Gazing down the long line of festival goers at the entrance gates of 27 Street and Blake Street in RiNo, there was an undeniable energy circulating. It was a blissful 74 degree afternoon, and a cool breeze swept through the city, setting the perfect atmosphere for a late summer outdoor music festival.
Back for its second year, Velorama smashes together two unlikely worlds—cycling and music. The three-day festival was a finish line for hardcore cyclists and a starting line for one of the most diverse and dynamic indie-rock concerts of the year. Cyclists showed up to race and do tricks, and hardcore music fans filed out for the event that sets the stage for a fall full of new record releases and sweet shows.
As each morning progressed, another leg of the Colorado Classic bike race took place right in the middle of the fest. Brought directly from Vail, these competitors wound their way back to the neighborhood to finish in afternoons of BMX flips and tricks on the ramps and races against the A-Line commuter train passing by. Woven through the pathway of hula-hoops and corn- hole games, the beer relay course lined up beside the haven of expansive vendor zone of cyclist gear, healthy snacks and kombucha samples.
RiNo has officially planted itself firmly as more than a neighborhood, but as a place to experience delicious food, beautiful art, and a love of the great outdoors. This festival solidified that. Large, interactive art installations captured that essence of what Coloradans hold near and dear, the love of dynamic and active experiences interwoven with the vibrant colors of culture.
Thanks to Velorama’s partnership with DRINK RiNO, more than a dozen local craft breweries brought in their tastiest beverages, from robust Ratio and Odell Brewing Company to the sweet Stem Ciders and C Squared Ciders. Along with delightful handcrafted cocktails and delicious wines, food trucks were in abundance, ready to entice festival goers with their unique entrees and treats.
RiNo has officially solidified itself as more than a neighborhood, but a place to experience culture, and this festival drove that idea home. The event drew singles, couples, groups, and families. Kids younger than 10 years old got in for free, giving this is a family-friendly vibe with a hard lean towards fun over for those 21.
But wait, the best part! The music! This festival was indie-rock music heaven. A massive main stage welcomed visitors as they entered and included an incredible mix of dreamboat local and national bands. Each night brought in band after band that got the energy of the 10,000-plus crowd more and more pumped. With a hypnotic and high-energy set, The Kills took the stage Friday night and brought in the headbanging, hair flipping rock that this festival needed to get things going.
Saturday night crushed, with the most packed lineup of the three nights. Local singer/songwriter Brent Cowles opened the night with an incredible set and then ushered out national treasures Lo Moon, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Cold War Kids and The Growlers. Due to travel issues the night before, the highly anticipated (and rescheduled) Modest Mouse brought a lot of energy to the stage and closed out the night in the only way they know how, by lighting a fire to the city. As they finished their set, the heat from downtown couldn’t be contained anymore, as the gods let out the baddest rain storm of the season.
Sunday was no-holds-barred, and while typically the chillest night of a three-day festival, Velorama held the exception to the rule. Denver locals Wildermiss put on the best show they have yet to date and got everyone on their feet dancing. However, the killer closer to the weekend were headliners Matt and Kim, who started off the night with confetti cannons while hundreds of balloons, dozens of blow up dolls, and massive beach balls bounced around the audience. There wasn’t a moment the band wasn’t shaking their asses, jumping on and off the bass drum, and genuinely having the time of their lives.
While summer is no stranger to art and music festivals galore, 2018 wrapped up with one of the biggest that has Denver buzzing. While competitive bicycling, craft beverages, and rock music may not have always appeared to be a seamless combination, Velorama has become the up and coming festival of downtown, and sure to be a Denver staple.
Words and photos by Veronica Holyfield