It’s been nearly four months since Coloradans have been able to enjoy live music—and there’s little indication that will change anytime soon. With the threat of COVID-19 still looming, many venues, including Hudson Gardens & Event Center, and concert series, like City Park Jazz, have canceled all summer shows. Some music industry experts are predicting that in-person performances won’t return until 2021.

Not everyone, though, is ready to give up ear-splitting live guitar riffs: Crested Butte Music Festival has pointed to later this month for its potential return date, and Levitt Pavilion in Ruby Hill hopes to resume concerts come August. “Nobody wants to jump the gun and get a bunch of people sick,” says Chris Zacher, the executive director of Levitt Pavilion. “We are trying to be cautiously optimistic.”

Zacher’s confidence has a lot to do with Levitt’s massive lawn, which extends into Ruby Hill Park and may make it possible for people to social distance while jamming out. To make sure that happens, Levitt plans to reduce the maximum attendees allowed for each show and intends to limit concession sales and scatter hand-sanitizer stations around the grounds. While Crested Butte hasn’t finalized return strategies just yet, organizers say they’re considering similar precautions at the expansive outdoor settings that host the town’s weekly concert series.

Some smaller, indoor spaces also aren’t ready to call 2020 a wash. Dave Weingarden, vice president of concerts and events at Z2 Entertainment, which operates a number of Colorado venues, including Boulder’s Fox Theatre, has kept fall shows on the calendar in hopes he can reopen by then. Curtis Wallach, manager of the Hi-Dive in Baker, is doing the same. “A lot of options are on the table,” Weingarden says. “They all involve new safety measures like deeper cleanings and mask policies.”

At press time, Governor Jared Polis was noncommittal about a timetable for allowing large stadiums and performance halls to open. In the interim, area venues have procured government loans and used other business ploys, like selling credits for future shows, to keep cash flowing. Still, serious financial calculus will be needed to ensure survival: “I have four different models that look at whether we will get in, say, 10 shows versus 30 shows,” Zacher says, “and I am trying to figure out how we keep operating in each situation.”

This article was originally published in 5280 July 2020.
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.