Life Is Beautiful accommodated crowds of more than 50,000 people Saturday and Sunday with few reported problems. Food competed with art and motivational speakers, but the undisputed top of the bill was the large and varied musical lineup.
Among surprises: A word-of-mouth performance by indie rock legends Dean & Britta. Dean Wareham founded the brilliant ’90s band Luna and before that, Galaxie 500. The couple and thier band played at the Fremont Country Club with the backdrop, introduced by Wareham, of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests featuring stars from his multi-media factory of the ’60s. One of the screen tests was musician and poet Lou Reed, whose death would be announced Sunday morning.
Also, Beck wowed the crowd with an extended rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Other highlights: A cheer from the crowd parked in front of the El Cortez when news came of UNLV beating UNR. Another bi-partisan crowd in front of the casino to watch the World Series. Similary, UNLV defeating that school up north to capture the Fremont Cannon for the first time in eight seasons.
Speaking of Reed, Vampire Weekend began their Sunday-night set with “Sunday Morning,” and Living Colour strummed a few bars of “Sweet Jane” in an unspoken tribute to the rock icon. Both songs were staples of Reed’s Velvet Underground.
One of the festival highlights for anyone who witnessed it was Sunday’s electrifying set by Janelle Monáe. The Killers, Imagine Dragons and many other music acts from Las Vegas, big and small, helped put a local stamp on a festival with a national scale.
Metro, private security, volunteer helpers, and the many, many people who put on a program that was almost completely free of obvious problems.
Other high points: the pleasant and cooperative character of the crowds, the street art, much of it permanent, and the food. One of the elements that made Life Is Beautiful different from other rock festivals was the quality and variety of the food.
Noted former professional chef and Las Vegas bon vivant Steve Evans described the weekend like this: “I wonder if those micro-chips in the LIB wristbands were emanating some sort of weird signal inducing Happiness- because that’s all I saw. The artist-types said it was all about the art. The music aficionados said it was all about the bands. And the foodies were yapping-away about the quality of the culinary offerings…As a self-proclaimed gastronome, I was impressed with the vendors. …The LIB offerings were all authentic and good. I was directed to a booth called Cochon where I had the best BBQ pork sandwich of my life. I’ll go next year, even if it’s in a Hoveraround.
“I must say, it was a very good vibe, and I didn’t see a single act of mischief or obnoxiousness, which is unusual considering the mass of people. Just everyone having a good time. Additionally, the security, the vendors, those directing traffic, Metro, and all the various festival workers - were incredibly kind and helpful. For a first-time undertaking of such magnitude, it was well conceived and choreographed. Looking forward to next year.” CL