October 5, 2021
By Christa Bandoni, Staff Writer
During the weekend of September 17th, downtown Las Vegas shut down during the daytime for the return of the annual Life is Beautiful music festival. Twenty minutes from the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip, stages were erected in parking lots, motels were renovated into art installations and droves of music lovers packed into the area that had been Fremont Street only days before.
As an avid concertgoer, the last year and a half was stressful for me to say the least. I would
attend on average one concert every month, and these live shows were a source of my sanity and my serotonin. In early 2020, everything was good, I was attending shows with some of my best friends, finally convinced my family to let me fly out of state to see artists I loved, and it truly seemed that 2020 was going to be my year. But then in March, everything shut down. Concerts I had tickets for slowly started getting cancelled and there was no foreseeable end in sight.
Finally, nearly a year and a half later, things started coming back. I saw an end, I saw the glimmer of hope that things would go back to the way they were pre-pandemic, and everything would be okay. Festivals started popping back up on my radar and I remember digging through each line-up announced to see which one was going to be worthy of my re-debut back into the live music scene. Firefly Festival in Delaware was too far away and none of my friends wanted to make the trek, my local Bottlerock’s line-up appealed to me less than anything I could imagine in the moment, but then I was sent Life is Beautiful’s line-up.
With headliners like Green Day, Megan thee Stallion, and Billie Eilish and the underbill including
artists I’d been listening to more and more like Willow Smith, Lany and Don Toliver and even boasting All Time Low – a band I had wanted to see since I was 15 – I knew I had found my festival. The preparation was just like every other show I went to in some regard buying new outfits and makeup to make sure the “look of the day” was just perfect. But there were some changes too, like having to register in Clear, an app to track vaccination status, and making sure that enough masks were packed for the weekend, just in case. There was also a nagging fear in the back of my head, one that had been there every time I went outside in a group for the last year and a half, that whisper of “what if”, the fear wouldn’t go away.
Then the day was here. I remember stepping into the festival grounds, taking a deep breath of
the air, already permeated with a hint of marijuana, looking at my friend with a grin and saying, “I’m finally back”. Looking around, you wouldn’t have thought we were still amid a global pandemic as almost nobody was wearing a mask and even less were showing a sign of worry, but that thought didn’t cross my mind as we made our way through the grounds to the stages.
It was a mostly carefree weekend, but I wasn’t completely free from flashes of fear.
The first one hit when I was two rows back from the stage right before Lany came on for their set. I remember looking over my shoulder, seeing the sheer amount of people and I suddenly couldn’t breathe. As an asthmatic, the fear of catching a respiratory illness is heightened as my lungs are already not the best to begin with. The second flash of fear hit when I was clinging to the barricade, somewhere that was typically a place of comfort for me, and I overheard that nearly 40,000 people were estimated to have attended that day alone. Sure, there was nothing to back up the claim and it was just something one drunk guy told his equally drunk friend, but that fear came back. The worry that if just one person in the crowd had COVID, I could unwittingly have contracted it and be next. Even the red health-check wristband that was given when my vaccination card was shown did very little to dispel my worries for the rest of the night.
The biggest flash of fear hit me during All Time Low’s set, where I finally had a chance to be in a
mosh pit to one of my favourite songs of theirs, I remember thinking “God, it’s great being back here”, but that happiness I felt was quickly ushered away with a thought of the sheer number of germs I had just come into contact with by jumping around in a pit of sweaty strangers. I didn’t dare bring these worries up to my friends though, as I didn’t want to look as if I had jumped back into the scene too soon because I knew deep down, I needed to be at a concert or I was going to go insane.
The last night of the weekend was much calmer, having been going at 110% for the past two
days, my friends and I were more content hanging in the back of sets, just vibing to the music and living our best lives. It wasn’t until the end of Billie Eilish’s set where I looked around me and my thousands of closest friends that I realised something very important. The festival, while fun and its own type of magic, it wasn’t the same as festivals I went to in the past, and that was because the world isn’t the same anymore. We are living in a post-pandemic world and to survive something as cataclysmic as that will change a person. I will have to live with the small worry of COVID and germs in the back of my mind but I can’t let it hinder me and I can’t live in fear of what I love the most.
But, in that moment, I believed the cliché that almost every artist I saw that weekend said in one form or another – life truly was beautiful.