Any Red Rocks patron you meet will entertain you with their wondrous tales of the unparalleled concert experience; the infamous 20 story climb from the parking lot to the amphitheater seats is well worth the trek. The 70 rows of wooden benches are flanked by two staggering 300-foot structures, Creation Rock and Ship Rock, while the 100 foot difference from the stage to the upper rows allows stunning views of Denver’s twinkling lights. The breathtaking venue, nested in the Fountain Formation of Morrison, has certainly made its mark on history.
Red Rocks’ first concerts were as early as 1906, when entrepreneur John Brisbane Walker saw the acoustic potential of the unique geological structures and established the space as a concert venue. It wasn’t until the city of Denver purchased the land from Walker in the 1930s that the Red Rocks we’re familiar with today came into existence. The 5-year construction period, ending in 1941, produced an amphitheater with a fortified stage and 9,525 seats for eager listeners.
The venue has hosted nearly 2,700 concerts, and each of the past six years has outranked the last for number of shows played. Since its creation, Red Rocks has seen some of the biggest names in music across every genre imaginable: from the Beatles, to Tom Petty, to Widespread Panic. U2 visited the venue in 1983 on their War tour, which produced the best-selling concert video “Under a Blood Red Sky”, while also serving as a pivotal point for both artist and venue; both parties received overwhelming international acclaim. The magic of Red Rocks stays with many of its guests, artists from John Denver to the Grateful Dead returning countless times to the dusty stage.
Today, Red Rocks not only hosts artists and bands, but festivals as well. As Colorado has had a growing reputation as the ‘bass capital of the world’, the venue hosts several EDM festivals each year, including the Global Dub Festival, Hard Red Rocks, as well as double-night visits from STS9. Although not all of 2017’s shows have been booked yet, the venue’s website already offers an impressive list of artists set to grace the seasoned stage. Odesza, Marshmello, Zed’s dead, Gramatik, as well as the Flatbush Zombies headlining ‘420 Eve on the Rocks’ serve as a testament to Red Rocks growing basshead demographic.
This autumn I had the pleasure of attending both Big Gigantic’s Rowdy Town V as well as The Floozies, which featured Pretty Lights ex-member Michal Menert and his expansive band as an opener. I’ve concluded that Red Rocks really is the perfect venue. The amphitheater’s step-like seats prevent concert-goers from suffering the dense and sometimes dangerous crowds found at flatter venues. Additionally, it doesn’t matter how far back you are, as the high-up seats still have a perfect view of the stage. The 420-friendly state sees massive clouds of smoke floating over the audience, which adds another layer of beauty to the colorful lasers and lights that shoot out from the stage. And of course, the acoustic experience first discovered by Walker is unmatched. A concert at Red Rocks is certainly one for your bucket list.