Friends of Red Rocks is an organization that came together in 1999 out of concern for the corporatization of the legendary music venue. At the time, there had been talk of turning the planting boxes into box seats bearing advertising, a development antithetical to the concept of a public park. Since then, Friends of Red Rocks has been involved in getting the venue recognized as a national historic monument, and on the last Saturday of every month, volunteers meet in the morning to do cleanup, even outside the concert season.
According to volunteer Abraham Willock, bassist in the band Alexander and the Big Sleep, the organization wanted to put together a fundraiser and appreciation show for the volunteers who clean up and improve Red Rocks as well as other area mountain parks, so a quasi-guerrilla secret show was put together. Well, as guerrilla as you can get with permission of Denver Parks and Venues and Aramark and in cooperation with Friends of Red Rocks chairwoman Amy Ellis. Willock, as a musician, reached out to the music community and pulled together a daytime festival, using two P.A.s for vocals on side-by-side stages on the upper deck of Red Rocks.
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The bands aimed their amps at the rocks to utilize the venue's natural acoustics, which sometimes caused some unusual sound situations, but overall, it worked. Baked goods, drinks and gift cards were sold to help raise funds, though there was clearly no attempt to collect money from people just to see the bands. Upon entering the upper deck in the morning to catch psychedelic-rock band Silver Face, attendees found themselves in a crowd of people, many of whom probably had no idea the event was happening. This included the usual Red Rocks weekend daytime crowd walking their dogs and doing yoga, families on a Sunday outing, and a group of people dressed all in white looking like a cult, pilgrims, or extras for the Polyphonic Spree. (Someone suggested it was perhaps the members of Of Montreal, who are scheduled to play at the Bluebird Theater on Monday, October 17.)
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A few highlights: A seemingly endless supply of bubbles — meant for the kids, but mostly successfully executed by adults — accompanied the proceedings. All of the performers could have been classified as more or less straight-ahead rock. Dirt brought a guy dressed in a full chicken suit as a kind of mascot, and Space in Time delivered its powerfully melodramatic hard rock to the outdoors. Overall, the show proved that this music could work in the daylight, whether or not the audience was expecting a concert.
Everyone interested in the ongoing efforts of Friends of Red Rocks in keeping the park clean and for the public as originally conceived, or even donating to the project, is encouraged to visit friendsofredrocks.org.