Best Place To See A Concert: Red Rocks

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010

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Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of the coolest places you’ll ever see a concert. Located just 15 miles west of Denver, it’s a must-see on any Colorado vacation in the spring, summer or fall. Open-air concerts take place here all season long under big, starry western skies. Check it out!

Night view of the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver. (Colorado Tourism Office)

The amphitheatre is a red sandstone structure providing naturally excellent acoustics. A big, disc-shaped rock tilts toward the crowd from behind the stage, while a gigantic vertical rock angles outwards from stage right and several large boulders angle upwards from stage left. In the middle of it all, there is a seating area for up to 9,450 people.

These great monolithic rocks were gradually raised from the prehistoric ocean floor to create the “walls” of the concert venue. The area used to be called “Garden of Angels” and is a history lesson in itself. Dinosaur footprints from 160 million years ago were found nearby, as well as fossil fragments of a giant 40-foot sea serpent Plesiosaur.

These old sea ledges now jut up and angle at 90 degrees or more. Both “Ship Rock” and “Creation Rock” are taller than Niagara Falls, landing the amphitheatre on the Seven Wonders of the World list at one time.

The concert spot began way back in the early 1900s, when the area’s visionary, John Brisben Walker, produced a few concerts from a temporary platform. In 1927, the City of Denver got involved when George Cranmer, the then Manager of Denver Parks, bought the area for the city. Cranmer then talked the mayor into developing Red Rocks into what it is today. The seating was designed by Denver architect Burnham Hoyt in 1936. Construction was completed in 1941.

Performances have now been taking place at Red Rocks for over 100 years. The season always begins with a non-denominational service at sunrise on Easter Sunday. The rest of the spring, summer and some of the fall are filled with big name performers in both the classical and rock worlds.

The first rock n’ roll band to play at Red Rocks was the Beatles, in 1964, but a Jethro Tull concert in 1971 almost ruined it for rock acts. A lot of people who weren’t ticket holders showed up for the performance and were ushered behind the famous red rocks, where they could hear but not see the performance. All was well until some of these people tried to force their way into the amphitheatre by throwing rocks at police. The authorities then threw tear gas at the rioters, which drifted over to the paying crowd and the stage itself. Rock bands weren’t allowed again until 1976.

Jam bands have long been welcomed at the site, including the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, Phish and String Cheese Incident.

Whether you’re looking for a performance of classical, metal, funk, folk, rock or techno music- Red Rocks is the place to see it. Music lovers and artists agree that Red Rocks is one of the most beautiful concert venues in the world.

A notable performance in its history is that of U2, who recorded their 1983 concert and released it as the video “Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky.” Rolling Stone magazine later named the concert as one of the “50 Moments that Changed Rock n’ Roll.”

The aptly named Red Rock Amphitheater. (Colorado Tourism Office)

Countless other artists have recorded audio and video from their concerts at Red Rocks to great critical acclaim. These artists include Neil Young, Ben Harper, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Incubus, Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers Band, and Oasis.

Come and visit Red Rocks for a majestic concert setting with a panoramic view of the City of Denver. You’ll never forget it!

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is located near Morrison, Colorado, just 15 miles west of Denver. Coming from downtown, travel on Interstate 70 west to the Morrison exit (#259). At the bottom of the exit ramp turn south (left) onto Colorado Highway 93 and continue to the entrances. Westbound 6th Avenue may also be used to connect with I-70 west. Coming from south Denver, travel on C-470 west to the Morrison Road exit. Turn to the west into Morrison and follow the signs.

  • Red Rock is very fantastic with lots of lights. Great concert!

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