Life Is Beautiful accommodated crowds of more than 20,000 people 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 Dean & Britta and their band; Dean Wareham played with the brilliant '90s band Luna and before that, Galaxie 500. The 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. Among the screen test stars: Lou Reed, indie rock legend and founder of the Velvet Underground, who died Sunday.
Also, Beck wowed the crowd on Saturday with an extended rendition of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Janelle Monae, not to be outdone, rocked the Ambassador stage with a cover of the Jackson 5 hit, popularized by Michael, “I Want You Back.”
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 upsetting northern rival UNR to capture the Fremont Cannon. Vampire Weekend began their Sunday-night set with “Sunday Morning,” as a tribute to Lou Reed. The Killers, Imagine Dragons and many other bands from Las Vegas, big and small, who helped put a local stamp on a festival with a national scale. A bi-partisan crowd in front of the El Cortez casino to watch the World Series.
Other high points: the pleasant and cooperative character of the crowds, the street art, much of it permanent, and 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: “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,” he said Monday. “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.”