Red Rocks is a natural, open-air amphitheatre that was was created when slow movements of the earth pushed up enormous sandstone cliffs, exposing prehistoric ocean floor dating back 300 million years. The magnificent setting combined with the view of Denver has led many concertgoers and musicians to refer to it as their favorite venue.
I know it may be hard for you to believe, but my first memory of Red Rocks is the time I performed there.
I should explain something first not many people know, even people who have traveled to Red Rocks to see a show. Red Rocks is a public park and when there isn’t an event going on, the gates are open, security is nowhere in sight and even the stage is on-limits.
Back to my fabled performance that was part of a summer camp talent show. The year was 1991 and I was 8 — two things I know only because a friend and I performed an embarrassing rendition of the then-popular C+C Music Factory hit “Every Body Dance Now.” Lip-synching in front of a crowd of our peers to a battery-operated boom box, which buzzed on every beat, burned a memory into my brain I have never since had the guts to repeat.
But on to the first actual concert I ever saw at the fabled venue: I was 15 and had bought a scalped ticket to a sold-out show on an I-70 off-ramp. The Wallflowers opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in a concert that will probably never fall out of my top five.
In the summers that followed, it was common for a group of friends and I to drive the 15 miles west of Denver to see a show. For me, the most notable were Widespread Panic, Jackson Browne, and Neil Young with Crazy Horse.
After I turned 18 and no longer had to worry about curfew (Denver law), I spent most nights at house parties that moved to parks after being broken up. Every once in a while at the right hour, somewhere in Denver someone would have the idea of driving up to Red Rocks to watch the sun rise over the Queen City on the Plains.
You wont convince me of a better place to watch the sunrise. When the sun strikes the 300-foot sandstone monoliths head on at dawn, the natural theater performs an imposing act.
Public performances have been held at Red Rocks for over 100 years, and many even believe the Ute Indians used the area for its natural acoustic wonders. Originally know as “The Garden of the Angels,” the theater was once listed as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The earliest documented performance occurred on May 31, 1906, put on by John Brisben Walker, the famed editor who purchased the park with money he acquired from his sale of Cosmopolitan Magazine.
The first notable rock performance came in August 1964 when the Beatles performed a few months after they initially arrived in America.
Due to the area’s picturesque and unique setting, Red Rocks has been a popular venue for live recordings and videos. John Denver, The Dave Matthews Band, U2, Blues Traveler, The Moody Blues, Coldplay, The Allman Brothers Band, and Phish have all made famous recordings on the Rocks.
Clearly, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has a special place in my heart. I encourage you to go to the Rocks and experience something not duplicated anywhere else in the world.
In good traffic, you can drive from Aspen to Red Rocks in less than three hours — so make a road trip out of it, or just make it a stop on your next road trip headed east. Go for a concert, go for the park, but — if you really want a show — go for a sunrise.
Someone once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about geologic formations.” John Zelazny believes he could dance about geologic formations, if given that assignment. He appreciates your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This is an abridged list of concerts over the next couple months. For a complete concert guide, visit www.redrocksonline.com .