Music | Story by Camille Cannon

The Man Behind the Music

Life Is Beautiful music curator Craig Nyman on the undeniable draw of Outkast, showing love to local bands and the little-known act you must not miss 

Craig Nyman

Craig Nyman

Think it’s difficult deciding which festival acts to catch? Try being Craig Nyman. As the head of music and live performances for Life Is Beautiful, Nyman has the daunting task of curating the lineup. In between juggling tour schedules, set times and Cirque du Soleil props, Nyman sat down with us to discuss what he’s excited to see, as well as offer advice for festivalgoers.

In addition to working with all of the musical acts, you’re organizing the collaborative performance between The Beatles Love and the Las Vegas Philharmonic. What are preparations for that like?

A lot of it is marrying the two different organizations and making sure we’re getting all of their audio and tech people on the same page—working with Cirque and their props team [and] working with Giles Martin, who arranged the music. I need to make sure it fits in the schedule, and I’m working with our production team to link up with Cirque to make sure they have everything they need, from rigging points onstage—because we’re going to make people fly—to having load-in and props onstage. With Cirque, we’re pulling props from the theater and pulling them out to the festival grounds. But right after the performance, they have to go back to the theater in time for their show. … It’s by far the coolest performance project I’ve ever worked on.

Aside from that, which act are you most excited to see?

That’s like asking me, if I had children, to pick a favorite. I love Outkast. I grew up listening to Outkast. When we booked them, we were the last show on their tour. They’ve since added Voodoo [Fest in New Orleans] after us. To be the second-to-last show of theirs, if this is it and they never perform again, just to be able to have that moment, it’s just gonna be special. I can’t wait to see them. I’ve seen them twice this year, and I still want to see them [again].

How do you assign acts to stages and set times?

It really starts with the headliners and complementing from there. I work with Allen Scott at Another Planet Entertainment. He’s a genius. We work together and tinker with it. You work with tour schedules, too, and how things route. It’s like a puzzle. But you just want to complement the stage. It’s about setting a tone, an energy and a vibe.

This year, local bands are playing the same stages as touring acts. What was the idea behind that?

I want these bands to be treated, not as locals, but as “a band from Vegas.” I wanted to give them the opportunity to perform on a bigger stage with regular touring acts. For them as artists, it’s better for their careers. It shows them, “You’ve worked hard, you put out great music, and this is just the beginning.” Being able to see an act you’ve seen at a bar play for a crowd of thousands … there’s something about that that gives me chills. I know it means a lot to them, and it means a lot to us as a festival.

Who is the most underrated act on the bill?

Tycho is gonna be awesome. They started as a project of one. Now they’re up to a three-piece. People might look at them and say “Instrumental? Why do I wanna see that?” But once you see a Tycho show, you’re hooked. They sound so friggin’ good right now. It’s a fun show, there are great visuals. If you’re not familiar, you’re gonna walk away from it going, “This is really cool.”

Any tips for festivalgoers who want to plan ahead?

I like to select two to three acts I have to see each day. Once I get through that, I just let the festival take me where it goes. Catch a couple of songs here, catch a couple of songs there. We have a lot of up-and-coming bands that are starting to get bigger, and I hope people dig a little deeper and discover some new stuff.

When the festival is over, how will you know it was a success?

[Seeing] people with smiles on their faces. That’s it. We work all year to put together an event for people to have the weekend of [their] lives. For me, that is the ultimate goal. If someone [leaves] beaming, we’ve done our part.