for one band isn’t realistic for most Las Vegans.
Those who did make it (cheers, Spencer Burton!) caught a band at the height of its powers, touring behind one of the best albums of its distinguished 18-year career. The Bacardi Stage’s sound wasn’t sharp early in the set, so Victoria Legrand’s ethereal voice and Alex Scally’s spacey guitar didn’t soar the way they can and should. But as the core duo, supplemented by touring drummer James Barone, started stacking iconic oldies (“Silver Soul,” “Myth,” “Space Song”) atop surefire future classics off February double-LP Once Twice Melody (“New Romance,” “Superstar”), the mix edged closer to appropriately goosebumpy levels. 
And as the kaleidoscopic light show flashed full throttle during set-capper “Over and Over,” one couldn’t help feel that life can indeed be beautiful sometimes … even if the festival missed an opportunity to remind even more people of that all-too-forgettable truth. –Spencer Patterson
Las Vegas Weekly Staff
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