In 2010, Red Rocks broke its record for the number of events produced at the natural outdoor amphitheater. With 83 events — including concerts and graduations, film screenings and Easter service — the venue, owned by the city of Denver, was abuzz like never before.
And then the summer of 2012 showed its ferocious face.
“What’s driving the phenomenon of bookings this year is a bit of a mystery,” said Kent Rice, the executive director of Arts & Venues Denver, the city agency that manages Red Rocks and other artistic spaces. “We had in mid-winter more bands booked for this coming summer than we did all of last year, so we knew this was going to be a big year. It’s way ahead of any year we’ve ever had, in terms of actual bookings.”
Yes, before Red Rocks has hosted its first show of summer 2012 — before summer 2012 has even started — there are more events booked at the amphitheater for 2012 than 2010’s record-breaking year. Already, the city has 98 confirmed events for 2012, according to Tad Bowman, the director of venue utilization and event services at Arts & Venues Denver.
“Yeah,” admitted Eric Pirritt, the president of Live Nation’s Colorado offices, “that number will soon be more than 100.”
Pirritt said Live Nation will produce more than 30 shows this summer at Red Rocks — “well above our average number of shows there,” he said, “and definitely above last year’s number” — and his competitors across town at AEG Live are also having a record-breaking summer, according to their boss, Chuck Morris.
But why now?
“There’s a lot of people out this summer,” Pirritt said. “And the electronic-music scene right now is adding to the number of events up there. So it’s a combination of a lot of people on the road and all the electronic shows.”
Sure enough, there are already more than 15 announced nights headlined by an electronic artist scheduled for this summer at Red Rocks, from two evenings with Colorado-rooted DJ/producer Pretty Lights to the three-night Global Dance Festival. And more will surely be announced.
To boot: Tickets are selling.
“For the annual shows, everything’s on average or above average,” Pirritt said. “In some cases, it’s mind-blowing — Pretty Lights being one of them. He did one night last year, and it sold out six weeks in advance. This year, he’s doing two nights, and (they) sold out 16 weeks in advance. It’s incredible to see the appetite for that in Colorado.”
For the city, the robust numbers are an unexpected boon: “The last three years have been very robust,” said Arts & Venues’ Rice, “which has been encouraging, given the state of the economy.”
For promoters, the feel-good vibes don’t stop at Red Rocks’ exits: “Going indoors in May or June in Colorado is a head-scratcher, but still, Van Halen in May, Roger Waters in May and Nickelback in June — all of those Pepsi Center shows are sellouts.”
More: Here are nine summer shows not to miss this year.