At most major sports events, live music is an additive relegated to parking lot pre-parties or brief halftime appearances. That’s one more reason why the X Games are unlike all other sports events.
Concerts will play a major role in the Summer X Games that take over downtown Minneapolis this weekend. After all the gash-producing, gasp-inducing competitions inside U.S. Bank Stadium end — including BMX, skateboarding and motocross contests televised worldwide on ESPN — music will start rolling in a big way on a stage set up in Commons Park, outside the new home of the Vikings.
Organizers lined up three distinct headliners for each day, all of whom appeal to the X Games’ uniquely young demographic: Hard-rocking Warped Tour mainstay band A Day to Remember performs Friday; Australia’s electronic music star Flume will make just his second Twin Cities appearance to top off Saturday’s lineup, and hometown hip-hop heroes Atmosphere finish things off Sunday.
The ESPN producer in charge of music made it clear that the latter booking wasn’t just a gimme to win favor with the local music scene.
“A lot of our crew and athletes are big fans of Atmosphere, as am I, so it would’ve been a huge letdown if we didn’t get them,” said Jennifer Rieber, the ESPN producer in charge of the X Games’ music lineup.
Her team also made a point of involving Minneapolis’ legendary First Avenue nightclub, where the X Games pre-party happens Thursday night with Atmosphere’s Rhymesayers labelmates Prof, Aesop Rock and Dem Atlas. While tickets were sold separately to that show ($25), admission to the Friday-Sunday concerts can be had only with tickets to the X Games competition (which start at $40 per day).
The ESPN crew is also hosting smaller concerts around the X Games grounds throughout the weekend with acts including White Reaper, Red Baraat, Flavor Savers, TJ Mizell (son of the late, great Jam Master Jay) and popular local DJ Shannon Blowtorch.
And this is all just Year One. ESPN confirmed a two-year deal with U.S. Bank Stadium to bring the X Games back again next summer, which was good news to Rieber.
“It always helps when we can come back to a location and correct anything we got wrong the first time,” she said.
Rieber started soliciting performers and mapping out logistics for the Minneapolis X Games last summer. She said a strong synergy among all involved parties makes the event easier to pull together.
“Music is such a big part of the culture around the X Games — it kind of goes hand-in-hand with the competitions,” she said. “A lot of it starts with the athletes themselves. Most of them are big music fans, and sometimes they’re even good friends with some of our performers.”
As the X Games crew started setting up the site outside the stadium last week, Rieber brushed off the 90-degree heat and high humidity they had to endure. For once, Minnesota will probably not be the location where (knock on birch wood) bad weather is an issue.
“This is nothing,” she said, noting that not only was the heat worse at last year’s Summer X Games in Austin, Texas, but the concerts with G-Eazy and Logic also got canceled by Texas-sized storms. And then there were the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., this past January
“Anytime we don’t have to use a Snowcat to set up a stage, it’s a good thing,” she said.
There is at least one challenge unique to the Minneapolis X-Games site, however. Unlike both the Austin and Aspen setups, the events here are taking place in the heart of the city’s downtown area. That means sound levels will have to be closely monitored.
While Atmosphere’s set is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the headliners on Friday and Saturday won’t go on until 10:45 p.m. — which not surprisingly has Rieber a bit nervous about how residents of newly built condo structures around Commons Park are going to like the acts she lined up.
“They’re going to have the best view of all if they want to enjoy the concerts,” Rieber said wishfully. “Or else they may wish they’d gone to the lake for the weekend.”