Music Festivals

Foo Fighters, Nathaniel Rateliff, Lumineers Play Fest to Save Venues

Nathaniel Rateliff plays an intimate set during the pandemic.
Nathaniel Rateliff plays an intimate set during the pandemic. Aaron Thackeray
Venues around the country are bleeding out their last reserves, digging themselves into deeper debt, bracing for bankruptcy or preparing to shut down entirely. To try to keep them afloat through indefinite closures, the National Independent Venue Association is throwing a star-studded three-day virtual music festival. The event, running Friday, October 16, through Sunday, October 18, will raise relief money for venues and promoters and awareness about the Save Our Stages Act, which would be a life preserver for the independent music economy until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Local superstars the Lumineers and Nathaniel Rateliff will perform sets from the Boulder Theater, and the Foo Fighters, Miley Cyrus, Dave Matthews, Demi Lovato, Phoebe Bridgers, the Roots, Brittany Howard, Portugal. the Man, Rise Against, Black Pumas, FINNEAS, Leon Bridges and many more will perform.

The event, which includes 35 artists being recorded at 25 independent venues across the United States, will raise funds for the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund, which will provide money for struggling independent venues and promoters. The organization is taking applications through Thursday, October 15, at 9:59 p.m.

"Depending on how many people apply and how much money is raised through all of this, there may be a second round and a third round," says Levitt Pavilion Denver executive director Chris Zacher, who serves as the co-captain of NIVA's Colorado chapter.

The festival will also raise awareness about the Save our Stages Act, an attempt to secure federal relief for live entertainment.

NIVA was formed in March 2020, not long after the COVID-19 shutdowns began. Its goal is to champion independent venues and promoters as they deal with the bleak reality of the effect of the coronavirus on the music industry. In half a year, the group has recruited 3,000 members — venues and promoters around the country, including ninety here in Colorado.

Based on a recent survey, 90 percent of venues will close without financial aid from the feds. And that aid isn't likely to come any time soon. President Donald Trump has tried to kill those conversations until after the election, and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says such efforts are "unlikely in the next three weeks."

While Zacher says the grants from the emergency relief fund will be helpful for venues, it's not enough, and the only way the independents will survive is with federal aid.

"The emergency relief fund is not going to save venues; it's going to help them get to federal relief. I want to make that clear," says Zacher.

While some music fans are beating the drum to fully reopen, Zacher is resistant to that idea, and NIVA is not pushing for it.

"Right now, it's not about reopening," Zacher says. "It's about getting federal support so we can get to a vaccine."

For more information, go to the Save Our Stages Fest website.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris