New downtown events will happen mostly on fringes

What's new this New Year's Eve downtown will happen mostly on the fringes of the main event.

For the fourth year running, the Fremont Street Experience will close off the three blocks under the canopy for its TributePalooza, a rotating lineup of a dozen mostly nostalgic rock bands appearing on three stages. Half appeared last year, including Rolling Stones, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin soundalikes, complemented by two bands from Los Angeles that play their own music.

"When you have something that works, why change it," said Jeff Victor, president of Fremont Street Experience.

But one difference will be the price. With a stronger economy and New Year's Eve falling on a Saturday night, the 30,000 admission wristbands will run $30 each, up from $20 last year, when about 23,500 were sold.

The cost has fluctuated widely, depending partly on the economy and the day of the week. In freer-spending 2006, it was $80, but in 2008 it fell to $20 for tourists and free for locals. That year had record attendance at 29,000.

Those unwilling to pay for live entertainment can congregate a few hundred feet to the east, where Fremont Street between North Las Vegas Boulevard and North Sixth Street will be cordoned off for a self-styled block party called Downtown Countdown for those 21 and older. Christopher LaPorte, owner of the Insert Coins lounge, is the host.

"It certainly will be a different environment than under the canopy," said Alexandra Epstein, executive manager of the nearby El Cortez. "You will see more locals there and most likely it will be a younger crowd."

Fremont Street Experience included the two Los Angeles bands as an appeal to a younger demographic than the tribute bands. Victor said the average Fremont visitor is slightly older than the citywide average of 48 shown in Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority surveys.

While LaPorte's party will be free, getting into his club will run $20. He couldn't be reached for comment, and his plans remain something of a mystery to his neighbors.

"He told us he is going to do something, but we're not exactly sure yet except it will have music," said Shauna Dong, the owner of Le Thai restaurant.

Ali Imtiaz, owner of the Kebab Corner and Maharjah Hookah, knew of the concert planned for his block but said it was entirely LaPorte's production. He plans to stay open until 3 a.m. instead of closing as usual at midnight.

"New Year's Eve is always busy for us," he said.

LaPorte's initial idea about shooting fireworks off the 27-floor Ogden apartment tower was vetoed by management.

Though not a part of any official lineup, Pablo Silva has picked New Year's Eve to open his El Gaucho Luca's Cafe south of Fremont. Silva purchased what was formerly just Luca's, and is adding touches of his homeland to the Argentinian menu.

He said New Year's Eve will be a private party for family and invited guests, but he'll open the doors for anyone who wants to party like a Uruguayan.

Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at or 702-387-5290.