1. How full will it feel? After drawing a reported 30,000 bodies per day in year one, the Downtown music, food, art and learning festival pushed more chips in for 2014, expanding from two to three days. Some view it as a risky play—by way of comparison, Southern California’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival didn’t take on a third day until its eighth year. Considering the cost of a full-fest GA pass has increased from $160 in 2013 to $250 this year (and that folks can also opt for $105 single-day tickets), we’ll be curious to see how crowded—or not—it seems, particularly on Friday.
2. How will the new footprint compare to the old one? One of our favorite things about LIB’s inaugural run was the way it snaked through Downtown’s familiar streets and storefronts. It will do so again this weekend, but with significant differences. The bars and restaurants of Fremont East, the El Cortez casino and Atomic Liquors—all key stops on our 2013 festival tour—will now operate outside the fence line, and though LIB will permit reentry, how many will leave the action behind to dine at Le Thai or drink at the Griffin? On the flip side, music venues like Beauty Bar and Backstage Bar & Billiards, which sat unused after the fest’s final acts finished last year, can try to keep the party going all night this time.
3. Will the festival’s many offerings feel more fully integrated? Even if you caught a lot of bands last year, how much time did you spend taste-testing in the Culinary Village? Or sampling craft beers and cocktails in the Alchemy Gardens? Did you make it over to the Odyssey art hub, or poke your head into any of the lectures along Fremont Street? And did you even know there were world-famous chefs giving culinary demonstrations in a tent behind the Western Hotel? This year, LIB has shifted pieces around to try to bring its many facets together. Food and drinks will be more spread out, so you don’t have to decide between a band and a bite, and the art and learning centers have been paired for maximum efficiency.
4. Can it lead a charmed life again? Year one saw no significant injuries and relatively few arrests. Sound was solid, stages ran on time and every musical act showed up as scheduled. In other words, logistics went about as smoothly as they possibly could have, an unusual coup for a first-year festival in a complicated urban setting. Chalk it up to good planning and good luck, one of which organizers ultimately have no control over.
5. Will it come back for a third year? As acclaimed as Life Is Beautiful’s first go-round might have been, it reportedly wasn’t a financial hit. Does that mean the pressure’s on for year two to finish in the black, or will the LIB team and its sponsors take a long view even if it doesn’t? Remember, Vegoose—the large-scale Las Vegas music festival LIB hoped to outdo when it launched—made it three years before pulling up stakes. Anything less would feel like a letdown.