From the snowy bacchanal that is Winter on the Rocks to Southwest Airline’s just-announced free show there, the pieces of this year’s Red Rock’s—concert season have once again fallen—together like the world’s slowest puzzle, week by week over the last six months.
Believe it or not, the—venue still—has several shows to announce—before the dust settles entirely. But enough shows are set in stone to get—the big picture of—this year’s schedule — and it might—be the most impressive lineup Red Rocks has had in the 70 years it’s been regularly hosting concerts.
Now, if—you’ve ever tried to extol the virtues of Norah Jones (playing Red Rocks on June 14)—to a Hot Topic clerk, you’ll know that an essay built on a—this-band-is-better-than-that-band—argument is about as stable—as a cabana—at the Fyre Festival.
But there are figures that—suggest—that Red Rocks has just gotten better at—giving people what they—want in recent years. Since 2010, the—venue’s concert schedule has grown year-over-year, hitting 135 shows in 2016. This year, it looks to surpass that figure once again (though—not by much).
If you have more darts to throw, in other words, you’re going to hit more bulls-eyes.
“The first year I worked here, I think we did 78 shows and we thought that was spectacular,” said Red Rocks director of marketing and business development Brian Kitts, who joined the venue in 2011.—”This year will be about 140.”
More—shows has meant—more business. Even Nickelback (Sept. 12), a band forever seated in—pop music’s—dunk—tank,—is bound to move a few stubs. Just a—few weeks—into the venue’s summer season, Red Rocks—has already sold—866,630 tickets on the 137 concerts it has announced so far — a healthy clip, and about 283,300 short of what it sold in total last year — and booked 34 sell-out shows, which could be on track for a record number of sell-outs, Kitts said. And it’s still early:—Kitts expects even Nickelback to sell out eventually.
Listing—off the names—of the sell-outs already in the bag is like reading the biggest type off of one of those fake—Coachella—posters that circulate every year: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (May 29 and 30), Paul Simon (June 28), Ween (July 12), Gorillaz (Sept. 26), Incubus (Oct. 3) and Beck with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (July 11)—are—just the ankle of the—bride. (Which reminds me: As of press time, there have been—zero female-fronted sell-out shows this year.)
However, it’s worth noting that—hall-of-fame artists playing sold-out shows don’t make a Red Rocks season necessarily excellent; they make it successful. Padded out by dance music—(Colorado’s own Pretty Lights on Aug. 11 and 12), annual Red Rocks journeymen like Blues Traveller (July 4) and the Avett Brothers (July 7-9) and legacy—acts, a large chunk of—the schedule is easy money and actually not all that interesting.
Besides, if—you were to—judge purely by names, you’d have to account for—era. A schedule featuring Melissa Etheridge, Ozzy Osbourne, Harry Connick Jr., Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Moody Blues teaming up—with the—Colorado Symphony Orchestra might not prick up millennial ears, but in—1992, it was stellar.
“It was a little different back then,” said G. Brown, a former pop music writer at The Denver Post and current director of the Red Rocks Hall of Fame. “We didn’t have 200 shows like you have to endure. Back then, when it was 55 shows a summer … it was the best and the brightest. Every Red Rocks schedule was pretty superb.”
The—generational divide is an obstacle—for any attempt at an objective—look—at the venue.—In his 26 years at The Post and six years working for Red Rocks, Brown estimated he’s been to about 400 shows at the venerable amphitheater. Last year, he saw two. (“It’s not my job anymore,” he laughed.)
But with all due respect to this year’s—stable of legends, it’s—the fringe shows that—make the 2017 schedule—worth sticking to the refrigerator door. A far cry from Huey Lewis and the News’ four-day stand at the venue in 1985, promoters haven’t been—afraid to take chances this year. AEG Presents—rolled the dice on synth-y English indie rockers Glass Animals (July 26) and got a sell-out. Maryland rapper Logic — who blew up—like—a champagne-flavored vape mushroom cloud—this year — turned a pair of Ogden Theatre sell-outs into a keenly booked—Red Rocks debut (Aug. 14).
These deep cuts mixed in with the instant classics (a nearly retired—A Tribe Called Quest will play a sold-out one-off show there on Aug. 10)—may make it seem uneven, but they make—an impression, too. Just as—Dave Matthews Band was when it played there in 1995, brooding British trio the—XX will make a memorable, career-highlight show when it comes to town on Oct. 9.
It’s—funny to think that blues guitar virtuoso—Joe Bonamassa and bizarre South African hip-hop duo Die Antwoord exist in the same universe, let alone that they would—play—Red Rocks in three days of each other. But there they are: Die Antwoord’s futuristic trailer-park rappers Yolandi Visser and Ninja, making their venue debut, and the ever-slick Bonamassa, a vision of what a Les Paul guitar might look like if it sprang to life.
This is Red Rocks in 2017: A venue that doesn’t care if you think music has gone downhill since they started coating—guitars in—polyurethane,—or if you prefer—to role-play as galactic white trash locked into orbit—around a pair of South African weirdos with bad haircuts.
For music fans of either (or both), there’s—never been more occasions worth the trip to Red Rocks than this summer. Until next year, anyway.