As a musician I've spent just as much time daydreaming as I have playing music. And that's a lot. But if you really think about it there's a lot of things to daydream about. The music, shows, tour busses, gear, recording studios, rock n' roll hangs, and travel... you know... the glam stuff. The list goes on and on which is probably why I was such a bad student in high school. I didn't have much time for school! (see above) While some parts of being a touring musician are glamorous, many parts of it are not - but that's for a different blog post. My point in saying all of this is there are certain milestones you can only dream about actually doing. For me playing at Red Rocks was one of them.
The rocks themselves are about 1,000,000 years old. That's right go look at those zeros again. One million. The rock formation that encases the amphitheater is naturally occuring and is located where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. It is the only naturally occuring acoustically perfect venue on the Earth. Pretty rad if you ask me.
In addition to its geological history, its musical history is quite impressive too. Name any major band from the 1940's to now and chances are they've graced that stage several times.
Upon arrival to Colorado, my brain was instantly filled with all the Denver airport conspiracy theories. Then we got shuttled out to the middle of nowhere to a little cluster of hotels in the middle of a valley with nothing around. Andi and I called this area the "hotel city" because that's what it was. We walked to our room and the hallway of the hotel smells like someone dropped a log in the toilet and overflowed it into their bathroom. Needless to say, we immediately moved to a different room, sans poop smell. There was also a person in the hotel who was giving me weird vibes and I was bugging out a bit. The whole situation was weird. So Andi and I decide to get out of there and go grab a bite to eat. We show up to a beer garden nearby and there is a 3 piece band playing German traditional songs dressed in traditional garb. Even weirder.
That day ends and now it's show day. It was a perfect day in Colorado, not a cloud in sight. Everyone is excited to head to the Red Rocks area and start exploring and getting to work. Right when I got there I was immediately greeted by Sparky (Grace's dad) who was getting his exersize in by running up and down the steps of the amphitheater. Mind you, the air is really thin up there. He's a beast.
I was taken aback by the sheer size of the rocks and the amphitheater itself. It is so beautiful and it has an intense spiritual energy about it. It's kind of like something you'd see in a Jurrasic Park film. To really get an idea of how massive the rocks are, you have to go to the top and look down at the amphitheater and then back up to the ever extending rocks that are still much taller than you even at the top.
At this point my family, who is camping in a nearby national park, shows up to the venue to hang out and see the show. The security staff made short work of showing them that they were special. Private parking, escorts, special passes, and basically everything just shy of rolling out a red carpet. It makes a huge difference to have venue staff that actually cares about you and your guest's experience at their venue. They gave my uncle Richard (who is a professional photographer) a special pass to have full reign of the show. Something that most venues would never do. They were really great and clearly took pride in how special it is to play at a place like Red Rocks.
Showtime comes around and Galactic takes the stage with full force funk. I catch about half of the set before saying bye to my family and going below the stage to get ready for the show. The vibe backstage was calm and quiet. Everyone in the band is in their heads most likely running through what they need to do for the show. The backstage rooms were designed in a way that the natural rocks make up the walls, it's very cool and vibey. We all get our show clothes on, do our normal pre-show rituals like warm up the voice or the hands, take a shot of Bourbon, talk about the set list and how to make certain transitions, discuss new things that we haven't tried before that we'll be pulling out for this show only. It was starting to get super exciting. Then Grace walks in and gives us all little gifts before the show. She picked out special stones for each person in the band and wrote a personalized note for each of us on a little card. So nice. We do our band huddle, Grace leads the huddle with some warrior-like words of encouragement, then we're off to take the stage.
We walk up the ramps to get to the stage and the light starts to dim. Our walk on music is blaring through the speakers. It's a mysterious magical sounding track that Grace put together with 12 dings of a clock tower bell signifying "Midnight" the name of her album. The crowd of nearly 10,000 is roaring and our trusty tour manager and crew are donning flashlights to lead the way on stage. On the last ding of the bell, we walk out and the show happens.
It was without a doubt one of my favorite shows I've ever played. So many great musical moments. The band was hitting on weird psychedelic interludes and jams that have never happened before, Stanton Moore came out to sit in on a song, the crowd was loving every bit of it and you could see every person in the stands due to the incline of the amphitheater, the lights were visible on the side of the rocks that encased the stage, it was every bit of awesome. Grace even had me go upfront to play a solo on her Hammond while Stanton was sitting in with the band. I could see her walking over to my side of the stage and she had her eye on me. I knew she was coming over to tell me something so I took my in-ear out of one ear so I could hear her. She said "Let Stanton do his thing, then when he's wrapping up go out to the organ and play a solo!" So I did. Such a fun night. I even got to catch up with my good buddy Kory Montgomery, we used to tour together in The Official Blues Brothers Revue!
It was so much fun that I had to take some hits off the oxygen tank after the show. I wasn't kidding when I said the altitude is high at Red Rocks and for this reason they have several oxygen tanks hanging around the stage and backstage for the performers. After the show I was coughing, couldn't catch my breath, and my legs were starting to feel like jello. Then my mom (a nurse practitioner) said "You need to calm down and take a few puffs off that oxygen tank, you're turning grey!" Always gotta listen to mom.
The following photos are from my uncle Richard who I mentioned above. The entire Red Rocks security team was instructed to let him take pictures of the show, and he got some great ones. Thanks Wikit! Y'all enjoy the photos below, and thanks again for checking out the new blog. My Radio City blog will be next! -Ben