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The ten best summer music festivals in Colorado

The ten best summer music festivals in Colorado
Jon Solomon

A Colorado summer can be short, but there are plenty of ways to make it sweet, especially if you pack it with as many festivals, road trips and patios as possible. We've picked out ten music festivals sure to give you the flavor of the state's musical offerings -- everything from the EDM of Global Dance to the jam bands of Mammoth Fest. If you want truly homegrown talent, head to our own Westword Music Showcase on June 21 (featuring over 140 Colorado bands) or the Underground Music Showcase the month after that.

You can find plenty more advice for ways to spend the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day in this year's Westword Summer Guide, which is in this week's issue of the newspaper.

Snowmass Mammoth Fest

June 13-15

Snowmass Town Park, Snowmass

Free-$225

Expect your mandolin-carrying and bearded friends to depart Denver en masse in June for Mammoth Fest, because a few of their hippie idols will be playing -- nay, jamming! -- in Snowmass. Leftover Salmon, Chris Robinson (of Black Crowes and YouTube ranting fame), Les Claypool (of Primus and almost-played-for-Metallica fame) and a few others are on the bill.

Greeley Blues Jam Festival

June 14

Island Grove Arena, Greeley

$25-$30

Who knew that Greeley knew how to get down? Folks like Tab Benoit, apparently. Benoit, one of the co-headliners of the Greeley Blues Jam Festival, is a Louisiana legend known for traditional, "swamp blues"-type music. He's joined by fellow Louisianan Marcia Ball, a fixture on New Orleans's blues scene, and the Phantom Blues Band, whose time spent as Taj Mahal's backing band speaks to its prowess.

Westword Music Showcase

June 21

Multiple Golden Triangle locations

$35-$75

The Westword Music Showcase brings headliners 2 Chainz and Diplo to its twentieth installment. Both are capable party-starters -- the former has more than one song that your grandma in Littleton will hear the crowd shouting along with. But the main stage, which also features Cherub, Man Man and King Khan and the Shrines, is just one very small part of the festival. It's still mostly a celebration of Colorado music, and more than 140 local bands will play sixteen stages in the Golden Triangle neighborhood. Among them are fearless hip-hop band Wheelchair Sports Camp, garage-rock instigators Thee Dang Dangs and nationally renowned cellist and songwriter Ian Cooke.

Global Dance Festival

July 18-20

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison

$150-$300

There will be much fist-pumping and seizure-inducing light-show madness at Global Dance Festival, so get excited. Zedd, a 24-year-old Russian kid with production credits for Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga to his name, is headlining the fest. He'll be joined by Adventure Club, Destroid and a damn fine lineup of other DJs.

The Ride Festival

July 12-13

Multiple Telluride locations

$165-$325

The thought of putting acts like blues-rocker Joan Osborne on the same bill as the Portland indie-pop group Spoon is just weird. But it works! The lineup for the Ride Festival gets even more diverse upon closer inspection: Brooklyn hipsters the Hold Steady and alt-country group Lucero will be there, along with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.

Groove Music and Arts Festival

July 18-21

Shadows Ranch, Georgetown

$115

Keller Williams, the irrepressibly cheery jam/folk songwriter who's the darling of so many outdoor summer festivals, is headlining the Groove Music and Arts Festival. Joining him will be Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, playing some downright stanky funk, as well as the Kyle Hollingsworth Band, Dumpstaphunk and a couple dozen others. If ever there were a summer fest to make you dance until your feet bleed, this is it.

Underground Music Showcase

July 24-27

Multiple South Broadway locations

$35-$75

The organizers of this Denver showcase have always done a good job of balancing national acts (this year: Real Estate, Blonde Redhead, People Under the Stairs) with local bands, mostly of the rock variety. Notable locals this year include the Epilogues, A. Tom Collins, Residual Kid, the Royal and the Dirty Few.

Vans Warped Tour

August 3

Sports Authority Field at Mile High

$37

Falling in Reverse, Air Dubai and Of Mice and Men are the biggest names on this bill, but they're far from the only ones. Some pop-punk veterans will also be in attendance, including Less Than Jake and Saves the Day. Warped Tour's 2014 class of bands with weird names include the following: Scare Don't Fear, Plague Vendor and (ready?) Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!

Mad Decent Block Party

August 22

Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre

$25-$99.50

Hootie-hooo! OutKast is headlining this year's Mad Decent Block Party, making it one of the biggest concerts of any kind this summer. Sure, other fine acts are on the bill (Flosstradamus, GRiZ, Run the Jewels), but Big Boi and Andre 3000's presence is undeniably the main draw. Those of you buying tickets ahead of time will be treated to a complimentary Diplo mix CD and some other oddball swag.

JAS Aspen Snowmass: Labor Day Experience

August 29-31

Snowmass Village

$10-$650

Not to be confused with JAS Aspen Snowmass proper (a June-to-July festival headlined by Trombone Shorty, Diana Krall, Stevie Winwood and Tony Bennett), the Labor Day installment of the fest is one for more mainstream music fans. Ziggy Marley and fun. are the big names on the bill, and they'll be joined by OneRepublic -- by some measures the best thing to come out of Colorado Springs since Nikola Tesla.

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