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Published on : Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Denver has long been home to a robust live music scene; and this summer, with diverse venues, new and returning festivals and the celebration of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre’s 75thAnniversary, The Mile High City affirms its position as one of the top live music destinations in the country.
Denver rivals many U.S. cities known for their musical draws – especially as home to more live music venues than some better-known live music cities. There are several arena-sized spaces in Denver that bring in national headliners including the Pepsi Center, Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre, 1st Bank Center and, perhaps the most iconic, Red Rocks – the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. Red Rocks, which is consistently named one of the best outdoor concert venues and a ‘bucket list’ stage for both fans and musicians, will celebrate 75 years of star-studded concerts this summer; but there is still plenty of time and space for the local talent as well – from Grammy-nominated DeVotchKa’s partnership with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to hometown heroes like The Motet, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, The Lumineers and more.
This support of Denver’s artists and burgeoning music scene is also reflected in the city’s more intimate venues and growing festival calendar. “Not only is Denver home to the top outdoor music venue in the country, it is also home to an abundance of neighborhood venues, a growing number of local and national festivals and some of the country’s top musical talent,” saysRichard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “People may come here with the dream of seeing their favorite band play Red Rocks, but then they discover the impressive amount of live music accessible around the whole city and really begin to grasp the scale of our music scene.”
From large-scale venues to small, intimate clubs and theatres, there is a place for every type of music lover to celebrate their favorites. Below is a small look at Denver’s summer in music, new places to listen and iconic spaces for artists of all kinds. For more information on the music scene in Denver, go to the VISIT DENVER website.
SUMMER MUSIC EVENTS
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre 75th Anniversary & Summer Concert Series
Recently named to the National Historic Register and celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2016, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a world-famous outdoor concert and recreation venue located approximately 30 minutes from Denver. Red Rocks is recognized for its star-studded concert roster, stunning scenery and ambience; Rolling Stone magazine recently called it the best outdoor concert venue in the country. There are more than 130 shows in this year’s Summer Concert Series. Headliners for 2016 include Thievery Corporation, Bob Dylan, My Morning Jacket, Dolly Parton, Avett Brothers, DeVotchKa with The Colorado Symphony and many more. The park and amphitheater are open daily; the full calendar for the Summer Concert Series and event schedules can be found online.
Five Points Jazz Festival, May 21
This free festival celebrates the past of Denver’s Historic Five Points District, and in 2016, the festival has added 20 additional vendors, three more stages and expanded four blocks. Once known as the Harlem of the West, Five Points was home to several jazz clubs which played host to many of jazz music’s legends such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, among others. Since its inception in 2004, the Five Points Jazz Festival has grown each year in size and popularity.
Project Pabst, May 20-21
The popular music festival of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Project Pabst, will come to Denver for the first time this May. The festival will be held on Larimer Street, between 27th and 28th Streets with two outdoor stages and will feature Denver-based headlinerNathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. Other acts in the lineup include Violent Femmes, Baroness, Courtney Barnett and more. In addition to the Saturday block party, there will be club shows the night before.
Denver Day of Rock, May 28
Denver Day of Rock is a free, one-of-a-kind music event on the 16th Street Mall that features five stages with live music and family-friendly entertainment throughout Denver. This year’s performers include The Railbenders, Mark Broussard, Gipsy Moon and more. The event supports Amp the Cause, a local nonprofit organization focused on children’s health and education.
Underground Music Showcase (UMS), July 28-31
One of the most popular music festivals in Denver, UMS features more than 400 local and national acts at more than 15 venues and stages all around the city. The 2016 lineup features headliners Thee Oh Sees, Allah-Las and Polica, as well as local bands The Yawpers, The Bright Light Social Hour, Strawberry Runners and more.
Riot Fest & Rodeo, Sep. 2-4
National Western Complex
Riot Fest is a multi-day metal, rock, punk, hip-hop and alternative music festival that started in Chicago in 2005. It has since been such a success that it expanded to have stops in both Denver and Toronto. This independent music festival is full of the best of the best in each genre, from well-known artists to new artists and everything in between; and there is food, carnival rides and more entertainment. The lineup will be announced in late-May, and early bird tickets are on sale now.
The Mile High City features a wide selection of music venues to suit any taste, and many of the neighborhoods are home to hidden gems for music lovers. Many of these hangouts are classics among the music crowd – from the historic Bluebird, Ogdenand Fillmore theaters serving as intimate venues along East Colfax Avenue to downtown’s jazzy El Chapultepec and the honky tonk Grizzly Rose; and the laid-back approachable vibe of the city makes anyone feel welcome at any venue.
There are also a number of new live music hotspots around the city, many of which are restored historical masterpieces. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, an eclectic music venue that opened in April 2015, was once a brothel and now pays homage to its storied past with racy interior décor; the stage is flanked by custom-made curtains and a backdrop of transistor radios. The building that houses Nocturne – a jazz club in the hip RiNo (River North) district – has had several iterations, even once as a souvenir spoon factory; it now boasts some of the best acts in the local and national jazz genre. Baur’s Restaurant and Listening Lounge opened in the former O.P. Baur Confectionary Company headquarters in April 2015.
CAN’T MISS CLASSIC
The Denver Performing Arts Complex also adds to the extensive collection of genres that people can find in the city. From intimate concerts to theater, opera, dance, symphony and more, downtown Denver is home to the second largest performing arts complex in the country.
Denver is not only home to amazing venues and festivals, but it is also the birthplace of some music legends and current chart-toppers. Three early members of Earth, Wind & Fire hailed from Colorado, and they paved the way for some of today’s top acts including The Fray, OneRepublic, DeVotchKa, The Lumineers, Flobots, Pretty Lights and Big Gigantic. Some of Denver’s up-and-coming artists are also making waves, including Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Elephant Revival and Tennis, among many other very talented musicians.