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Don’t call it shoulder season anymore. Between a loaded roster of still-open restaurants, kaleidoscopic fall colors, and bucket list hiking and cycling, the Eagle River Valley doesn’t serve up much breathing room between Labor Day and Opening Day. There’s not even an offseason when it comes to live music, thanks in huge part to Underground Sound, an affordable fall music series entering its 13th year at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
The Vilar Performing Arts Center, or VPAC, hides below an ice rink at the base of Beaver Creek Ski Resort and has hosted headliners such as Peter Frampton, B.B. King, Lyle Lovett, Yo-Yo Ma, and others, plus comedians, dance companies, and even circuses. Some of the biggest names in the entertainment biz have performed here, for certain, so how to build on such success in celebration of the venue’s quarter-century anniversary? A stacked lineup of no-names, of course.
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Musicians including Duane Betts, Martin Sexton, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have all captured the crowd at Underground Sounds gone by, despite not arriving with a Taylor Swift-sized fan base in tow. This fall, Underground Sound brings seven shows over the course of five weeks for a one-time fee of $150 (that’s roughly $21 per performance). Also included: one beverage (adult or teetotal) per show. The passes are transferable, too, so if you can’t make a concert, you can sell your entry secondhand or bless a buddy.
“This summer has been incredible for live music; I’m not ready for it to end. I’m especially excited for Foy Vance, who makes me want to visit Ireland, and Miles Miller. His sound reminds me of the Allman Brothers Band,” says Merrill Mann, who lives in Edwards, some 15 minutes from VPAC, and has bought an Underground Sound pass for the past six years. “You may not always know the band, but you can be confident that they’ll be incredible in their genre.”
This year’s rendition will be elevated in celebration of the venue’s 25th anniversary. Underground Sound-goers will experience an upgraded sound system, the new blown-glass Rippeto Family Chandelier designed by Dale Chihuly, and improvements to the acoustic banners that flank the theater. In other words: better ambiance and better sound, too.
As for the lineup? It rocks. The Underground Sound team handpicks every artist on the schedule based on what genre is resonating in the region. This year’s schedule trends toward the singer-songwriter, Americana vibe because that’s what’s dominating the lineups of neighboring concert series like Hot Summer Nights at Vail’s Ford Amphitheater and ShowDown Town in Eagle.
“The goal of Underground Sound, in part, is to introduce our community to amazing emerging artists across a wide variety of musical styles,” says Owen Hutchinson, executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
But this fall’s lineup isn’t comprised solely of up-and-comers. Melomaniacs may recognize Northern Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance or the duo Richard Bona and Alfredo Rodriguez, who appeared in the 2018 Netflix documentary Quincy. There’s also Grammy Award–winning group Mariachi Los Camperos; harmony-heavy soul musicians the Bros. Landreth; Bluegrass drummer, guitarist, and singer Miles Miller; Montana singer-songwriter and band leader Madeline Hawthorne, and “baroque folk-pop” group Darlingside.
This series of budget-friendly, burgeoning musicians gives Denverites a good reason to road trip to the mountains long before the first fall of fresh powder. After a long day of leaf peeping, mountain biking, and cider drinking, settle into your seat at VPAC and listen to the sweet, sweet sounds of “offseason.”
The Underground Sound pass is on sale now. Passes are $150 for general admission and $250 for VIP (which includes pre-show access to the May Gallery Patrons Lounge; early entrance to the theater for priority seating at all Underground Sound shows; complimentary appetizers, etc.). Show dates are Sept. 15, 21, 28, and 30 and Oct. 12, 14, and 21. Visit vilarpac.org/underground-sound for more information and to purchase passes.