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Courtesy of the Crested Butte Music Festival

12 Music Festivals to Liven Up Your Summer

The season’s best fests promise music, dancing, and no shortage of surprises.

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This summer, it’s almost like there are too many music festivals to choose from—which is why we put together a selection of some of the fests we’re most looking forward to. Plan wisely, have fun, and be safe. We’ll see you there.

Greeley Blues Jam

This fest’s slogan, “Ain’t nothin’ but a party!” pretty much sums it up. Though the official festival doesn’t kick off until 5:30 p.m. on Friday, the pregame—musical and boozy—starts at 4 p.m. with live performances happening at local businesses all along 9th Avenue. Music goes until midnight on Friday and 11 p.m. on Saturday and, though family-friendly until 9 p.m., is sure to be sloshy: Attendees are welcomed to walk around with their drinks in-hand during festival hours.
When: June 8–9
Where: Downtown Greeley (9th Street Plaza and its surrounding area)
Cost: General Admission tickets start at $30

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The Denver BBQ Festival

This one’s for the meat lovers. Hungry Denverites may want to mosey on over toward the Broncos’ Stadium, where some of the country’s best pitmasters—including Denver’s own GQue BBQ—will spend Father’s Day Weekend barbecuing until the food runs out. Local musicians, such as the Hazel Miller Band and the John Weeks Band, will complement the chefs all weekend long with blues, rock, and funk. Pro tip: Check out Pappy’s Smokehouse—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a place that does St. Louis-style ribs better.
When: June 15–17
Where: The Broncos’ Stadium
Cost: Friday’s Pit Preview, $99–$125; Entrance is free on Saturday and Sunday

Juneteenth Music Festival

The biggest name to take the stage at Denver’s semi-annual Juneteenth celebration is Rakim, of New York City hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, but local jazz acts such as the Mighty Nice Band and the Wil Alston Band round out what should be a great night of live music. The theme for this year’s parade, which starts at 11 a.m. and is always full of dancing, is “The Wakanda Experience” (a nod to Marvel’s Black Panther).
When: June 16
Where: 27th and Welton Streets
Cost: Free

Rocky Mountain Old Time Festival

Grab your dance partner and strut your way to the 9th annual Rocky Mountain Old Time Festival, which showcases “traditional fiddle and banjo-focused music”—the kind of stuff you might’ve heard at square dances in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. This fest takes place at Parrish Ranch in Berthoud, and RV and camping gear are available for rent for those who hope to make a long stay away from the city.
When: July 11–15
Where: Parrish Ranch, Berthoud
Cost: $10 for one dance; $140 for a Wednesday–Sunday pass

Ride Festival

When folks talk about Telluride music festivals, the usual pick tends to be Telluride Bluegrass (and rightfully so). But if you weren’t able to nab tickets to the famous festival, Ride Fest is another great bet—especially if you can wrangle tickets to any of the after-hours “NightRide” shows around Telluride’s venues and bars.
When:July 14–15
Where: Telluride
Cost: Weekend pass, $195; one-day passes, $120

Crested Butte Music Festival
Courtesy of the Crested Butte Music Festival

Crested Butte Music Festival’s Celebration Gala

Maybe your idea of a worthy music festival doesn’t include large crowds and muddy fields (can’t say we blame you). Consider the Crested Butte Music Festival, which brings orchestral classics to the town from July 5–August 11. If you can only swing one trip out, we highly recommend the CBMF Celebration Gala, which brings two acclaimed musicians (and Juilliard graduates) Charles Yang and Peter Dugan together to pay tribute to Leonard Bernstein, by playing the best compositions from Bernstein’s era.
When: July 15
Where: The Lodge at Mountaineer Square
Cost: $200, includes a “cocktail hour, dinner, dessert, and libations”

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Underground Music Showcase

UMS, the state’s largest indie music festival, is back for its 18th year. This year’s event is being hosted by Denver-based Two Parts—the team behind Collaboration Fest—and will include an “elevated food and beverage” experience, in addition to a weekend of rocking music from more than 150 bands. Don’t miss Colorado’s own Velveteers, Slow Cave, and Cheap Perfume as they take the stage at various venues along South Broadway.
When: July 27–29
Where: South Broadway, Denver
Cost: Presale weekend pass, $35 (versus $75 otherwise); single day, $40

Evergreen Jazz Festival

Three days, five venues, and 10 jazz bands—including the Queen City Jazz Band, Gypsy Swing Revue, and Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles (all from Denver)—make the 17th Evergreen Jazz Festival a must. Not only does the festival give you the chance to take in beautiful Evergreen, you can kick off each day with hour-long, professionally taught dance lessons in the Elk Ballroom (free with your festival pass).
When: July 27–29
Where: Evergreen
Cost: Three-day pass, $105; Friday & Sunday session (all-day), $60; Saturday session (all-day), $90. Prices will increase after June 30.

Taos Vortex Festival

Meow Wolf, the Santa Fe-based art collective set to open an interactive exhibit in Denver by 2020, is officially jumping into the music scene with the inaugural Taos Vortex Festival. When festival-goers aren’t enjoying the performance and immersive art installations at the event, they can jam with an interesting (but quality) mix of indie rock and electronic acts, like the Flaming Lips, Thievery Corporation, Dr. Dog, and Scandinavian deejay Cashmere Cat.
When: August 3–4
Where: Kit Carson Park, Taos, New Mexico
Cost: Two-day pass, $99; one-day pass; $69

Telluride Jazz festival

This is the jazz fest to see this summer. Thanks in part to the fact that festival producers limit the amount of tickets that can be sold, you shouldn’t have to fight for tent space and battle through a huge crowd to catch the music. Just settle in, take in the San Juan mountains, and enjoy intimate performances from nationally recognized jazz musicians. Be sure to check out Boulder’s own Lao Tizer, a jazz-fusion keyboardist who plays his set at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
When: August 3–5
Where: Telluride
Cost: Three-day pass, $160

Courtesy of Grand Junction Local Jam
Courtesy of Grand Junction Local Jam

Grand Junction Local Jam

This small fest on the Western slope makes for a great escape. With about three dozen bands that all hail from the Grand Valley, the Local Jam is true to its name. Festival officials say the music is mostly—but not exclusively—rock and reggae. While Denverites might not recognize some of the bands, the festival, located at the Edgewater Brewery in Grand Junction, should nonetheless be a perfect place to settle down, grab a few beers, and cheers to the waning days of summer.
When: August 10–12
Where: Edgewater Brewery, Grand Junction, Colorado
Cost: Three-day pass (adult), $25; three-day pass (student under the age of 21), $20; one-day pass (adult), $15; one-day pass (student), $10

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Grandoozy

Sure, Denver’s newest big-ticket music fest probably could have picked a better name. But its lineup is so impressive so far (the full, final schedule is still TBD), we’re inclined to forgive them. In addition to a slew of rappers, DJs, and indie rockers—at least four of which are from Colorado—iconic headliners Kendrick Lamar, Florence and the Machine, and Stevie Wonder are sure to rock the house. Or, in this case, the course.
When: September 14–16
Where: Overland Park Golf Course
Cost: Three-day pass, $259.50 (the price will increase as the festival nears); As of publication, no single-day tickets are on sale, and no information has been provided as to when (or if) that may happen.

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