Las Vegas

15 Las Vegas Music Festivals to Check Out This Year

Big crowds are back.

Photo courtesy of Emily Wilson
Photo courtesy of Emily Wilson
Photo courtesy of Emily Wilson

You don’t have to drive down to SoCal to enjoy a good music festival this year. With lockdown a thing of the past, vaccines taking effect, and social distancing restrictions lifted, it’s “all systems go” for entertainment in Las Vegas. And that includes high-profile music festivals, some of which are itching to get underway after being postponed for well over a year. Ready to make up for lost time? Get familiar with the biggest music events to round out 2021, a complicated year that’s on the rebound.

Fiesta Baile Privado

Thursday, July 22
Downtown
Fiesta 98.1 FM presents the best in regional Mexicano and reggaeton with Fiesta Baile Privado at the Las Vegas Events Center (one block south of the Fremont Street Experience). The Latin dance party gets underway at 7 pm with Luis R Conriquez, La Original Banda El Limon, Froy Espitia y su Contragolpe, La Novedad Norteña, Miguel y sus KompaZ, and Edicion De Rancho.
Cost: Free with a ticket

Photo courtesy of Black Raven Films
Photo courtesy of Black Raven Films
Photo courtesy of Black Raven Films

Downtown Rocks

Saturday, July 17–Saturday, November 6
Downtown
Downtown Rocks is a weekend series of free open-air concerts at the Fremont Street Experience, where fans can see national acts surrounded by the lights, neon, and energy of nearby casinos and attractions. And who doesn’t love something for free? This year’s lineup is relatively tame compared to recent years (a symptom of emerging from the pandemic), but still includes Plain White T’s (July 17), a Dokken reunion of Don Dokken & George Lynch (July 24), Tonic & Sister Hazel (July 31), former Guns n’ Roses drummer Steven Adler (August 21), 3 Doors Down & Seether (performing on different stages September 5), Generation Radio, featuring members of Rascal Flatts, Journey, and Chicago (September 25), and George Thorogood (November 6).  
Cost: Free

Psycho Las Vegas

Friday, August 20–Sunday, August 22
Mandalay Bay
Love it loud? Psycho Las Vegas is a three-day heavy metal festival held throughout the Mandalay Bay resort. Danzig, Down (featuring former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo), and Norwegian black metal pioneers Emperor headline the big shows at the Michelob Ultra Arena, but dozens of bands will also make appearances at the House of Blues, Mandalay Bay Beach, and Rhythm & Riffs casino-floor lounge. The Flaming Lips are an unexpected addition, but these festival lineups love to throw in the occasional curveball. There’s also a Psycho Swim at Daylight Beach Club, the comedy of Tim Dillon, and a Q&A with longtime KISS manager Doc McGhee.   
Cost: Single day passes begin at $129.

Photo courtesy of Lost in Dreams
Photo courtesy of Lost in Dreams
Photo courtesy of Lost in Dreams

Lost in Dreams

Saturday, September 4–Sunday, September 5
Downtown
Dress to impress and bring your glow sticks. The first-ever Lost in Dreams festival in Las Vegas is presented by Insomniac, the brains behind the upcoming Electric Daisy Carnival. So think of this as a smaller-scale preview of what’s to come. Gryffin, Seven Lions, Dabin, and more than 40 other EDM artists perform over two days on three different stages at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. Expect a focus on future bass and dubstep with elaborate effects and immersive art installations. The music gets underway at 5 pm each night.
Cost: Tickets begin at $110.   

Big Blues Bender

Thursday, September 9–Sunday, September 12
Westgate
This truly is a bender with four straight days of blues performed on stages throughout the Westgate resort near the Strip. More than 45 acts (including Buddy Guy, Tab Benoit, and Delbert McClinton in his final U.S. performance before retirement) are taking part, playing 22 sets a day with an emphasis on convenient, intimate spaces. Yet the festival is about more than music. Guests are encouraged to upgrade their experience with hotel room and drink packages.  
Cost: Most packages are sold out, but $45 tickets are still available for the Hart Party fundraiser in the International Theater.

Photo courtesy of Life is Beautiful
Photo courtesy of Life is Beautiful
Photo courtesy of Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful

Friday, September 17–Sunday, September 19
Downtown
The Life is Beautiful festival takes over 18 blocks of Downtown Las Vegas east of the Fremont Street Experience for three straight days. A deep and diverse lineup is headlined by Billie Eilish, Green Day, Tame Impala, and Megan Thee Stallion with performances on multiple stages. Life is Beautiful also has food and drinks (with an emphasis on local and regional vendors), comedy, educational speakers, and a compelling art program with large-scale murals and installations often left behind when the festival is over. 
Cost: Tickets, beginning at $330 for a three-day pass, are sold out, but Life is Beautiful has an online waitlist and ticket exchange for verified transactions.

iHeartRadio Music Festival

Friday, September 17–Saturday, September 18
The Strip
Here’s what happens when a music fest goes mainstream. The iHeartRadio Music Festival celebrates your favorite hitmakers with a lineup that ranges from pop and R&B to country and classic rock… almost like you’re changing radio channels. The mainstage at the T-Mobile Arena hosts performances by Dua Lipa, Coldplay, Florida Georgia Line, Khalid, Weezer, Journey, Lil Baby, Maroon 5, and others with Ryan Seacrest as the master of ceremonies. In an interesting twist, the Daytime Stage will be at AREA15 this year with younger, rising stars like Olivia Rodrigo, DaBaby, Saweetie, and Addison Rae.  
Cost: Tickets begin at $81.75.

Punk Rock Bowling

Friday, September 24–Sunday, September 26
Downtown 
An event that started as a small get-together at a Santa Monica bowling alley has grown dramatically over the years and is now a full-blown weekend festival in Las Vegas. The top performers play throughout the day at the Las Vegas Events Center, but the fun continues with after-parties, pool parties, and general, random mischief throughout the Downtown area-and yes, a two-day bowling tournament where colorful outfits are encouraged. The headliners this year include the Circle Jerks, Devo, and the Descendants (replacing NOFX, who dropped out after saying stupid stuff during a pervious version of the event).   
Cost: Single-day tickets, beginning at $70, are sold out, so try your luck on the resale market or just hit the after-parties, which make good use of smaller venues like Backstage Bar & Billiards, Fremont Country Club, and Sonic Rodeo.

Photo courtesy of Brandon Imbriale
Photo courtesy of Brandon Imbriale
Photo courtesy of Brandon Imbriale

RiSE Festival

Friday, October 1-Saturday, October 2
Jean
Depending on how you look at it, the RiSE Festival is about lifting your dreams and positive energy to the heavens-or letting them go up in flames. The event (with a choice of two days) takes place on the Jean Dry Lake Bed in a remote part of the Mojave Desert south of Las Vegas. Guests will eat, drink, and inscribe messages onto their own self-assembled lanterns, which are released into the sky after dark-all while listening to the live music of Meridian, Magic Giant, JP Saxe, DJ Ascension, and Emmit Fenn. The sight of thousands of lanterns drifting overhead is a worthy payoff and don’t worry, each one is recovered by event organizers to minimize the environmental impact. 
Cost: Tickets begin at $99.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Bernstein
Photo courtesy of Jessica Bernstein
Photo courtesy of Jessica Bernstein

Reggae Rise Up

Saturday, October 9-Sunday, October 10
Downtown
Two days of reggae music in a town with legalized weed? Not a bad idea, but keep in mind-you’re technically not allowed to consume in public (even at music festivals). Regardless of how you view the matter, Reggae Rise Up still has a potent lineup of acts at the Las Vegas Events Center, headlined by Dirty Heads and Slightly Stoopid. Check out bands on two stages while visiting more than 40 vendors with food, art, and activities to round out the experience.  
Cost: Single-day general admission starts at $55.

Downtown Brew Festival

Saturday, October 16
Downtown
The Clark County Government Center Amphitheater hosts the Downtown Brew Festival, where you can sample more than 200 beers from at least 60 different local and regional breweries. The centralized lawn area has a backyard vibe with performances from local bands and food on sale from Eureka, Slater’s 50/50, Cousins Maine Lobster, and others. Vegans will prefer the plant-based Mexican food of Tacotarian. But really, you’re here to drink. So don’t miss out on the largest beer festival of the year in Southern Nevada.
Cost: Tickets begin at $40 (and include unlimited beer samples).

Photo courtesy of Graham John Bell
Photo courtesy of Graham John Bell
Photo courtesy of Graham John Bell

Electric Daisy Carnival

Friday, October 22-Sunday, October 24
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Electric Daisy Carnival is one of the largest electronic dance music festivals in the United States, drawing more than 140,000 people a night to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. You’ll see names like Tiesto, the Chainsmokers, and Kygo among the 200-plus DJs performing on at least eight different stages. But what really makes EDC special is the futuristic environment of neon lights, art cars, carnival rides, and endless imagery that might as well be from another planet. Traffic outside the stadium is notoriously congested, so feel free to book accommodations at Camp EDC, which comes with its own DJ lineup and swimming pool. The festival traditionally takes place in the spring, but was bumped back a few times and is finally happening during a fall weekend for the first time.   
Cost: Three-day passes start at $379, but sold out months ago, so either check the resale market or put your name down on the virtual waitlist.

The WhiskeyX

Saturday, October 23
The Cosmopolitan
Whiskey and music is a combination destined to work perfectly in Las Vegas. Enter The WhiskeyX, a new one-day festival at the Cosmopolitan’s rooftop Boulevard Pool. Which is the true headliner: a hearty selection of rye, bourbon, Scotch, and other forms of whiskey to sample, or the music of Fitz and the Tantrums with St. Paul and the Broken Bones? You decide. Along the way, you’ll enjoy food and cocktails from the Cosmopolitan’s best bars and restaurants plus a live taping of the Adam Carolla podcast and neon-soaked views of the Las Vegas Strip. The event starts at 7 pm. 
Cost: Tickets begin at $75.

Phish Las Vegas

Thursday, October 28–Sunday, October 31
MGM Grand
When Phish plays Las Vegas, it’s not just another concert. The iconic jam band has a history of coming in for Halloween and taking on the “costume” of covering a classic album in its entirety, such as the Velvet Underground’s “Loaded,” David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” or even Disney’s “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.” Undoubtedly, expectations are high for this year’s Halloween performance, which wraps up a four-show run at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. 
Cost: Tickets begin at $96 

Day N Vegas

Friday, November 12-Sunday, November 14
The Strip
Day N Vegas returns for its second-ever edition, bringing together a deep lineup of rap, hip-hop, and R&B stars for three days of outdoor performances at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds (on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara). Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, and Tyler, The Creator are the headliners with supporting acts like Doja Cat, SZA, and Lil Uzi Vert bringing added relevancy to the event. Doors open at noon with sets running well into the night. Prep for Day N Vegas with an official Spotify playlist.  
Cost: Single-day general admission begins at $199.95 (and while tickets are sold out, many are still available on a “premium” online portal or on standby via a waitlist).

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Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than seven years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. He knows the secret to good parking during Life is Beautiful. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.

Las Vegas

A Fresh Take on Italian Dining Opens in Southwest Las Vegas

A first look at Basilico Ristorante Italiano.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.

Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.

“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.

The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.

“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”

Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora

The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.

Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.

Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.

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Rob Kachelriess¬†has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in¬†Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and¬†Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter¬†@rkachelriess.

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