By, Philip Toscano
While I’m not like the ladies behind Crushing Vinyl who have been to dozens of concerts of varying music genres at venues both big and small, I did attend a concert at Red Rocks in Colorado that literally changed my impression of live music forever.
Having just graduated from college in 2003, a few friends and myself loaded up my Chevy Blazer and moved out to Grand Lake, Colorado to live in the Rockies, work as servers at a restaurant, enjoy the outdoors, and wait out the economic recession (no, we didn’t spend the next eleven years there). Living in a small cabin without TV for four months encouraged us to cook a lot of food, drink even more amounts of wine, and fill our new home with tunes from artists including the Beatles, Jay Z, Billy Joel, Maroon 5 (who were on the verge of launching their first hit album—we had a pre-release bootleg), just to name a few.
One day, after a long lunch shift of slinging burgers and bringing pizza to mountain-town tourists, one of my roommates surprised us with four tickets to see Jack Johnson and Ben Harper live at Red Rocks. At that point, I was probably like most people and only knew of Red Rocks as the place where The Dave Mathew’s Band recorded like fifteen CDs with Tim Reynolds. Little did I know, the experience of catching a concert at Red Rocks would be one I would never forget.
I am sure there are many ways of seeing a show at Red Rocks, however, camping and concerting is absolutely the way to go. After a few phone calls, we had a camping site reserved near the amphitheater and we were primed for an epic tailgate, a concert for the ages, followed by a nice cozy tent to sleep in (or pass out in) afterwards.
We arrived at Red Rocks at noon for a 5pm concert and the tailgating had been long underway. Everywhere you looked were tailgate festivities, barbeques, car parties, people mingling, footballs being tossed around, as well as a wide range of…shall we say “other activities.” Picture a giant field where The Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains with five thousand of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet gearing up to watch Ben Harper and Jack Johnson perform.
After the amazingly fun tailgate, it was time to enter Red Rocks Amphitheater. Within two minutes of handing my ticket in, the flip-flop on my right foot practically disintegrated so I was left with one of two choices: walk around lop-sided, or just kick off my other flop and bear the concert barefoot. If you know me, you know I chose the latter.
Red Rocks Amphitheater is out-of-this-world beautiful. You enter from the top of the venue, and the entire theater and stage are before you carved out of a stunning, dusty-red rock formation. You think the venue and setting will be the most mind-blowing parts of the concert…until you hear the acoustics. This geological phenomenon is the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world and it is no wonder why any and every musician would aspire to play there. Hearing Jack and Ben’s music (yeah, I like to think we’re on a first name basis) in that space was like literally hearing songs I had heard hundreds of times prior for the very first time. There I stood (barefoot), sublimely happy and totally enraptured with tunes that sounded, in a word, perfect.
Each band put on performances that rivaled awesomeness. I left the concert not only with my feet dyed completely red, but with a new appreciation for venues and acoustics. When we eventually made it to our tent, which was practically in the shadow of the amphitheater, I knew I just experienced one amazing show in quite possibly one of the most beautiful places in the world.
If I could do it all over again, I absolutely would, and wouldn’t change a thing…except maybe bring sturdier footwear.