Michael Zorn / Invasion / AP – Kaskade
Kaskade plays the Budweiser Made In America Festival in Philadelphia Sept. 2.
This weekend, starting tonight through Sunday, 200 athletes from around the world will descend on Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium for the X Games, marking 23 years since ESPN held the first of what were then called the Extreme Games in Newport, R.I., back in the summer of 1995. The summer version includes skateboarding, BMX and motorcycles, while the winter edition, slated for Aspen in January, includes snowboarding and snowmobiles.
Jennifer Rieber is a 15-year ESPN veteran who has been working on curating and producing the entertainment at the X Games since 2011 as Director of Music and Cultural Development.
Music has always been a big part of the X Games, but it wasn’t until 2013 that Rieber began booking major acts, starting with Major Lazer and Calvin Harris. Headliners over the past few years have included Kanye West in 2014, Metallica in 2015, Blink-182 in 2016, with appearances by the likes of G-Eazy, Nicki Minaj, All Time Low, LCD Soundsystem and Twenty One Pilots, among others.
The music of choice over the last few years has been mostly hip hop and EDM, and that’s no different in a rap hotbed like Minneapolis, according to Rieber. Electronic music superstar Kaskade will headline Friday night, rappers Ice Cube and Brother Ali will perform Saturday night, with Zedd closing out the three shows at the newly reopened
Armory Sunday night.
“The main event is the sports competition, that’s the backbone, but the music is very much an integral part for both the athletes and our guests,” explains Rieber. “It’s a big piece of the experience, part of an overall entertainment offering. The action sports community is very much dialed into music, art, fashion and film, and edgy in their tastes.”
Last year’s X Games concerts took place across the street from U.S. Bank Stadium outdoors in downtown Minneapolis at The Commons, but this year will move into a refurbished Armory, a historic landmark on the other side of the park which reopened last year during the Super Bowl. Part of the National Register of Historic Places,
The Armory’s history as a rock venue goes back to the ‘60s, when Janis Joplin and Steppenwolf once played there. It also served as a backdrop for Prince’s “1999” before being resurrected from a parking lot.
Armory, ordinarily sporting an 8,000 capacity, has been rejiggered for between 5,500-6,000, with 4,500 general admission floor tickets. The combination sports/music package for all three days runs from $140 to a deluxe XIP package at $750.
“We try to make the price accessible,” explains Rieber. “Considering this is such a young crowd.”
Armory is allowed to sell a certain number of music-only “suites,” with full amenities, but otherwise all tickets are either sporting events only or in combination with the three concerts.
“We feel it’s the right combination for this demographic,” concludes Rieber. “It offers something extra, an added value that fits in nicely with the main event.”