Denver Music Scene
Lauren Wells | April 4, 2014
Denver’s deep folk music tradition began in the 1960s and 1970s as country-folk stars like Judy Collins and John Denver popularized the genre. Psychedelic rock also hit the 1970s scene as bands like Sugarloaf played in the area. The late 1970s saw the band Stallion produce their one hit song “Old Fashioned Boy (You’re the One).” Grunge punk rock bands like The Fluid (originally known as Madhouse) and the rock band Big Head Todd and the Monsters influenced the sound coming out of Colorado in the 1980s. The 1990s introduced artists like John Grant, formerly a member of the band The Czars, an alternative rock band from Denver. Indie pop rock band The Apples in Stereo, alternative country band 16 Horsepower, Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy, and electro hip-hop band Reverb and the Verse gained popularity throughout the 1990s. The new millennium brought acts like neo soul singer-songwriter India.Arie, indie hip-hop band Flobots, and experimental rock band Feat Before. Denver has also produced pop rock band The Fray, Christian pop punk band Roper, Christian rock-metal band Random Hero, and indie rock band The Pseudo Dates. Indie folk rock band The Lumineers have risen in popularity with their infectious hit song “Ho Hey.” The Pseudo Dates (an indie rock band), Air Dubai (a hip-hop alternative rock band), and Cowboy Dave Band (a country honky tonk band) also recently hail from Denver.
The Boulder Theater features acts like the Johnny Clegg Band, Neutral Milk Hotel, Brad Behldau Trio, The Polish Ambassador, and G. Love & Special Sauce. Located in downtown Boulder, the venue also hosts corporate and private events. Opened in 1906 as the Curran Opera House, the space originally featured opera and musical productions as well as silent and “talkie” movies. Purchased by the Fox Theater Company in 1935, the Boulder Theater has an art deco style and is officially a Colorado Historic Landmark. The theater has since seen performances by Bonnie Raitt, the Plasmatics, Jeff Lorber, and Timothy Leary. Hosting over 250 events each year, the Boulder Theater hosts the Boulder International Film Festival, Warren Miller films, Boulder Adventure Film Festival, and other community events.
Opened in 1919, the 1,600-capacity Ogden Theatre is a former movie theater that now hosts concerts by performers like Christina Perri, The Infamous Stringdusters, Paper Diamond, Gungor, and The Wanted. An official historic building, the Ogden used to host organ recitals, dances, lectures, and vaudeville acts by legends like Harry Houdini. Since becoming an event space, the venue hosts around 150 concerts per year.
The Bluebird Theater, built in 1913, was originally a movie house before becoming a concert venue in 1944. The multi-tiered theater has a balcony that overlooks the entire concert space. Run by AEG Live, the Bluebird Theater books acts like the Black Lips, East of the Wall, Diamond Plate, Birch Street, Head for the Hills, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, The Congress, Destruction, Okkervil River, Mindless Self Indulgence, and Typhoon, among others.
The Summit Music Hall hosts bands like Mad Caddies, DEVO, Iced Earth, No Fair Fights, Say Anything, The Black Dahlia Murder, Gorguts, Noisem, La Femme, and Silver Snakes. Operated by Soda Jerk Presents, the Summit Music Hall is located in the Lodo neighborhood of Denver. Typically known for booking metal bands, the venue has a large bar for a mid-size event space and has an industrial vibe.
Also run by Soda Jerk Presents, the Marquis Theatre brings in acts like Larry and His Flask, Blind Man Deaf Boy, Jonny Craig, Caramel Carmela, Defy You Stars, and the Feeling of Falling. Known for booking greats bands and serving delicious pizza, the Marquis is an inexpensive, group-friendly venue that encourages getting up close and personal with some of your favorite up and coming artists.
Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium was built in 1905 and has hosted names like Rise Against, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Umphrey’s McGee, Marilyn Manson, Nelly Furtado, Joss Stone, James Blunt, Erykah Badu, and Five Iron Frenzy. Owned by Live Nation Entertainment, the Fillmore Auditorium is a 3,700-capacity event space located in the Capitol Hill area.
The 50,000 – 76,125 capacity Sports Authority Field at Mile High opened in 2001 in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Denver. Used mainly for football games, Sports Authority Field at Mile High is home to the NFL’s Denver Broncos and the MLL’s Denver Outlaws. Formerly home to the MLS’ Colorado Rapids, the venue has hosted bands like the Eagles and U2. For all your big name concert and sporting needs, the Sports Authority Field at Mile High has you covered.
The Paramount Theatre hosts performers like Gavin Degraw, Wayne Brady, The Kingston Trio, Steve Winwood, Jim Jefferies, Tori Amos, Crowder, and Kathleen Madigan, among others. Built in 1930 as a movie theatre, the Paramount is an art deco style building located near the 16th Street Mall in Denver. With a capacity of 1,870, the theater is a great space for popular entertainers to experience more intimate crowds. Home to a rare twin-console Wurlitzer theatre organ, the Paramount is an official historic landmark.
Home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth, the Pepsi Center is a 675,000 square foot sporting and entertainment arena. Opened in 1999, the arena, fondly known as “The Can,” hosts big names like Celine Dion, George Strait, Cher, Journey, Steve Miller Band, Juan Gabriel, Cyndi Lauper, and Arcade Fire.
The Bellco Theatre hosts big names in entertainment– think Chelsea Handler, Louis CK, Tori Amos, Florence + the Machine, Sting, and Il Divo, for example. With great acoustics, and strategically placed bars, the Bellco is a large venue that hosts everything from comedy shows to kids’ shows.
The Buell Theater hosts Broadway hits like “Once,” “Kinky Boots,” “Rock of Ages,” “American Idiot,” and “Jersey Boys,” among others, so if you’re looking for a night on the town and want to enjoy some musical theater, the Buell has you covered. Located in downtown Denver, the theater has great acoustics, a friendly staff, and is surrounded by great bars and restaurants in the area.
A former Casino Cabaret venue, the Cervantes’ Masterpiece used to host acts like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, James Brown, BB King, Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner into its 900-capacity event space. After renovations took place, the venue opened with live shows by Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, Derek Trucks, Dr. John, Sam Bush, Page McConnell of Phish, Branford Marsalis, and Warren Haynes. With two staged performance rooms, Cervantes’ Masterpiece has its ballroom and wrap-around balcony area as well as its space called The Other Side. They are operated separately, sometimes with simultaneous shows, but both have state of the art sound systems and great talent pouring through.
Hardly a political space, Denver’s City Hall venue hosts acts like Ruso, DJ Kid Capri, Men In Burka, Babyshoe, Miguel, and Andrew Novick. Located in the heart of Denver, City Hall has plenty of space to roam around and enjoy DJs spinning beats while you sip cocktails with your pals.
The Larimer Lounge books bands like Weekend, Cities Aviv, Fanfarlo, Lilies on Mars, Crash Kings, Branded Bandits, Break Anchor, and Bonnie and the Beard. Having formerly hosted bands like Augustana, Cherub, The Lonely Forest, Maps and Atlases, Passion Pit, Passenger, Surfer Blood, Sky Ferreira, and Thundercat, the Larimer Lounge hosts bands just as they’re on the cusp of breaking onto the mainstream scene. Check out a reasonably priced show before you have to drop serious dough in a few months!
The 2,225-capacity Ellie Caulkins Opera House, known as “the Ellie,” has balcony, mezzanine, loge, and orchestra areas for seating. A part of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the Ellie opened in 2005 and hosts primarily opera performances.
Acts like Chris Botti perform at the Boettcher Concert Hall, another space within the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The nation’s first round symphony hall, the venue features seats that offer advantageous sightlines, putting concert goers within 65 feet of the stage. Expertly designed for optimal acoustics, the Boettcher Concert Hall has a capacity of 2,679.
Opened in 1965, Denver Merchandise Mart hosts trade shows, consumer shows, banquets, conferences, and entertaining performances. The 807,000 square foot complex hosts events like Foam Wonderland, an EDM foam party extravaganza. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you get covered in foam and dance all night with thousands of other foamy concert goers.
Perhaps one of Denver’s most impressively gorgeous venues, Red Rocks is a park and amphitheatre that hosts the biggest names in music amongst a jaw-dropping backdrop. Built into a mountainside, the venue hosts acts like Slightly Stoopid, Mac Miller, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Lana Del Rey, OneRepublic, and Ellie Goulding. Named Rolling Stone’s “Best U.S. Amphitheatre,” Red Rocks has a 9,450 capacity and is a naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre formed between two monoliths (named “Ship Rock” and “Creation Rock”) that are taller than Niagara Falls.
Every April, the Snowball Music Fest hosts headliners like Pretty Lights, Knife Party, Griz, Busta Rhymes, Mimosa, Yeasayer, Warpaint, and Kill the Noise. With four stages featuring over 65 international, national, and local acts, late night parties, ice sculptures, and ski/snowboard jumps for athletes, the Snowball Music Fest is one of the most active festivals on the circuit. The festival incorporates restaurants, food trucks, live-painting by artists, merch booths, and arts & crafts into one entertaining, memorable weekend. The Snowmass Mammoth Fest, held in June, books acts like Leftover Salmon, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Xavier Rudd, Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang, Bonerama, The Motet, Houndmouth, Nathaniel Rateliff, Royal Southern Brotherhood, and The London Souls. Bring your appetite because the Snowmass Mammoth Fest serves the best beer and chili! Bands in the Backyard is held every June in Pueblo, Colorado. Jake Owen, Thomas Rhett, Uncle Kracker, Chase Rice, Casey Donahew Band, Charley Jenkins, and Overton Road are all a part of the lineup for 2014. Bring your tents, because camping is encouraged! Grand Junction hosts the camping-friendly, weekend-long Country Jam each June, booking acts like Jake Owen, Lady Antebellum, Kellie Pickler, Jana Kramer, Eric Church, Jamie Lynn Spears, Craig Morgan, Brantley Gilbert, and Brett Eldredge. The Sonic Bloom Festival takes place each June in South Park, Colorado with a lineup that includes artists like Tipper, Eoto, The Polish Ambassador, Opiuo, Random Rab, Quantic, Benji Vaughan, and Zilla. 75 minutes from Denver, the festival is held on the American Safari Ranch and offers mountain views, bars, games, DJ booths, and camping options. The Ride Festival is held in Telluride, and has featured past acts like Escondido, The Soft White Sixties, Rival Sons, The Revivalists, The Whiskey Sisters, and Brother and Bones. The festival began in 2012, and has featured Ben Harper, David Byrne and St. Vincent, The Lumineers, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Drive-By-Truckers, Los Lobos, and Steve Earle. For over forty years, the Rockygrass Festival has hosted musical performances, workshops, contests, and family-friendly activities in the Lyons, Colorado area. Founded by Bill Monroe and the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society, this Bluegrass festival offers camping, beautiful views of the St. Vrain River, antique stores, restaurants, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting nearby. The Bass Light Festival in Denver is billed as “The Ultimate Flashlight Party,” hosting EDM acts like Borgeous, Atik, and Kozah. The Westword Music Showcase in Denver features acts like Diplo, 2 Chainz, Cherub, Man Man, King Khan & the Shrines. The one-day festival hosts twelve stages with over 150 bands and has a variety of local vendors, food, and beverages to enjoy between performances.