Festival season in Colorado is about to start heating up – here are 5 music festivals to keep your eye on for the rest of the summer. Whether you’re into local bands, folk, bluegrass, jazz or a bunch of your favorite punk bands, we’ve got you covered. Summer is here, which means festival season is displaying hot bands, cool brews and an unforgettable experience.
There are so many to choose from and even if you can just catch one or two, you surely won’t be disappointed. Read on for our five picks for Colorado musical festivals you just can’t miss!
Bluebird District Music Festival
This local festival in its inaugural year celebrates an ever-growing music scene in Denver’s Bluebird District with a lineup as deep as it is diverse. To give a taste of just how many music fans this festival will reach, the 80+ band roster will include headlining sets from electro-funk group Sunsquabi, jazzy soul rockers A. Tom Collins and Denver psych-blues band Dragondeer. Sprinkled throughout the rest of the lineup are also Slow Caves, a synth-punk band from Fort Collins, a Fugazi tribute band named Fauxgazi, and the Denver Vintage Reggae Society. This might be the first BDMF, but something tells me it won’t be the last.
Rocky Mountain Folk Festival
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, this small festival tends to take a rather undeserved backseat to that other famous mountain folk fest when discussing summer events. Located in the small mountain town of Lyons, Rocky Mountain Folk Fest is a short drive from the Denver-Boulder area making it a comfortable and satisfying alternative to Telluride. Nevermind that the festival can’t draw big names – apparently some guy named Sufjan Stevens is headlining this year? At least I’ve heard he’s pretty good. All jokes aside, this is as good a year as any to see Sufjan, who only has 3 more U.S. dates on his Carrie & Lowell tour, and the rest of the lineup, including Martin Sexton and The Wood Brothers, isn’t too shabby either.
Riot Fest Denver
Riot Fest will make its 3rd appearance in Denver this August with a star studded lineup, a change of venue, and a new theme – rodeo. This may seem inconsistent with the punk atmosphere that the Chicago-born festival is known for, but this year’s will take place at the National Western Complex and will apparently feature a BBQ cook-off, so no complaints here. It also flaunts arguably the strongest lineup of any major Colorado festival, bringing in reunions from System of a Down, Run D.M.C. and Drive Like Jehu, headlining sets from Modest Mouse and Pixies, and even a newly announced set from the the elusive Death Grips. Riot Fest might be tailored towards fans of punk and metal, but they hit certain spots in hip-hop and indie music that make it a surprisingly accessible event for fans from all walks of music.
Underground Music Showcase
The Underground Music Showcase has been Denver’s premier indie festival for quite some time now. Hosted by the Denver Post and heading into its 15th year, UMS presents more than 400 bands in over 15 venues, including the Hi-Dive, South Broadway and even Illegal Pete’s. Though the festival is mainly meant to showcase the smaller local indie acts like Inner Oceans and Low Body, the biggest draw this year should be national headliners DIIV, STRFKR and of course Denver’s own Tennis. Starting at $50 per pass, this 4-day festival is by far the most cost-efficient way to see some great live music this summer.
Telluride Jazz Festival
Many festivals can seem like a sampler plate with the amount of bands crammed into short time slots, but a small lineup with long sets means Telluride Jazz Fest can skip the hors d’oeuvres and cut right to serving main dishes. Though the festival starts in the early afternoon, every set is at least at hour long, meaning the crowds will get a healthy filling of jazz all weekend long. Telluride covers all the bases here, from more traditional artists like Ernie Watts and Joey DeFrancesco to the funky fusion of Maceo Parker and the dancey New Orleans’ brass stylings of The Soul Rebels.