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2021 Life is Beautiful Festival

Thomas S. Friedman • Festival FocusNovember 2021 • November 3, 2021

Solotech worked with Meyer Sound to optimize the listening experience at the Downtown Stage (pictured here as the band Surfaces performs) along with the Bacardi Stage and Huntridge Stage. Photo credit: Life is Beautiful/ALIVE Coverage

Solotech, Another Planet and Meyer Sound Agree: Live is Beautiful, Too

After having to be canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival roared back to life in Las Vegas transforming downtown Las Vegas into a dazzling hub of music, art, cuisine, culture, and excitement from Sept. 17-19. Reflecting the pent-up demand that had built up after so many months without a live music, tickets sold out in just 37 minutes after they were first made available earlier this year, in March.

To optimize the listening experience for the more than 170,000 who attended the three-day event, Solotech provided Meyer Sound systems for three of the four main stages.

The biggest two stages, the Downtown Stage and Bacardí Stage, were each anchored by Meyer Sound Leo and Lyon linear line array loudspeakers, augmented by 900-LFC and 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements. A third stage, the Huntridge Stage, featured a mix of medium and wide-pattern Lyon loudspeakers and 900-LFC low-frequency control elements. The festival also showcased a variety of EDM acts on a fourth stage, the Fremont Stage, which featured a truss arch superstructure.

The event’s 170,000 attendees had to provide proof of vaccination or negative Covid tests, but since it was held outdoors, masks were not required. Photo credit: Life is Beautiful/ALIVE Coverage

A Stellar Lineup Creates the Draw

Between shows, festivalgoers took in comedy events, culinary demonstrations and multidisciplinary creative installations by local, national, and international artists. But the main draw was to once again hear the 100-plus acts, with most of the event’s headliners heard via the Meyer systems on the Downtown and Bacardi stages.

Topping the three-day’s event bill were Tame Impala, Megan Thee Stallion and Glass Animals (Sept. 17), Green Day, Haim and Illenium (Sept. 18) and Billie Eilish, A$AP Rocky and Young Thug (Sept. 19).

Other prominent acts in the eclectic mix of artists included Don Toliver, Modest Mouse, Fisher, San Holo, Ludacris, St. Vincent, Lany, 6LACK, Brittany Howard, J.I.D., Gorgon City, Purity Ring, Surfaces, Death from Above, Clozee, Earthgang, Death from Above 1979, Ashnikko and All Time Low.

Remi Wolf performs at the Bacardi Stage. Photo credit: Life is Beautiful/ALIVE Coverage

A (Mostly) Vaccinated Crowd

Held while the Covid-19 pandemic’s Delta surge was still spreading, especially among unvaccinated populations in the U.S., festival organizers took extra precautions by limited attendance to those who could document either their vaccine status or provide a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of attending the event. Once admitted, however, in accordance with current Nevada rules, masks were optional for the event, since attendees where milling about in an outdoor urban environment.

On site, attendees and performers alike marveled at the thrill of being back in a live concert setting. At the very start of the event, early in the afternoon of Sept. 17, Deepak Chopra lent some positive energy amid the desert heat with a meditation session beneath the arched truss framing the Fremont Stage, where Cash Cash, Dillon Francis, and a host of other EDM acts performed.

And toward the end of the festival, Billie Eilish remarked on the thrill of being back before a crowd. “It’s been so long,” the multiple Grammy winner said, as her 22-song set closed out the festival on the Downtown Stage on Sunday, Sept. 19.

Performing with her brother Finneas O’Connell and percussionist Andrew Marshall, their Life is Beautiful show also served as the kickoff for Eilish’s 2021 “Happier Than Ever” world tour, her first since March 2020.

“This feels like a dream I had many, many times last year,” Eilish said, before performing her song, “I Didn’t Change My Number,” for the very first time before a live audience. “You guys want to give me all the energy you’ve been saving for the past year and a half?”

“There’s nothing that you can replicate that experience of being at a festival or an concert,” said Allen Scott, festival co-producer and president, concerts and festivals for Another Planet Entertainment. “It almost gets me a little misty-eyed, just to think about us putting on an event of this size, after what we’ve been through as a nation and as the world.”

Brittany Howard performs at the Downtown Stage. Solotech worked with Meyer to keep the sound from spilling into residential areas. Photo credit: Life is Beautiful/ALIVE Coverage

A Unique Challenge

Scott noted how the production team and crew felt a similar mix of intense elation (and maybe a little trepidation) to be back in a live festival setting. “It has been 18 months or longer since we put on an event like this, and people are a little rusty. Throw in all the preparation that needs to go in for Covid, and it’s been pretty monumental this year. But everyone’s been doing it with a grin and excitement,” Scott added. “They are so genuinely thrilled to be back doing what they love.”

Since it was founded in 2013, the Life is Beautiful festival has offered attendees a vibe that sets it apart from other music events. “Life is Beautiful is one of the most unique festivals in the world,” said Another Planet’s Scott. “First of all, we take 18 square city blocks and transform it into a festival site. This isn’t a flat field, grass field in the middle of nowhere. This is city blocks. And that gives an extreme amount of uniqueness to the site. It also gives us a lot of challenges.”

For production teams, designing systems with fixed placement inside the tight confines of an urban environment meant finding creative ways to tackle sound management and noise mitigation. Compounding the challenge of keeping sound — particularly low end — within festival grounds and out of residential areas, the team could not control delay tower placement. To overcome these constraints, they turned to system modeling, with help from Meyer Sound’s MAPP 3D system design and prediction software.

Sa-Roc performs at the Huntridge stage. Photo credit: Life is Beautiful/ALIVE Coverage

“Weather conditions — not just wind, but atmospheric issues like humidity — play a large part in how the system sound carries,” said Mike Smeaton, Solotech’s U.S. director of operations. “In MAPP 3D, you can look at the predictions that you want to do, then you can put it into your production, which is a real help.”

To manage low-end patterns, Smeaton noted that Solotech and Meyer Sound worked together to design both gradient and end-fire subwoofer arrays.

“There was a combination of gradient flown subs on the main stage, plus we’ve done gradient stacks as well with 1100-LFCs. Outside of that, we have VLFC very low frequency control elements in two blocks on each side. We flew some subs in gradient, six VLFCs behind each array. I think that really helped with the coverage and helped control the pattern. The VLFC is very musical; they are really great subwoofers.”

For both Solotech and Another Planet, working with a trusted sound partner elevates every aspect of production. “It’s important to work with people you believe in, are passionate about and trust,” said Another Planet’s Allen Scott, crediting Meyer Sound for going “way, way back – they’re the greatest at what they do,” while also crediting Solotech for “putting this all together and working with the festival… So we’re honored to have Meyer out on the site on both main stages. And we knew the sound was going to be impeccable.”

“Solotech has been doing Life is Beautiful for many years now in conjunction with Meyer Sound,” added Smeaton. “This collaboration means we have continuity, we have lots of factory resources. It helps that we know the product. We know that each product is doing what we ask it to do.” He credited David Vincent, senior technical support, Meyer Sound, for his assist with “some pretty unique things with the software configurations this year.”

“The main challenge was that we didn’t really have control of where the delay towers were going to be, so we have to kind of work with a fixed placement,” Vincent said. “And it turned out pretty well. [We were able to] keep subs away from residential areas. We have to make sure we keep the low end confined to the festival area.”

The Life is Beautiful festival returns to downtown Las Vegas Sept. 16–18, 2022. For more, go to www.lifeisbeautiful.com

 

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