If a Canadian crooner plays a music festival before winning three Grammy awards, earning two Guinness World Records, charting eight top 10 singles and two public relationships to pop-cultural superstars … does he make a sound? Yes, The Weeknd played a pre-Kanye set on the main stage in October 2014, but unless you were hip to his catalog pre-Beauty Behind the Madness (the 2015 album that featured mega-smashes “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills and the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack hit, “Earned It”), you probably missed it. The man born Abel Tesfaye returns as a headliner this year, with new hits from 2016’s Starboy and 2018’s My Deal Melancholy, now in the repertoire. Don’t miss it this time.
Put your hands in the air for Swedish production duo Galantis, who becomes the first act to play Life is Beautiful three times. Success should come as no surprise from these two, however. Separately, they’re responsible for two of the biggest songs of the last 20 years—Linus Eklöw co-wrote Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Christian Karlsson co-wrote Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Together, their exciting sound melds dance, electro house and more, snagging them a 2018 residency with Wynn Resorts and thousands of fans calling themselves members of #SeafoxNation.
In September 2015, you faced a very difficult decision. Do you post up at the Downtown stage to get a good spot before Kendrick Lamar blesses us with cuts from his just-released mind-bending album, To Pimp a Butterfly, or do you take a walk to the Ambassador stage for a cathartic and expert set from Death Cab for Cutie? Whether you chose the latter or the former (we won’t judge), you’ll be relieved to know that the Seattle-born indie band returns for another round. Since November, they have teased an upcoming ninth studio album, and September just might be the first time many of that album’s songs are performed live.
You aren’t the only one excited for Death Cab for Cutie—fellow Washingtonian/ electronic percussionist and singer Robert DeLong, who cites the band as an influence, is also headed back this year. If we were handing out awards, DeLong would be the clear winner for Longest Gap Between Life is Beautiful Performances, having made his debut in 2013. Since then, he’s released the 2014 EP, The Long Way Down, 2015 LP In the Cards, and oh yeah, scored himself a bona fide hit with “Favorite Color Is Blue,” featuring K. Flay in February. It’s good to have you back, buddy.
We’re going to start with what you really need to know: What So Not (a.k.a. Australian trap-house producer Emoh Instead) has released two EPs and his first full-length album since performing at Life is Beautiful 2015. That album, Not All the Beautiful Things, included the song, “We Keep on Running,” featuring none other than rock legends of “Africa” fame, Toto. While we can’t make any promises, we ran the numbers and this is the highest probability there’s ever been of a Toto cameo at the festival.
Brooklyn-based dance duo Sofi Tukker, comprised of singer/guitarist Sophie Hawley-Weld and multi-instrumentalist Tucker Halpern, was scheduled to perform in 2017 but needed to cancel due to migraines. This year we’re grateful for a do-over and a fuller appreciation of their biggest hit yet, “Best Friend,” which you’ll recognize from the September iPhone X commercials and the last three times you handed your friend the aux chord. Give yourself the opportunity to dance to more than their viral successes (also see: “Drinkee” and “Batshit”) and get familiar with their debut album, Treehouse, which was released in April.
If you haven’t yet heard the skillfulness of Slovenian-born hip-hop producer Gramatik, we encourage you to spend the next months wisely. Born Denis Jašarević, Gramatik was scheduled to perform in 2016 before suffering an injury to his leg. To watch him live is to watch in wonder as he mixes rock, hip-hop and electronic beats with his backing band. If you get close enough, be sure to congratulate him on his cryptocurrency, GRMTK, which was valued at $2.48 million at its November 2017 launch.