Every year, it seems like there’s no way to top the previous Red Rocks season. Every year, we see the concert schedule and wish we could go to more of them. Therein lies the blessing and curse of having a world-famous venue right in our backyard — or foothills, as the case may be. But much like last year, Travel Boulder is here to help you sort out the must-see from the can’t-miss from the maybe-next-years.
Starting from the top:
May 5: Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band
For all the Deadheads out there, old and young, Phil Lesh is bringing an all-new band this year. It will be playing old favorites as well as some newer songs — with a very familiar vibe.
May 6: Primus/Mastodon
Kicking off the start of the real Red Rocks season with a huge bang, the lovably odd, alt-thrash-funk trio brings their circus to the rocks with heavy metal titans Mastodon for one of the year’s loudest offerings.
May 22: The Decemberists
The Decemberists hit the road this year in support of the new album “I’ll Be Your Girl,” a spacier, rockier offering than the more historically-influenced fare, for what’s sure to be an upbeat, energetic show.
May 28: HAIM
Speaking of new albums, the LA-based sisters finally get back to the US after their European dates supporting last year’s pop-rock album “Something To Tell You.”
June 1: Michael Franti and Spearhead
The hyper-political roots/rock/reggae/soul ensemble comes in to kick off June, and it’s fair to expect this show to feature the band’s outspoken worldview — it should really charge the crowd.
June 5, 6: Ween
The first multi-date appearance of the summer goes to these alt-experimental giants, who have put on reliably fantastic shows their last several visits to Colorado.
June 12: Bryan Adams
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams brings all the hits with him as he hits the summer circuit this year. This one ought to be a great look back at everyone’s ’80s favorites.
June 14: Ryan Adams
Not to be confused with the previous entry, the Americana legend makes his seemingly-annual appearance at Red Rocks, but this time he’s bringing First Aid Kit in support, for an acoustic-soul night that’s sure to be memorable.
June 22-24: Widespread Panic
Here’s where we really get going for the heart of the season. Widespread Panic at Red Rocks is more than a few shows, it really turns into an event, with fans coming from far and wide to catch the laser-and-lights-filled epic stand.
June 29-30, July 1: The Avett Brothers
Following that run come the folk-rock heavyweights The Avett Brothers, who is the latest band to dub Red Rocks as one of its favorite venues. It brings a new opener for each night to keep things fresh, and it’s always a good time.
July 5-7: Umphrey’s McGee
For all the prog-jam fans in the area, Umphrey’s is a can’t-miss. It goes the extra mile to mix it up and make sure all three nights are a unique experience.
July 17: Jackson Browne
Legendary venue, legendary artists. One of America’s great songwriters should be a night to remember for Boomers and millennials alike.
July 20-22: The String Cheese Incident
In the same vein as Widespread Panic, these local luminaries make their annual three-night stand right in the middle of the season. This is another one that really turns into a city-wide event, bringing out all the Colorado jam fans.
July 28-29: Tedeschi Trucks Band
Hopefully, they’re not too tired after String Cheese, though, because Tedeschi Trucks comes to town the next weekend, bringing its Southern soul-style jams to the amphitheater.
July 31: Nas and Black Star
From there we take a sharp turn into the immortals of hip-hop, with Nas and the duo of Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Talib Kweli. They’re bringing Pusha T in support, too, so all the rap heads will be out for this one.
August 1: Yo-Yo Ma Performs Bach
The next night should have a different atmosphere, though. Our most celebrated cellist joins the Colorado Symphony for a night of incredible classical music.
Aug. 4: Yonder Mountain String Band and The Infamous Stringdusters
Next, we turn into the bluegrass world with some more local celebrities, followed by worldwide celebrities. Read an exclusive, up-close Q&A with Yonder Mountain here.
Aug. 6: Steve Martin and Martin Short with The Steep Canyon Rangers
The comedy gods’ variety show covers the gamut: Hollywood storytelling, classic bits revisited and Martin picking up the banjo to front the Steep Canyon Rangers for a bluegrass interlude.
Aug. 15: Father John Misty with TV On The Radio
On the opposite end of the comedy spectrum comes Father John Misty, whose darkest-of-the-dark humor combines with masterful songcraft, supported by TV On The Radio’s innovative noise-rock. These might be the most forward-looking musicians of the season.
Aug. 22-23: Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats
That look forward, however, is followed by a newer face in these Denver-based retro-rockers. From the radio hits to the soulful deep cuts, this band has been a local favorite since its inception.
Aug. 27-28: David Byrne
But once again we jump from local favorites to superstars of pop. The Talking Heads’ frontman is here for two nights of what he calls his “most ambition stage performance since ‘Stop Making Sense’” — this one isn’t to be missed.
Sept. 4: Lyle Lovett And His Large Band with Margo Price
The big names keep coming, with Lyle Lovett — a star who has professed his love for Red Rocks many times before — bringing his big-band country back to Colorado. Don’t miss his opening act, Margo Price, who put on an absolutely killer show at The Fox in Boulder back in February.
Sept. 5: Gary Clark Jr.
Lyle Lovett really kicks off the end-of-season finale. Like a good fireworks show, they save up to do a rapid-fire run before it gets cold, and the fiery blues-rock of Gary Clark Jr. keeps that train rolling.
Sept. 6: Lake Street Dive
The next day — are you getting the idea? — Lake Street Dive comes to Red Rocks, bringing its blue-eyed-soul/rock sound to keep the crowd jumping.
Sept. 7-8: STS9
The two days after that feature the electronic-jam groves of STS9, in the final jam band mini-fest of the season.
Sept. 10: Mac DeMarco with Noname
It’s a safe bet most of CU campus will be empty for this one. Mac DeMarco’s chorus-laden, lo-fi, slacker rock pairs perfectly with the slippery, ultra-laid-back raps of Chicago’s Noname for the college-radio show of the year.
Sept. 24-25: Beck
Here come those fireworks. Among the artists who have decided Red Rocks is the greatest venue around, Beck has been coming more and more frequently in recent years. Despite his acoustic chops featured heavily in his shows, they remain some of the most fun, danceable gigs every time.
Sept. 28-29: Big Gigantic
We close out the season highlights with a pair of local faves. Big Gigantic’s instrumental, hip-hop-influenced electronica really sets a vibe in the amphitheater, for the last big party of the year.
Sept. 30: Gregory Alan Isakov
Closing time comes quietly this September. Isakov’s intimate folk brings us back down to earth for a local, autumnal evening.
The thing about Red Rocks is that these are only some of the great concerts this year. More could still be announced, even, and some have already come and gone. For locals, the routine has to include a monthly-or-so check of the classic venue’s calendar, because even with all these shows, there are tons more that you won’t want to miss.