While I try not to whine about it too much, it's a true fact that our fair Southwest desert doesn't get too much "rock festival" action. Sure -- we seem to have EDM raves and indie rock fests galore. But when it comes to weekends packed with hard rock, and a little enclosed world metalheads can call their own, I'm constantly racking up airline miles flying over to the East Coast and Midwest.
However, during this spring it's the desert's time to shine, when Rock in Rio will make it's U.S. debut in Las Vegas, just a mere 4.5 hours away, on May 8-9 and May 15-16.
The theme-park-like Rock in Rio on the Strip, teamed up with MGM Resort, has been about two years in the making--but the plan is that it will stay for the long haul. Not only was an entirely new open-air venue, called City of Rock, constructed for the event, it's already attracted some of the biggest names in music--and we even get a dose of that heavy metal feeling, too.
May 8-9 is dedicated the world of rock, with Metallica, Deftones, Sepultura (featuring Steve Vai), Of Mice & Men, Coheed and Cambria, Linkin Park, Rise Against, The Pretty Reckless, No Doubt, Mana, Foster the People, Gary Clark Jr., Bleachers, Saints of Valory, and Hollywood Undead.
The second weekend will attract a huge audience for sure -- but that's not the one I'll be at, this much I know (I'll be flying back to the Midwest for Rock on the Range, of course). May 15-16 includes Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, Charli XCX, Bruno Mars, Sam Smith, John Legend, Joss Stone, Empire of the Sun, Echosmith, Ivete Sangalo, Tove Lo, James Bay, Magic!, and Mikky Ekko.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Rock in Rio has grown into a global phenomenon and has taken place in Brazil, Portugal and Spain, attracting more than 7.4 million people and 1270 artists over the span of 85 event days, and creating an upwards of 150,000 jobs.
When Rock in Rio was started in 1985 by Brazilian media/advertising mogul Roberto Medina, the event broke records from the start: almost 1.5 million people gathered in Rio de Janeiro to watch iconic artists like Queen, AC/DC, James Taylor, George Benson, Ozzy Osbourne, Yes and Rod Stewart over the course of 10 days.
Roberta Medina, now the executive vice president of Rock in Rio, was only 6 years old when her father produced the music festival for the first time. By 2001, Roberta had officially joined the family business as a production coordinator, and she carried on the vision that her father had for Rock in Rio.
"What we want is for Rock in Rio to be a global brand of music, like the World Cup of music -- to be in other countries and create a strong relationships between entertainment fans and the brand," explains Roberta. "And in order to do that -- you have to go to the U.S. Vegas seemed to be a perfect fit; we didn't originally plan that. It was more like Vegas chose us!"
The newly constructed City of Rock basically guarantees that Rock in Rio has a future in Vegas, as it's already planned to host the event every two years, with other events happening at the facility in between. However, there is anxiety as to if the event will be received as well as hoped in order to attract the sponsors and support from the music industry.
The City of Rock can hold up to 85,000 people per day, stretched over more than 40 acres. It's a literal theme-park: there will be a ferries wheel, a 64-foot-high zip line that stretches 600 feet across in front of the Main Stage (which is 262 feet long), and some of the best accommodations around.
It will also feature three Rock Streets -- themed streets welcoming attendees to experience three different eclectic cultures in music festival fashion. Each street has 20 houses filled with shops and restaurants, along with a stage where bands and artists will perform throughout the day. Street artists and performers will also transform the street into their own stage, interacting and connecting with the audience.
Rock Street USA is all about the sights and sounds of New Orleans, with American icons like an antique Cadillac and traditional diner. It will have a strong focus on street dance, with dozens of different styles and dance battles.
Rock Street UK focuses on London's Camden Town and Ireland's Grafton Street. It is all about the charm of traditional English and Irish pubs and shops. On the Rock Street UK stage, Terra Celta will entertain with Celtic-inspired music and cover band Stone the Beetles will perform new and original arrangements of hits from rock icons The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
Last but not least, Brazil will come alive in Rock Street Brazil, capturing the warm, colorful, and energetic culture and architecture. The Brazil stage will feature performances that represent various Brazilian music styles, such as Spok Frevo Orquestra, Bossa Cuca Nova, and Leo Gandelman.
This emphasis on celebrating connections, culture and life holds true to founder Roberto Medina's unique idea: that the public was what really set live shows apart, and therefore should be illuminated--it shouldn't be all about the performing artist.
VIP is already sold out on the Metallica and Bruno Mars dates, mostly for the insane perks featuring air conditioning, an all-inclusive buffet and open bar, and a unique view.
Tickets for the upcoming Rock in Rio USA festival in Las Vegas in May are on sale at rockinrio.com/tickets. Payment plans are available, with General Admission weekend passes available for $298, and VIP daily passes available for $498.
Keep in mind that the General Admission and VIP passes provide access to more than 10 hours of music and entertainment each day, as well as all attractions inside the venue. Re-entry is allowed -- wristbands must be scanned upon exit at the gate in order to re-enter that same day.
Correction: This article previously misstated the number of acres occupied by City of Rock.
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