Almost two weeks I got the email saying "Life is Beautiful" had been canceled. I was crushed.
What stands out the most about Life is Beautiful, or LIB, is that it’s right here in the Silver State. Whether you are a fan of hip hop (Drake), electronic (The Chainsmokers), country (Luke Bryan) or rock (The Killers), LIB brings them all together and the one thing it all has in common is the way it makes you feel.
Music has a way of bringing people together no matter your race, gender, age or any other demographic. It can make you fall in love, help ease the pain and sometimes give you the genuine happiness you can feel in your core. Some believe music is the only thing keeping them sane during a time like this.
For me, music not only does all of the above but helps make my worlds collide. I grew up in Georgia, went to college in Texas, and now live in Reno. I've met some of the best people along the way, and although we are all on different career paths in different parts of the country, we make sure at least one weekend a year is dedicated to friendship, one four-day trip where we can listen to music, soak up the sunshine and live our best lives with those who mean the most to us.
Taylor Wehunt, the one on the right in the photo above, is my childhood best friend of 15-plus years. She's the Christina Yang to my Meredith Grey. She's the person I would call if I needed to bury a dead body someday (although that is not something I plan on having to do). On the right is Lauren Dannelley, the famous one from my previous travel blog posts. She is my best friend from college. She's also known as LD, Homeslice and is my most adventurous friend.
In summer 2019, we were brainstorming different trip ideas we could take in the fall. We ended up choosing the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas. It was one of the best decisions we've made.
Located on the end of Fremont Street, Life is Beautiful is 18 city blocks long and extends from 7th to 11th streets and from Mesquite to Carson avenues. It's a three-day festival with great food, art, laughs and some of the biggest names in music like five-time Grammy winner Billie Eilish as well as Post Malone, Rufus Du Sol, Chance the Rapper and more.
I drove to Vegas with my roommates while Taylor and LD flew in from Atlanta and Los Angeles. We arrived on a Thursday night, ate at a local restaurant and tried our best to contain our excitement of being reunited. Friday morning came and our group got ready to head downtown for the weekend of our lives, but it wasn't without some issues.
Taylor tripped and wiped out in front of everyone the second we got into the grounds. I lost my license after five minutes at the festival. I'm not exaggerating on either. Both happened in the first five minutes of us dancing around to Ookay (see below). But we didn't let it stop us from enjoying each other's company and great music.
As a creator, I know better than to film vertical so I apologize. Also, Taylor had no idea who the other people in this video are, but something about good music brings strangers together, amiright? Sure, you can experience your favorite group at their concert, so what makes this festival stand out over the rest? The art. The Kicker Comedy Club. The people. The food. You come for the headliners, but you find yourself sticking around for the extra amenities. I didn't have an ID after day one, so my amenities were limited. But that didn't take away from the rest.
My favorite part of the festival, and what makes this festival stand out over the rest, is there is something on every corner, light post, building and sidewalk for you to look at and admire. To be honest, we didn't realize how cool the art was until day three. Obviously, we recognized different things as we walked into the grounds, but we didn't catch the attention to detail until Sunday. To be fair, a lot of times festivals throw "music and art" in their name and have one or two art sculptures here and there. My biggest regret of the weekend was not showing up early Friday to adventure through Fremont Street to see everything it had to offer. If you're like me and my friends who just check out the set times of our favorite artist, don't be like us. Go to the festival early. See what makes LIB unique and different from the rest because it's worth it.
Right when you think it can't get any better, the sunsets over the buildings and everything you admired in the daytime comes to life. Walkways are turned into a light show, hanging strings light up like the rainbow and electric dandelions light up the sky. You can walk past an area four times and see something new each time. The attention to detail is incredible. If you follow the electric dandelions around the corner, you'll find a hidden stage. It's not really hidden, I just say that because we had no idea it existed until Sunday. It was the stage for up-and-coming artists, which was one of my favorite parts. It's cool catching an artist at their early stages and watching them grow over the years. Catch me at the hidden stage in 2021 supporting all of the local rising artists to make up for 2019.
The Kicker Comedy + More club
Tired of walking around and listening to music? Probably not. But in case you are, LIB offers an air-conditioned, drink-selling, comedy club with stand-up comedians and motivational speakers throughout the day. One of my favorite people on the planet, Kaitlyn Bristowe performed here Saturday. I was in heaven. Yes, she is a former Bachelorette. Yes, I love bad reality TV shows, so I was a major fan girl in the third row screaming at the top of my lungs for her and her boyfriend Jason, also from the Bachelor series.
I have to use a photo from her Instagram because like I said, I was fan-girling really hard and realized I didn't take any pictures of her on stage myself. In a world that everyone is addicted to their phones and feel the need to record everything, I guess when you are somewhere and forget to record a single thing, you know you had the best time.
For all of you Queer Eye lovers out there like myself, Jonathan Van Ness was there as well. He did his stand-up tumbling routine he is known for, and I loved every moment. Other cool people who performed in the club were comedian and former Saturday Night Live cast member Fred Armisen, SNL current cast member Chris Redd, Comedy Central's host of "You Up" Nikki Glaser and many more. This is an added element to the festival that made you realize the amount of time and effort put into making sure there was something for everyone.
I'm drooling looking at these pictures of the Marine Lobster food truck. They had food throughout the festival grounds, but in one section there were a half-dozen food trucks lined up, one for every food group: seafood, tacos, American burgers and hot dogs, Asian cuisine and more. Other parts of the festival carried vegan options, desert and anything else you could imagine.
THIS LOBSTER TRUCK, THOUGH. I wish I had a picture of the lobster sandwich and lobster fries we had every day. The second they got in our hands, we demolished it. Lauren and I would sneak away from the group just to run to the lobster truck for a quick bite. It was expensive but worth it. I might have spent more money on this food truck than I did on my three-day festival wristband. The guy knew our names by the end of the weekend, and I was really looking forward to seeing him this year. Really sad. Hopefully Food Truck Friday will reopen in Reno soon and they will be there because, not to be dramatic, but I can't go another year without them.
I could talk about Life is Beautiful's 2019 lineup all day, but I will let pictures and videos do most of the work. There were performances from Zedd, Vampire Weekend, Maggie Rogers, Billie Eilish, Rufus Du Sol, Jauz, Gryffin, Chance the Rapper, Whethan, Oliver Tree, Lost Kings, Arizona, Janelle Monae, Post Malone, Chelsea Cutler and so many more. There were tons of genres and something for everybody.
Life really is beautiful when you take a second, sit back and think about it. We cherish moments like music festivals, sporting events and traveling to new countries with the ones we love. Life is Beautiful might be canceled for 2020, but the memories I had with my best friends in 2019 will hold me over until it returns.
If you live in Nevada and are on the fence about attending a music festival, I challenge you to try Life is Beautiful. They offer three-day passes as well as single-day options. This place is something special. I can't wait to get back there.
Next week, we're grabbing Momma Holland and jumping on three different flights (one plane was questionable) to the beautiful islands of Bora Bora.
Nevada Sports Net creative sports producer Jenna Holland is a former college softball player and avid traveler. She will publish her Holland Holidays feature every Monday on NSN. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @JennaHolland4.