Snow plows in the parking lot. Space heaters in the top rows of the venue. Beer in cans and plastic bottles, instead of frozen taps.
“I guess 40 degrees would be awesome, but there’s a part of me that hopes it’s freezing,” said MC Slug — real name Sean Daley — whose Minneapolis-based group is playing the amphitheater tonight. “I would like to see how people kick it in the outdoors in the extreme cold.”
He might get his wish. There’s a 20 percent chance of snow in the foothills, and temperatures aren’t expected to break out of the 30s today.
“This is the first time that I’m aware of where we might have to do snow plowing for a concert at Red Rocks,” said Tad Bowman, Denver’s director of venue utilization and services, whose office is at Red Rocks in Morrison. “But we’re ready for it, if and when it snows.”
Inside the gates, extra workers are scheduled to sand the black-diamond side aisles if needed. Two more paramedics will be on site than were on hand for Atmosphere’s sold-out Red Rocks show last summer — in case people suffer from exposure.
To try to keep the chills at bay, Snowfire — a 7-foot-diameter sphere of plasma-cut snowflakes fitted with three large propane burners — will be perched at the top of the amphitheater. Snowfire was designed and fabricated by the Santa Fe Arts District creative group The Public Works — with the Denver Fire Department’s blessing.
“It’s this gorgeous, artistic space heater for up top,” said Denver Arts & Venues spokeswoman Kristin Rust. “It’s really a piece of art — and it will add a nice component for the visitors.”
Promoter AEG Live has ordered other heaters to warm the stage and performers.
Some of Red Rocks’ restrooms are closed for the winter, and portable toilets will fill that need. Food and beverage coordinator Aramark will peddle beer in cans and plastic bottles instead of trying its luck with a vulnerable draft system.
“These kinds of things are fun,” Bowman said. “Everybody … is ready to go and fired up — and anxious and nervous all at the same time.”
Winter on the Rocks is the brainchild of Icelantic, a Denver craft ski and snowboard builder that wanted to throw a big party at Red Rocks during the SnowSports Industries America Snow Show. (The trade show runs through Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center.)
“I’m feeling good about it, man,” said Sam Warren, Icelantic’s promotions manager.
That in its first year out Winter on the Rocks — featuring Atmosphere, rapper Common, hip-hoppers Grieves + Budo and dance act Get Cryphy — sold out in advance is a sign these guys are on to something. They’re already thinking about bigger and better plans for next winter.
Icelantic’s idea is a reality through its collaboration with Denver promoter AEG Live and the city of Denver — resulting in some strange conversations, Warren said.
“Everybody has their own approach,” Warren said. “When it comes to snow, we’re like, ‘We’ll call our friends, bring out 500 snow shovels, and we’ll shovel Red Rocks.’ AEG is bigger than us, and they’re like, ‘We’ll bring in snowblowers and do it the day of.’
Then there’s the city, which is bringing in plows. It’s three very different perspectives, but they all go toward one common goal.”
Depending on the severity of the weather, the organizers might need all three plans intact.
“It really might be winter on the rocks,” Bowman said.