To play a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheater located in Morrison, Colorado is a modern day right of passage as a musician. Constructed in early 1900’s, this National Historic Landmark documents it’s earliest show, the Grand Opening of the Garden of the Titans, on May 31, 1906, some 100 years ago, featuring Pietro Satriano and his 25 piece brass band. This spectacular modern day venue was the vision of John Brisbane Walker, who found this setting to be the perfect acoustic balance between these gigantic rock formations, just as the Ute might have for generations preceding. In 1941 the City of Denver purchased the land and with the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps, built the amphitheater we know today. Dedicated on June 15, 1941, Red Rocks Amphitheater is now celebrating it’s 75th birthday, hosting concerts series each year with some of the worlds most elite performers.
In an article by John Wenzel of The Denver Post, Wenzel revisits a few of Red Rocks’ most notable concerts throughout it’s history. Notably the Beatles tour of 1964 was included. This show actually was the only show on that tour not to sell out for them. What very well could have set the precedent of the jam band movement at Red Rocks, can possibly be directly linked to the Grateful Dead’s show in 1978 spawning a myriad of jam bands to return each year since to the mystical setting. Included also in this list was the Jimi Hendrix Experience who came to perform to the 9,525 capacity venue and was the only show there to date that did not document the event with photos or video. Annual events tend to be a common occurrence with The Blues Traveler as they take up residence each 4th of July at Red Rocks.
The late John Denver, was a huge advocate of Red Rocks and performed there a total of 17 times throughout his career, televising it live to a global audience reaching the masses and shining a light on the jewel nestled within the rocks. In 1971, what is recalled today as the Riots at Red Rocks, ticket-less fans stormed the venue to see the Jethro Tull show prompting both a riot with law enforcement and spawning a five year ban of Rock & Roll at the Rocks.
With such rich history, such breathtaking beauty, and such mystical healing of music and nature combined, it is truly a venue that every performer wishes to have an opportunity to experience at least once in their careers. Joe Bonamassa, a native of Central New York, is no exception. Having performed there several times to date, it seemed fitting that this journalist would experience her first show and check off her bucket list item with a hometown hero. Bonamassa is one of this generations most influential blues guitarist forging music not for the airtime it would be grated, but solely for the love of music. Influenced throughout his life by such greats as B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Paul Kossoff, Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, Bonamassa knew guitar was what he wanted to do at the age of 4. He had to experience the movement it gave him. As he closed out his recent tour with his parents looking on from the audience at Red Rocks, it was an honor to take part in this magical night and hear what inspired him to become the musician he is today.
As the angry storms poured down on eager concert goers just prior to the show, the delays forced all to take cover and ride the storm out. It was only a matter of time that the clouds blew their way across the rocks to give a peek to what was most definitely the most spectacular view of Denver and the surrounding mountainous terrain that surrounded it.