Beautiful Memories: 2013 to 2017

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From the first stage setup to the striking of the last chord during the Gorillaz’s set four years later, Life is Beautiful has redefined the festival experience. Bringing together inspired creators year after year, it’s been a glorious ride. In honor of celebrating all things beautiful, here’s a look back at some favorite moments.

2013: Opening of the Festival Gates

Photo by Erik Kabik

This was the year that the dream became reality. Life is Beautiful’s inaugural lineup mixed some of the world’s biggest acts, such as Kings of Leon and The Killers, with (then) emerging acts like Childish Gambino and Haim. Celebrity chefs—think Hubert Keller and Chopped’s Scott Conant—were also tossed into the mix. A section of Downtown Las Vegas was blocked off for an entire weekend. Life is Beautiful’s inaugural festival was a manifestation of an unhinged idea to bring thousands of people together to celebrate life and to be immersed in inspiration. This idea quickly became a shared ethos and set the stage for years to come.

2014: Jenny Lewis’ Homecoming Performance

Photo by FilmMagic

Jenny Lewis’ set in 2014 was rife with hometown love. The former Rilo Kiley frontwoman moved to Los Angeles early in her career and has returned to Las Vegas several times since, but had yet to perform at a hometown festival. After an abbreviated set that included Rilo Kiley songs such as “Silver Lining” and “Moneymaker,” Lewis brought out her sister, Leslie, for an acoustic duet of the folky tune “Acid Tongue.” “We’re both Vegas girls,” Lewis said, “and I think it would be fitting to end our time together with this song.” 

2015: The Surprise Banksy Piece

Many scratched their heads at the sight of a nondescript white delivery truck parked in the middle of the festival grounds, adjacent to the Art Motel. After all, this was a full-fledged festival, with all the moving parts hidden behind the scenes. What could this possibly be? That question was answered around 7 p.m., when festival staff raised the shutters on the truck. Enter Banksy’s “Mobile Garden,” a lush landscape complete with trees and a mini waterfall. The oddity’s lack of context attracted even more viewers, and spurred conversation throughout the footprint and beyond. And here we were thinking that a neighbor was moving!

2015: Brandon Flowers Brings Out The Killers

When The Killers’ frontman blamed an extensive pause during the middle of his solo set on a malfunctioning keyboard, we knew something special was in store. “We may be having some technical issues. It’s OK; these things happen. Can I get another keyboard?” Flowers said. With that, festival crews rolled out a keyboard marked by a neon K, and it solidified what was to follow. The quartet gave their audience a compact set that included hits such as “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me.” It was a magnificent ending to cap off a set by Las Vegas’ modern master showman.

2016: J. Cole’s Festivalwide Group Hug

The North Carolina rapper used his headlining spot on day two of 2016’s festival to essentially command a group therapy session (with his songs peppered in, of course). “I try to put my life into songs,” Cole said, “so that you can feel like you know me, and I hope y’all can relate to it all.” Through roughly 90 minutes, he paraded through chart-topping hits “Work Out,” the fan favorite “Nobody’s Perfect” and the storytelling prowess of “Wet Dreamz.” When he wasn’t performing, he delivered musings from a stool in the middle of the stage on uncertainty and insecurity. It culminated in a giant group hug. “The love of music, the love of people, the love of each other—that’s what brought us out here tonight. … So this is what I need y’all to do for me because I visualized it and I need to see it. I need you to put your arm over the shoulder of the person directly next to you—I don’t care if you know him or not; best friend or complete stranger,” he said. “Now get a shot of this, cameraman. Look at what I see. I look around this whole place: I see black, I see white … I see Muslim, I see Christian. … This is the type of shit they don’t show on TV, but this is what we need in these times.” It was a powerful display of love that overflowed into day three and beyond.

2017: Gorillaz’s Star-Studded Extravaganza

Photo by Anthony Nguyen

Let it be known: By joining a “virtual band,” you can do whatever you want—especially when you’re a Britpop icon with friends in high places. Gorillaz, spearheaded by ex–Blur frontman Damon Albarn, proved that as they closed out Life is Beautiful 2017. At times, it felt more like a celebration than a proper set. Albarn and close to a dozen backing musicians brought out many of the contributors on their latest effort, Humanz, to perform the songs in which they’re featured. Rappers Pusha T and Vince Staples delivered their staccato raps over “Let Me Out” and “Ascension,” respectively, and hip-hop trio De La Soul took the crowd through its entertaining punch lines on “Feel Good Inc.” Each was a welcome shift from the band’s moody alt-rock, and reminded festivalgoers that there’s room for everyone—even cartoon characters.

Photos by Jeff Kravitz

We can’t be everywhere at once, so we may have missed a few things. What was your favorite moment? Tag @lifeisbeautiful.