The 2016 Guide to Live Music in the Mountains

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The leaves are changing and temperatures are dropping, which can only mean that ski season is quickly approaching. And while skis and snowboards are getting dug out of closets and storage units all over the Front Range, the mountains are about to be alive with the sound of music. Yes, even though Red Rocks will wind down at the end of the month, most resorts open early November and will feature live music to draw in concert-goers. The Snowboard on the Block Festival at Sculpture Park in downtown Denver already got action-sports aficionados in the mood with a rail jam and performances by Chief Keef, Afroman and Wolfmother. So while you hit the elliptical to train, we’ve done the leg work of gathering everything you need to know about upcoming concerts and music festivals at ski resorts across the state.

1. Arapahoe Basin Fall Concert: DOWN2FUNK
Arapahoe Basin
Saturday, October 29

A-Basin won the annual #RaceToOpen this year, and now it's first on this list of snowy shindigs. A-Basin will host a free daytime concert this Saturday with Colorado band DOWN2FUNK. Blending funk, lyrical hip-hop and psychedelic rock solos, DOWN2FUNK also played the inaugural ARISE music festival, getting listeners up and grooving to party songs and covers. 

2. Gogol Bordello
Belly Up, Aspen

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A band of gypsies in a playground for millionaires? Long-running band Gogol Bordello will be stopping by Belly Up during Thanksgiving week to bring its Eastern European brand of punk rock to Aspen. The songs “Wonderlust King” and the vibrant "Start Wearing Purple" highlight singer Eugene Hutz's accented voice. Gogol Bordello's roots are in folk and punk music, with accordions and violin emphasizing the band's old-world theatrics. The unique sound makes you feel as though you're dancing on tables, spilling vodka on soldiers in a pre-Soviet country. For when you want to get away from your getaway.

3. Dew Tour Presented by Mountain Dew
December 6-11, 2016

The ski and snowboard competition Dew Tour hits Breckenridge this December. The event starts with athletes' practices on December 6, and the festivities culminate after the ski-team final with a free concert held at the Riverwalk Center on Saturday, December 10. The featured artist has not yet been announced, but the weekend is full of entertainment.

4. A-Basin turns 70!
Arapahoe Basin
December 9-10, 2016

Yes, the mountain favorite is throwing a big bash this December for its seventieth birthday. Live music has been promised, but an announcement of the artists is still pending. Riders can take advantage of huge discounts during the weekend, with children’s lift passes priced at $19 and adult lift passes at $46 each day of the weekend to commemorate the resort's 1946 opening. Announcements will be made soon at arapahoebasin.com.

5. Vail Snow Daze with Michael Franti and Lettuce
December 9-10, 2016

In an action-packed resort weekend, Vail will throw a winter celebration with free concerts on Friday and Saturday nights, sponsored by Pepsi and Bud Light. These concerts will feature two chill and popular artists: Michael Franti and Lettuce. On Friday, December 9, Franti brings soul and uplift to all of his music, whether the sound is drawing from rock, reggae or rap. Read more in our interview with Franti before his last show at Red Rocks.

The Saturday performance features Lettuce, and the jam-band funk is sure to heat up Vail Village. The bandmembers of this Colorado cult favorite met at the Berklee College of Music and have been cultivating dance parties at their concerts for over two decades.

Read on for four more mountain concerts this ski season.
6. Lupe Fiasco
Belly Up, Aspen
December 16, 2016

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco will make his way to Aspen right before Christmas to showcase his skills. While the rapper has made the charts with hits like “Superstar,” “The Show Goes On” and “Kick Push," his lyrical prowess really shines on mixtape tracks. Fiasco’s three-part mixtape series “Fahrenheit 1/15” poetically describes the struggles of living paycheck to paycheck in violent inner-city Chicago. Songs like the multi-persona “Switch (The Science Project)” and hard, shocking “Heat Under the Babyseat” put Lupe Fiasco on a consciousness above other rappers. With an ocean of mixtape and studio material to choose from, it will be interesting to see what lyrical ammo Fiasco brings to Aspen.

7. MusicFest at Steamboat Springs 
Steamboat Springs
January 5-10, 2017

MusicFest at Steamboat Springs is one of the largest red-dirt and Americana music festivals in the country. The lineup features a hit list of veterans over one extended weekend that you couldn't replicate even if you were to follow the Texas dance-hall circuit over the course of the month. Artists such as Casey Donahew, Cody Canada & the Departed, William Clark Green, Jason Boland & the Stragglers (who have a live CD, High in the Rockies, recorded at a previous Music Fest), Kevin Fowler, Lee Ann Womack, Randy Rogers Band, Reckless Kelly, Turnpike Troubadours and Wade Bowen have all been churning out boot-stomping classics for years. While those marquee names solidify the lineup, younger artists give the festival depth and fresh songwriting to watch out for. For example, Adam Hood, originally from Alabama, has a soulful voice that resonates on excellent songs such as “Hell of a Fight” and “Trying to Write a Love Song.” Stoney LaRue is also no stranger to the scene, offering love songs and heartache melodies. Last but certainly not least, the female artists of the festival offer unparalleled talent and voices that are unforgettable once they're heard live. The harmonizing Trishas, who were founded at MusicFest five years ago, are must-sees.

Because of its post-holiday timing and its location off the I-70 corridor, with no easy airport access, Music Fest is not only a great opportunity to listen to a plethora of raw talent, but it's also a unique experience to see, meet and speak with many of the artists (while they can't get away). The only difficulty is not mistaking a Texan in a cowboy hat for a musician. Festival passes are sold out, but a wait list is available, and there are plenty of after-parties at small venues and hotels throughout Steamboat Springs if you are able to find lodging.

8. Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation - DJ set 
Telluride Fire Festival
Sunday, January 15, 2017

In the San Juan Mountain range, Telluride is hosting its second annual fire festival. Heat up with an intimate DJ set from Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza. Garza’s new EP, Palace of Mirrors, draws from similar themes of electronica and jazz, but send the listener off of the deep end with deep house bass and nu-disco. Bringing European house music to the intimate setting of Telluride, Garza’s set could be the best electronic event on the Western Slope. 

9. X Games 
Buttermilk Mountain, Aspen
January 26-29, 2017

It's already time to start looking ahead to the blockbuster weekend of sports and music that is the annual X Games in Aspen. The marquee action-sports event not only features the best of snow athletes, but is also bringing a fresh lineup of hip-hop and electronic acts. Bassnectar, Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals, the Chainsmokers, and G-Eazy are the musical acts for the weekend. Unfortunately, if any of those great artists pique your interest, you'd better act quickly to get tickets. Two-show and four-show packs are completely sold out, and so is the Chainsmokers show. General admission tickets are still available to Bassnectar, Anderson .Paak and G-Eazy, but preferred tickets for Bassnectar are already gone. Ski season is upon us; make your move now.

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