The twelve best music festivals in Colorado this fall
July may be over and school may be just around the corner, but festival season in Colorado is nowhere near ready to come to a close. Here are twelve upcoming festivals that offer a taste of everything from blues to metal, local to international bands, mountains and microbrews to cities and skateboards.
Telluride Jazz Festival August 1-3 Multiple Telluride locations $15-$750 The Telluride Society for Jazz has been drawing fans of hip-swinging bass lines and funky brass to the San Juans with the Telluride Jazz Festival since 1977. Grammy winner Poncho Sanchez appears twice on the bill -- headlining with his Latin Jazz Band and with Caleb Chapman's award-winning Crescent Super Band. The lineup boasts everything from the nationally-recognized soul and funk band Lettuce to the cross-genre stylings of DJ Logic, as well as fifteen others with Latin, soul, funk and jazz roots.
Denver Black Sky II August 2-3 Gothic Theatre, Denver $30-$75 The first Denver Black Sky was only last December, but the festival was big enough to have already won our Best Metal Fest award. It returns this year with a lineup featuring some of the best aggressive music the national and local scenes have to offer. Municipal Waste and grindcore legend Brutal Truth are headlining with other national acts that include the aptly-named Cannabis Corpse and the bilingual Xibalba. Popular local doom metal band In the Company of Serpents will be there as well as instrumental post-metal Ghosts of Glaciers. There are twenty-five others are on the bill for what promises to be two days of head-banging insanity.
Vans Warped Tour August 3 Sports Authority Field, Denver $37 Vans Warped Tour has been a summer staple of Sport's Authority since it was called Invesco Field. The festival returns this year with over fifty bands, including the Denver hip hop group Air Dubai at the top of the bill as well as pop-punk legends The Story So Far and The Summer Set. The genre-crossing lineup also brings metal bands Of Mice and Men and A Skylit Drive, gloriously nerdy rapper Watsky, and the creatively named ska band Beebs and Her Money Makers.
ARISE August 8-10 Sunrise Ranch, Loveland $79-$375 ARISE music festival is three days of camping, jam bands and bass lines too funky not to dance to. With over seventy-five bands on the lineup, there will be everything from the electronica world music of Beats Antique to the bluegrass funk of the Infamous Stringdusters, a local band that has started to gain real momentum this year. Also headlining is jazz jam band Galactic, Californian electronica DJ The Polish Ambassador, and Keller Williams' Grateful Grass. ARISE promises not only an eclectic lineup, but also independent film showings, yoga classes, and unparalleled people watching with daily costume contests.
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival August 15-17 Planet Bluegrass Ranch, Lyons $60-$195 The fourth festival planned in the series that marks the return of the music scene to Lyons after last year's flooding, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival is a laid back weekend with three days of music of varying styles. The festival is kid-friendly and in addition to headliners like Randy Newman -- the composer of several film soundtracks, including all three Toy Story movies -- and the impossible-to-classify Dispatch, the festival will offer juried workshops and a competition for unsigned songwriters. If there was ever a festival to just spread a blanket in the grass and relax, it would be this one.
SummerGrind August 16 Multiple South Broadway locations $25-$75 SummerGrind is returning after a year off to bring another round of punk, ska, hardcore and skateboarding. The festival drew punk fans from across the country in 2012 and this year's lineup promises an even better experience. Punk legends The Suicide Machines and Lower Class Brats are headlining and the lineup features both national acts like The Atom Age and Morning Glory as well as locals Potato Pirates, The Photo Atlas, Allout Helter, and sixteen others. In addition to three stages -- indoor and outdoor -- there will also be a space between the Gothic and Moe's BBQ dedicated to skating, so attendees should be sure to bring along their boards.
Chive Fest August 16 City Park $77-$282 Chive Fest's website describes the event as a "party like a runaway gravy train on biscuit wheels". We're not sure exactly what sort of party that is, but Chive is definitely going to be interesting. The lineup features huge names like international indie sensation Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, as well as White Denim, Cold War Kids, Delta Spirit, Moon Taxi and Spanish Gold. To spice things up, hip-hop artist Talib Kweli and glam metal band Steel Panther will also be there.
Higher Ground Music Festival August 23 Casselman's Bar and Venue, Denver $20-$75 The third annual Higher Ground music festival--now more appropriately named than ever--will be downtown this year with five stages and forty bands. Headlining are Seattle-based Barcelona, who just recently dropped a synth heavy '80s-inspired EP, and folk-pop two-piece Baywood. This is the festival to attend for local bands as thirty five of the forty-three bands on the bill are from Colorado, offering a variety of genres from the punk of Wiredogs to the pop of Sarah and the Meanies.
JAS Aspen Snowmass: Labor Day Experience August 29-31 Snowmass Town Park $75 to $190 JAS Aspen Snowmass' Labor Day installment features and eclectic but heavy-hitting lineup of chart-toppers (fun., Carrie Underwood) and genre heroes (Nickel Creek), but the beautiful setting and strong tradition the organization has established outside Aspen afford all the coherence you'll need.
Telluride Blues and Brews September 12-14 Town Park, Telluride $20-$185 There are few better places than Colorado to have a festival celebrating microbreweries and music. Though the festival is called Blues and Brews and will feature icons like The Robert Cray Band and Black Joe Lewis, blues are by far not the only genre on the bill for the festival. Funk band Dumpstaphunk will play both mainstage and late night shows and the Violent Femmes headlining Friday night will add a taste of alt rock. In addition to twenty-four bands, there will also be fifty-six breweries serving cold ones all weekend.
Goldrush September 13-14 Larimer Lounge and Meadowlark Ticket Price TBA Although the full lineup for Goldrush hasn't been released yet, nor have the general admission tickets gone on sale, it's already looking like a can't-miss event for electronica fans. Not only is there going to be local acts like Thug Entrancer and the experimental RUMTUM but also national ones like Mt Eerie--Phil Elverum of the Microphones fame--and the glitch harmonic clipping. The festival will also feature an art show, experimental film projections, and for the first time in its four-year history, a record fair. Goldrush is going to be two nights of incomparable lights, sounds, and dancing.
Riot Fest September 19-21 Sports Authority Field, Denver $59.98-$279.98 Despite its relocation, Riot Fest is still looking to be one of the biggest music events in Denver this fall. The name of the festival implies the sort of hardcore bands that are definitely going to be there--groups like Slayer, Social Distortion, and Rise Against come to mind--but the lineup makes sure to feature something for everyone, from Wu Tang Clan's distinct hip-hop to the gypsy punk group Gogol Bordello. Local names on the bill include 3OH!3, My Body Sings Electric, and The Unlikely Candidates. In addition to a diverse, sixty-two band lineup, there will also be carnival games, rides, and as many bales of hay as organizers can manage to get downtown.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.