Red Rocks summer concert calendar not all its cracked up to be - Reverb

I Might Be Wrong: Red Rocks plots a forgettable summer

There’s been much hullabaloo made in past weeks about Colorado’s beloved Red Rocks Amphitheatre and its century of concerts. And, deservedly so: Red Rocks is one of the best –- if not the best –- place on the planet to see live music. One monumental moment after another has occurred in Morrison, from the Beatles performing to Willie’s endurance. Still, most Red Rocks fans likely look back most fondly on personal moments: the first time caught in a rainstorm, losing a ride home, that first kiss or maybe even sneaking two 40s into a Neil Young show during high school and then passing out on the stairs.

Yet, with so much praise, one can’t help but notice that this summer’s concert line-up is relatively weak. (The film series might even out-duel the main affair.) The bookers that be –- AEG, Live Nation and the independent promoters –- have set up months of ‘70s rehashes (Earth, Wind & Fire, Chicago, Styx), jam-band burnouts (Widespread Panic, Yonder Mountain String Band), plain ol’ lousy music (Kings of Leon, Slightly Stoopid) and, odder still, cash-ins sans headliner (Michael Jackson Tribute, Abba: The Concert, 1964).

That, of course, isn’t the whole story, though.

What, then, looks like it’s worth the effort? Well, on back-to-back nights, Red Rocks welcomes the Flaming Lips and Primus (August 3) and My Morning Jacket with Amos Lee (August 4). Even though the Lips won’t be playing mainly originals –- they are covering Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in full –- Wayne Coyne & Co.’s shows are always worth a jaunt. (Its split bill at Red Rocks with Ween in 2006 was an epic trip.)

MMJ’s slot the next night might be the single best date on the RR calendar. Its new record “Circuital,” -– due in a week –- isn’t on par with My Morning Jacket’s best stuff, but it has grandiose, expansive moments that will surely be welcomed bouncing off the sandstone. All of this said, it’s hard not to believe that the best years (the “The Soft Bulletin” and “Yoshimi” for the Lips and the “At Dawn” and “It Still Moves” one-two for MMJ) are behind both bands.

This year’s country-fied offerings like the Avett Brothers, Ray LaMontagne, Mr. Nelson and Alison Krauss aren’t half-bad, either. But, where’s the fire –- the feverish zest –- here? Where are the shows that you just have to see –- begging, borrowing or stealing (a ganja gooball)? Even looking back just a couple of years irks. 2010 saw the (semi-) indie cred of MGMT and Vampire Weekend take the Rocks (this year you’ll have to deal with the whiny Death Cab on that score) and Phish played in 2009 for its first time since the ’96 “riots” (the venerable warhorses have opted for Dick’s this Labor Day weekend). 2008 boasted Nine Inch Nails and Sigur Rós. Daft Punk visited in 2007.

Being from Denver (and traveling home from the East Coast for almost a decade) saw momentous shows from a Chemical Brothers/Fatboy Slim split to Radiohead in 2003. There, seemingly, aren’t such memory-makers this year. The season kicks off Saturday with an oddball bill of the Disco Biscuits with Rusko and Big Boi which certainly could be fun –- stoned as all get-out –- but is a harbinger of a bummer summer. Much of the schedule reads like its 1998 again: Three nights of Dispatch (one is too many), Big Head Todd, Widespread Panic (yeah, it’s the group’s 25th anniversary but they’ll be back; death, taxes, Panic at Red Rocks…), Umphrey’s McGee, Blues Traveler (a Fourth of July tradition that needs to see a merciful eradication), Sarah McLachlan, Train, O.A.R., Yonder and STS9 are all performing. Even a reunited Soundgarden takes you back to the days when you were more likely to see MTV showcasing a long-haired guitarist from Seattle than a beefed-up moron on a beach. Throw in a few Jethro Tulls and Santanas and you’ve got the vitality of classic rock radio.

Certainly Red Rocks is a largish venue but it ain’t huge, either (it has an sub-10,000 capacity). And while the demise of Monolith doesn’t bode well for the overly out-there or ambitious, concertgoers have a right to demand something more from the storied institution. The Thievery Corporation/Ghostland Observatory bill and even Atmosphere and Pretty Lights are pointed in the right direction, but even those artists aren’t fresh or influential. And none have ever been indispensable.

Feel free to comment on what you’re looking forward to (or not) for this season and, perhaps, maybe share your own 40 guzzling memories from summers past. Chances are you couldn’t smuggle two in.

I Might Be Wrong is a weekly opinion-based discourse written by Reverb columnist Colin St. John. It is also a persistent record-store-geek reference to Radiohead.

Follow our news and updates on Twitter, our whereabouts on Foursquare and our relationship status on Facebook. Or send us a telegram.

Colin St. John is a Denver-based writer and merrymaker. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog.

  • Debbie

    Couldn’t agree more.u00a0 MMJ is the only show worth going to this yearnnYou’re on a roll. Can’t wait to read the whiny “They’re playing Red Rocks, but you’re just a writer” comments.

  • Jojowalk

    u00a0Kings Of Leon rock!u00a0 plain ole lousy music??u00a0 It was more like plain ole lousy writing!

  • Kev

    Sounds like you just don’t like anything, Colin.u00a0 While you have stated who you don’t like, you don’t mention a single act in which you’d like to see at Red Rocks this year.u00a0 So thanks for being a wet blanket.u00a0 I sure hope I don’t run into you at Red Rocks.u00a0 You just sound like a buzz kill

  • Joe

    If Primus and The Flaming lips aren’t enough for you…then I don’t know what to tell you.n

  • David Roth

    I couldn’t agree any more.u00a0 I thought that with the cancellation of Mile High Music Festival, we would have the greatest Red Rocks summer lineup ever, but it never happened.u00a0 Sadly, I thinku00a0I only have tickets to one show this summer, Flaming Lips/Primus and will likely end up seeing MMJ.u00a0 I miss the days of 4 nights of Dave Matthews Band which everyone across the US wanted to see, 4 nights of Phish, Ben Harper/Jack Johnson, String Cheese/Keller, and the rainy Coldplay show that they rocked. Bring me back to the day where it felt special to get a ticket to a Red Rocks show but I was never shut out of.u00a0 Come on AEG, bring the fire!

  • really?

    I saw KOL at ACL Fest a couple years ago and I thought they totally sucked…..

  • Dylan Winbourn

    I logged in just to comment….and I couldn’t disagree more. MGMT sucked. Why are they considered an upgrade from this year? And saying PL, Ghostland, and Atmosphere aren’t influential? Just because they aren’t your run of the mill corporate artists they get no love? Also, you failed to mention HUGE EDM artists like Skrillex, Nero, Cudi, Avicii, Empire of the Sun, Deadmau5, Benassi, and Big Gigantic that are coming….sounds like you just don’t like the acts coming because they aren’t your taste.

  • nashmang

    I agree with Colin on all fronts here.u00a0 Lips/Primus and MMJ are really the only two shows that perk my interest much.u00a0 Maybe Avett Bros. Anyone reading this comment that is excited about The Kings of Leon show should stop reading now because we don’t see eye-to-eye (and you should probably get your taste buds checked, fer reals)u00a0 Why is Sade at Pepsi Center rather than Red Rocks?u00a0 That would have been nice.u00a0 I’d also appreciate a Wilco date perhaps.u00a0 Was hoping for the Beastie Boys, but no word on a tour from them.u00a0 Maybe we will get a Byrds reunion date yet…u00a0 I miss Monolith….u00a0 Still other good shows around town at smaller venues…Sharon Jones at Botanic Gardens, Okkervil River at Bluebird, great double bill of Dale Earhardt Jr. Jr. + Ema at High-Dive.u00a0 Maybe we even get lucky and land a Dirtbombs gig at Larimer at some point….u00a0 Keep the faith.

  • really?

    Why are there 34 pictures of the Avett Brothers and no pics of any other band? u00a0 u00a0kinda boring.

  • Teamdahl

    That’s fine, we won’t need any of you taking up space at Widespread Panic’s record extending 36th, 37th and 38th sellout performances.

  • some music snob

    exactly, thank you. there’s usually a good 2-6 shows at most per season that i can get behind.nnlet people call us picky, snobs or harsh critics. if music is really what you’re into and all that you do, then you’re going to be just a little selective about what shows you pay $60 a ticket for.nnbooking for the masses/trends.

  • K.O.Smell

    First two records: The Best.nThese last two (that I’m pretty sure JOJOWALK is into): The dumbest.

  • Derek

    Death Cab was one of the best sounding shows i’ve heard there. I have seen 60+ shows there I stand behind that comment.u00a0 APC should get a nod I don’t know if there’s a better place to hear Maynard sing or that band play. I definitely blame the promoters for not pulling new artist but how many new albums/artist have come out this year?u00a0 And of the ones who have, they’re probably sticking to the European festivals.u00a0u00a0

  • avsRback?

    What? Soundgarden is going to be freaking awesome!!!

  • Hurls

    If you think the Flaming Lips and My Morning Jacket are the only good acts at RR this summer, then you clearly have terrible taste in music. u00a0The Lips have to be one of the most overrated acts I have ever seen. u00a0Same can be said for MMJ. u00a0nnTo each their own I guess.

  • Stephen

    You must be have a musical taste disability

  • John

    Even Film on the Rocks is forgettable this year. Big Lebowski? AGAIN?! Love the film, but there are far more to choose from. It’s kind of like The Esquire’s Midnight Madness at RR.nnThe music schedule is only for the masses that will blindly throw their money at bands that are not doing anything groundbreaking. Cashing it in at RR. Flaming Lips?! So tired and played out. MMJ?! Is this what our bar is now set to?nnColin, well put. I’m assuming most people commenting on this also went and saw U2 this past weekend.

  • Lorrence Scott Mahaffy

    I might see Primus and Soundgarden… so far.

  • Braydenl

    I agree way to say what you feel. This year does suck im sick of the jam bands and shitty dubstep groups I want some mature good music. Flamming lips and MMJ are good but like you said where is the big hitters? We need some way to bring Monolith back…….nnCheers!

  • Marc Purdham

    Standing to close to the pipe Colin?……..and your from here?…..Shame on you..what are ya 23?….When Greenwood Village brought on “Fiddlers Green” it was a huge slap in the face to all outdoor shows…..If there was a way to see EVERY show at the Rocks I would……Santana…Soundgarden….Earth,Wind & Fire……..I remember being there when they set up for the first show,putting the stage together.Seeing all the women pass the boda bag and being sprayed with the bottle….hot summer days and parties at the ROCKS will overcome all of your weak comments……

  • Bethany Breitner

    I have tickets for the Flaming Lips, MMJ & Soundgarden this summer and hoping for them all to be great shows.u00a0 Red Rocks does have a weak line-up this summer but I think the real question is WHO is out there touring that anyone wants to see?u00a0 I was really hoping for Seger to make his way to Colorado but the furthest west he took his tour was NE.u00a0 Mile High fest would have been nice too but I can’t really think of any big headliners that are currently touring that would uphold the event.u00a0 Not to mention the cost…I just spent $154 (face with fees) for 2 tickets for U2 and our nosebleed seats literally were the last upper row in the stadium.u00a0 It was a great show but those were the cheapest seats in the house.u00a0 Weak line-up?- yes but Red Rocks is a great show no matter who plays.

  • Alex

    Widespread Panic at Red Rocks is always the awesome, and sells out in minutes every year.  Why would the promoters not book them?

  • Alex

    Widespread Panic at Red Rocks is always the awesome, and sells out in minutes every year.  Why would the promoters not book them?

  • Jeremy Coss

    The Flaming Lips is performing Dark Side of the Moon…..again. How many times do they have to do that to sell tickets?

  • Jeremy Coss

    No one should pay top dollar to see a DJ. Way too many of them coming to Red Rocks this year that take away nights from actual talented musicians.

  • Jeremy Coss

    I have to agree here. Overall, the Red Rocks line up is filled with too many shows for raver kids to drop E and not for talented musicians. The worst artists seem to have multiple nights (minus Widespread Panic) and the line up lacks the awesomeness of last year. Seriously, Tom Petty, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Michael Franti, Stone Temple Pilots, etc….last year had me deciding on which bands to see, this year makes me depressed that I won’t be able to truly enjoy my favorite summer venue much due to no one worth the admission price. Sure Soundgarden will be good but there is no reason for the outrageous ticket price for them. It should have been ten to twenty bucks cheaper. MMJ sucks. Deadmau5 isn’t even music, he’s a DJ. How are there so many DJs playing there? Did the run out of room at the Church? So far the best artists seem to be playing smaller venues or just not coming to Denver.

  • Climbingartist

    It is just a reflection of the times, the best music has already been created. Get use to it.
    Thank god I saw all those great shows in the 70’s-90’s and I don’t have to waste my money on a bunch of copycats re-inventing the wheel.

  • CHuck

    We are very excited about the Train/Maroon 5 concert. That said, we moved here four years ago and have tried every year to find a concert to attend at Red Rocks and the lineup has been unimpressive.

  • Jen

    Who exactly would you like to see play there??nu00a0nI’m stoked for John Butler Trio!!

  • Steve

    Wow colin you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and it is a wonder that the Colorado daily published this article. First off Widespread panic are burnouts? they are headlining four nights something that MMJ could never do in a million years, also you forgot thievery corporation, umphrey’s mcgee, lotus, and blues traveler to name a few. Maybe you would prefer some more flat, fad like hipster music to suit your inability to actually understand music, but i guess each to their own.

  • paul

    i agree that it is a pretty weak line-up but i honestly can’t remember a FULL summer where it wasn’t. sure, i’ve seen daft punk, bjork, and radiohead there but i’ve probably only ever wanted to see 2 shows there MAX in one summer. but, then again, the promoters aren’t catering to me. they’re marketing to the baby boomers who have the cash to spend on nostalgic acts and to yuppies who like middle-of-the-road lifestyle music and jam bands. welcome to colorado. just listen to the radio in this town – we’re not living in a progressive hotbed here. nnfinally, who’s on tour right now that i’d want to see at red rocks? fleet foxes would have been great, sharon jones is always a treat and andrew bird’s whistling would have been perfect reflecting off of those rocks. hell, throw in some lil wayne for good measure and i might’ve hit 5 shows there this summer. but, i’m resigned to the line-up being consistently disappointing. even if the lips, death cab, a perfect circle, primus, mmj, etc. are all bands i enjoy – they just feel too safe. but, then again, i have a feeling that’s what the promoters had in mind.

  • Tay

    Ummmmm John Butler Trio is playing, so all of the other bands and lame acts can weep at his knees. He makes up for all of the lame acts that have and will play at this amazing venue.u00a0

  • Pingback: I Might Be Wrong: Time for aging rockers to pack it in | Reverb — Reverb Music — The Denver Post

  • Paul B

    Didnt like them at ACL the other year?u00a0u00a0 I, along with the large group of friends i went with, thought it was one of the best shows of that whole weekend.u00a0u00a0u00a0 i wasnt even a fan of KOL until i saw that concert…..

  • Paul B

    very good point…..and dont want to run into this buzz kill either.u00a0u00a0u00a0 cant wait for Panic and STS9

  • Pingback: Red Rocks hosted its busiest ever summer in 2011 | Reverb — Reverb Music — The Denver Post