“Y’all took my Raiders from me,” joked Billie Joe Armstrong, whose Bay Area-based band, Green Day, took center stage in downtown Las Vegas. The group’s energetic set mixed material across its dozen albums capped off Saturday night on the Life Is Beautiful festival grounds. But while Green Day was one of two performances that received headline billing – EDM producer ILLENIUM being the other – it was just one of the highlights from the peak day of the weeklong event.
The benefit of Life Is Beautiful taking place in Last Vegas is an audience filled with those who travel to the city each year for the event. Talking to other groups around us revealed that they’d flown in from Wisconsin, North Carolina and as far as easter Canada, many of which tried to make it each year to the 8-year-old festival. The downside to its location is that September days are still in the high 90s and the mostly shade less stage areas can get punishingly hot. So sunset brings the largest wave to attendees to the entrance lines, and the evening performances begin to swell and take a far more festive energy.
In an era of events where petitions are circulating the festival community trying to encourage organizers to book more female and underrepresented performers, Life Is Beautiful’s lineup reflects a curated roster that makes diversity of styles and performers’ and visual artists’ backgrounds as a pillar. This year a gay pride parade lead by the festival’s House of Yes Bar circulated the grounds, essentially acting as a mobile party snaking its way through performance areas.
Smoky skies brought a colorful lingering sunset. Summery pop band Surfaces played the Downtown Stage with the digital imagery of a tropical vacation. The Kicker Comedy Stage featured a cast of drag queens mostly known from RuPaul’s Drag Race, which included Bob The Drag Queen and Monet X Change. Electronic DJ trio Cash Cash filled not only the area inside the Fremont Stage tent, but also the entirety of the street in front of it and every available space within view of the tent like a stage area.
But Saturday night belonged to the headliners, with Green Day playing a 90-minute set that saw everything from pyrotechnics to pulling a fan onstage to play guitar along to the band’s cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge.” A highlight may have been seemingly everyone packed tightly onto the entire city block singing along to “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”
ILLENIUM played at the same time on the festival’s Bacardi Stage, with light show and flames shooting into the night sky sporadically adding to the frenzy of dubstep and electronic beats. Rapper JID took the headlining spot on the Fremont Stage. Following the final songs on the outdoor stages, the night culminated in fireworks torching the Vegas sky before the fest’s nightly ritual of spilling everyone out and onto the heart of Fremont Street.