By: Jason R. Latham
If Life Is Beautiful were just a collection of stages scattered around Downtown Las Vegas, few festival goers would anticipate much change beyond the lineups. Yet, over the past decade, this 18-block expanse has evolved, growing beyond the expectations of its founders and absorbing more of the Las Vegas community into its DNA.
Among those leading the evolution is Jen Taler, a festival fixture and the curator of Market In the Alley, the small business marketplace she has overseen for six years. This year, Market in the Alley will showcase more than 45 local creatives, as well as a special interactive experience for those that want to see what’s beyond the festival stages.
“They will be able to explore, discover and support products from vintage and handmade jewelry to art and skin care essentials and so much more,” Taler says. “If you have not shopped at Market in the Alley yet, you are in for a treat. The products and the humans behind the brands are all fantastic.”
Taler was among the first to recognize that creative engagement is critical for the festival experience. That can range, she explains, from an enticing booth setup to activations to interactive moments that draw attendees to the Market area on Fremont Street between 10th and 11th streets.
“I’ve learned that if festival goers see Market in the Alley as a fun space, they want to come in and have fun with us,” Taler says.
Five LIB Questions with Jen Taler
OTS: What’s the best performance you’ve ever seen at Life Is Beautiful?
Jen Taler: This is a tough one! I’ve attended and been a part of every Life is Beautiful throughout the past 10 years, but I’m typically always at an activation rather than the stages. That said, I loved seeing The Lumineers with my mom in 2016. They sang a song that’s special to my mom and me, and it was a really memorable moment for us! I also loved Die Antwoord in 2016. They put on such a great show! The early days, 2014, Matt and Kim were so good – you just can’t beat seeing Kim on the drums! And 2018, Florence and the Machine, her stage presence is literally out of this world.
OTS: Craziest Life Is Beautiful story?
Jen Taler: The first year Fergusons Downtown was open for Life is Beautiful was 2019, and the energy on property was palpable. Everything was new, the shops were still finishing up their spaces. We knew it was going to be a wild experience, but we never could have predicted how. If you remember, that was also the year Lil Wayne missed the festival, so there were thousands of people looking for the next best thing. A rumor started circulating that DJ Baby was going to perform on the Fergusons stage, and the masses started flocking toward our space. I was on the rooftop watching over Fergusons Downtown, and I remember initially thinking, “Wow, it’s busy, this is rad.” But my mindset quickly shifted to “Holy cow, this is too busy!” Knowing we needed to control capacity, I quickly left the rooftop and banded together with a few folks to create a human wall near the main gate to usher people in and out. It was definitely a make it work moment, but the energy was incredible. Being our first year and seeing that many people on property was exhilarating.
OTS: Which artist are you most excited to see this year?
Jen Taler: Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs is always a favorite for me!
OTS: Which experience are you most excited to see this year?
Jen Taler: Market in the Alley, obviously, but I’m also really looking forward to seeing what Meow Wolf does inside The Western!
OTS: What’s your No. 1 tip for a first-time festival goer?
Jen Taler: Use the app and plan your day so you don’t miss anyone you really want to see, but most importantly, take the time to explore the footprint. You are in the heart of Fremont East, an area of Las Vegas with amazing small businesses, local art, and activations both in and outside of the Life is Beautiful footprint. There’s a reason Life is Beautiful takes over Fremont East, and it’s because this area is full of so much magic! Life is Beautiful is a great time to explore it and get a flavor for this community that exists and flourishes year-round!