Summer music festival season is here, and where better to enjoy it than in the Rocky Mountains?
Summer music festival season is here, and where better to enjoy it than in the Rocky Mountains?
Brandon Marshall

The 25 Best Summer Music Experiences in the Rocky Mountains

Summer's coming. While Denver newbies may think of ski resorts as just snowy-season destinations, the warmer months offer many reasons to head for the mountains, too. Sure, hiking, backpacking and rafting are all good reasons to go west. But when you're tired of nature but still can't get enough of the Rocky Mountain high, consider attending these stunning live-music events, venues, concerts and festivals – some of which are free.

One of the many extreme events at the GoPro Mountain Games.
One of the many extreme events at the GoPro Mountain Games.
Westword

1. GoPro Mountain Games
June 8-11
Vail

The GoPro Mountain Games bring you pretty much every extreme sport that doesn't require snow: Mountain biking, disc golfing, kayaking and slack lining will all be available June 8-11 in the Vail Valley. If you're bold enough to compete, you might just win cash and prizes. The games include three nights of free music at the Amp — what locals call the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Headliners include Moon Taxi, Keller Williams' Grateful Grass, and Nahko & Medicine for the People. To view the full music lineup for the GoPro Mountain Games, visit the festival's calendar.

The Flaming Lips at Belly Up Aspen.
The Flaming Lips at Belly Up Aspen.
Jon Solomon

2. Belly Up
Aspen

Aspen's Belly Up is one of the best mountain venues for national touring acts. This summer, catch acts including Jurassic 5, Gary Clark Jr., Miike Snow, Thomas Jack, Thievery Corporation, Blues Traveler and Spoon. To plan your visit to this intimate venue, check out the Belly Up calendar.

Langhorne SlimEXPAND
Langhorne Slim
Harvey Robinson

3. Club Red Presents: Langhorne Slim & the Law
June 9
Club Red
Telluride

Club Red in Telluride was voted the second-best ski-country venue by Skiing magazine. To get to the venue, take the Telluride Mountain Village Gondola up the mountain to arrive at your musical destination. On June 9, Langhorne Slim & the Law offer up bluesy and soulful tunes sure to please all rock lovers' palates.

Crazy Mountain Brewery brings live music to the mountains.EXPAND
Crazy Mountain Brewery brings live music to the mountains.
Westword

4. Crazy Mountain Brewery's Hot Summer Nights
Tuesdays, beginning June 13
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater
Vail

Head to the Vail Valley early in the week, because Crazy Mountain Brewery is providing you with free concerts every Tuesday this summer. From June 13 through August 22, catch acts such as Hurray for the Riff Raff, Donovan Frankenreiter and the Shooter Jennings Band at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Visit the calendar to plan your night of music in the valley.

Templo, a purveyor of Colorado's bass music, performing at Sonic Bloom.EXPAND
Templo, a purveyor of Colorado's bass music, performing at Sonic Bloom.
Bass Feeds the Soul

5. Sonic Bloom Music Festival
June 15-18
Humingbird Ranch
Spanish Peaks Country

Sonic Bloom Festival, which brands itself as "Colorado's Premier Electronic Music Festival," is probably more accurately described as the headiest mountain-music festival in the state. The headliner is an all-star compilation of jam bands most loved by Coloradans: Big Gigantic, the String Cheese Incident and the Disco Biscuits, who have baked themselves into a new supergroup, Gigantic Cheese Biscuits. Among other electronic and jam artists, attendees of Sonic Bloom have access to different activities from June 11 to 14, including yoga, slacklining, acroyoga, visionary arts, music production and permaculture. For more information, go to the Sonic Bloom website.

Yonder Mountain String Band in Telluride.
Yonder Mountain String Band in Telluride.
Westword

6. Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 15-18
Telluride

Telluride's Bluegrass Festival is a great entry-level bluegrass event for newcomers to the genre. The 44th edition of the festival will include headliners like Jason Mraz, Norah Jones, Dierks Bentley With the Travelin' McCourys, and Brandi Carlile — all great artists, albeit not all that bluegrass. The mountain town is taken over by festafarians who flock annually to Telluride for the event and its many Nightgrass after-parties. Visit the Bluegrass Festival website for the full list of artists, lodging information and a roster of Nightgrass shows.

Kenny Chesney at Mile High.
Kenny Chesney at Mile High.
Westword

7. Country Jam Colorado
June 15-18
Grand Junction

To be clear to the transplants, Grand Junction isn't technically in the mountains; it's over them. So for those going to Country Jam Colorado, you'll be driving smack-dab through the Rocky Mountains. Country Jam showcases some of the biggest – and richest – artists in the genre. Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, Justin Moore and Randy Houser all top the bill. Go to the festival's website for more information.

I know it's only Cover Rock, but I like it.
I know it's only Cover Rock, but I like it.
John Ramer

8. Cover Rock Festival
June 23-24
Nottingham Park, at the base of Beaver Creek
Avon

If you're looking to jam out to the music of the ’60s and ’70s, Cover Rock Festival is the perfect mountain jamboree for you. A British-invasion-themed festival brings you covers of the Beatles, the Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Queen, plus a Pink Floyd laser show. For more information, visit the Cover Rock Festival website.

Beck is headlining the Ride 2017.
Beck is headlining the Ride 2017.
Jason Stoff for the Riverfront Times

9. The Ride Festival
July 8-9
Telluride

The Ride offers a mix of rock and singer-songwriters. Beck, Ben Harper and John Butler Trio top the two-day bill. The festival will be held in Bear Creek Field in Telluride. For those looking to continue the fun after the sun goes down, a separate lineup of shows are spread across small venues around the mountain town. General-admission passes start at $234, which does not include camping options. Visit the Ride website for more information.

Read on for more of the summer's best Rocky Mountain music events.

Earth Wind & Fire is a family-friendly headliner for the Jas June Experience.
Earth Wind & Fire is a family-friendly headliner for the Jas June Experience.
Courtesy of Official Earth, Wind and Fire website.

10. The Jas June Experience
June 23-25
Benedict Music Tent
Aspen

Before the full Aspen Jas Experience on Labor Day, a taste of what's to come hits Aspen in June, with free performances by Jon Batiste, Lisa Fischer, Morgan James and Paa Kow. Ticketed artists include Michael McDonald and Earth Wind & Fire. To find out more about all the artists at June Experience and the free lawn and brunch parties, visit the June Experience portion of the Jas website.

Vail Village
Vail Village
Westword

11. Vail Summer Bluegrass
Wednesdays, beginning June 28
The Arrabelle at Vail Square
Vail

The best way to start your summer bluegrass listenin' is with these free shows in the heart of Vail Village. Free fun in Vail is rare, and these bluegrass shows are a great way to stomach a ski town with double-digit beer prices. Bluegrass Generals, Chatham County Line, Donna the Buffalo, and The Lil Smokies are playing Wednesdays in June and July. For information, visit the website.

Turnpike Troubadors bring their gypsy, red-dirt country to Breck.
Turnpike Troubadors bring their gypsy, red-dirt country to Breck.
Courtesy: Turnpike Troubadours Facebook

12. Blue River Series and Performances: Turnpike Troubadours
June 29
Riverwalk Center
Breckenridge

Among the artists rolling through Breckenridge for performances this summer, the country act Turnpike Troubadours are definitely a highlight. Featuring one of the world's best young fiddler players, this outfit soulfully delivers slow ballads and touching lyrics. Tickets to Turnpike Troubadours are $30 in advance; find those and information on other shows in Breckenridge at this music festival website.

Drive-By Truckers performing at the Ogden in 2011.
Drive-By Truckers performing at the Ogden in 2011.
Kate Levy

13. Bluebird Art + Sound: Drive-By Truckers
June 30
Fanny Hill
Snowmass Village

Snowmass Village, just outside of Aspen, is throwing a celebration of art music: Bluebird Art + Sound. For three days from June 30 to July 2, art lovers can enjoy an interactive art exhibition, an art walk and a free DJ show. On Friday, June 30, Georgia band Drive-By Truckers will perform on the slope of Fanny Hill, with the beautiful Aspen Valley as the backdrop. Tickets for the concert are $30, and the weekend activities are free.

Lyle Lovett gazes westward.
Lyle Lovett gazes westward.
Westword

14. Lyle Lovett
July 23
Avon Performance Pavilion
Avon

Lyle Lovett brings his famous country revue to the Rocky Mountains. After an indoor performance at Belly Up Aspen, Lovett will take the stage at an outdoor show in Avon. Lovett has won four Grammy awards for his songwriting and performing, and has thirteen albums to his name.

The scene at Rockygrass.
The scene at Rockygrass.
Photo by Lewis Cooper

15. Rockygrass
July 28-30
Lyons

Once you get into the mountains, they're all about the grass, man. And if you're looking for good bluegrass, Rockygrass is one of the state's most authentic events. Just beyond Boulder, in the quarry town of Lyons, pickin' fills the air both day and night at this shindig. This year's festivities include performances from Sam Bush Bluegrass Band, Earls of Leicester and the Infamous Stringdusters, among others. Single-day and three-day tickets for the 45th Rockygrass are sold out, so look to re-sale websites to find a way in.

The Fred Shellman Memorial Stage in Town Park in Telluride.
The Fred Shellman Memorial Stage in Town Park in Telluride.
Westword

16. Telluride Jazz Festival
August 4-6
Telluride

Telluride Jazz Festival showcases extraordinary jazz acts, but also includes soul, funk and brass bands during the three-day celebration. Notable acts include Mavis Staples, Macy Gray, and Bootsy Collins & World-Wide Funk Drive. For more information, visit the Telluride Jazz Festival website.

A dancer lets go under overcast skies at Arise.EXPAND
A dancer lets go under overcast skies at Arise.
Scotty Dye, Dye Photography

17. Arise Music Festival
August 4-6
Loveland

Similar to Sonic Bloom, Arise prides itself on creating a holistic experience, with yoga, activism and workshops happening alongside eight stages of live music. However, Arise features more than just electronic musicians. Hip-hop, jam bands and rock-and-roll acts accompany headliners like Atmosphere and Tipper. Two additional headliners will be announced in late May. Three-day early-bird passes start at $189, with walk-in camping included. For more information, visit the Arise website.

The 2016 Bluegrass and Beer Festival.
The 2016 Bluegrass and Beer Festival.
Bluegrass & Beer Festival Facebook

18. Bluegrass and Beer Festival
August 5-6
River Run Village
Keystone

The only way bluegrass gets better is combining it with cold beer. Peter Rowan Band will be headlining for a crowd sipping on beers from more than forty Colorado breweries at this year's Bluegrass and Beer Festival in Keystone. The best part of this festival is that music and activities are free; you just have to pay for beer, with unlimited samples that cost just $40 per person, in advance, per day. For more information on this family-friendly event, visit the Keystone festival's website.

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons.
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons.
Brandon Marshall

19. Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
August 18-20
Lyons

Lyons hosts another festival, this time with folk music: the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. One of the benefits of attending this festival (or Rockygrass) is that food and drinks are welcome – except alcohol, so feel free to pack a picnic, but leave glass containers at home. Moreover, festival-goers can cool off in the nearby St. Vrain River. To purchase tickets to the festival that has been described as the "Nashville of the Rocky Mountains," visit the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival website, where you'll find three-day passes for $150.

The 2016 Mountain Town Music Fest.
The 2016 Mountain Town Music Fest.
Keystone Festival Facebook

20. Mountain Town Music Festival
August 18-19
River Run Village
Keystone

The second music festival in Keystone's series of summer events, Mountain Town Music Festival is another free family-friendly event! Two days of music plus a celebration of all things Colorado make the Mountain Town Music Festival worth the drive. Be sure to stick around after the music ends on Saturday night for a free fireworks show. For more information, visit the Mountain Town Music Festival website.

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Rodrigo y Gabriela

21. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real / Rodrigo y Gabriela
August 18
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater
Vail

In the beautiful Gerald R. Ford amphitheater in Vail, two headliners will offer a great one-night mountain performance celebrating the venue's thirtieth anniversary. First up will be Lukas Nelson, a singer-songwriter whose blues jams secured him a spot on tour with legends Willie Nelson and B.B. King. The latter are Rodrigo y Gabriela, two Mexican guitar dynamos who play with emphatic speed and style, often covering famous rock and metal songs. For more information, go to the Vail Valley Foundation's website.

Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind Facebook

22. Dead Man Winter / Third Eye Blind
August 19
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater
Vail

On Saturday, August 19, the Vail Valley Foundation will host Dead Man Winter, a band led by indie-rock artist Dave Simonett, one of the founding members of the bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles. The late performance is by none other than ’90s alt-rock band Third Eye Blind. For more information, or to buy tickets for one or two nights of performances, visit the Vail Valley Foundation's website.

Reckless KellyEXPAND
Reckless Kelly
Carl Dunn & Backstage Design Studio

23. Reckless Kelly
August 23
Avon Performance Pavillion
Avon

A regular performer at Musicfest in Steamboat Springs, Reckless Kelly returns for a night of country-music magic. The act infuses a little more rock into its sound than radio country, and definitely offers more depth in the lyrics department. For tickets and more information, visit Reckless Kelly's website.

Take in the beauty of southwestern Colorado at the Four Corners Folk Fest.
Take in the beauty of southwestern Colorado at the Four Corners Folk Fest.
Four Corners Folk Festival Facebook

24. Four Corners Folk Festival
September 1-3
Pagosa Springs

Way down yonder in the very southwestern corner of the state, three days have been reserved forthe Four Corners Folk Festival on Labor Day weekend. Los Lobos are among the headliners. Tickets can be purchased at the festival website.

JAS Labor Day Experience 2014.
JAS Labor Day Experience 2014.
Steve Mundinger

25. Jas Aspen Snowmass Experience
September 1-3
Snowmass Softball Fields
Snowmass Village

JAS Labor Day Experience is one of the biggest music festivals in the mountains. The lineup is a top-notch collection of artists including Nathaniel Rateliff, Daryl Hall and John Oates, the Roots, Maroon 5, Keith Urban and more. Prices for a general-admission three-day pass start at $230. For more information, go to the Labor Day JAS Experience page.

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