Starved for music fests? You can feast on them in September
From Life is Beautiful to Punk Rock Bowling, here’s everything you need to know about this month’s many music fests.
Updated September 2, 2021 - 8:39 pm
Think of it as going from frozen in amber to fired from a cannon.
For the past year and a half, the increasingly robust Vegas music festival circuit has been idled by the pandemic. Things got going again in August with the roaring return of Psycho Las Vegas. But they really get moving in September, when there’s at least one major fest every single weekend.
It’s a lot to take in, but per usual, we’re here to help. Here’s a breakdown one of the busiest months ever for Vegas fest-goers.
Lost in Dreams Sept. 4-5
Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
■ The gist: Electric Daisy Carnival has been the silverback alpha male gorilla of Vegas music festivals for a decade now. Insomniac Events, the company behind EDC, is expanding its Vegas footprint with Lost in Dreams, a new fest centered on future bass, melodic dubstep and electronic-pop music. Not sure exactly what all those subgenres are? It’s OK, you can always show up and be regaled by all the pretty lights.
■ Anticipated highlights: A DJ set from “Mister Mellow” himself, chillwave progenitor Washed Out; Manila Killa throwing down with Chet Porter; the otherworldly production values Insomniac is known for.
■ COVID-19 protocols: Must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of first entering event.
■ Random factoid: Seven Lions, one of the fest’s biggest attractions, may specialize in melodic dubstep, but he’s a headbanger at heart, citing progressive Swedish metallers Opeth as his favorite band. Horns up, dudes.
■ Details: Two-day passes start at $110; single-day tickets start at $60; lostindreams.frontgatetickets.com.
Viva Las Vegas Sept. 9-12
■ The gist: What’s bigger? The hair or the hot rods at this pompadour- and ’57 Chevy-heavy fest. It’s the largest rockabilly event in the world, bringing 17,000 travelers to Vegas annually and drawing 20,000-plus to its outdoor car show on Saturdays. There are burlesque bingo sessions, vintage fashion shows, tiki pool parties and a whole lot of Rosie the Riveters and Arthur Fonzarellis in the house.
■ Anticipated highlights: First-generation rockabilly lifers like Hayden Thompson and Art Adams still getting after it in their 80s (!); the “Bloodhound Rock” of punk-informed troubadour JD McPherson; Vegas hepcats Shanda and the Howlers and the Delta Bombers.
■ COVID-19 protocols: Masks must be worn inside the casino.
■ Random factoid: Viva Las Vegas is the city’s longest-running music fest, now in its 21st year. That’s a lot of pomade, brother.
■ Details: Four-day pass $230 in advance, $250 day of show; car show only, $40; vivalasvegas.net.
Big Blues Bender Sept. 9-12
Westgate Las Vegas
■ The gist: Plenty of performers will be singing the blues here. The fans? Not so much, as this four-day musical endurance test begins at noon most days and goes till 5 a.m. some nights/mornings. The opening day’s theme is Mardi Gras, and fittingly so: The Bender often feels like a Vegas version of those Big Easy festivities. Better invest in that economy-size bottle of Excedrin, pronto.
■ Anticipated highlights: Gospel greats the Blind Boys of Alabama jamming with harmonica virtuoso Charlie Musselwhite; “One for the Kings,” a tribute to B.B. King, Albert King and Freddie King curated by Victor Wainwright; soul chanteuse Bettye Lavette, who recorded her first single in 1962 at age 16, continuing to do her thing six decades later. Eat it, Father Time.
■ COVID-19 protocols: Must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test time-stamped within 72 hours of event check-in. Masks must be worn inside the casino.
■ Random factoid: Now in its seventh go-round, the Bender makes its Westgate debut this year after previous stints at the Plaza and the Hard Rock Hotel.
■ Details: Four-day passes are $499; bigbluesbender.com.
Life is Beautiful Sept. 17-20
■ The gist: Vegas’ biggest music festival not named EDC, Life is Beautiful is the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, the Mickey’s wide mouth, the “Empire Strikes Back” of music fests that take place within city limits, spanning 18 blocks downtown. Time to get those walking shoes re-soled, pronto.
■ Anticipated highlights: Pop changeling Billie Eilish graduating to festival headliner status; guitar goddess St. Vincent playing tracks from her funk-heavy new album, “Daddy’s Home,” in Vegas for the first time; rapper Megan Thee Stallion totally cheesing off any prudes.
■ COVID-19 protocols: Must provide proof of full vaccination — in order to be considered “fully vaccinated” you must receive your final vaccine dose at least 14 days before your entry date — or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, which must be obtained within the 72 hours leading up to Life is Beautiful. Three-day ticket holders may be tested Sept. 16 or 17 for their negative result to be honored on all three festival days.
■ Random factoid: Talk about pent-up demand: Life is Beautiful sold out in record time this year, with all tix being snatched up within hours after they went on sale in March.
■ Details: Sold out; check the ticket exchange at lifeisbeautiful.com/tickets.
Punk Rock Bowling Sept. 24-26
Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
■ The gist: Leather jackets, leather livers: Both come in handy at one of the most raucous gatherings of the year. It feels like a punk rock family reunion — you know, if Mom and Dad had septum piercings and considered Pabst Blue Ribbon a sacrament.
■ Anticipated highlights: Hardcore punk greats the Circle Jerks reunite for their first gigs in a decade; New Wave pioneers Devo return to PRB as a replacement for Brit ska greats Madness after an invigorated showing in 2013; underrated femme punks Lunachicks end a two-decade hiatus with a club show Friday and a fest performance Sunday. Finally, you just might get to hear “The Day Squid’s Gerbil Died” in the flesh.
■ COVID-19 protocols: Proof of vaccination or a negative test must be obtained on or after Sept. 23 to enter the festival or any PRB event.
■ Random factoid: When Punk Rock Bowling began more than two decades ago, it really was all about the bowling. PRB didn’t become a full-fledged music fest until 2010, when headliners NOFX, Flogging Molly and D.R.I. ravaged Sunset Station.
■ Details: Sold out; ticket exchange at punkrockbowling.lyte.com.
Contact Jason Bracelin at email@example.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin
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