“Music is Life”: The River City Rhythm and Rock Festival Celebrates Fitchburg’s Diversity


The Point

Organizers begin setting up the tent for the first performance of the night; via The Point

Nicholas Valdez, Staff Writer, Managing Editor

Saturday, September 17, crowds gathered at the River City Rhythm and Rock Festival in an 8 hour celebration of music, culture, and the arts. The event would take place at the Riverfront Park and host a focus on young, local creatives in the Hip-Hop and arts community of Fitchburg.


For the event, Noel Plouff of the Thurston Consort, an ensemble and musical organization, teamed up with Derek Craig of Young Coff33 Productions, a local music and arts organization, working in collaboration with the city of Fitchburg to honor and represent the community’s diverse culture. 


The event featured a change in target audience as the day went by, with a bouncy house, cornhole, and other games laid out for children to play during the day; but when the sun went down, rock, rap, and comic shows took over the venue. Although the event was meant to celebrate and honor the cultural make-up of Fitchburg, and the organizers relished in the idea, they also spoke with an undertone of rebellion.


“We just wanted to bring something that isn’t here already, because there’s a lot of music festivals and things that happen in the city during the summer, but they don’t really cater to people like me—like us.” said Edgar “Shotyme” Carter, a member of Young Coff33 that helped organize the event alongside Craig. “We book hip-hop acts in the park and that would never happen in Fitchburg.”


Carter shared his thoughts on how Fitchburg tends to stigmatize hip-hop, the culture that surrounds it, and the rappers that encourage it. He admitted that hip-hop wasn’t something people typically expected at the park on a Saturday, and that the initial idea warded people off.


“It’s not widely accepted in public spaces like this. More often than not, you’re not gonna see a hip-hop band out there playing or a hip-hop artist playing on a big stage or giving an opportunity to be on a stage at all,” said Carter. “A lot of the difficulty that we saw was just the stigma of throwing a hip-hop festival, because people hear that and they’re like, ‘oh, there’s gonna be problems.’ And there wasn’t. And it’s great.”


Plouff shared Carter’s attitude, and expressed a desire to keep local talent in Fitchburg: “On a municipal level, hip-hop and rock isn’t really—they don’t get behind it, you know? So this was an opportunity to put something together,” said Plouff. “There is a tremendous amount of talent in this community, in this region, and I don’t want to see it Leave. I don’t want them to think that Fitchburg’s boring. So let’s create an event for them, that’ll keep them excited about the city.”


Although the event boasted a large number of patrons, it seemed to be missing the attendance of university students. Despite the Fitchburg State campus being less than a mile from Riverfront Park, the event had a clear absence of student engagement. 


Liz Murphy, from the City of Fitchburg Community Development Department, when speaking with the Point about the disconnect between Fitchburg State students and events held by the city of Fitchburg said, “We would absolutely love to have the students down. I can tell you, we’ve been trying to crack that nut for years. What is it the university students want to see downtown?”


Murphy believes that the answer to that question lies in the ongoing developments that Fitchburg State has going on downtown, like the ideaLab and the Theater Block.


“The university’s actually been a great partner in revitalizing downtown, and I think that is part of the attempts to have the student body come into downtown more often.”