Denver’s City Park will host one of its first conventional music festivals this weekend. Chive Fest will bring two stages and eight artists, including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Talib Kweli, to the city’s largest park this Saturday, August 16. But the first-year festival hasn’t been welcomed by everyone in Denver, and if certain neighborhood groups have their way, there won’t be many more like it in the years to come.

Previous festivals have tried and failed to use City Park. In 2008, concert promoter AEG wanted to host Mile High Music Festival there, but it backed out, in part because of objections from the Denver Zoo, which determined that the loud music would disrupt the animals.

At the time, the city had no official policy regarding major festivals and other admission-based events. After the debate surrounding Mile High Music Festival (and other similar events), a task force was convened to look into the matter, and in 2010, Denver Parks and Recreation approved a policy allowing admission-based events in seven of Denver’s parks: Ruby Hill Park, Parkfield Park, Central Park in Stapleton, Skyline Park, Confluence Park, Civic Center Park and City Park. The policy sets an admission restriction at 7,500 for such events and establishes fees and special tax-collection rules.

City Park has hosted several large-scale events featuring live music in the interim, such as the Tour de Fat and Chipotle Cultivate, but neither charged admission, and proceeds from both events benefitted non-profits.

Those types of events — with free entry and benefitting a non-profit — have been more common for several reasons: They’re cheaper to host because the additional taxes and fees imposed on admission-based events do not apply; and the parks department offers a 50 percent discount on the regular permit fee for non-profits. Perhaps more significant, attendance is not restricted; you can apply for a major event permit for more than 25,000 people if you like.

Admission-based events like Chive Fest have been much rarer. “Since that rule went into place and that permit became available, there have been a handful of admission-based events,” says DPR spokesman Jeff Green. “It takes a promoter and a lot of work to go into it, which is probably why we don’t have a lot of them outside of the typical venues.”

Chive Fest made its debut in June this year, in Chicago, and a Seattle installment followed in July. Still to come in 2014 are Chive Fests in Denver and Dallas.
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The [Chive web-] site has a particularly large following in Denver, which is one reason the city was selected for Chive Fest. In July, Chive Fest announced its college-radio-ready lineup and $77 general-admission ticket price. It also made nods to the culture established by the site, promising “oversized ostriches, blimps, fireworks, cats, Chivettes, and enough glowing green to make Denver Chive Fest visible from space.”

The announcement was enough to provoke representatives of the neighborhood associations in Park Hill, Congress Park, South City Park and City Park to write a letter to Denver Parks and Rec. In it, they voiced concerns about the impact on the park and neighborhood from the noise and the influx of cars and people; they had questions about security, as well. They also asked why the zoo, which objected to Mile High Music Festival, remained silent on Chive Fest.

Green says theirs wasn’t the only perspective the parks department heard. “We’ve also received a letter signed by 75 different individuals who are also in the neighborhood who are in support of the event,” he says. “We’ve seen more support for the event than we’ve seen opposition.” Still, the chorus of skeptics became loud enough that the city asked Chive Fest to hold a public meeting to address concerns.

That meeting, held two weeks ago at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, saw heated debate, not all of it related to permits and parking. One attendee said that she was disturbed to read online that the Chive referred to its followers as “misfits.” “Do we really want misfits in our park?” she asked.

Parks Permit Office director Kris Wilson heard nothing at the meeting that made her think that Chive Fest couldn’t meet the terms of its admission-based-event permit. “We don’t have the luxury of discriminating based on the content of the event,” she told the crowd. She was also insistent that the Chive is receiving no special treatment.

And despite the questions raised by neighborhood associations and others, Chive Fest does indeed meet the city’s 2010 admission-based-event criteria. The music will be over by 10 p.m. and won’t exceed 80 decibels when measured from the nearest house. It will pay a permit fee of $10,181.75 and taxes totaling roughly 15 percent of ticket revenue. Attendance will be capped at 7,500, though Scott Nichols from All Phases Event Group (one of Chive Fest’s promoters) says he only expects 4,500. He also says the festival will only take up 3 percent of City Park’s land and that there will be a total of seventy private security guards, park rangers and police officers working the event. He estimates the total cost of the festival at one million dollars.

As for the zoo, spokeswoman Tiffany Barnhart says this event is nothing like the one the facility objected to before. With Mile High Music Festival, she says, “the main concern was the sustained sound levels over time, as this event featured five stages and sixty bands over three days. That three-day event is very different than what we have learned is being proposed for the Chive event.”

Barnhart adds that, in terms of impact on the zoo, this festival is not dramatically different from successful previous events like Cultivate. “We have staff in place to monitor, respond to and care for the animals,” she says, “as well as contacts for the night of the event should an issue arise.”

The lingering question raised by those at the public meeting was not whether Chive Fest was adhering to the rules, but whether those rules are truly serving the people of Denver. Many attendees questioned the admission-based-events policy currently in place. They expressed fear that a public place of refuge will be transformed into a profitable music venue. A representative from Mayor Michael Hancock’s office who was at the meeting said that the permit policy process is being looked into.

But for now, you’re free to throw a music festival in City Park. All it takes is a little paperwork and a million dollars.

By Gina Tron


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No, it’s not a new stage prop. Lady Gaga took a selfie in an oxygen mask late Wednesday, saying she’d been hospitalized for altitude sickness after her concert in Denver.

“Altitude Sickness is no Joke!” the pop star, 28, wrote on Instagram. “#hitThatHospitalS–t #artRaveDenver many true ravers crowd tonight.”

The mile-high malady is hardly unusual in Colorado, of course. The Denver website has a whole section on how to deal with the altitude.

Something tells us Gaga might not have heeded tip No. 4, “Watch your physical activity,” during her “artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball” show.

The pop star’s next concert, in Seattle on Friday, is scheduled to go on as planned.

By Tim Nudd @nudd

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The skirl of their pipes had barely receded before two New Hampshire teenagers learned a hard lesson in cross-border musical diplomacy: If your bagpipes have ivory in them, leave them at home before traveling to Canada or risk having them seized at the border.

Campbell Webster, of Concord, and his friend Eryk Bean, of Londonderry, were returning from Canada on Sunday after a bagpipe competition that served as a tuneup for the world championships in Glasgow, Scotland. The 17-year-olds, fresh off winning several top prizes in Canada, got to a small border crossing in Vermont when they were told they’d have to relinquish their pipes because they contain ivory.

The U.S. prohibits importing ivory taken after 1976. Even though the boys had certificates showing their ivory is older — Campbell’s pipes date to 1936 — U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized the pipes in Highgate Springs, Vermont. Well, not all of them: The boys took every other part possible and left the ivory with Border Patrol so nobody else could make a full set out of the parts.

“This has been an awful headache,” said Lezlie Webster, Campbell’s mother. “At one point at the Canadian border, they said, ‘no way are we going to get our pipes back.'”

After contacting New Hampshire’s congressional delegation and gathering more than 3,000 signatures on an online petition, the boys are getting their pipes back and were set to fly from Boston to Scotland on Tuesday. But the hassle is lingering like a sour note: Lezlie Webster said the boys had to shell out $576 in extra fees because they took the pipes across the border at a “non-designated crossing.”

“It feels really, really silly,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said late Tuesday that the agency was only enforcing the international ban against illegal ivory shipments.

“It is ultimately up to U.S. Fish and Wildlife to determine the origins of the seized ivory and authorize any release of these seized items back to their owners upon the completion of their analysis,” spokeswoman Shelbe Benson-Fuller said.

A message left after business hours Tuesday for the Fish and Wildlife Service was not immediately returned.

Campbell has been playing the bagpipes for 13 years and this particular set belonged to his father, Gordon Webster, who was the 9th Sovereign Piper to her Majesty the Queen of England Elizabeth II. In other words, he wasn’t playing “Amazing Grace” at the firemen’s parade.

“I’ve been playing these certain pipes since around October of last year after he stopped,” Campbell said. “His health went downhill. He gifted me those pipes and I’ve been keeping them going since then. You’re judged on your pipes. And you can’t find bagpipes like these anymore. They don’t make them like this anymore.”

There was a bright side: The change.org petition got hits from all over the world, and bagpipe makers and other musicians offered the boys the use of their instruments at the World Pipe Band Championships on Aug. 15-16 if necessary.

“Right now, I’m just trying to put it all behind me and thinking about how well this whole Scotland trip is going to go now that my friend and I have the pipes that we need,” Campbell said.

By Rik Stevens | AP


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