When AEG Presents: Rocky Mountains unveiled the Mission Ballroom in August 2019, music fans responded enthusiastically. Loaded with art by Denver muralists, incorporating the best of traditional open-floor venues and Red Rocks-style bleacher seating with unparalleled sightlines, the indoor venue wowed a city that already boasted an impressive array of clubs.
Part of Westfield Company's rising North Wynkoop mixed-use development in the RiNo Art District, the Mission Ballroom was touted as the best mid-sized venue in the nation.
AEG Presents: Rocky Mountains — part of Anschutz Entertainment Group, an international powerhouse owned by Colorado's Philip Anschutz — also operates the Bluebird, Ogden and Gothic theaters, as well as the 1STBANK Center and Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, and books the majority of concerts at Denver-owned Red Rocks Amphitheatre, along with plenty of shows at the Dillon Amphitheater and the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. It's formed booking partnerships with the City of Denver at Sculpture Park and Wyoming concert promoters at the Terry Bison Ranch off Interstate 25 just past the northern edge of Colorado. And independent venues likethe Larimer Lounge, Lost Lake, Globe Hall, the Boulder Theater, the Fox Theatre and Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom all have AEG talent buyers as investors.
The Mission gave AEG the one thing it lacked: a medium-sized venue, like Live Nation's Fillmore Auditorium.
And the Mission's structure makes it one of the most flexible venues in town, with a room that can be configured in multiple ways to make various-capacity shows feel full. While most gigs take place indoors, AEG also offers plenty of outdoor spots for food trucks and pre- and post-show socializing. Yet plans to throw outdoor concerts and festivals in the plaza, dubbed Mission Outdoors, didn't come to fruition in the venue's first year.
COVID-19. During the pandemic, the space outside the Mission Ballroom has occasionally come to life, most notably when music fans gathered in the parking lot to witness multiple nights of Itchy-O's ritualistic noise performances. And earlier this summer, Widespread Panic threw a limited charity show indoors.
But tonight, July 30, the Mission finally reopens at full capacity, with DJ Snake and Malaa spinning back to back. Shows from artists including Bear Grillz, Kesha, Black Pumas, Wu-Tang Clan With the Colorado Symphony, and Sylvan Esso are scheduled into spring of 2022.
"It’s looking really busy, as all venues are," says Kellie Donahoe, director of marketing at AEG Presents: Rocky Mountains. "There are so many shows and so many bands that want to get out to work. We’ll have well over a hundred shows, it’s looking like, for 2022."
For years, AEG has served as mainstage-act talent buyer for the Westword Music Showcase. When the festival lost its longstanding main-stage outdoor grounds in the Golden Triangle to a new development project, AEG welcomed it into the Mission neighborhood, and the Westword Music Showcase moved to the RiNo Art District.
Taking advantage of its new home, on Friday, September 17, the Showcase will host a free night highlighting more than fifty of this city's best bands at venues including the Larimer Lounge, the Meadowlark, American Bonded, Improper City, theWalnut Room, ReelWorks (formerly Exdo Event Center), the RiNo Beer Garden, Number Thirty Eight, Bierstadt Lagerhaus and Ironton Distillery. Westword has tapped Kyle Hartman, a rising force in the scene and talent buyer for the Larimer Lounge, Lost Lake, Globe Hall and Underground Music Showcase, to help secure local acts.
On Saturday, September 18, the Westword Music Showcase will christen the Mission Outdoors space. The three main stages on the plaza in front of the Mission Ballroom and in the surrounding parking lots will feature performances by Young the Giant, Thundercat, Matoma and Hippo Campus, along with more than a dozen local bands that will be announced in the weeks to come. After the main event, festival-goers who purchase the Weekender Pass will also have access inside the Mission Ballroom, for a show by Kaytranada and Duke Dumont.
The Westword Music Showcase will not only be the first chance Denver has to see the Mission Outdoors in action, but it also will allow AEG to test out the site for future outdoor festivals and events that are still in the works, says Donahoe.
"Mission Outdoors is a unique opportunity to connect with indoors," she adds. "There's a fun festival outdoor show, and there’s a sweet after-party twenty feet away. That’s what the model will look like at the Mission."
For more information about the Westword Music Showcase, which takes over the RiNo Art District on September 17 and 18, visit the Showcase website. Various ticket packages are available, including a free Friday night locals-only pass; a Saturday day pass for Mission Outdoors that includes Young the Giant, Thundercat, Matoma and Hippo Campus; and a Weekender Pass, which also provides access to Kaytranada and Duke Dumont at Mission Indoors.