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The Lumineers play Red Rocks June 7-8

15 Shows to Catch This Summer

Denver, plan accordingly.

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This article could have easily listed the “Best Folk Concerts of Summer,” but that would have ignored the funk and electronic acts playing across the state during the warmer months. Still, I like that it skews folk, because by definition, it’s music that taps into the pulse of our country (and is obviously popular here in Colorado)—songs of the people, to be enjoyed by people. Sometimes the picks lean rock ‘n’ roll, and sometimes they’re more worldly. Either way, I’m painfully aware that this list is not terribly diverse, but neither is the Red Rocks calendar. I chose according to my tastes, with only one act repeated from last summer’s must-see list (and no, it’s not Phish, although the jam band will return Labor Day weekend for it’s sixth year in a row).


The show: The Lumineers
Date: June 7–8
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: This Denver trio has been around for more than a decade, but the band came to prominence in 2012 with its infectious single “Ho Hey.” A couple Grammy nominations later, and the folk rockers are back with a new album, Cleopatra, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 when it dropped in April. Listen to the radio long enough, and you’ll hear the band’s first single, “Ophelia.” If that song doesn’t convince you this is hometown throwdown is a can’t-miss show, nothing will.
More info: Visit thelumineers.com

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The show: Dave Rawlings Machine
Date: June 15
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why go: Hands down one of the best musical experiences you can have is going to see the Dave Rawlings Machine, which features its namesake, the Nashville singer-songwriter at the helm, as well as longtime collaborator Gillian Welch, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Willie Watson, and the Punch Brothers Paul Kowert. The band’s sophomore album, Nashville Obsolete, was released last year and speaks to the band’s serene harmonies, world-class instrumentation, and knack for writing timeless folk songs.
More info: Visit daverawlingsmachine.com

The show: John Prine
Date: June 18
Where: Macky Auditorium
Why go: Between Prince, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, and Guy Clark, we lost a lot of greats this year. It’s enough to make one really appreciate our living legends, which include John Prine, who’s been one of America’s most prolific songwriters for five decades, performing through two bouts of cancer. I grew up thinking John Prine’s anthems were my father’s music, and I still feel that way, except after seeing him live for the first time in 2012, it’s now mine, too.
More info: Visit johnprine.net

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The show: Widespread Panic
Date: June 24–26
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: You know what band has played Red Rocks more than any other band—ever? Widespread. The Southern rockers have a cult following, and announced earlier this year that the group was taking a hiatus from its incessant touring to play more select dates. Any of the jam band’s three nights at Red Rocks will be a hard ticket to score, but completely worth it if you do.
More info: Visit widespreadpanic.com


Photo by Danny Clinch

The show: Dead & Company
Date: July 2–3
Where: Folsom Field
Why go: Speaking of jam bands, this is the closest you’ll get these days to seeing the Grateful Dead. The band features original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir (guitar, vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (drums), and Mickey Hart (percussion), as well as superstar vocalist and phenomenal guitarist, John Mayer, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and bassist Oteil Burbridge. A supergroup like this can get away with selling general admission tickets at the stupid-high amount of $120—if you love the songs, the price of admission isn’t an issue.
More info: Visit deadandcompany.com


Photo by Jason H. Smith / Flickr

The show: Adele
Date: July 16–17
Where: Pepsi Center
Why go: Shows like this increase my radio consumption, and not just because Adele’s tunes get lots of airplay. As these dates approach, I’ll listen more with the hope of being the lucky caller who scores tickets. Save for paying exorbitant StubHub prices (cheap seats for her shows were selling for $300 last we checked), that’s the only way most of us will be able to see the pop sensation. The London-born singer’s most recent album, 25, which debuted worldwide last November, broke the single-week U.S. sales record (previously held by NSYNC’s No Strings Attached) and earned the 27-year-old the Brit Award for Album of the Year in February.
More info: Visit adele.com

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The show: The Motet, Vulfpeck, and Medeski Martin & Wood
Date: July 22
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: Between the general buzz surrounding Brooklyn funk-groove band Vulfpeck and The Motet’s new album Totem, to be released July 8, this might just be the show of summer. Go early to catch the progressive jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood, and then prepare yourself for an all-out dance party. Vulpeck will start things off, with a primarily instrumental sound that can go pop one minute and R&B the next, before Colorado act The Motet brings home the progressive funk, incorporating elements of afrobeat and jazz throughout.
More info: Visit themotet.com, vulfpeck.com, and mmw.net


Photo courtesy of Matt Biddulph / Flickr

The show: LCD Soundsystem
Date: August 2–3
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: The highly anticipated 2016 return of LCD Soundsystem meant tickets to these two shows sold out fast and for good reason. LCD gained notoriety in the early aughts for pioneering the whole indie-punk-electronic meets raging dance party thing, and that’s what the quintet will bring to Red Rocks. Don’t worry, frontman James Murphy has confirmed that this is only the beginning: LCD is undeniably back and creating new music, with an album to come sometime this year.
More info: Visit lcdsoundsystem.com

The show: Tedeschi Trucks Band
Date: August 5
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: The fact that this is the only band to make this list two years in a row should be reason enough to buy a ticket. If you aren’t convinced, put on the 11-piece band’s January release Let Me Get By and prepare to be blown away. Fronted by Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks (of The Allman Brothers Band fame), the group combines elements of the blues, R&B, funk, rock, and gospel to create something wholly soulful that will hit you at your emotional core.
More info: Visit tedeschitrucksband.com

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Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

The show: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
Date: August 21
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: Denver’s own Nathaniel Rateliff joined with the Night Sweats when he started writing songs that required a big band. Together, the ensemble creates soul, R&B, rock, and gospel-influenced tunes with a vintage sheen. The sound is whiskey-drenched folk—roots music of the American West.
More info: Visit nathanielrateliff.com


Photo by Eric Ryan Anderson

The show: Rayland Baxter
Date: August 26
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why go: Although Rayland Baxter is playing the smallest venue to make this list, it shouldn’t be long until the singer-songwriter becomes a household name for lovers of song-driven indie-rock. Part mystical shaman man, part boy next door who’ll break your heart, Baxter’s lo-fi live show is bluesy, country, and always heartfelt.
More info: Visit raylandbaxter.com


Photo by Blue Caleel

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The show: Gregory Alan Isakov, Ani DiFranco, Shook Twins
Date: September 4
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: South African by birth, singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov now calls Colorado home. A folk singer in the vein of Amos Lee, Leonard Cohen, or Sufjan Stevens, Isakov write conscientious lyrics that come on melancholy and leave profound. He’ll be joined by feminist punk-folk legend Ani Difranco and the Shook Twins, an indie-folk trio that revolves around the cosmic writing and sisterly harmonies of twins Laurie and Katelyn Shook.
More info: Visit gregoryalanisakov.com, righteousbabe.com/ani-difranco, and shooktwins.com


Photo by Michael Wilson

The show: Jason Isbell
Date: September 14
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: Country through and through, Alabama-bred Jason Isbell won two Grammy Awards this year and gained a huge following with his songs about kickin’ booze, down and out days, and Southeastern family life. After spending more than half a decade in the Drive-By Truckers playing guitar, Isbell is proof that some musicians were meant for the solo stage, lest you be unable to hear their message.
More info: Visit jasonisbell.com


Photo by Tobin Voggesser / NOCOAST

The show: Lotus
Date: September 17
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Why go: I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a single electronic band on this list, especially considering Colorado isn’t lacking for shows and fans that adhere to the genre. Lotus is a five-piece that plays jammy electronic music live, meaning you’ll getting serene late night dance vibes from actual instruments, played by real musicians that fall in and out of grooves, letting the audience dictate where the show goes.
More info: Visit lotusvibes.com

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