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When I began Mile High Music in March 2015, I envisioned it as a place where Front Range folks could learn about new local acts or peruse a selection of artists who were coming through our fine state, and plan their concert calendar accordingly. Over time I’ve played with different themes, whether it be a celebration of the Denver’s diverse scene, women in music, or the industry leaders who keep us busy with quality shows. After more than a year though, I’ve opted to leave Colorado to travel and it seems disingenuous to continue the column from afar. This will be my last edition then, and appropriately, the theme is all the shows I would personally be attending if I were still in town.
First and foremost, I would be gearing up for three nights of Phish this Labor Day weekend at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. I’ve already written about how I fell in love with the jam quartet, but if you’re still on the fence, know that this is the band’s sixth consecutive year playing the 26,000-person capacity venue, and Saturday and Sunday are already sold out. The quartet is in the midst of creating a new album, and its sets are sure to be peppered with fresh tracks, live staples, and the occasional deep cut. To be in town and miss attending at least one night would be to miss an important part of Denver’s music scene.
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There’s one show I’d consider skipping out on a night of Phish for, and that’s Gregory Alan Isakov’s September 4 Red Rocks gig. Yes, the South African folk singer-songwriter now calls Boulder home, making this his biggest show of summer and a true hometown throwdown, but it’s his openers—Ani DiFranco and the Shook Twins—that will really make attending worth your while. Ani DiFranco has spent more than two decades making truly unique music. She might be best known as a guitarist-vocalist, but DiFranco is also a feminist and overall badass. Combine her melodic vocals with the ingenuity of the Shook Twins, a band that consists of Idaho-born twins, Katelyn and Laurie Shook, plus guitarist Niko Daoussis (Niko Slice) and excels at harmonies, unexpected hooks, and an ethereal sound. If you’re a fan of indie folk, the night is sure to take the genre to the next level.
On Wednesday, September 14, I’d likely wake up and see how I feel. If I was craving big crowds, stellar views, and quality songwriting that tugs at the heartstrings, I’d head to Red Rocks to catch Jason Isbell. His show at the Ogden in December was among the best I’ve seen—you’d be hard pressed to find a singer-songwriter with as much genuine grit, life lessons learned, and country swagger. If I felt like attending a more intimate show, I’d head to Boulder’s Fox Theatre for the California Honeydrops, whose funky, soulful, can’t-help-but-dance live show I’ve highlighted before.
No matter what, I would not miss Railroad Earth’s Red Rocks show on September 16, with rootsy jam act The Chris Robinson Brotherhood opening. Railroad Earth is an Americana rock ‘n’ roll sextet that oscillates between instrumentals, melodic originals, and covers the band has made their own. Among my favorite bands, and one of the reasons I first came to Colorado (for a number of years Railroad played New Year’s Eve at the Ogden Theatre), Railroad Earth speaks to my soul in a way few modern musical acts do. Although I love the live electronic band Lotus, in all likelihood I would miss the band’s Red Rocks show on September 17 to catch a second night of Railroad at the Boulder Theater.
Throughout the month of September as I travel cross country, I’ll be listening to Greensky Bluegrass’s new album, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted, which will be available to the public on September 23 via the band’s own label, Big Blue Zoo Records. The string band might have roots in Michigan, but Colorado is now home to three of the group’s five members—Dave Bruzza (guitar, vocals) lives in Fort Collins, and both Paul Hoffman (mandolin, vocals) and Anders Beck (dobro) live in Denver—as well as a large and devout fanbase. After selling out Red Rocks this past July and headlining numerous festivals throughout the country, the new album will satiate old campers (as the fanbase is known) and new converts alike. Stream the album’s first single “Past My Prime”, and make sure to preorder the album here. It’s the band’s best work to date and as I’ve been listening incessantly, there’s one track, “Miss September,” that stands apart as I transition away from Colorado:
I think I’m gonna miss September
But I’m leaving either way.