Festivals cover such a wide swath of the music world, it’s easy to miss some really great bands and acts. There are so many names on a lineup poster, after all.
Life is Beautiful is known to capture the hottest acts of the moment and juxtapose them with legacy artists and emerging talent. Here, we catch you up on some of the names—big and small—that have graced the stages in Downtown Las Vegas.
Life is Beautiful’s inaugural year was peppered with many bands and artists who were poised for stardom. And years later, they achieved exactly that. Twenty One Pilots, Empire of the Sun and Portugal, the Man have surged to mainstream success since their performances that first year. The three groups have made numerous treks back, and the former two even returned to the festival in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald McKinley Glover, went from being an actor/rapper to a bona fide entertainment superstar following his performance in 2013. He took home the Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Redbone,” and won a Golden Globe and two Emmys for his contributions to FX comedy-drama Atlanta. Those accolades are anything but childish.
Since delivering a set full of staccato raps, hard-hitting boom baps and “Chum,” Earl Sweatshirt has gone on to release two full-length albums, including the critically acclaimed I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. His set was part of a triumphant comeback almost one year after he returned from boarding school in Samoa. Speaking of school, stagemate Danny Brown dropped out of high school, but you would’ve thought otherwise if you were present during his set. The Detroit-bred rapper gave a lesson in herbal remedies during the pot-smoking anthem “Blunt After Blunt.” Now Brown has taken his talents to other media. He penned the theme song for the ABC comedy series Fresh Off the Boat, and he is currently working on a Dr. Seuss–inspired children’s book dedicated to his daughter. Love is beautiful.
Before he was universally known as “Starboy,” The Weeknd was simply Abel Tesfaye, the singer with the killer falsetto who frequently collaborated with fellow Canadian Drake. Since his sexually charged performance, Tesfaye has surged to the upper echelons of celebritydom, thanks to commercially successful pop albums The Beauty Behind the Madness (2015) and Starboy (2016). Oakland rapper G-Eazy has followed a similar career trajectory: His chart-topping collaboration with singer Bebe Rexha, “Me, Myself & I,” allowed him to co-headline a tour with Logic and release his sophomore effort, The Beautiful & Damned, in 2017. G-Eazy also worked with girlfriend and fellow Life is Beautiful alum Halsey on “Him & I,” which leaped to the tops of national and international charts and stayed there for months.
Smaller names on the lineup have also achieved considerable success. Kacey Musgraves, the scrappy country singer from Texas, has become the genre’s darling after the success of her 2015 album, Pageant Material. Vegas-bred rapper Dizzy Wright continues to push on, releasing an EP and album after his label, Funk Volume, disbanded in 2016. The festival was a high-noon moment for these two rising stars.
Life is Beautiful welcomed a legend—Stevie Wonder—as the festival headliner for its third year. This gave artists, emerging and seasoned alike, a reason to be on their A-game. This was especially true for several (then) up-and-comers. Forget fire and brimstone; it was all good vibes when tropical house giant Kygo delivered a set full of “Firestone” and “Sexual Healing” at the Ambassador Stage. The Norwegian DJ and producer is currently riding high as an international star since the release of his sophomore album, Kids in Love, and Billboard chart-topping collaborations with Selena Gomez, Ellie Goulding and others. Also on the Billboard charts: 2014 breakthroughs AWOLNATION and Halsey. The two present refreshing takes on alt-rock and synthpop, respectively, with AWOLNATION scoring a hit with “Sail” and Halsey with “New Americana.” Currently, AWOLNATION are touring to support their third studio album, Here Come the Ruins, and Halsey is on the activist route speaking on social issues at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and beyond.
Let it be known: Hip-hop duo Run the Jewels are not breaking up. In March, Killer Mike voiced his pro-gun-owning stance in an NRA interview, which soured the stomachs of many fans. Fellow member El-P issued a statement shortly after that he disagrees, but sees beyond the politics for a friendship. We’re glad! After all, this was the group that delivered on their promise to metaphorically “burn the stage down” with a set that included the bumpin’ “Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck” and “Love Again (Akinyele Back),” which included a cameo by Three 6 Mafia member Gangsta Boo.
One of the biggest breakouts from 2015 was SZA, who went from opening the festival to selling out shows across the country thanks to the success of her critically acclaimed R&B/neo soul spectacular, Ctrl.
Kamasi Washington’s performance was just a small step on the saxophonist and bandleader’s ascent to fame as he supported his 2015 triple LP, The Epic. On that same note, local funk hip-hop jazz band The Lique released their debut album, Democracy Manifest, in 2016, and have since embarked on national tours post performance at the festival.
Since giving fans a potent dose of their blues-tinged rock ’n’ roll, Highly Suspect have toured with Deftones, Chevelle, Catfish and the Bottlemen and others, and released a follow-up to their 2015 smash, Mister Asylum. Indie quintet Warpaint supported Depeche Mode following the festival in 2016, fusing the new wave legends’ old songs with “New Song.” Both are planning to hit the festival circuit in 2018, along with festival alums The Heavy and LANY.
On the bass-heavy side, Kaytranada, Mr. Carmack and Mija gave the speakers and subs a workout on the Troubadour stage in 2016. They’ve all taken their rambunctiousness on the road—nationally and internationally. British indie-pop singer Bishop Briggs took fans to the “River” on the Huntridge Stage, and she’s since relocated to Los Angeles to focus on music full-time. Local R&B songbird Brittany Rose has taken her talents from opening the festival to headlining gigs at Bunkhouse, Brooklyn Bowl and beyond.
There may be no bigger success story in 2017 than Kali Uchis’. The 24-year-old Colombian American singer surged to fame after a landmark feature on Tyler, the Creator’s 2017 single “See You Again.” Uchis did the song during her performance at the Huntridge Stage in 2017, alongside “Loner,” a cover of Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente” and more. Similarly, Long Beach rapper Vince Staples is celebrating successes of his own. His 2017 effort, Big Fish Theory, seamlessly fused his machine-gun raps with bass-heavy EDM. Meanwhile, TOKIMONSTA brought plenty of bass to the Fremont Stage. The producer, born Jennifer Lee, served up an eclectic mix of hip-hop, trap and house, and her boomin’ set was one of many as she continues trekking across the globe.
Emerging electronic musician Goldroom is continuing his steady ascent to fame by touring to support his 2016 debut album, West of the West. Supergroup Dreamcar toured for a bit following their performance, but their next project is on hold as Davey Havok focuses on AFI, and members of No Doubt lie low. Hopefully we get a reunion in the near future. SG Lewis continues to bless fans worldwide with his moody, atmospheric take on electronic, and Norwegian synthpop singer Sigrid crossed over into the mainstream with her poppy single “Don’t Kill My Vibe.” Las Vegas locals Cameron Calloway and The American Weather both continue touring to support their music. The latter’s debut album, When It Gets Worse, is a collection of heavy, grungy cuts, and we think some of the bigger names informed their tastes.
Who were your favorites, and where are they now? Share on social and tag @lifeisbeautiful