It’s no secret that Coloradans love to explore. In that spirit, we searched the state for music festivals and concert series that are generally overlooked. So crack open a cold one and enjoy the sounds of summer at these under-the-radar events.
Bohemian Nights, Thursday Night Live
Thursdays through August 3
Every Thursday, Bohemian Nights—a Northern Colorado music programming group—puts on a free concert in Fort Collins’ Old Town Square featuring emerging and established Colorado artists across a broad range of genres. This summer, catch everything from hip-hop to avant-pop and alt-country. The group also puts on a three-day festival in August; stay tuned for the lineup.
Where: Old Town Square, Fort Collins (65 miles from Denver)
Music for your pre-festival playlist: Head over to Colorado Public Radio’s Open Air to prepare yourself for the wide range of genres that Colorado’s local artists cover.
The Denver Deluxe
Head downtown and party for a good cause at the second annual Denver Deluxe, a musical showcase to benefit the RiNo Art District. National and regional acts will take the stage for a day of music, but they won’t be the only performers. Street and graffiti artists from CRUSH, a RiNo community art organization, will be live-painting new pieces for the district throughout the event.
Where: RiNo, between 26th and 27th streets on Walnut Street
Cost: $10 general admission (includes one beer); $20 early bird deluxe package (includes a burger and two beers)
Music for your pre-festival playlist: Get familiar with one of the top local acts, The Velveteers—and be sure you’re there when they rock the stage outside of Park Burger.
Castle Creek Guitars Summer Concert Series
June 16–September 1 (dates vary)
The Castle Creek Guitars series at Gunnison’s I Bar Ranch features two types of events—”Classic Colorado” hosts country/rock acts (often overlapping with other local events such as Ride the Rockies or Cattleman’s Days), while “Burgers & Brews” on Tuesday nights features more Americana, family-style concerts. Enjoy food and libations amidst a true Western setting (seriously, the stage is a converted hay barn).
Where: I Bar Ranch, Gunnison (201 miles from Denver)
Cost: $8–$9, camping available after the show for $10 per person
Music for your pre-festival playlist: Just listen to John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads” on repeat.
Rio Grande Mountain Rails Live
June 24–September 11 (dates vary)
This concert series takes place in a natural amphitheater nestled at 9,400 feet and powered entirely by wind and solar energy. And there’s only one way to get there—via the Rio Grande Railway. Board the train in Alamosa or Fort Garland and travel through the Rocky Mountains to enjoy BBQ, craft beer, and country, bluegrass, blues and more from nationally acclaimed artists, including Trout Fishing in America, Richie Furay and Paul Cotton, and Suzy Boggus.
Where: Fir Summit Amphitheater in Costilla County (212 miles from Denver)
Cost: Cost associated with train ride can range from $29 to $199, depending on which concert, which class you sit in, and your age.
Music for your pre-festival playlist: Prepare for the winding roads and folksy tunes with Railroad by Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn
Avon Cover Rock Festival
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd—these artists are among the most legendary rockers in history. Unfortunately, none of them are performing in Colorado this summer, but the Avon Cover Rock Festival has the next best thing. This year’s event celebrates the best of the British Invasion—with cover bands that are, well, close enough to the real thing.
Where: Avon (106 miles from Denver)
Cost: $49 for single-day general admission; $79 for 2-day general admission
Music for your pre-festival playlist: Crucial Taunt’s cover of “Ballroom Blitz”—shout out to all the Wayne’s World fans out there.
Post up in your lawn chair and rock out to headliners Loverboy and Jack Russell’s Great White at Fort Morgan’s annual Bobstock. The free, two-day event features a beer garden, hot air balloon rides, food, vendors, and more. While the rest of the lineup has yet to be released, music will play on three stages all day and into the night. It’s the perfect family-friendly event to introduce the kids to ’80s rock.
Where: Fort Morgan City Park (81 miles from Denver)
Music for your pre-festival playlist: Just watch the classic SNL skit, The Chippendales Audition, featuring music from one of Bobstock’s headliners, Loverboy.
Anythink Backyard Concert Series
July 14, August 11
Ditch the crowded downtown Denver nightlife and make the short trip to Thornton for a night of picnicking and live music at the Anythink Backyard Concert Series. This free event benefits the Anythink Foundation, which supports public art, various educational programs, and more. While you’re there, don’t miss the food vendors—specifically the beef brisket from B&B Smokehouse or some Mexican cuisine courtesy of Tacos Haro.
Where: 5877 E. 120th Ave., Thornton (18 miles from Denver)
Music for your pre-festival playlist: Go with a calm and quiet podcast. This festival takes place outside of a library, after all.
Billed as a “camping festival for conscientious music fans,” there’s a lot more than music going on at ARISEe, which is celebrating five years on Loveland’s 350-acre Sunrise Ranch. In addition to performers Atmosphere, Ani DiFranco, and the Expendables (among many others), you’ll find documentary films, yoga classes, workshops, and interactive art installations at ARISE. One thing you won’t find, though, are plastic water bottles—the festival organizers requests that patrons bring their own reusable container, which can be refilled with free water around the fest.
Where: Sunrise Ranch in Loveland (63 miles from Denver)
Cost: $99 for single-day general admission for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday; $199 for three-day general admission (camping fee not included)
Music for your pre-festival playlist: Check out Sasha Brown, the former guitarist for Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, who’s performing as an “Artist at Large.”
Focused on outdoor music, arts, and microbrews, NedFest features an eclectic mix of sounds—from jazz to rock to folk and Americana. A number of Colorado microbrews will be available on tap alongside other food and art vendors. Camping is available onsite and children are welcome, with a number of events catered toward their entertainment.
Where: Jeff Guercio Memorial Baseball Field, Nederland (45 miles from Denver)
Cost: $35–$420, depending on days/package
Music for your pre-festival playlist: While you could listen to anything groovy, the Instant Coffee collaboration from two headliners, Euforquestra and Kyle Hollingsworth, is a good place to start.
With a focus on the blend of storytelling and song, the Folks Festival in Lyons is a more mellow bluegrass series than others you’ll find in Colorado. Float along the St. Crain River and hike between concerts all while enjoying music from bands such as Elephant Revival, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Lake Street Drive. Festival-goers are encouraged to bring the whole family, as a number of activities are available for kids under 12, including an instrument petting zoo hosted by Swallow Hill Music and slacklining.
Where: Planet Bluegrass Ranch, Lyons (45 miles from Denver)
Cost: $65–$150, additional costs associated with camping on-site
Music for your pre-festival playlist: An abundance of strings: We’re talking banjos, violins, cellos. Throw in a washboard too, because there’s a good chance you’ll see Elephant Revival’s Bonnie Paine strumming on one.