Although creatives in Colorado continued to be priced out of their homes, the music scene here reached new heights this year. Our instrument-wielding governor emphasized music education by way of a nonprofit he launched with some other heavy hitters in the state, a mega music promoter picked Denver as the site of a large-scale music festival, and a San Francisco-based nightclub opened a second outpost in the Mile High City.
Marginalized music fans got some good news this year, too, after Red Rocks changed its ticketing policy to allow more access for disabled fans, and an oft-overlooked neighborhood in town got a killer music venue. Read on for the ten biggest music stories of 2017.
1. Overland Golf Course...Music Festival?
Super-promoters AEG and Superfly announced in March that they had selected Denver as the host of a new music festival, and in April, they picked Overland Golf Course, a municipal course, as the site for it. Denver City Council approved the contract in July amid protest from residents of the surrounding neighborhood. The music festival will shutter the course for five weeks next summer to allow for setup and cleanup.
2. Gathering of the Juggalos ditches Denver.
Local fans of the Insane Clown Posse were "whoop-whooping" plenty after ICP announced in late 2016 that it planned to bring the Gathering of the Juggalos to town. But in March, the band's record company told Westword that it was backing out of Denver, as there were no suitable venues in town for the event. Instead, the Juggalos convened in Oklahoma City. Insane Clown Posse threw Colorado a bone (or was it 10,000 bottles of Faygo?) and played Boulder in September.
3. Take Note Colorado launches.
Music-buff extraordinaire Governor John Hickenlooper had a vision: Every child in Colorado should have access to an instrument and music lessons. He rallied billionaire Democrat Pat Stryker and rocker/philanthropist Libby Anschutz, the daughter of Republican billionaire Phil Anschutz, to help him realize his dream, which has taken form in Take Note Colorado. The nonprofit celebrated its launch at a massive show at 1STBANK Center in May, with OneRepublic, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Slade.
4. Wheelchair Sports Camp gets political.
Wheelchair Sports Camp's Kalyn Heffernan had a busy year, embarking on an international tour and playing endless shows around town, including the Westword Music Showcase. But her schedule didn't stop her from joining the legendary disability-rights group ADAPT at a protest at Republican Senator Cory Gardner's office in July that turned into a multi-day sit-in. Heffernan and her fellow activists demanded that Gardner vote against a GOP-led gutting of the Affordable Care Act. Their activism landed them in jail, but charges were eventually dropped.
5. Levitt Pavilion opens.
The nonprofit venue Levitt Pavilion, which promises to bring dozens of free concerts each year to Ruby Hill Park, opened in July, much to the delight of Denver City Council and Denver Arts & Venues (though notably absent from the ceremony was Mayor Michael Hancock). The nonprofit offered Denver a stunning lineup of local acts all summer long for free and several ticketed events showcasing national acts including UB40, Matisyahu and the Josh Abbott Band.
6. Musicians call out Stella's on 16th.
Denver musicians don't get a lot of opportunities to unionize, and there aren't many organizations advocating on their behalf. That didn't stop a cadre of performers, including Wesley Watkins and members of the Raven and the Writing Desk, from blasting Stella's on 16th after the restaurant promised them performance slots and then booked other bands instead. Shortly after musicians raised their concerns on social media and in the press in August, Stella's abruptly closed.
7. Temple Denver arrives.
San Francisco-based Temple Nightclub, which announced its imminent arrival with an aggressive marketing strategy that included dozens of stencils on sidewalks around town, arrived in Denver in late October and has hosted what CEO Paul Hemming describes as Las Vegas-meets-Burning Man-style club nights ever since. The venue will launch a coffee shop, art gallery and co-working space in 2018.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
8. Denver's oldest blues bar closes.
Denver's strong economy and active millennials are precisely what convinced Superfly and Temple Denver to come to town; at the same time, longstanding bars, clubs and music shops battling rising rents are finding it harder to stay open. On October 31, Denver's oldest blues bar, Ziggies, closed its doors.
9. Cold Crush is out in the cold.
Cold Crush found itself without a home after the RiNo hip-hop club's landlord refused to renew its lease past October 31 in the wake of a fatal shooting outside the venue in 2016. Bar owner Brian Mathenge had been scrambling all year to find a new home for Cold Crush, and considered a building he leased to Southside Bar — but when he tried to evict that business to take over the space, he found himself tussling with his tenant in court and in the press. He ultimately failed to evict Southside, and last we heard, he's still looking for a new location to relaunch Cold Crush.
10. Red Rocks gets easier for disabled patrons.
A class action suit was filed against the city last December, arguing that people in wheelchairs were being discriminated against at concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. As the suit neared a settlement, Red Rocks announced this December that a new ticket-buying process would ensure that seats for disabled patrons would actually go to them. The new protocols will require anyone trying to purchase wheelchair-designated tickets to prove their eligibility.