63°F
weather icon Clear

Life is Beautiful has 11 must-see acts for Las Vegas festival

He knew things were about to change upon getting props from a certain Danish metaller and a pair of ceaselessly chipper “Today” show hosts.

Flashback to 2017: Anything-goes alt-rockers Portugal. The Man had just dropped their soon-to-be-ubiquitous single “Feel It Still.”

Already, bassist Zachary Carothers was feeling the love.

“I remember the first two big people who talked about it,” the 37-year-old Carothers recalls. “Both Kathy Lee (Gifford) and Hoda (Kotb) said that it was their song of the summer. And then the day before, Lars Ulrich from Metallica said it was his song of the summer.

“At that point, I was like, ‘Damn, I think we cast the net pretty wide. If we can get some people in the middle, we might do all right.’ ”

All right indeed.

“Feel It Still,” a doo-wop-informed, instantly hummable invocation of the past as a means of improving the present, became a smash hit.

It would reach No. 1 on six airplay charts, sell more than 5 million copies, soundtrack commercials for everything from vitamin water to CGI rabbit flicks and be streamed more than 700 million times on Spotify.

‘Busy little bees’

For an Alaska-born band on its eighth album after having toured in vans for years, the game had changed.

“We knew it was a good song and thought it’d do pretty well on alternative radio” Carothers says. “It did, and then we were at the label, having a meeting in New York, and the pop team came in. It was kind of a ridiculous. They came in and were talking about pushing it over to mainstream (radio). We were just of kind of like, ‘What?’ At the time, I was 36, from Wasilla, Alaska; I’m like, ‘I got no business being in the pop world.’ ”

Yet that’s where he’d find himself, complete with a Grammy for best pop duo/group performance, which Portugal. The Man earned in January.

The band didn’t see any of it coming.

“I gotta say, we were not prepared for that,” Carothers says. “We put out that album out, and we had no idea what ‘Feel It Still’ would do — and it did a lot. We were busy little bees, just constantly playing catch-up. We got pulled in a lot of directions. Now, having a taste of that world, we’re a little bit more prepared.”

A whirlwind two years behind it, the band is working on its next album, with about 30 songs written, according to Carothers.

“We’re going future-punk on this,” he says. “It’s hard to describe, but we’re definitely trying to do something new.”

As a means of helping capture the right vibe for the record, they’ve hit upon a novel way of decorating the studio.

“We made actual mood boards, like giant, 7-foot-tall boards with a bunch of pictures on them,” Carothers says. “It’s all about our childhood, the children growing up now, the world we’re living in and where we want to get to, so it’s a bunch of people with Molotov cocktails in front of riot police and then a bunch of pictures of Mr. Rogers.”

Vegas memories

The notoriously hard-touring band hasn’t been on the road as much this year, though it’s taking a break from the writing process to return to Life is Beautiful.

The group was impressed by how smoothly things went in 2013, the fest’s inaugural year.

“We were very surprised,” Carothers says. “First years of festivals generally don’t go super smooth, and that one was completely rad. Everything on our end was super dialed in. They had it all together. It was awesome, man. Super good vibes.”

Carothers notes that he has an uncanny ability to remember all of Portugal. The Man’s shows, so we put him to the test and ask about the band’s first Vegas gig, at the now-shuttered Jillian’s downtown in 2006.

Not only does he recall that concert in vivid detail (“We had our buddies from a band called Ryu vs. M. Bison come up and rap on stage. We’re still buds with them.”), he shares a memory from the first time he and Portugal. The Man singer-guitarist John Gourley ever played here, with their previous band Anatomy of a Ghost more than a decade and a half ago.

“We were just poorer than poor,” Carothers says. “I remember that I had 20 dollars to my name — savings and everything, I had 20 bucks. We went out and gambled for the first time, and I hit on roulette, got like a few hundred bucks. And so just for one night, we went out and bought everybody we were on tour with dinner and we had drinks and fun and stayed up all night.

“I woke up,” he chuckles, “and I had 20 dollars left.”

10 more not to miss

Portugal. The Man returns to Vegas with slightly fatter pockets this weekend. The group’s set at 11:15 p.m. Friday at the Bacardi Stage is one of the many Life is Beautiful performances you don’t want to miss. Here are 10 more:

Walk the Moon (7:35 p.m. Friday, Downtown Stage): These electro-pop mood enhancers will perform with aerialists and dancers from Cirque du Soleil during their hit “One Foot.” Miss this one and you’ll probably never see it again: It’s a Life is Beautiful exclusive.

Billie Eilish (9:20 p.m. Friday, Downtown Stage): Like Travis Scott in 2018, the 17-year-old “Bad Guy” with an anesthetizing voice that could be bottled and sold as a muscle relaxer is Life is Beautiful’s hottest booking.

The Regrettes (3 p.m. Saturday, Toyota Music Den; 5:15 p.m. Saturday Huntridge Stage): They’ve got regrettes, and you’ll be able to relate if you miss this pulse-acclerating, riot grrl-informed, coed power pop quartet not once but twice this weekend.

Janelle Monae (10:15 Saturday, Bacardi Stage): “Django Jane” rides into Life is Beautiful again as the Prince acolyte continues to push the bounds of modern R&B just like her late, great mentor.

The Black Keys (11:10 p.m Saturday, Downtown Stage): “Let’s Rock,” these garage-y Ohioans declare on their new album of the same name. Sounds like a plan, dudes.

Hot Chip (7:50 p.m. Sunday, Bacardi Stage) Come Sunday, when your feet are feeling a little tired and those dogs are not just barking, but howling at the moon, these blissed-out Brit synth popsters will provide some pep for that step.

Rae Sremmurd (7:50 p.m. Sunday, Downtown Stage): The “Black Beatles” descend upon downtown with trap beats that rumble like a couple of tectonic plates slapping bellies.

Carly Rae Jepsen (9:10 p.m. Sunday, Bacardi Stage): Forget “Call Me Maybe” — if you can, a lobotomy may be required — for Jespen’s inescapable 2012 earworm isn’t all that indicative of the adventurous, tirelessly charismatic pop that’s characterized her songbook ever since.

Vampire Weekend (9:25 Sunday, Downtown Stage): It’s starting to feel 2013 up in here, as these Afro-beat influenced alt-rockers join Monae, Portugal. The Man and Zedd as first-year LiB performers returning to the fest. They’re doing so on the heels of their latest album, “Father of the Bride,” one of the year’s best.

Sheck Wes (10:30 Sunday, Fremont Stage): Get 10-pound-bar-of-Lava-soap gritty with this ascendant 21-year-old MC whose debut album, “Mudboy,” is as artfully grimy as its title implies.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Life is Beautiful in downtown Las Vegas, Sept. 20-22 (Life is Beautiful)
Life is Beautiful in downtown Las Vegas, Sept. 20-22 (Life is Beautiful)

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Green Eggs and Ham at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas
Scott Simon, executive chef at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas, makes a Green Eggs and Ham Flatbread with pistou, smoked mozzarella, tasso ham and eggs. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Lemon Semifreddo Dessert at Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas
Ashley Costa, pastry chef at Vetri Cucina at the Palms in Las Vegas, freezes lemon curd with whipped cream, sandwiches it between polenta-based crumiri cookies, sprinkles it with powdered sugar and drizzles it with argrumato, a lemon olive oil. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Museum of Selfies coming to Las Vegas - VIDEO
The interactive attraction offers several new selfie opportunities. (Museum of Selfies)
Show of Strength in 'A Choreographers Showcase' - VIDEO
"A Choreographers Showcase" pairs artists from Nevada Ballet Theater and staff from all facets of Cirque du Soleil to design an annual show. (Elizabeth Page Brumleyy/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
David Chang talks about what to expect at his new restaurant, Majordomo Meat & Fish - VIDEO
David Chang tells fans what to expect at his new restaurant, Majordomo Meat & Fish, at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pink Lady and Rosey Mary cocktails at Therapy in Las Vegas
Terence Beach, bartender at Therapy restaurant in Las Vegas, makes original pink cocktails to benefit breast cancer research. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Torrijas dessert served at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Las Vegas
Chef Christian Lee of Sugarcane at The Venetian in Las Vegas makes a dessert of torrijas, a Latin French toast, serving it with a caramelized-apple sauce and cinnamon ice cream. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
David Chang to sell Tasty Patties at Palazzo in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Chef David Chang has announced a casual concept that will accompany his new Majordomo Meat & Fish at Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Latkes, tzimmes at Market Place Buffet in Las Vegas for Rosh Hashanah
Ryan Swanson, Market Place Buffet room chef at the JW Marriott/Rampart Casino in Las Vegas, makes potato dishes as part of the resort’s Rosh Hashanah buffet. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
How Elphaba In "Wicked" turns green - VIDEO
Mariand Torres gets "painted" by makeup supervisor Joyce McGilberry for her role as Elphaba in "Wicked" at The Smith Center. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Hangover is served at The Crack Shack in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Khine Moore, executive chef at The Crack Shack at Park MGM in Las Vegas, makes The Hangover with a fried chicken breast or thigh dipped in honey-butter, sprinkled with Crack Seasoning and topped with an egg. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dessert Before Dinner winner Becky Quan
Nine of Las Vegas’ top women pastry chefs offered original creations built around Girl Scouts Trefoils shortbread cookies Saturday night at Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada’s annual Desserts Before Dinner Gala. The top dessert, as voted on by the audience, was an homage to Good Humor’s old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars created by NoMad’s Becky Quan. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chef Sammy D is cooking again in Las Vegas
Sam DeMarco served his first public meal since returning to Las Vegas on Sunday, with a pop-up brunch at 7th & Carson. And the veteran of the First Food & Bar, Rattlecan and Sam’s American has more in store for the downtown spot. The chef, known as Sammy D. to his friends, is taking on a consulting chef role with restaurant that will see some of Sunday’s offerings added to the regular menu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Carl’s Donuts in Las Vegas celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day
Carl’s Donuts, a Las Vegas-based company that’s been serving the city since 1966, celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day with specialties themed to fall. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Harrison of "Pawn Stars" has a new store - VIDEO
Rick Harrison, the Pawn Stars co-star and owner of Gold & Silver Pawn, talks to the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes about his soon-to-open Rick’s Collection retail outlet of mostly mid-century masterworks at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa - VIDEO
Because of popular request, the 1-year-old Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa, with shrimp, ground pork, neither or both. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial by Fire cocktail at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Adam Rains, head bartender (also Grand Poobah and a few other things) at The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, makes one of the bar’s tiki drinks, (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gordon Ramsay renovating Las Vegas steakhouse - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is preparing to re-launch his Paris Las Vegas restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cats owners compete for top show awards
The annual Jazzy Cats event is taking place at the Rio Convention Center this weekend attracting cats owners from around the country and the world to compete for the top show awards. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas serves blackened Cajun catfish - VIDEO
Troy Remer, sous chef at Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, blackens Cajun catfish on the grill before serving it with mashed potatoes and collard greens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon at Mr. Chow - VIDEO
This just may be the gold standard for the filet mignon. Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has introduced The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon, which is coated with real 24-karat gold. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working as a mermaid in Las Vegas - VIDEO
McKenzie Kawano works as a mermaid at the aquarium at the Silverton in Las Vegas. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinkbox Doughnuts opens third store in Las Vegas area
Las Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts, which opened its third store at 9435 W. Tropicana Ave., specializes in doughnuts such as the new Station Wagon, with Butterfinger; pink-velvet Pretty in Pink; and hybrid Glazed DoughCro Bites. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal, with image courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
Starbucks brings back Pumpkin Spice early
Starbucks declares Aug. 27 the first day of fall as they make their pumpkin spice items available a full month early. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo at Carmine’s in Las Vegas
Roberto Leon, a line cook at Carmine’s at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, makes Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo with eight pounds of lobster, a pound each of mussels, clams and shrimp, two pounds of pasta and two gallons of sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'American Idol' auditions in Las Vegas
“American Idol” was in Las Vegas Monday looking for singers to compete in its upcoming 2020 season. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan part of the Harlem Globetrotters
Scooter Christensen, who grew up in Las Vegas, will play with the Harlem Globetrotters at The Orleans in Las Vegas Sunday, Aug. 25. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa Returns To Red Rock. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort is set to open on Aug. 26.
Hubert Keller’s Backyard Kitchen
Chef Hubert Keller of Fleur and Burger Bar shows off his backyard kitchen in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
K-pop star Sulli dies at 25

South Korean pop star and actress Sulli was found dead at her home south of Seoul on Monday, police said.