The feel-good tone was set early on the first day of the Life Is Beautiful festival, when a worker for an environmental awareness group administered high fives to the throng of attendees waiting in line to get in.
Moments later, a portion of John F. Kennedy’s stirring 1961 inaugural address was played over the P.A. – “Ask not what your country can do for you!” – before a countdown began to the opening of the gates at noon on Saturday.
A loud cheer went up as the crowd began flooding into the 15 block maze of art, food and music that comprised the Life Is Beautiful grounds, where festival workers sported T-shirts that encouraged onlookers to “Believe That There is Good in the World” while signs affixed to fences advised passersby to “Get in touch with your inner puppy.”
Feeling sufficiently inspired yet?
Well, there was always the beer tent to help on that end if not.
Despite a sweaty start thanks to unseasonably hot temperatures, there was a jovial vibe that hung in the air right along with the scent of gourmet eats being prepared by the 29 different restaurants who had booths at the festival.
“It’s just good vibes everywhere, man, all over the place,” Vegas indie hip-hop artist Ekoh smiled after his high-energy set, still slicked with perspiration.
A wide-array of artists performed on five different stages.
Some came from as far away as Australia, like boisterous, co-ed synth pop troupe Alpine, others much closer to home, like Boulder City’s Same Sex Mary, who looked uncomfortably hot during their performance on the Homegrown Stage, but seemed to transfer that heat into their songs.
The audience ranged in age from pre-teens to seventy-somethings, the latter seemingly drawn more by the extensive food and wine offerings.
“We don’t know a single band,” laughed Stacey Kono, a Vegas resident and self-anointed senior who was taking the festival with her husband Terry, both of them lured to the event more for the culinary attractions, which were elaborate.
In air-conditioned tents, celebrity chefs led instructional cooking sessions, though some times the music from the nearby Ambassador stage bled through.
“By the end of the day, we’ll all be dancing,” chuckled chef Mary Sue Milliken as she fellow chef Susan Feniger demonstrated how to best cook peppers over the roar of rockers Nico Vega nearby
Outside in the culinary village, vendors offered such non-traditional concert food as Thai green papaya salads, braised lamb tacos and buttered squash soup.
You’d need plenty of sustenance to hike through the expansive festival grounds, where closed-off streets created the feel of a mammoth block party.
The festive vibe was heightened by plenty of crowd members who came in Halloween costumes, dressed as anime characters, Waldo, the obligatory Hunter S. Thompsons and one dude who was a dead-ringer for a young Kurt Rambis.
The setting was just as colorful as its inhabitants, with 3-D murals, numerous art instillation pieces like a massive heart formed of what looked like scrap iron and a series of paintings formed by members of the audience firing paint guns at canvas.
There was even a garden, complete with flowers, water fountains and grass sodding, that offered a bit if respite from the ceaseless bustle of the festival.
Speaking of which, as the sun started to go down, mercifully, soul/blues force of nature Alabama Shakes performed in front of a massive crowd at the Downtown stage, their set alternately scalding and soothing.
“You gotta h-o-o-o-l-d on,” frontwoman Brittany Howard consoled, and her words were true: there was another six-and-a-half hours to go.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.