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Tunes and Brews at Red Rocks

Nathan Gismot, September 04, 2014 -   

Hey ya, BeerGraphs friends, it’s been a while. I hope all is well in your respective corners of the world, and I hope, too, that you’ve been enjoying some tasty and interesting beers since I last checked in. For my part, it’s been a nifty summer. I haven’t really had occasion to venture forth and try too many new beers, but that’s okay: Sometimes it’s good to just let it ride on what you’ve got going for you.

None of this is to say I’ve stood still this summer—no, sir! I’ve done some awesome hiking; I’ve travelled a bit, including a trip to Iowa for a family reunion of sorts, a short vacation to the Pacific Northwest, and another, somewhat impromptu sojourn to Atlantic City for an old friend’s bachelor party; and my lady and I are off to enjoy the rolling greenery of West Virginia next weekend as we celebrate aforementioned buddy’s wedding.

I also caught my first concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

At some point in early Spring or so, my lady discovered the Avett Brothers’ summer tour was to include a stop at Red Rocks for a few nights in July. I’d been wanting to catch a show there for ages, and I like the Avett Brothers as well as the next guy, so it sounded like a great idea. I was *officially* double-stoked, however, to learn that Bob Weir and his band Ratdog would be the opening act. (Yep, I’m a Deadhead, and I love Bob Weir. I’ll leave it at that for now.)

So, music aside, why am I making a “thing” about Red Rocks? It’s pretty simple: Red Rocks is both spectacular and aptly named. If you’re a music fan and concert-goer, chances are good you’ve at least seen pictures of it. As an audience member, you sit/stand/boogie down within a sweeping, dramatically tiered half-arena of sorts that is itself nestled between two enormous, monolithic (red) rock features that form the lateral walls of the amphitheatre. The tiered seating ensures everyone enjoys an unobstructed view of the stage below; and beyond the stage are gorgeous views of craggy moonscape geography and, in the distance, the High Plains extending Eastward, marked conspicuously on the left by the Denver skyline.

So the scenery is rad; how about Red Rocks' peripheral features as a concert venue?  

Quite frankly, they’re terrific, and a great deal superior to most venues I've visited. I don’t know who is in charge of parking, crowd control, and hosting and staffing concessions, but they deserve a high-five. In a sold-out venue of almost 10,000 fans, amenities were accessible, vendors were plentiful, and lines were minimal. None of those things are to be taken for granted at a concert, and they went a long way toward making the experience relaxing and enjoyable.

The beer selection was limited, unsurprisingly, but decent enough, as these things go: One could choose from any of Leinenkugel Summer Shandy (my lady digs those), Coors products, Dale’s Pale Ale, and New Belgium Sunshine Wheat. The latter was my go-to for the evening: It’s a high-quality porch pounder, and it was an enjoyable complement to the music.

Ah, the music.

I think the scene that unfolded before the musicians even played a note kind of tells you everything you need to know about the warm-and-fuzzy feeling of the show that night.

The skies threatened rain as we parked the car, and they opened up a bit after we got in and bought our first round. It wasn’t a deluge by any means, but it was enough to get you good and soaked if you sat around long enough. We clambered into the ponchos we had brought, which, unfortunately, only marginally helped: Before too long my lady discovered a slight breach in her poncho that, coupled with the breeze, caused a rather uncomfortable rainwater situation. I found her a better poncho, but still, there we were -- out in the cold rain and snow, if you will. 

Suddenly, the volume on the ambient pre-show music turned down low, then stopped altogether, and the crowd--assembled, soaked, and full of anticipation--started to roar. Old man Ace, Bobby Weir, strode out on stage, followed by his band; and as if on cue, the rain... just... stopped, and the sunshine came out, and -- I kid you not -- a rainbow appeared in the sky directly over the stage.

Ratdog eased into a warmup jam -- they’d had to skip their soundcheck earlier due to the rain -- that itself eased into a jazzy Help on the Way→Slipknot→I Need a Miracle. As for me, I danced. I sang. I enjoyed some suddenly perfectly apropos Sunshine Wheats. Life was good. And so it is. 

You can follow Nate on Twitter and Untapp'd at @nategismot

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