Brooklyn Schacht is on the phone from her office in the West Edge of downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming. “We have a little Cheyenne Frontier Days craziness going on right now,” she says. “The largest outdoor rodeo in the world is in my backyard.”
But at present, she and her crew are gearing up for the 5th annual Edge Fest on August 24, a free outdoor concert in a brand-new amphitheatre park featuring K-Flay, a Grammy-winning, out, female rapper as the headliner.
Schacht is the Account Strategy Director for Warehouse Twenty One, a marketing firm whose mission statement is to “help sincere, ambitious companies succeed in their true purpose.” What they’ve discovered in their 10 years of existence in Cheyenne’s West Edge neighborhood is that these “true purposes” can be quite unexpected, even in the heart of the wild west.
“We don’t book country,” Schacht reveals of the music at Edge Fest. “We try and book rock ‘n roll and music that you wanna dance to.” Presumably that means more swaggin’ and head-banding than line-dancing, and a quick browse through Grammy-nominated K-Flay’s YouTube channel proves it.
K-Flay, this year’s Edge Fest headliner, is about as far from a Wyoming stereotype as you can get. The female rapper-singer-producer is, well, edgy. Flay’s gravel-y vocals and genre-crossing bravado on her third studio release Solutions (which dropped last month) are quite literally anything but country. It’s worth mentioning too, that she recently made her first romantic relationship with a woman, alternative pop star Miya Folick, public. This kind of mold-breaking seems to be the point of Edge Fest.
Schacht affirms that the festival is the centerpiece of a counter-culture movement. “Absolutely. That’s very intentional. It’s a growing movement in Cheyenne. There’s a lot of concerts and music venues showcasing that Cheyenne is a music community, and not just in the traditional sense of the rodeo and country music, which is the baseline, if you will.”
“As an example, our friends from the Paramount just bought the Lincoln Theater,” she continues, “converting it into a 2,000 capacity music venue. Edge Fest had COIN three years ago right before they blew up all over the radio. That’s our goal. Getting the bands that are playing on, say, Alt Nation on Sirius. Bands who people know about but aren’t getting national radio station coverage yet. To provide a show like this for free is basically unheard of.”
Past acts have included Bishop Briggs, Wildermiss, Jr Jr and more, but this year’s K-Flay show with Billy Raffoul offers something even more exciting, a new city-block sized outdoor space dubbed Civic Commons Park.
Warehouse Twenty One CEO and Edge Fest visionary Dave Teubner has been instrumental in this physical transformation of the West Edge, turning a parking lot into Civic Commons Park, the city-owned outdoor amphitheatre which hosts this year’s event. “Teubner, different investors and community-minded folks over the past five years have been really pushing to develop this part of town,” Schacht says.
Similar to LoDo in Denver and downtown Greeley, Cheyenne was originally centralized around the railroad in the 1860’s, but the transformation of the old factorial part of town into something new and cool has been the push, according to Schacht, for the last decade.
“The industrial sections of town are the foundation for the West Edge identity; taking historic buildings and converting them to new businesses, with the overall goal to revitalize the area. Our building itself was one of the first to transform into a beautiful modern space for people to work.”
Now 5 years going, Edge Fest has transformed too. Schacht says for the first party they wanted to create a celebration and gathering for Warehouse Twenty One staff. “It started out as an ‘invite anyone you know, family is welcome, let’s just go hear some cool live music’ thing,” she says. “It started off pretty grassroots with fewer than 100 people. Every year since then it’s grown incrementally into an event to celebrate the West Edge as an entire community.”
“Last year our estimates were a couple thousand people,” Schacht says, indicating the area’s desire for fringe culture, food, drink and music. “Right now there’s not a lot of music in Cheyenne that’s coming from outside the state. Our goal is to raise enough money to bring at least one national act to Cheyenne on an annual basis, providing our community with an awesome, free show.”
Now just days before the event pops off, Schacht has seen the West Edge world grow significantly. “It seems like every year it gets a little easier,” she says. More and more volunteers, a committee and a non-profit board have helped divvy up the workload and expand the community. “This time last year we had a couple hundred people who’d RSVP’d on Facebook,” Schacht says, “today it’s over 2,000. More people know and are talking about it.”
It’s a testament to the demand for hip music and the organization’s passion, but a little outside heft has helped a lot too. “For the past five years, Warehouse Twenty One has been the biggest donor for putting on EdgeFest. This year Taco Johns (the Cheyenne-based West-Mex restaurant) came in as the presenting sponsor, which is huge. It allows us to book K-Flay and in future years even bigger headliners. We’re conjoined with a separate nonprofit arm called the Big Eight Foundation and it’s a free event, so it’s not just the community support of people showing up, but also local business giving us financial support.”
EdgeFest presents K-Flay with Billy Raffoul Saturday, August 24 at the new Civic Commons Park in the West Edge neighborhood of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The event is free and all-ages from 5 to 10pm. Breweries, food trucks and regional vendors will be on site serving beer and local fare. Visit www.edgefest.com for more.