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Rock in Rio Unveils Vegas City of Rock Venue for First USA Festival

rock in rio usa
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

At the Rock in Rio press conference at the Village recording studio in West Los Angeles on Tuesday evening, a scale model of the City of Rock, a 40-acre Las Vegas venue that looked like a kind of Disneyland for concertgoers, was on display. It was a reminder that even in the largest artificial environment in the world, the mantra of Big Is Beautiful has not been exhausted.

The permanent open-air concert venue is being erected to host the first Rock in Rio USA festival, taking place in Sin City on the weekends of May 8-9 and May 15-16, on the occasion of the global phenomenon’s 30th anniversary. The first weekend is dedicated to rock and the second to pop, with such artists as No Doubt, Metallica, Maná, Foster the People and the Deftones filling that initial bill, and Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Joss Stone and recent multiple Grammy nominee Sam Smith among the pop offerings.

It will all take place in a brand spanking new mini-city of sorts, with themed streets (U.S., U.K., Brazil), restaurants, mega-VIP lounge, shopping, Ferris wheel and a 64-foot high zip line that stretches across the main stage in case all that live music isn’t distracting enough. Organizers want to make sure festgoers enjoy themselves in a clean, safe, comfy space that might serve as a family-friendly antidote to the Coachellas and Bonnaroos of the world. And if you’re worried about missing one of the main acts, performances on the two main stages will be timed so that no major act is performing simultaneously with another.

All told, the sprawling compound is capable of accommodating 85,000 people a day in a city that is already hosting such multiday music extravaganzas as the Life Is Beautiful Festival, iHeartRadio Music Festival and the Electric Daisy Carnival (Rock in Rio USA has its own EDM tent, which has become standard issue, it seems, for these affairs).

Tickets, available starting Jan. 20, begin in the $300 range for weekend passes, and around $500 for a sort of all-you-can-eat-and-drink VIP daily pass.

Since the U.S. version of the event will take place every other year, the City of Rock will ostensibly be used for other events in the interim, according to Roberta Medina, exec VP of Rock in Rio, who is the daughter of Roberto Medina, the event’s founder.

If it all smacks of overarching ambition, the organizers have proved they can walk it like they talk it. They bill the fest as the biggest in the world, and managed to attract 1.38 million to the first City of Rock in Rio de Janeiro in 1985 — a 10-day event that featured Queen, AC/DC, Yes, Ozzy Osbourne and James Taylor, among others. The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Amy Winehouse have filled subsequent bills, as the festival has branched out to Portugal and Spain. By Rock in Rio’s count, more than 7.4 million people have attended its 14 editions, featuring in excess of 1,270 artists.

For more information, visit RockinRio.com.