Over the past ten years, Rhinoceropolis has invited countless acts from all over the world to play on its cement floor. It has also been a home for artists and a source of inspiration for all kinds of people. Below are stories from various musicians and artists about their experience at Rhino and how it changed the way they live and make art.
“Rhinoceropolis helped empower me to start booking shows. What else was an underage DJ in Denver supposed to do to keep from dying of boredom? I was just this queer kid with all different types of friends that came together through the common thread of music. The fact that I could hang out at Rhino and feel independent — like an adult — with people older than me, while also feeling empowered to explore anything and everything — like a kid — made anything possible.”
— Aja Archuleta of Slight Harp and Psychic Handbook
“It’s fantastic, because you can do whatever you want to. I think some people push limits further than others. As a performer, personally, I like to be loud, and Rhinoceropolis was a place where I could be. I think that’s important: For anyone who’s an artist or performer, if they want to do something, they should have a space to do that as long as it’s not hurting anyone else. I love and appreciate that. I appreciate people not saying no to what you want to do. As long as you were respectful to the people living at Rhino, there was so much freedom. You can’t do that in traditional venues or most bars; you have limitations. I appreciated that I could play a show at Rhino and try something and at least one person might like it.”
— Johnny Wohlfahrt of Nervesandgel
“It’s a place to get started and create your art without the ‘Don’t quit your day job’ attitude. That was never a question. This is not about a commercial endeavor; this is about making art for art’s sake. It’s about seeing art and people who are willing to take risks and aren’t afraid to be unique; I think that is what spaces like this really foster. I’ve seen it time and time again: Amazing, talented people get started at places like Rhinoceropolis and are really able to flourish.”
— Randy Randall of No Age, Wives and Rat Fist
“If you’re a kid in high school going to a show at, like, a normal venue, you’re hanging out around a bunch of other high-school kids, and it feels kind of high-schooly, and everyone is real immature. Then you’re thrust into a place like Rhinoceropolis with these older weirdos, and it’s like, oh, I don’t have to stop being weird after high school!”
— Tiana Bernard of Hot White and CP-208
“I never felt more comfortable performing anywhere than at Rhino. When you play out at bars or on a stage, it’s a little different. It’s comforting and humbling to play on the floor; it reaches inside of some part of our humanity, I think.”
— Chris Westin of Voices Of
“I remember one time I watched Brittany Gould [Married in Berdichev] perform part of a show in the shower in the bathroom at Rhinoceropolis. Everyone crammed in around the bathroom, and she was singing in the shower while the water was on. I remember seeing her and thinking, ‘I could make music, too.’ I don’t know if I ever would have made music or thought of myself as creative without Rhino’s existence.”
— Kristi Schaefer of Hideous Men
“Rhinoceropolis has influenced me deeply as a person and as an artist and how I look at the world. It taught me that it’s possible to create your own reality — basically, taking nothing and making it into everything. Choosing to create your own universe — that’s what we did at Rhinoceropolis. It was our own artistic Temporary Autonomous Zone. When you walked through those doors, it was total freedom; you could be who you wanted to be and there were no judgments. It was just a realm of chaos and beauty because of that. Rhino was a radical place, and for a while, a lot of people were kind of threatened or scared by Rhinoceropolis because it was an artistically challenging place — confrontational, transgressive, raw and beautiful — which is not something you get from a gallery or a normal music venue. At Rhino, we were something totally different, and there was something special about it.”
— Travis Egedy of Pictureplane
“Rhino opened me up to other styles of thinking and creating, which became my all after a while. They were willing to go down a heavier, darker and more unbridled path than I myself was willing to venture down before, which was really eye-opening and cathartic for me. From the beginning, Rhino always had this great balance of that — the heaviness, and then the total nurturing spirit of a community.
During the time I lived there, I think Rhino became integral in a network of DIY scenes that connected people throughout the country who were doing inspiring things. It was a gathering point for those people to kind of come together so that culture could thrive.”
— Nick Houde of BDRMPPL, SFTSTPS and Transistor Radio Sound
“I think the biggest thing for me about Rhino was just being around people and music that I wouldn’t have ever been around otherwise, and being immersed in it. I think immersing yourself in something you love — for me, it’s music — I could do that through Rhino. And just having a work ethic and being around people working next to you made me want to work, too, on my own creative endeavors.
Anyone who moves in there probably has a desire to get out of normative social behavior. They probably have some desire to become some kind of alternative person. It’s a political statement moving into a place like that, because you’re saying, ‘Fuck these beliefs about how I should live my life. I can move into this shitty warehouse and throw shows.’ It was definitely that kind of, ‘I’m going to dye my hair and move into this place.’ It was sort of the naive punk ideal.”
— Ben Donehower of Original Sin, The Matildas and Thee Octaves
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“Rhino always struck me as sort of this cultural middle ground between the two coasts; there’s this mellow, whatever-happens-will-happen feeling that you get from West Coast DIY culture, and then the East Coast, warehouse-style DIY culture was there, too. There really is a huge cultural divide between West Coast DIY and East Coast DIY — and there’s not much exchange, because it is just so difficult for bands playing on a small scale to get to the other coast. Rhino is right in the middle, so it’s where everybody plays. Really weird, cool things happen when underground culture is isolated in that way.”
— Stephen Steinbrink
“I had been going to Rhino and playing shows there since I was sixteen or seventeen; it was a big reason I moved in there. I really liked the feeling of freedom and the ability to design my habitat. It was something I didn’t feel was possible in a house or apartment. I just had this wild obsession of living in a space or designing a space that was more conductive to a reality that just shines — a reality that is more Jurassic and open to transformation.”
— Colin Ward of Alphabets and Killedbythegroove