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Riverwest Fest Returns for a Busy Third Year

Dec. 19, 2012
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Promoters Kelsey Kaufmann and Sean Heiser created Riverwest Fest, a two-day “punk crawl” across Riverwest, in 2010 as a fundraiser to save the all-ages basement music venue, The Eagle’s Nest. In that respect it didn’t succeed. Though the festival’s shows drew big crowds, they didn’t raise enough to cover the daunting bills it would take to bring The Eagle’s Nest up to code. But from their failed attempt to save one neighborhood institution, Kaufmann and Heiser ended up creating a new one. Now in its third year, Riverwest Fest has become an anticipated annual tradition.

“We’re just keeping it fun, keeping it D.I.Y.,” Kaufmann said of this weekend’s Riverwest Fest. “Principally Sean and I are still interested in, and very much committed to, establishing all-ages spaces that are willing to host shows. Both of us grew up—along with many of the bands playing this year’s festival—seeing all-ages shows, whether they were in basements or at venues like Mad Planet, which used to host all-ages concerts. For a lot of us, we owe our interest in music to those places.”

To that end, the festival has added a few new all-ages venues to its lineup this year: the Cocoon Room, a start-up arts space launched in the former Foxglove Gallery space at 820 E. Locust Ave.; the Rio West Cantina, which will host a John the Savage record release show in its basement Friday night; and the People’s Books Cooperative, which recently relocated from Locust to 804 E. Center St., will host “acoustic-ish” music on both nights. Once again Quarter’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Palace, The Uptowner, Riverwest Public House Cooperative and Stonefly Brewery will be hosting 21-and-up shows, while the Jackpot Gallery will host early-evening all-ages shows. Each show is $5; day passes are $10; weekend passes are $15.

Highlights of this year’s festival include a Friday reunion performance from noise-rockers White Problems (who are filling in for a previously announced Death Dream reunion show that fell through); the return of the great local punk trio Absolutely, which took much of 2012 off; and a smattering of hip-hop, including Fresh Cut Collective at the Public House Friday, Juiceboxxx at the Rio West Cantina Saturday, and a bill with DJ Kid Millions, Gat Turner, Viva Fidel and AUTOMatic that same night at the Uptowner.

Though this year’s festival again primarily features musicians from the louder end of the musical spectrum, Kaufmann says she and Heiser are considering expanding the event to include more styles in the future.

“I’d love to get the Jazz Gallery involved, and give them the option of doing their own show and plugging it as part of the festival,” she says. “There are a lot of other venues we’d like to get involved, too. That’s part of the reason we do this event in Riverwest; there’s so many different venues around here. It’s pretty unique to find in the city a radius of six blocks with 10 venues that are all willing to host shows.”

Riverwest Fest runs Friday, Dec. 21 and Saturday, Dec. 22. For the complete lineup and ticket information, visit riverwestfest.tumblr.com.


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