Sure, U2 gets all the attention this year for kicking off the Big Name concert season in Denver (at least they’re not sending you free concert tickets you didn’t ask for), but it doesn’t take much digging to find plenty of gems in and around Boulder for the discriminating music lover this summer. So turn off that “personal device” and go see some live music!
By Dave Kirby
The string-music force is strong around these parts, and dedicated followers of all things ’grassy will tell you that Planet Bluegrass in Lyons is about as close to heaven as we mortals are allowed to get. The jewel in the crown is the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Aug. 14-16. You can catch the singular Mary Chapin Carpenter in a duo with Shawn Colvin on Saturday, Boulder-bred The Wood Brothers and guitarist/songwriter extraordinaire Richard Thompson on the Sunday show, or local newgrass stars Taarka and Peter Yarrow (yes, that Peter Yarrow) heading up the Friday lineup.
Down the Peak to Peak, the 17th annual NedFest stages from Aug. 28-30. Beloved Nederland pickers Gipsy Moon (above) make an appearance on Friday’s bill, Todd Snider and his Hard Working Americans alt-Americana outfit will rock Saturday’s stage, and Sunday’s bill will see an appearance by Vince Herman, visiting the ’hood after a couple of years touring with Leftover Salmon. As Vince’s son Silas heads up Gipsy Moon, expect a surprise or two during Vince’s set.
Closer to home, the rambling Chautauqua Auditorium hosts another embarrassment of musical riches this summer on its storied stage (how many other stages around here can claim John Philip Sousa as a past performer?). Acclaimed instrumentalist and musicologist Ry Cooder appears with legendary picker Ricky Skaggs and country/gospel singer Sharon White on June 19, Wynton Marsalis returns to Boulder to play the Auditorium on July 8, and Melissa Etheridge rocks the rafters on Aug. 5. Ricky is unrelated (note the spelling) to Boz Scaggs, who shimmies in for a show on July 13. Also keep an eye out for what may be the best vocal-trio show of the year, when Mavis Staples, Patty Griffin and Amy Helm team up the next night, July 14. Soul and blues get their nights with Michael McDonald and Robert Cray on Aug. 14 and 15 respectively, and John Hiatt and Taj Mahal fill out a bill on Sept. 19.
Down the hill, the Twenty Ninth Street concert series stages every Thursday throughout the summer, 6-8 p.m., free of charge, and features performances by vocal rock band (don’t call them a-cappella) Face on July 23, and Denver’s reigning soul goddess Hazel Miller on July 16. Look for Denver-based dancefloor kings Phat Daddy on July 9.
And just over there, the Louisville Street Faire continues to grow and provides some great outdoor live music. Three of Colorado’s most cherished musical acts are on the schedule this year: the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band plays on July 10, the indefatigable Chris Daniels rocks the best horn band west of the Mississippi on July 31, and Boulder’s own Firefall reunites for an Aug. 14 show. Don’t pass up on Marcia Ball, who’s been kicking audiences upside the noggin with swampy Louisiana blues and Texas boogie-woogie for the better part of 40 years, and promises to disrupt the dominant paradigm on June 19.
And if all that isn’t enough, and it isn’t, there’s that funny little venue down the road, perched between two giant red sandstone slabs. Some of Colorado’s best and most treasured acts will be gracing the Red Rocks stage this year, including Big Head Todd (June 6), The String Cheese Incident (July 24-26), Yonder Mountain on Aug. 21, and the endlessly beguiling DeVotchKa, who stages another of their immensely popular Red Rocks concerts (“pure bliss” says one local publication) with the Colorado Symphony on July 23.
Other great headliners playing Red Rocks this summer include blues guitar powerhouse Joe Bonamassa on Aug. 17, the legendary Mark Knopfler on Sept. 23, Widespread Panic in one of its famed three-day occupations June 26-28, Florence and the Machine on Aug. 8, Grace Potter on Sept. 19, and the enchanting Diana Krall on Aug 12. Country music fans should check out Tim McGraw on Sept. 9-10. The EDM set gets their turn to howl with Boulder’s own Big Gigantic for their annual Rowdytown disturbance Sept. 25-26, and Pretty Lights sets the place aglow on Aug. 7-8. Professional mope Morrissey might cheer up for his July 16 date on the Rocks, and Daryl Hall and John Oates channel some ’70s-era blue-eyed soul on Sept. 1. Those bellbottoms still fit, don’t they?
And you read it here first: It will NOT rain at Red Rocks this year.
Well, probably not.