Once the Colorado summer kicks in, so does this state’s wildly diverse music festival season. The dozens of events scheduled over the next few months include just about every genre you can think of, at venues large and small, indoors and out. To help you plan your calendar, we’ve selected ten of our favorite summer music festivals in Colorado, which run the gamut from jazz and blues to punk and hard rock, with some EDM and classical mixed in. Here they are, in chronological order (and not including our obvious top pick, the Westword Music Showcase):
Blues From the Top
Hideaway Park, Winter Park
The good folks at the Grand County Blues Society have put on more than a dozen blues festivals and a few hundred blues concerts over the past decade, so it’s obvious that they have a damn fine handle on the genre. For more proof, check out this year’s Blues From the Top lineup, which includes the Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson, along with Anders Osborne, Little Hurricane, Jimmy Vivino & the Kate Moss 3, Alvin Youngblood Hart and more.
Vans Warped Tour
While a lot of music festivals in Colorado are multi-day affairs, the Vans Warped Tour packs a lot of punch into a one-day punk- and rock-centric festival, hailed as the longest-running touring music fest in North America. American Authors, Dance Gavin Dance, Hatebreed, Save Ferris and Barb Wire Dolls are just a few of the bands that will play on multiple stages in the Pepsi Center parking lot.
Colorado Music Festival
June 29-August 4
Chautauqua Auditorium, Boulder
Ticket prices vary
Over the past four decades, the Colorado Music Festival has established itself as one of the finest classical-music festivals in the state. Over the course of six weeks, CMF will host a number of national and internationally known artists, including pianists Christopher O’Riley, Olga Kern and Stewart Goodyear, violinist Gil Shaham, conductors Steve Hackman and Jean-Marie Zeitouni and more. And the setting, in the century-old Chautauqua Auditorium at the base of the Flatirons, is unbeatable.
Global Dance Festival
Sports Authority Field at Mile High
After many years at Red Rocks, Global Dance Festival, one of the state’s best EDM parties, will move to the parking lot of Sports Authority Field at Mile High this year. While the venue has changed, the caliber of talent is still stellar, especially with headliners Excision, Datsik, Hardwell, Kaskade and Porter Robinson.
ARISE Music Festival
Sunrise Ranch, Loveland
Three-day GA pass $199
Now in its fifth year, ARISE boasts a lineup that includes Atmosphere, Tipper, Lettuce, Beats Antique, Ani DiFranco, Brother Ali, SunSquabi, Rising Appalachia, the Expendables, the Travelin’ McCourys, Jeff Austin Band and more. While the festival, which is located 65 miles north of Denver, is heavy on the music, there’s also yoga, activism, workshops and camping.
Read on for more of Colorado's best music festivals.
Telluride Jazz Festival
Telluride Town Park, Telluride
While the four-decade-old Telluride Jazz Festival always boasts some first-rate jazz acts and also hosts “Jazz After Dark” shows around downtown Telluride, its headliners this year lean more in the direction of soul and R&B, with such heavies as Mavis Staples, Macy Gray and Lee Fields & the Expressions. Also in the lineup: Cha Wa Mardi Gras Indian Band and Hooligan Brass Band, which will both deliver lively, New Orleans-inspired funk and jazz.
RiNo Arts District
$35-$45 per day
Although Velorama, which will take over a dozen blocks in RiNo in August, is part of the Colorado Classic race and geared toward cyclists and their fans, the festival will also feature a stellar music lineup, with national headliners Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, The New Pornographers, Saint Motel and La Santa Cecilia, as well as local acts.
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Copper Mountain Resort
For past eleven years, Guitar Town has brought in some of the world’s greatest guitarists, and this year’s lineup lives up to that. The festival will feature a diverse set of pickers, among them Zakk Wylde (who fronts Black Label Society and toured with Ozzy Osbourne); Tommy Emmanuel, one of the world’s finest finger-style players; blues masters Harvey Mandel and Bob Margolin; and Guitar Army, with John Jorgenson, Lee Roy Parnell and Joe Robinson. In addition to concerts, the three-day festival offers guitar and songwriting workshops and kids’ music activities.
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
Planet Bluegrass, Lyons
The same group that puts on the outstanding Telluride Bluegrass and RockyGrass festivals also produces the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, a favorite for nearly three decades. While this year’s shindig includes local acts Gregory Alan Isakov and Elephant Revival (both have headlined Red Rocks), it will also play host to some great nationally known folk, roots and Americana artists, such as Rhiannon Giddens, Loudon Wainwright II, Dave Rawlings Machine, Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter and more.
High Elevation Rock Festival
Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre
With Five Finger Death Punch, fronted by former Denverite Ivan Moody, and Korn headlining this two-day hard-rock festival, things are bound to get heavy and, well, probably downright muscular, musically speaking. Also on tap are A Day to Remember, Stone Sour, Halestorm, In This Moment, Steel Panther, Black Veil Brides and more.