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Maybe the right festival at the right time, finally

Unless you’ve been in prison or in a coma, you are probably aware that a huge music festival was held in downtown Las Vegas, luring what organizers claim was 60,000 people for the two-day festival.

If that number is close to being correct, which it should be considering everyone there has an RFID chip attached to their wrist to follow their comings and goings, then it was a pretty impressive first-time feat. However, it should be remembered that Vegoose drew a two-day attendance of 72,400 its first year in 2005, and then dropped to 30,625 in 2006 in its second year.

Vegoose ran one more year, then faded into memory.

One of the challenges of gauging how many people were at the nine-square city block Life Is Beautiful festival was that it was spread out across an urban landscape. A person at one event would have no idea how many people might be at another event.

Vegoose was held in the fields next to Sam Boyd Stadium in the east part of the valley, so it was easy to look out and say, “Wow, that crowd seems kind of light.”

What type of growth Life Is Beautiful organizers can realize the second year (let’s all assume now there will be a second year) will be crucial to the future of the festival. From people I’ve talked to in the music industry, the real test of a festival is its growth between year one and two. The first year of anything, there is a newness and excitement that will draw in people for the experience.

Vegoose never recovered from that second bad year. One of the changes promoters made was the types of band they booked the third year, which was a sharp change from the first two. The line up went from the Tom Petty, Phil Lesh & Trey Anastasio and the Dave Matthews crowd to the harder edge of Rage Against the Machine, Daft Punk and Iggy & the Stooges in 2007.

Even the rap went from Digable Planets and Jurassic 5 (which also played Life Is Beautiful) to Cypress Hill and Public Enemy.

Another challenge facing Life Is Beautiful, and something that also impacted Vegoose, is the festival’s placement at the end of the festival season schedule. I was watching Living Colour early Sunday when I found myself reading the back of a someone’s shirt from the Austin City Limits Music Festival that was held in early October. Life Is Beautiful performers Kings Of Leon, Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, Portugal. The Man, Purity Rings, Dawes, Haim and Smith Westerns had also played the Texas festival. Will local organizers be able to find enough big-name acts that are still on the road that late in the festival season without crossing over too much with other festivals?

None of this is meant at as a criticism of Life Is Beautiful, just concerns from past experience. Part of the ultimate collapse of Vegoose, which was a partnership between Las Vegas Events and the promoters of Bonnaroo, may have been the economy. By 2007, the early fracturing of the economy was beginning to happen.

Perhaps, Life Is Beautiful is finally the right festival at the right time in the right setting for long term success.

I sure hope so.

ARNOLD M. KNIGHTLY is the editor of CityLife. Follow him on Twitter @KnightlyGrind