Beyond the music: A glimpse at Life Is Beautiful’s 2019 culinary, art and comedy programs

Photo: Yasmina Chavez

Eating Right: LIB's culinary program continues to push festival boundaries


Chef Justin Kingsley Hall (Yasmina Chavez/Staff)

The culinary program at Life Is Beautiful has always been one of the festival’s tent poles, and its seventh year should be no exception. The focus this year is on local talent, with the city’s best chefs creating gastronomic experiences that are unique to the event, says Lee Flint, LIB’s director of food and beverage.

New this year is the Omakase Cantina, curated by Secret Burger, which pairs two chefs for exclusive dinners each night. Seatings are limited to 12 guests, giving them a more intimate feel. (Tickets have to be purchased in advance at secretburger.com.) Also new is the Farm Stand, a vegan experience curated by Diana Edelman of Vegans, Baby, in which chefs collaborate with local farms to create plant-based offerings.

Two popular experiences from last year are coming back: the Cookout, an open-fire concept led by chef Justin Kingsley Hall, and Cocktail School, spearheaded by Starboard Tack’s Bryant Jane and Lyle Cervenka.

Festivalgoers also won’t be lacking for sustenance as they catch their favorite bands. A culinary village is attached to each of the three main stages, according to Flint. “There are bars, restaurants and food trucks in those areas. It’s not necessarily concession-oriented vendors as much as restaurants from in and around Las Vegas that are being represented,” he says.

And for those who don’t want to miss anything on the stages, LIB has partnered with Postmates this year for a unique delivery program. You can order your food on the app from participating vendors, and when it’s ready, you just pick it up at a designated area.

With more than 50 vendors in the lineup, LIB’s culinary program should offer something for everyone. “There’s a lot of opportunity to have a great experience,” Flint says. “You’ll see restaurants you know and love, and then maybe discover some new ones.” –Genevie Durano

Follow your eyes: LIB’s 2019 art program brings murals, interactive installations and a “forest bath”


A work-in-progress mural by artist Kate Lynn Lewis adorns the Art Motel. (Wade Vandervort/Staff)

Every year, the multiple producers of Life Is Beautiful’s art program consider the outlines of what’s been done in previous festivals, and then they boldly paint over them. In some cases, they do so literally: Once again, the Justkids collective is curating a massive street art program that includes talents both local (Jerry Misko, Snipt, Eric Vozzola) and international(AKACORLEONE, Daku, Mina Hamada, Mantra, Ernest Zacharevic and Zosen), and Downtown only has so much paint-ready real estate. “I wish we had more walls,” says LIB’s festival operations manager Samantha Rayburn. (Meaning: If you were attached to D*Face’s “Live Forever” mural on 7th Street, prepare for an ironic surprise.)

But the festival’s arty offerings go far beyond painted walls. This year, attendees will encounter interactive art installations by Danny Cole and HOTTEA (“I’m really excited about the HOTTEA installation; it’s super fun,” Rayburn says); the “Monumental Mammoth” that locals Tahoe Mack, Luis Varelo-Rico and Dana Albany created for Burning Man; and “Helianthus Enorme,” a giant glowing flower created by Chad ‘Fez’ Gaetz of the Alchemy Arts Collective.

Speaking of flora and fauna: The Western Hotel space is being transformed into an indoor woodland by the Sierra Club, working with curator Albie Alexander and artist Sam Cannon. “Forest Bath” promises a urban respite in the form of “relaxing surface projections, calming FX lighting and gorgeous sculpture” evocative of wild nature. Across the footprint, Bacardi is remaking the Art Motel into several themed spaces, among them a “Disco Room;” a Caribbean room “powered by the beat of steel drums;” a room where you’ll be strongly encouraged to switch to paper straws; and naturally, a “Rum Room” speakeasy. And if you liked last years’ thrumming sound and light show happening in the alley behind 7th Street, you’ll be happy to know that Select CBD’s Select Better Walkway is back this year, ready to help to trip the light fantastic one more time. –Geoff Carter

Off the beaten path


Jonathan Van Ness (AP)

Jonathan Van Ness (Friday, 2:55 p.m., Fremont Stage) He’s the grooming expert on Queer Eye and likely your favorite of the Fab 5—the one that fills your television screen with love, support and cheer and an occasional “Yass honey.” Jonathan Van Ness pairs heels and tunics effortlessly, can go on and on about beard oil, never stops stressing the importance of sunscreen and knows exactly when and where to give things a lil’ zhuzh. He’s is the spirit guide we all need, and if you follow his Twitter, you know he’s also tuned into current events and politics. Don’t miss the television personality, podcaster and comedian when he touches down in Vegas—and imparts some wisdom on how to make life more beautiful. –Leslie Ventura

Pod Save America (Sunday, 3:05 p.m., Fremont Stage) The state of the union is in rapid flux these days. Where would we be if not for the commentary of some of the sharpest minds around, who can take a deep dive into the political waters where mainstream media only care to tread? Pod Save America, a twice-weekly podcast hosted by former Barack Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett and Dan Pfeiffer, breaks down the headlines and gives listeners an unvarnished look into the innards of Washington, but in a totally accessible, sometimes funny, only semi-wonky way. They might not save America, but these fellas at least get the conversation going. –Genevie Durano

Nikki Glaser (Sunday, 3:20 & 8:35 p.m., Kicker Comedy) She’s a leggy blonde with a dirty mouth and a self-deprecating sense of humor: “The other day I got jealous of a dog’s thigh gap. … How does she do it? I have to switch to kibble,” comic Nikki Glaser jokes. Her topics include sex (“I’m like obsessed with talking about sex”), birth control (“I take the pill when I remember”) and being the first contestant eliminated from Dancing With the Stars (“I can’t believe I’m going to have something in common with Sean Spicer”). Her credits include radio (You Up? With Nikki Glaser on Sirius XM), television and more. –C. Moon Reed

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL September 20-22, 2 p.m.-1 a.m., $315-$665/fest, $145-$315/day. Downtown Las Vegas, lifeisbeautiful.com.

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