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April 17, 2014

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Free holiday concert rocks Fremont district

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Levi Chronister

Hundreds of locals and tourists fill the intersection of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard for the Rock the Block Music Festival in the Fremont East Entertainment District. The festival included local bands Otherwise and Lydia Vance and national acts Everlast and Taproot.

The Fremont Street Experience was filled with tourists and locals celebrating the holiday by watching the Viva Vision light shows and cover bands playing country, disco and doo-wop, but the real action was at the Fremont East Entertainment District, where the streets were filled with people attending the area's second Rock the Block Music Festival.

Featuring local openers Otherwise and Lydia Vance, and national headliners Everlast and Taproot, the show followed the inaugural event in November that featured Flyleaf, Smile Empty Soul, Franky Perez, Searchlight, Left Standing and Conflict of Interest. The series was created by local promoter Frederic Apcar in an attempt to help with the revitalization of the Fremont Street area.

Rocking the Block

As part of the July 4th celebrations, fans packed the corner of 6th Street and Fremont Street for a free concert. (Length 2:31)

"I think it went great tonight," Apcar said. "We had a fantastic crowd. It's just a matter of time before people get used to coming down here and seeing the whole renovation of downtown."

Focusing on shows that will draw the local crowd to downtown Vegas -- instead of the better-known Strip -- could be difficult if artists aren't familiar with the region, but Apcar said he hasn't had too many problems so far.

"Their first impression is 'Downtown? Why would we go there? I'd rather go to the Hard Rock or something.' But everyone's starting to get it," he said. "This is a more real experience, and you can actually get your locals that don't want to pay $60 to 100 a head."

The artists aren't the only ones who get it. Those attending Friday's show enjoyed the free concert, even if it wasn't in the bright lights further south on Las Vegas Boulevard.

"I was at work and they said, 'Hey, Taproot's in Fremont for free,' and I was like, 'Oh my God, I got to go,'" longtime fan and Las Vegas resident Ashlie McGuff said. "The local bands were really, really good. And Everlast was awesome. I love Everlast. All the bands were awesome."

Not everyone in the crowd of nearly 1,000 loved every part of the event, but the concert as a whole was more than enough to win most people over.

"I didn't like the mosh-pitting (during Taproot) too much," Ren Snowder said. "It was kind of crazy, getting a little too rough for me, but they were good bands. They weren't lame or anything like that. It was fun. I had a great time."

That mosh-pitting wasn't a surprise given the styles of music on stage, but the rowdiness was confined to the front of the stage.

"The crowd was very well behaved. Everybody enjoyed themselves. We didn't have any problems with anything," said Kat Magee, who was staffing one of the beer tents with fellow members of A Time in History, a nonprofit period re-enactment group. "The music was excellent. An excellent turnout. It was a good crowd, good people. We enjoyed the music. We were back here dancing and having fun ourselves when there was a lull in the crowd (wanting drinks)."

The next Rock the Block will be the Amplify Festival in August. The lineup isn't set, but the venues will include Jillian's, Beauty Bar, Canyon Club and the shut down Celebrity night club. And don't expect it to be the final event in the series.

"Everlast loved it. Taproot -- they love it here. They love Vegas, period," Apcar said. "The last event we did with Flyleaf -- Flyleaf really dug the feel of the street. Everyone hangs out here for the most part afterwards for a little bit, which is cool. It's something that obviously this area does not get."

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