This weekend I attended my first festival ever: Life is Beautiful Music & Arts Festival in downtown Las Vegas with a strategy, which was basically to follow the largest crowd of people I could make out, blend in with them as if I knew exactly where we were all going. Under typical conditions, it may be a bad idea to follow others like a herd of sheep, but this flock of beautiful humans was set to arrive at one of the biggest festivals of the summer.
After I successfully managed to make my way into my very first festival, I got to experience what it’s like to be pushed out the way by a trio of girls too excited to say “excuse me” as they ran into an abysmal sea of drunken fellows, disappearing without a trace. The hard, thumping sound of music blaring from somewhere mixed with the smell of marijuana and festival cuisine filled the air.
The Las Vegas heat was relentless as hundreds of Life is Beautiful attendees and I embraced the sun’s beaming rays. I took the time to visually soak in my surroundings, taking in all the different kinds of people who reserved this moment as the opportunity to be completely themselves. Girls with glorious, colorful outfits made just for the festival with their extravagant, glowy makeup to match giggled on the grass as they posed for the perfect Instagram pic. As soon as I noticed this, I immediately felt comfortable. All the insecurities I had about how I looked immediately flew away — we were all there for one reason: music.
Since it was my first day, it took me a while to make it to the main stage. I was hoping to catch French Montana perform, but after being directed by the Life is Beautiful staff to every stage but the main stage, the familiar sound of “Unforgettable,” drew me in like a snake charmer. Finally, I made my way to where I intended to be the rest of the evening and I really didn’t realize so many people were into French until I saw the massive crowd cheering and happily singing along to his multi-platinum hit featuring Swae Lee. (Which was also our song of the summer last year, so clearly the song has legs.) Since I caught his performance at the tail end, I watched him close out his set with a new song “No Stylist,” that features Drake, and the crowd absolutely ate it up.
Following French’s performance were sets by Chvrches and Justice — who, forgive me, I had no clue about until this day and fell in love with immediately. Then, the Weeknd closed out day one with a great performance. This was the first time I had ever seen The Weeknd perform, and the sets by Chvrches and Justice served as a perfect segue into Able’s electronic-inspired Starboy vibe. I never realized how much of his music I knew until he was done with the nearly hour-long set. I became a fan all over again, especially as he sang songs off his new EP My Dear Melancholy, which I often play when I need some chill tunes. Though songs like “Wasted Times” and “Hurt You” are slower, The Weeknd made those songs larger than life on stage.
The next day I chose to go with the flow again, feeling more confident about navigating the festival. Seeing Blood Orange and Travis Scott were the most important things for me to do this day, which meant waiting around in between sets ahead of their set performance times. But when I did get to see Blood Orange — also known as producer/songwriter Dev Hynes — and heard the beautiful sounds coming from the stage, the heat and bustle of Vegas was worth it. Blood Orange, of course, is not the typical loud, rambunctious act that might be expected to make a splash on a festival bill such as this. His music is slow, magnetic, and intoxicating; I hardly moved as I listened to Dev and his band performs cuts like “Saint” and “Chamakay.”
With some time before Travis Scott’s set, I chose to explore the festival grounds a bit by trying some of the foods offered on site. I inhaled a creamy Oreo dessert, garlic fries, a Caesar salad, and a cocktail without blinking an eye. As midnight approached, I decided to make my way back to the main stage. At this point, I knew how to get to the main stage without a map and after gathering some chutzpah, I asserted my position among the rest of the crowd waiting for Travis Scott to hit the stage, the moment I had waited for all weekend.
All day I had been singing the lyrics, “Spent 10 hours on this flight, man,” and was totally ready to sing along to “Bystanders” live with Travis like it’s supposed to be sung — which is exactly what I did. Since I’m from Texas, the most exhilarating part of his performance for me was “Carousel.” Hearing the sample from Dallas rapper Big Tuck’s “Not A Stain On Me” as Travis performed a slight Houston “Southside” dip as the beat dropped confirmed the song’s legitimacy; Travis really has a song where Grammy Award-winning singer Frank Ocean croons over a local (and very legendary) Dallas rapper’s beat. His performance was full of energy and electrifying — no visual or live stream from home compares to experiencing it in real life. Astroworld was certainly made for his hometown of Houston, which is why I loved that he brought his talented Houston artist Don Toliver out to perform my favorite song off the album, “Can’t Say.”
He also took the time to pay homage to the late Mac Miller with freestyle. “It’s the superstar boy, Malcolm that’s my boy / Mac Miller I love you, always be my boy,” he rapped. “From that 412, yeah / From that 41210, yeah / It’s that superstar boy, superstar boy / Mac Miller, you the one, we love you, f*cking boy / That’s my muthaf*ckin’ n—-a / Mac muthaf*ckin’ Miller.” Then, before I was ready, Travis’ nearly hour-long set had come to a close.
Never in my life had I felt so connected to so many people I didn’t even know, singing along to songs we all knew and loved, bonding over them without saying a word, using our energy and eyes only. Understanding that all of us were here for the moment and we’re going to enjoy it. It’s what made Life is Beautiful a beautiful experience: Connecting with different people who all have one desire and that’s to become captivated by the sounds and energy of our favorite bands and artists. By the end of the event, I no longer felt like a festival rookie, and next summer, I’ll be ready to face the always renewing wave of festivals with confidence.