All photos courtesy of Life Is Beautiful
In an era of Instagram-ready music festivals, Life Is Beautiful seems pre-programmed for social media. The murals, art installations and immersive displays all feel custom ready for hashtags. Throw in the gorgeous, neon-tinged setting of Las Vegas and you’ve got an environment that requires #nofilter at all. Still, despite the festival’s impressive feast for the eyes, music is still the real star here, and Life Is Beautiful 2019 delivered a stellar mix of established stars and on-the-rise newcomers.
Here are some of the stand out performers from the 3-day event:
I had the pleasure of catching Morgxn at an intimate club show several months ago. Though that setting was a far cry from the sunny festival setting of Life Is Beautiful, I left with a similar impression; namely, that Morgxn is a budding alt-pop star. The singer’s soaring, powerful vocals glided effortlessly over catchy rhythms, creating the perfect atmosphere to begin my Life Is Beautiful adventure. The most familiar track was “Home,” a song that burst onto rock radio earlier this year thanks to its chanting-like chorus. Other songs, such as the powerful “A New Way” allowed the singer to display an extraordinary emotional depth to his music. Having an early set at a 3-day festival is not an easy task for any performer, but Morgxn more than rose to the challenge here.
It’s not easy to define Walk the Moon, a group who often straddles the lines between alternative, pop and electronic genres. But more than anything, they are FUN and that exuberant joy was on full display during their set. After emerging to the Lion King’s “Circle of Life,” the Ohio-formed group launched into a series of recognizable alt-pop hits, including “Anna Sun” and “Shut Up and Dance.” Later, the band flexed their muscle with an impressive cover of Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House,” a track that most likely outdated the average audience member by at least a decade. Still, in my eyes, the biggest highlight was when Walk the Moon brought members of Cirque Du Soleil on stage for a stunning visual display set to their hit song “One Foot”. It was an appropriately “only in Vegas” moment that created a discernible buzz among the Life Is Beautiful crowd.
Arguably the most anticipated set of the weekend belonged to Billie Eilish. The hit-making teen—and former Music Connection cover girl—has exploded into one of the biggest names in music this year thanks to a bevy of earworm tracks. A massive crowd welcomed the singer to the Life Is Beautiful stage as she immediately launched into her biggest hit, “Bad Guy.” The energy amongst the crowd was incredible, as I witnessed at least one fan openly crying from excitement when Eilish began to sing. The teen star didn’t let a walking boot (the result of a recent on-stage accident) slow her down, as she bounced along to every track. Mosh pits welcomed “You Should See Me in a Crown,” while a sea of cell phone lights later accompanied an acoustic rendition of “I Love You.” While I personally wasn’t moved to tears, it was easy to see what all the hype was about.
Every time I see Portugal. The Man, they climb higher on my list of favorite bands. At this point, I may need to put them in a category all their own. With moments of aggression, excitement and celebration all woven together, the group delivered one of the best sets of the festival. With a fleshed-out touring band that included a string section and backup singers, the band tore through hits like “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” “Modern Jesus” and “Live in the Moment.” PTR also did admirable work infusing some of their musical influences into the set, at times slipping into material from the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Metallica (among others). Still, the biggest dance party occurred during “Feel It Still,” the indelible hit track that still seems as popular as ever, more than two years after its release.
Other Day 1 Notes: Busker-turned streaming sensation Tash Sultana seemingly played every instrument imaginable while delivering a mesmerizing instrumental set… Throngs of fans packed the dance tent to party to the bass-heavy sounds of Gryffin. The DJ, known for his high-profile remixes, welcomed singer Carly Rae Jepsen to the stage for a surprise performance… Lord Huron deserved better. The band sounded fantastic during their set, with evocative vocals that punctuated their indie-rock motif. However, with a set time that aligned with Billie Eilish’s, Lord Huron’s crowd was smaller than they warranted, the unfortunate result of unlucky scheduling.