The eight best shows in Denver this weekend
Paper Diamond headlines the South Park Music Festival tonight.
The Fourth of July might mean fireworks, hot dogs and apple pie to some folks, around the parts music will be a big part of that. If you're down with a 90-minute drive, there's the South Park Music Festival, which kicks off today and runs through Saturday while Umphrey's McGee plays two dates in the area, and Blues Traveler makes its annual pilgrimage to Red Rocks but this time John Popper and company are joined by Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker. The rest of our picks follow.
South Park Music Festival American Safari Ranch: Thursday, July 3 through Saturday, July 5
This three-day music and camping festival at American Safari Ranch in Fairplay over Fourth of July Weekend includes a wildly diverse lineup, from EDM heavies like Paper Diamond and Heroes X Villains (along with acts like Fishbone, Eyes Set to Kill and Thundercat) on Thursday, July 3, while the lineup on Friday, July 4 is more reggae-centric with headliners like Slightly Stoopid, Matisyahu and Steel Pulse, and also includes Flobots, the Grouch & Eligh and Blackalicious. Tech N9NE, Collie Budz, Kottonmouth Kings are just a few of the many acts on Saturday, July 5. Before you go, take a look at our survival guide to the festival.
Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Blues Traveler Red Rocks: Friday, July 4, Red Rocks
Summer is a time when package-tour concert lineups can be as shamelessly thematic as they choose, and the Blues Traveler/Sugar Ray/Smash Mouth/Uncle Kracker bill is no exception. It's a time-warp trip back to the late '90s and early 2000s, when bros could simultaneously make party music and have feelings, and acts like Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth were able to cover all of the bases. But these groups actually represent two very different approaches to the genre: While Sugar Ray moved from Warped Tour-level punk to the world of soul patches and record-scratching power ballads (who didn't love the soft-core of "Every Morning"?), Smash Mouth went in the movie-soundtrack direction, forever solidifying a legacy in kid-friendliness. Together, Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth have nearly a dozen Billboard-charting hits, from the former's post-break-up anthem "When It's Over" to the latter's bizarre comment on popular culture, "Walking on the Sun." As long as these songs can find a home on department-store speakers and car commercials, the California dude-poets will have careers that last for many package tours to come.
Umphrey's McGee Boulder Theater: Friday, July 4, Red Rocks: Saturday, July 5
These guys have steadily climbed up the jam-band ladder over the years, wowing crowds across the country and consistently packing Red Rocks. Lighting director Jefferson Waful is considered to be one the best lighting designers out there right now, and his work is definitely something that should be seen at least once. The musical changes on stage are quickly followed by stunning light cues.
Martina McBride Greeley Stampede, Island Grove Park: Friday, July 4
Martina McBride is still kicking. The Nashville lifer has gone through twelve albums and a handful of CMA nominations, all with a genuinely great voice that's sustained her career through the past three decades. McBride has always made that airbrushed FM pop country that is practically written for family road trips, but in a world where Taylor Swift is getting critical props, it's high time to celebrate the passed-over women who came before her. Trust us: "Independence Day" is at least as good as the fifth-best Swift song. In a world where coolness is becoming more and more abstract, McBride's sprightly banjos and wheel-barrow guitar should be a relevant part of the conversation. We're glad that "This One's for the Girls" exists, and you should be, too.
Itchy-O Marching Band 1630 Federal Boulevard: Friday, July 4
Tired of nostalgia, Uncle Sam and "The Star-Spangled Banner"? Check out Dark Junk Under Mile High Lights, the Itchy-O Marching Band Independence Day extravaganza in the shadow of Sport Authority Field at Mile High. The 32-piece mob of drummers, exotic dancers, electro-trash musicians and even a Chinese lion entertains audiences with stroboscopic lights and a mishmash of cultural references in a manic display that could trump even the boldest fireworks show. The spectacle starts at 7 p.m. in the parking lot at 1630 Federal Boulevard.
Bela Fleck & Brooklyn Rider Chautauqua Auditorium, Saturday, July 5
Banjo virtuoso and multiple-Grammy winner Béla Fleck has a long and storied history as a master bluegrass player, but his musical scope reaches much further than that. Over the past few years, Fleck has performed locally in various settings, including with legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea, with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and with the Flecktones, the jazz-fusion act he formed with Victor Wooten in 1988. And later this month, he'll team up with his wife, fellow banjo player Abigail Washburn. There's even more diversity in Fleck's recorded output. But this week, he'll be in more of a modern-classical setting when he performs with Brooklyn Rider, the forward-thinking string quartet that played with him on last year's The Impostor, which also features the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Fleck clearly knows his way around classical music -- there's strength and depth in his compositions -- and that should be evident at this show
Fingers of the Sun (CD release) hi-dive: Saturday, July 5
On Saturday, July 5 at the hi-dive, Fingers of the Sun is releasing What Is This Life?, an album that reconciles its earlier sound (rooted in '60s pop and psychedelia) with the lush arrangements and melancholic but hopeful undertones characteristic of the band's more recent live performances. The vivid and layered sound should come as no surprise. The band recorded Life at EastWest Recording Studios in Los Angeles, in the same room in which most of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, as well as much of the Mamas & the Papas' oeuvre, was recorded. The group had hoped to capture the energy of this stellar musical lineage in its own recordings.
Michael Franti & Spearhead Red Rocks: Sunday, July 6
Michael Franti has made a career of crafting rhymes and music for an everyman audience. Social justice and accessibility have always played a big part in the man's music; it's an ethos made clear in the title of his most recent release, last year's All the People. Yet for all their broad appeal, Spearhead's groove-based tunes and conscientious, insistent lyrics are not made for arenas. As part of this Soulshine Tour, Franti is joined by SOJA, Brett Dennen and Trevor Hall.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.