RiNopalooza: Music Festival Grounds Are the Latest Development in River North

In the rapidly developing River North Arts District, an underused lot is being transformed. So what’s the fenced-off, tree-bordered tract of land going to turn into? An artisanal succulent-potting co-working space? A forty-story capsule hotel/craft brewery? No. The field will remain a field — but one that will be used to serve the neighborhood’s development as an entertainment center.

The vacant lot at 3715 Chestnut Place, near 38th Street and Brighton Boulevard, is being turned into RiNo Live!, which will host a new music festival: the aptly named RiNo Music Festival, happening Friday, August 26, and put on by Scott Campbell of local clubs Larimer Lounge and Lost Lake Lounge. RiNo has hosted large music events before, such as last year’s Larimer Block Party and the recent Project Pabst, which featured Denver-gone-global band Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Violent Femmes, Charles Bradley and more. But while those events were block parties that took place mostly on closed-off streets, this festival will be corralled inside a brand-new, dedicated space.

According to Campbell, talks about the land began about eight months ago. Bernard Hurley, owner of the “large, football-field-shaped piece of land” near the Pepsi plant and the South Platte River, had “a vision” for the area, which he began to discuss with Campbell’s brother-in-law, Steven Ferris of Real Estate Garage. “He wanted to have concerts, festivals, farmers’ markets and other ‘BigWonderful’-type events on this land during the summer months,” Campbell says.

TheBigWonderful itself used to take place nearby, on Lawrence Street between 25th and 26th streets, which Westword has since learned has moved to an undisclosed new location near Sports Authority Field. Campbell does not see the new event space as competition with that event, and says, “It’s not connected to TheBigWonderful, although there is potential that we could work together in the future. We love TheBigWonderful and are very friendly with their team.”

Campbell describes the idea for the site as “Big Wonderful meets Austin and SXSW and Rainey Street,” referring to a lively street in the Texas capital filled with bars and restaurants. He also cites the spot’s accessibility: “It’s close to the new light-rail stop [at 38th and Blake streets], close to the bike path and close to parking at the Denver Coliseum. It’s a great site for a city-based festival, with so many transportation options and so many positive, exciting things going on in the neighborhood around it.”

Those exciting things include nearby craft brewers Mockery, Great Divide and Crooked Stave, as well as the newly opened Blue Moon Brewery, located across the street from the field at 3750 Chestnut Place.
Hurley, who says he has been active in the neighborhood for twenty years, also owns the space that houses Blue Moon, and he hopes it will serve as an anchor for the developing entertainment district in west RiNo, which will include a hotel, multi-family housing, and a “promenade” along the river. According to Hurley, this particular plot of land will serve as an event space for two to three years before it becomes the site of more permanent developments.

For now, RiNo Live! (the official, if temporary, name of the site) will be “available to the neighborhood,” says Hurley, and different groups can make use of the space.

Campbell says that the idea for the inaugural event at RiNo Live! was inspired by positive feedback received following Project Pabst and other outdoor music events and festivals. “My desire to create a festival in RiNo has existed for a long time,” Campbell says. “It was serendipitous that Bernard called.”
Thanks to the wealth of bands criss-crossing the country on their summer touring schedules, the organizers were able to book L.A. fuzz-rock band Silversun Pickups and Brooklyn-based synth-pop act St. Lucia to perform.

Although he booked out-of-town draws to headline the festival, the focus for Campbell remains local. “One of the big confirmations of the festival was getting locals 888 on the lineup, too — a great local artist who’s had a huge year,” he says, referring to the band’s single topping the 93.3/KTCL charts earlier this year. The group also won the radio station’s 2015 Hometown for the Holidays competition and performed on the main stage at the 2016 Westword Music Showcase.

Tickets for the inaugural RiNo Music Festival start at $20, and $1 from each purchase will be donated to the RiNo Arts District. “We want to give back to the neighborhood,” Campbell says, adding that the RiNo Arts District has “a huge vision for the neighborhood.”

“RiNo is more than a place,” Ferris says. “It’s a community of people working together.”

RiNo Music Festival with Silversun Pickups
Friday, August 26, 4:30 p.m., RiNo Live!, 3715 Chestnut Place, $20-30, all ages.