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Rolling on the Rocks

Erik Dyce, director of marketing for the Denver Division of Theatres & Arenas, is paid to boost Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and he takes the task seriously. He's currently lobbying every bureaucrat and elected representative within the sound of his voice to put Red Rocks on the back of the Colorado state quarter, which is due for minting in 2006. "I can't think of another icon in Colorado that says more about who we are than this prestigious venue," he says.

With that in mind, Dyce is involved in the planning or production of several media-oriented Red Rocks projects: a CD, a DVD, a film and possibly even a Live From Red Rocks television series. Because Red Rocks is owned by the City and County of Denver, these ventures mean that the government here will be exponentially expanding its business relationships with a cast of characters quite unlike those usually found at council meetings. Like, for instance, perforated hip-hopper 50 Cent.

Renowned for surviving an attack during which he was shot nine times (putting him at least one life up on the average cat), 50 Cent made last year's biggest- selling album, the appropriately titled Get Rich or Die Tryin'. He also toured extensively, with one memorable stop taking place at Red Rocks. The man born Curtis Jackson headlined August 30's Coors Light Mountain Jam, which co-starred Korn, Evanescence, P.O.D., the Rootsand the Doors of the 21st Century (a period of time during which onetime Doors leader Jim Morrison has been, and will continue to be, dead).

The show was filmed with a vengeance. Dyce says twelve regular cameras, supplemented by eight high-definition models, captured the proceedings. "We're in post-production, with a release date toward the end of May," he notes of the flick, titled Live on the Rocks. "Our goal is to eventually produce a very important movie, a cross between Woodstock and The Real World." At present, it's unclear whether the picture's theatrical debut will coincide with the release of a DVD, or if sales for home viewing will come later. Dyce says the timing "depends on the desires of our distribution partner," whom he declines to identify other than to call the company "very exciting."

Likewise, Dyce is relatively close-mouthed about the prospect of a Live at Red Rocks television series, which he envisions as a sort of Austin City Limits featuring better scenery. "With their permission, we've been filming bands at Red Rocks for three years, and from those tapes, we've been piecing together a pilot," he reveals, adding that "we have interest from our cable and satellite partners, as well as network and public-broadcasting partners. We also have interest not only nationally but internationally. We've had conversations with entities in Japan, England and Australia." Dyce believes momentum from the film will help transform the series from concept to reality.

Relationships involving broadcast rights, intellectual property and the like are several steps beyond the landlord-tenant association the city has long maintained with promoters and artists who perform at Red Rocks. It's closer, more intimate -- potentially too intimate for bluenoses who might not like the thought of an extremely direct connection between the city and foul-mouthed rappers. Beyond remarking that "because we are a municipality, we're keenly aware of First Amendment rights," Dyce prefers not to travel down this road. Instead, he stresses that revenues generated by events at Denver-owned facilities let Theatres & Arenas function free of general-fund tax dollars. "We make enough at the end of each season to break even," he says.

Net profits from the film and television endeavors will likely go to the Preserve the Rocks Fund, which Dyce calls "a dedicated City and County of Denver account for the preservation and maintenance of Red Rocks." The fund is already the repository for the more than $30,000 in cash generated by Dyce's first major Red Rocks media undertaking, a 2003 disc dubbed Carved in Stone, Volume One that's made up of amphitheater recordings by Colorado acts Big Head Todd and the Monsters and the String Cheese Incident, plus outsiders Dave Matthews, Phish, the Allman Brothers and more. The platter, which was sold in fourteen sizable markets nationwide at Best Buy stores, and by a wider variety of retailers locally, moved 25,000 units, with most being purchased in the Denver area. This success has Dyce thinking even bigger for Carved in Stone, Volume Two, due later this year, because several popular combos have already committed -- notably R.E.M., Coldplay and U2, whose 1983 EP Under a Blood Red Sky and its accompanying videos gave Red Rocks new cachet. On a related subject, Dyce and the city just came into possession of 48 boxes' worth of master tapes marked "U2 at Red Rocks" that had been moldering in a basement for years. Dyce says "we are currently investigating how the tapes might be used with the various owners and rights holders," among them the band and its label, Interscope Records. "We're holding the tapes until we can determine the best prudent and legal use of those tapes."

Dyce concedes that the combination of "copyrights, ownership and so on is a many-tentacled creature," but he believes he's gotten the upper hand on the beast, thanks to "an incredible degree of cooperation from artists, managers and record companies, who all care so much about Red Rocks. That's what broke the mold." Not only do the assorted enterprises represent "a fantastic mechanism for the preservation and funding of Red Rocks," he says, "but they're a way to reach out and put Red Rocks on the tip of the tongue of people across the U.S. That way, when they visit Colorado, they're sure to stop at our brand-new visitors center," which just happens to serve lunch daily and will begin opening for dinner in March.

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