Reggae on the Rocks
Do you have a bucket list? Have you checked anything off your list lately? I’m happy to report that I have checked an item off my bucket list: Attending a Concert at Red Rocks. Here’s how I did it. First, I took a look at the Red Rocks concert calendar until I found a show that was really calling to me. If you know me, you know how much I love reggae. So, Reggae on the Rocks seemed like a perfect fit. The lineup included a great range of acts including local Denver band Judge Roughneck, international legends Steel Pulse and Morgan Heritage, and heavy hitters like Iration and 311. I started making plans, chatting with the bands on the lineup, getting coordinated with Deb, and seeing if my friends that live in Denver could host us. Before long, a plan had come together. Deb and I had a place to stay, press passes and our flights to Denver. I knew that my bucket list item was super close to moving from “I want to…” to “I did!”
For those that aren’t familiar, Red Rocks is a natural formation of enormous rocks that happen to be aligned in such a way that makes it perfect for a concert. It is over 6,000 feet above sea level and encompasses and is monumentally beautiful.
The Red Rocks history is an interesting one. Here’s a snippet of their background from the Red Rocks website:
Red Rocks is a geologically formed, open-air amphitheater that is not duplicated anywhere in the world. With Mother Nature as the architect, the design of the Amphitheatre consists of two, three hundred-foot monoliths (Ship Rock and Creation Rock) that provide acoustic perfection for any performance. The dramatic sandstone monoliths serve as a history book of animal and plant life in the area for the past 250 million years. As spectators gaze at the towering red sandstone rocks, they view the ancient tales of prehistoric times.
The area of Red Rocks, originally known as the Garden of Angels, has attracted the attention of musical performers since before the turn of the century. The majestic setting of the amphitheater, along with the panoramic view of Denver, makes for a breathtaking scene.
In the early 1900’s, John Brisben Walker had a vision of artists performing on a stage nestled into the perfectly acoustic surroundings of Red Rocks. Walker produced a number of concerts between 1906 and 1910 on a temporary platform; and from his dream, the history of Red Rocks as an entertainment venue began.
George Cranmer, Manager of Denver Parks, convinced the City of Denver to purchase the area of Red Rocks from Walker for the price of $54,133. Cranmer convinced the Mayor of Denver, Ben Stapleton, to build on the foundation laid by Walker. By enlisting the help of the federally sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Work Projects Administration (WPA), labor and materials were provided for the venture.
Denver architect Burnham Hoyt designed the amphitheater with an emphasis on preserving the natural beauty of the area. The plans were completed in 1936, and the amphitheater was dedicated on June 15, 1941, though the actual construction spanned over 12 years. In 1947, the first annual Easter Sunrise Service took place. Since then, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has attracted the best performers to its stage.
Red Rocks Park and the CCC camp received National Historic Landmark status in 2015, and received the honorary award on June 15, 2016 — the amphitheater’s 75th anniversary. The award is administered by the National Park Service on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. The designation recognizes sites that possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.
Deb and I were there to cover the show and interview Iration, so part of our time at the amphitheater was spent backstage, or more accurately, underground. There is a short tunnel from the right side of the stage that takes you underground to the bustling hallway of everyone that is involved with the production of the show. The main hallway is lined with images of iconic past performances and the progress of the Red Rocks structure over time. While waiting for our interview with Adam from Iration, we sat in a large green room outfitted with couches, tables, snacks, beverages and coffee. There was also a live feed from the stage, so we were able to watch a little more of Steel Pulse’s set as we waited. The best part of this room was that the longest wall is also part of the geological formation. It was gorgeous!
After our interview, we followed the tunnel the opposite way and found ourselves side stage with some new friends we made in the Press Room. From behind the stage, there is a winding staircase that leads to the artist’s private green rooms. I climbed the staircase and took a moment to myself to soak in the beauty of the rocks from a fantastic view. As I was taking this picture, the members of Steel Pulse were hurriedly gathering their belongings and rushing out to the bus. The tour life is not an easy one, and it looked like they had somewhere crucial to be right after their set. I did chat with C# from Steel Pulse for a moment–he’s a really nice fellow. I wanted to say thank you to him for chatting with me in Arizona a couple of years ago.
Watch my interview with Steel Pulse here: Steel Pulse Interview
I strongly encourage you to take a look at the Red Rocks concert listing and plan a trip to Denver around a show that peeks your curiosity. It’s what I did! Need some help planning your trip? Reach out to me! Just email me using the button below, or leave a comment on this post.