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Life is Beautiful marks a decade in downtown Las Vegas this weekend

Life is Beautiful

They say it takes a few years for a music festival to find its way. And that’s what happened with Life is Beautiful in downtown Las Vegas. Despite early speed bumps, the three-day event persevered and is now a steady presence on the national music festival calendar.

Some of the biggest names in pop music have played at the festival, a few of them very early on in their careers. And none of those big names are more important to Las Vegas than The Killers, who were Life is Beautiful’s first headliners, and will serve the same role this Friday during the event’s 10th anniversary edition.

The man charged with bringing in those big names and more is Craig Nyman, who has booked the festival since year one. And he has seen a lot of change — both with the festival, and its famous host site.

"A lot of people candidly had no idea what downtown Las Vegas was like in [2013]," he said. "Now, not only do people know what downtown Vegas is, but you look at the thriving businesses and residences and what there is in downtown, and people look forward to coming to an area of town that's not, say, the Strip. ... Throughout the year, people can come downtown and take their friends be like, oh, this is where the [festival] stages are built, and check out these murals. For me, the biggest change would just be the familiarity of an area ... and I'm just thankful to see the growth of an area and to be a part of an event that continues to come back every fall."

Life is Beautiful did not start off as a sell-out event; it was operating at a loss in those first three years. But the festival persevered, largely due to the commitment of its first owner.

"It definitely took us a few years to find our sea legs and to get going, and, you know, I give credit to Tony Hsieh," said Nyman. "That is an incredible individual who believed in us and what we were doing and what we're doing with downtown. ... And by having someone who was so committed to downtown and us, it gave us the breathing room to turn it around, and slowly but surely that ship started going in the right direction."

Nyman easily rattled off performers and offerings that he feels make this year's 10th anniversary edition particularly unique, from The Killers' second headlining set, the handful of Strip shows with scheduled performers and the emerging acts that fill the lower portion of the lineup. But he's especially excited to welcome back the participation of Meow Wolf, the New Mexico-based art collective behind Area15's Omega Mart. It will take over the former Western Hotel on East Fremont for a large-scale installation.

"[It's] something our fans have asked for." said Nyman. "It's the equivalent of a headliner; what they do in the art space is incredible. ... You look at this collection of stuff that — and I say stuff because I don't know another word to describe it. But moments like [the ones it provides are] what makes [this year's edition] special."

Tickets are still available here.

Guest: Craig Nyman, director of music, programming and development, Life is Beautiful

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.