The Best Music Festivals in the Centennial State

Nothing beats the fresh mountain air, good company, and your favorite musical sounds. And with a wide variety of music styles and beautiful mountain venues, the state of Colorado offers some of the best live music festivals in the nation. From bluegrass tunes to classic rock, these concerts draw thousands of music lovers to the state every year and are perfect for family-friendly vacations. And whether you’re a seasoned festival attendee or simply a fan of live music, here’s a small sample of the best music festivals to see in the Centennial State.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Held each year in June, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival brings together a talented roster of artists that play a uniquely American style of bluegrass. It often features performers that you wouldn’t normally associate with traditional bluegrass music, such as Elvis Costello, who came to the festival one year to pay homage to the earthy and soulful history of bluegrass.

The mountain views of Telluride create a perfect backdrop to the sound of mandolins, Dobros, and fiddles, and the climate is ideal for enjoying this outdoor event (which also includes traditional dancing). Camping is also available for those who want to savor the experience of being around fellow bluegrass enthusiasts all day and into the night.

Whether you like rock, country, folk, or blues, these festivals have something for everyone!
Whether you like rock, country, folk, or blues, these festivals have something for everyone!

Sonic Bloom Music Festival

If electronic music is your thing, the Sonic Bloom Music Festival in June is a must. Past performers at this innovative music celebration include Justin Martin, Bass Physics, and Space Jesus. In addition to the funky sounds of this electronic music, many other artists come to the festival to display their work. There are live painting exhibitions, vendors, and a host of other activities that celebrate this musical genre. You can even bring you camping gear and fall asleep beneath a landscape of stars as you rest for another day of great tunes. In 2017, the festival will be moved to its new permanent home on the Hummingbird Ranch in Spanish Peaks Country, Colorado.

Arise Music Festival

The Arise Music Festival in Loveland, Colorado features a diverse group of artists each year, including Ziggy Marley, Mike Love, and Jurassic 5. The vibe surrounding this event is distinctly New Age, and there are Yoga workshops and a mini-documentary film festival featured at the event that is designed to soothe the body and inspire the mind.

Held in August, Arise takes place at the beautiful Sunset Ranch that’s surrounded by a national forest. With vast meadows and sweeping mountain views, it’s an excellent setting for listening to good music. Camping is also permitted and recommended for those who want to experience the totality of this laid-back and fun gathering.

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A Brief History of Red Rocks Amphitheatre

The Red Rocks Amphitheatre isn’t just any old concert venue; it’s a massive 640-acre outdoor theater that was formed over millions of years and sits between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. It’s also the only naturally-occurring outdoor music venue in the world. Over the years, Red Rocks has been a favorite of both performers and audiences alike, with many musicians gushing over how beautiful the view is. To learn more about the makings of this magnificent venue, here’s a brief history lesson on the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Birth of the Amphitheatre

Using Colorado’s rock formations for live music performances first dawned on John Brisben Walker at the beginning of the 20th century. Walker began putting on a wide variety of live musical acts in the region at the start of the 1900s, and soon afterward the plan for a professional Red Rocks Amphitheatre was born.

The City of Denver eventually purchased the Red Rocks area during the Great Depression and had the amphitheater built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “alphabet agencies,” including the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). After years of hard labor, the theater was officially dedicated in June of 1941 with a seating capacity of 9,525.

The natural rock within the ampitheatre creates a truly one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
The natural rock that forms the amphitheater creates a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

Geology of the Area

While it only took a few decades to complete the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, it took Mother Nature millions of years to produce the massive sandstones used for the venue’s acoustics. Archeologists have even found dinosaur tracks from around 160 million years ago in the sandstones that make up the foundation. The southernmost rock in the theater is called “Ship Rock” and the rock directly opposite of it is called “Creation Rock.” Both of these tilting structures are taller than the mighty Niagara Falls in Canada and gives the venue a mountainous quality.

Famous Performers Throughout the Years

The first performance at the Red Rocks Amphitheater was put on by Walker in 1906 and featured a 25-piece brass band. The theater went on to feature many opera singers and military bands in the early 1900s. The Beatles performed at a memorable concert in 1964 with Jimi Hendrix following in 1968. The famous folk singer-songwriter John Denver recorded many of his live shows at Red Rocks during the 1980s, and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks also recorded her live show at the Red Rocks in 1986. The concert venue continues to attract some of the biggest names in the music industry, including U2, the Zac Brown Band, Radiohead, and Morrissey. With spectacular scenery and energetic audiences, who wouldn’t want to play at the legendary Red Rocks?

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