Updated March 2, 2021 - 6:09 pm
Think of it as a musical Rubik’s Cube.
Justin Weniger chuckles when he reflects upon how many different proposed versions of the Life is Beautiful music and arts festival roster there have been over the past 12 months, an ever-shifting puzzle amid the uncertainty shrouding the live music industry during the pandemic.
“The iterations of the lineup, it feels like we’ve done 30 of them at this point,” the CEO of the three-day event notes. “It’s been wild.”
That lineup is officially set — it will be released next week.
In the meantime, after taking 2020 off, the festival is finally ready to put early bird tickets on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday for this year’s fest, scheduled for Sept. 17-19.
Though music gatherings across the country have had to keep rescheduling because of the pandemic, Life is Beautiful will be one of the first festivals to reveal a new, previously unannounced lineup. It aims to be among the early big-tent events back in action late this summer.
“We think that being one of the first festivals to announce again is a sign of hope, a sign of optimism,” Weniger says. “It gives people now in this final homestretch something to look forward to, gives them a reason to start booking travel again or even just talking to friends about how exciting it would be to go to Vegas for a weekend.”
Of course, the festivalgoing experience most likely will be altered in the wake of COVID-19.
“Will the event look different?” Weniger wonders of Life is Beautiful 2021. “Almost certainly there will be new protocols, as the world has shifted around us, that we’ll implement to ensure the health and safety of the guest, but I don’t think anybody knows specifically what those are just yet.
“I think high-level health and safety is always and forever priority No. 1,” he continues. “This year is no different in that sense; it’s just that things are moving and changing a lot faster — and there’s a lot of other factors.”
Still, Weniger says that the size and feel of the fest — which drew over 180,000 fans in 2019, taking place on multiple stages spread out over 18 city blocks downtown — should be in line with what attendees have encountered previously.
“I would say it’ll be similar to what we’ve come to expect in the past,” he shares, “with an extra year and a lot of extra time spent on how we can make it a better experience.”
In England, where social distancing measures are set to end in June, there seems to be a groundswell of interest in the returning music festival circuit. British daily newspaper The Guardian reports that big U.K. fests like Field Day and Reading & Leeds have been selling out at historic rates marked by a 600 percent rise in Ticketmaster traffic.
This suggests that there could be pent-up demand to benefit events such as Life is Beautiful in the U.S.
It’s about time
Last spring, Life is Beautiful was getting ready to announce its 2020 lineup, which had been booked and was ready to go, before it became one of the first major fests to cancel.
Since then, organizers had to learn to become especially flexible as they assemble the 2021 edition, with the music industry still gradually awakening from the pandemic.
“We’ve adopted internally this mindset of ‘make a plan, break a plan, make a new plan,’ ” Weniger says. “We really just kind of buckled down, just tracking everything we could, coming up with new ideas, new solutions, new strategies for the business.
In the past decade, Las Vegas has increasingly become a destination market for festivals, with Life is Beautiful, Electric Daisy Carnival, Psycho Las Vegas and Las Rageous among the big annual events joining longer-running stalwarts such as Punk Rock Bowling and the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender.
A city so predicated on live entertainment has been hit especially hard by the absence of concerts.
Now Weniger wants Life is Beautiful to provide some of that life to the Vegas music market.
“We understand how important it is that we have live events as a major driver of our economy,” Weniger says. “We hope that we can send a signal to the world that we, as a destination, are back and open for business.”