Boulder's Ultimate Guide to Music

Boulder’s Ultimate Guide to Music & Entertainment

In Entertainment, Things to do by Travel Boulder1 Comment

Boulderites are known to walk to a different drumbeat. And that pulse takes the form of great live tunes, famous performance venues, world-famous bands, a high-caliber music school and an overall thriving music scene.

Boulder is creative. Some local musicians say they’re inspired by the city’s natural majesty. Other people are drawn here to soak up the community’s offerings, found everywhere from big stages to tiny coffee houses, from classical music to Billboard-topping artists, from loud festivals to the private studios of instrument-makers.

Let the music of Boulder move you. Here’s the Ultimate Guide to enjoying music in Boulder.
The Fox

Best Large Venues for Live Music

You don’t have to drive to Denver to hear the big-name musicians. Boulder is home to several famous concert venues that attract bands, from chart-toppers to shining up-and-coming acts.

If you’re looking for a great show on a world-class stage, here’s a look at Boulder’s top large music venues.

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The Laughing Goat

Best Small Venues for Live Music

To hear the best music, you don’t necessarily have to wrestle the crowds in the biggest venue. Sometimes, those hidden gem musicians take the stage on smaller, lesser-hyped stages.

If you’re in Boulder looking for some live music to liven up your evening, no need to look much further than some of the local coffee shops, restaurants and bars. You can find some high-caliber performers on these smaller stages. Bonus: Many don’t even ask a cover.

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Upcoming Live Music

Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Famous Musicians from Boulder: Big Head Todd and the Monsters

You probably remember “Bittersweet.” This song was every lover’s anthem in 1993, hitting No. 14 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts. If you listened to alternative and rock in the early ‘90s, you probably also jammed out to “Broken Hearted Savior,” which landed No. 9, on the platinum album, “Sister Sweetly.”

The band behind these musical memories, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, got its start in Boulder, when the musicians were students at the University of Colorado in Boulder. More than three decades later, the original members are still playing together.

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Guide to annual festivals near Boulder

While Boulder’s music venues alone can fill your calendar with concerts, sometimes you want to listen to music outside, festival style. Boulder itself has some amazing festivals that include live music, but there are many bigger, music-centric gatherings beyond city limits, just a short drive away.

Here are a few of the greatest Colorado music festivals near Boulder. The farthest is about two hours each way, meaning you could make a day trip out of any of these, if you don’t mind a late-night cruise back to the “Boulder bubble.”

From rock to bluegrass to world music showcases, here are some music festivals near Boulder that you don’t want to miss.

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Carly Smith and Laura Stratton of Foxfeather.

The Best Boulder Open Mics and Songwriting Showcases

Here’s a night-by-night guide to the best places to check out for some local songsmith flavor.

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We asked some famous local bands:

How has Boulder influenced your music?

“The vast beauty of Boulder County has certainly provided much inspiration, not only for our music but for our lyrical content. There’s nothing like the Rockies and the Flatirons. They can simultaneously make you feel small yet connected to something larger. That feeling alone has contributed to the music to a great degree.

Many songs have been birthed on the banks within the Boulder canyons, cut deep from wind and water. Historical geologic manifestations right before our eyes, for our eyes and minds to feast upon.

As well, the greater Boulder music scene has been very kind and nurturing to us over the years. It’s where we began and still reside. That has to say a lot. It is a unique scene and one that supports musicians at every stage in the ranks.”Daniel Rodriguez of Elephant Revival

“One of the most important ways Boulder has influenced our playing is its location. Tucked against the flat irons and the beginning of the Rocky Mountains, you understand a world of different possibilities, peaks to ascend and valleys to settle into, and in many respects, that’s what we try to accomplish with our own musical adventures”Yonder Mountain String Band

“When I arrived in boulder in 1985 the music scene was just what I needed to turn from a college picker to a guy with gigs in a music town. The number and quality of venues in town made that possible. Not sure that still exists today”Vincer Herman, founding member, guitarist, vocalist: Leftover Salmon

“Interesting Question. For the longest time (not now), Boulder was very low-key, more slow moving and somewhat detached from the Denver-Boulder scence. Boulder was a unique small city and college town set up against the majestic mountains. It was a magnet for creative and ‘hip’ young people who were into the environment, the counter-culture, spirituality, drugs, and certainly a bit of the avant guard. The music scene in the late 1960s into the 80s was ‘anything goes’! Whatever band or artist was good had the ability to strive toward greatness, with the support and enthusiasm of the community. There were so many great bands in Boulder back then of all varieties. And when rock stars Stephen Stills, Chris Hillman, Richie Furay, Joe Walsh, Dan Folgelberg and Caribou Ranch moved in the Mountains, it was truly amazing! The stage was set for FIREFALL in this new music mecca, and when we formed, we had total creative freedom and support. And with the great songs of Rick Roberts and Larry Burnett, our band got signed by Atlantic Records and out of the gate in 1976 had a hit record on our hands. Thank you Bouder; couldn’t have done it without you.”Jock Bartley, of FIREFALL

Dead and Company at Folsom Field

Where to Hear Outdoor Music in Boulder

Live music is great. The Colorado outdoors are great. Put them together and it’s even better.

On many summer evenings, the Pearl Street Mall transforms into an outdoor stage, and so do many of Boulder County’s parks. Even Folsom Field on the University of Colorado campus hosts musicians on occasion (like the recent Dead & Company show). Boulder’s food truck park, the Rayback Collective, also regularly brings live music to its indoor-outdoor space. Boulder’s small bandshell in Central Park is often alive with music.

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Boulder Theater

A Closer Look at the Boulder Theater

Before you even walk inside, it’s clear the Boulder Theater has a unique story.

From the Pearl Street Mall, this pastel art deco landmark leaps out from the side of a rock facade. It’s a Colorado Historic Landmark. By night, its large marquee glows brightly in red, white and blue. It’s where things are happening in Boulder.

During its 75-plus years, the Boulder Theater has seen some huge name musicians, such as Bonnie Raitt and Leftover Salmon, as well as all kinds of performances — pole dancing, tribute shows, stand-up comedy, film festivals, you name it. Its ideal location right in downtown makes it a hotspot for visitors and locals alike, and an appealing destination for performers who want a stage with quick access to the Colorado mountains and one of the most vacation-y walking malls in the world.

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HB Woodsongs

Best Music Stores in Boulder County

Here is a peek at some of the best music stores in Boulder County, plus some tips on how to get the most out of them from the pros themselves.

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Mahler Fest

Classical Music in Boulder

Here are 11 ways you can enjoy Boulder’s classical music scene.

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CU Symphony Orchastra

The Music Scene on the CU Campus

Here is a look at just some of the ways you can use the University of Colorado to fill your musical needs.

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The Fox

The Fox Theatre Turns 25

The Fox Theater makes legends. And the Boulder venue is a legend itself.

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Healing Vibrations

Music for wellness: Yoga, singing bowls, chanting, vibrational therapy

Studies abound on the health benefits of music and how it can promote wellness. It can be used as therapy, to reduce stress and can even improve the functioning of the immune system. One study found it was actually more effective than prescription drugs to reduce anxiety before surgery.

As one of the healthiest communities in the country, Boulder gets this. That’s why when Boulderites listen to music, it’s not just for fun. Much local live music has a secondary purpose.

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Red Rocks

A Closer Look at Red Rocks

This is a stage like no other. It has interesting roots — and plenty of uses other than to host live music, too. Here’s a closer look at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Morrison, not far from Boulder.

Red Rocks is a dramatic rock structure that is the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater on the planet.

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