This annual all-day festival has been a highlight on the Las Vegas summer concert calendar since its debut in 2002, but the time has come to re-examine the event’s logistics. With a record crowd of nearly 4,000 people packed into the amphitheater—which, according to the Clark County website, has capacity for 3,000—the festival has now outgrown the venue.
Waiting in line to get a beer or food on the hot, still day was a time-consuming chore that belied the laid-back vibe onstage, and some vendors even ran out of food and water before night’s end. The amphitheater’s lawn seating was overcome by late arrivals who infringed on those who arrived early to gain a good vantage point, and the foot-pump sinks near the portable toilets ran out of water with hours to go.
There’s a reason Reggae in the Desert has become so popular. The festival annually presents some of the top performers in the world, and this year’s lineup rivaled any previous offerings.
Headliner Ky-Mani Marley carried his famous father’s torch, spotlighting his set with Bob Marley classics such as “Is This Love?” “I Shot the Sheriff” and “One Love.” Third World showed why it has remained popular for nearly 40 years, coloring outside the traditional reggae palette. Founding member Stephen “Cat” Coore ushered in the classic “96 Degrees in the Shade” with a Clapton-esque guitar solo, then moved to cello for an instrumental “Redemption Song” that had classical elements. Veteran Jamaican duo Israel Vibration and San Diego-based youngsters Tribal Seeds also kept the audience in good spirits despite the hot, crowded conditions. ★★★☆☆