Summer unarguably brings out the best of Colorado’s music scene. From warm, starry nights at Red Rocks to sweaty, packed indoor venues, the experience of going to a live show is unparalleled (and worth every penny). One of the most enticing attributes about Denver is the amount of festivals and shows that come through our city. However, over the past several months we’ve been afflicted with a string of canceled events. Speculated illness, untimely death, denial of permits and mental breakdowns seem to be the central factors as to why we’ve experienced such a disheartening succession of concert cancellations. But every cancellation always leaves fans with more questions than answers. We broke down each cancellation and explained the who, what and why (to the best of our knowledge) of each cancellation we could find.
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We begin our list of canceled events with Riot Fest. It was first established in 2005 in Chicago, Illinois then expanded to other cities such as New York, Toronto, Philadelphia and our own beloved city. From 2012 up until the summer of 2016, Riot Fest was one of the biggest festivals that Denver was lucky enough to host that showcased punk rock, metal, alternative rock and hip-hop. On November 29, 2016, Sean McKeough, Riot Fest’s lead organizer, passed away due to complications of after-effects of treatments he was receiving for cancer. He was an admired and cherished part of the Riot Fest family, and he was a key personnel for the organization, production and execution of the event. His death was a devastating blow to his friends, family and the festival he so fortuitously worked on.
Riot Fest penned an open letter to its fans and patrons apologizing for the Denver cancellation. The letter states that without McKeough’s significant contribution to the production of the event, that taking on more than one festival this year would be unachievable. However, the recalling of Denver’s Riot Fest is only temporary and organizers hope they will be able to return to our city in the future.
The induction of Madison House’s Vertex Festival transpired in Buena Vista, Colorado in August 2016. The event was perceived with high regard as the festival line-up was consistent of large-scale festivals like Bonnaroo, Boston Calling and Firefly – an event that hosted a collective of artists and musicians that Colorado hadn’t ever seen before.
The lineup included artists like Odesza, Alabama Shakes, Anderson.Paak & The Free Nationals as well as numerous other acts of every genre of music. Vertex drew over 8,000 attendees and hosted an array of vendors and art installations. Unfortunately, the grand event evoked negative sentiment from Buena Vista’s residents and local government.
Locals complained about the amount of noise emitted from the venue, as well as unruly behavior from the festival’s attendees and residents were concerned about strangers wandering through neighborhoods. The public expressed their dismay during a town meeting where the advantages and repercussions of the event were discussed — which included noise regulations and earlier curfews of the two-day event. Madison House had submitted a pitch for a three-year permit for the festival, eventuating summer of 2017. They stated a three-year permit would allow them to better the production and management of the festival, but Buena Vista’s city government denied approval.
Another festival listed among those canceled this year was Denver’s 420 Fest. This event was a separate affair from Denver’s famed 420 Rally which occupies the Civic Center Park. The newly conceived 420 Fest was set to take place at Cheeseman Park, though the backlash received from surrounding residents, park supporters and officials halted the production of the event.
City Park officials had strict stipulations for issuing a permit that would allow the inaugural two-day festival to take place. The conditions included firm regulations regarding parking restrictions, security, noise limitations, as well as enforcing public marijuana consumption laws. Festival coordinators authored a disheartened notice of the canceled event – they expressed their frustrations about the scrupulous requirements needed to accommodate 420 Fest, in addition to only receiving news of the pending permit the week it was set to ensue.
Denver Parks and Recreation representatives voiced they would like to better locate the festival so it does not cause disturbance among neighboring residents. We have not received word on whether or not festival organizers will try to pursue production in 2018. However, with the upcoming three-year ban for the 420 Rally in Civic Center Park over the lack of trash removal, there may be added motivation for its organizers to host the alternative fest next year. But on the flip side, with the poor reputation of the 420 Rally looming over them, it could be harder to get permits approved.
Amid the series of canceled festivals, several big-name artists that were scheduled to perform in Denver revoked their tour dates to the city. Bon Jovi’s original tour date was set to take place March 14 at the Pepsi Center but was then postponed. Friday, April 14 – the day of the rescheduled show – concert attendees were informed that the show was canceled and would not be taking place. According to Madison Square Garden’s website, Bon Jovi had been battling bronchitis which led him to reschedule his April 7 and April 8 tour dates at the esteemed venue. The adjusted tour dates were set for April 13 and 15, which left Denver’s postponed concert sandwiched between the East Coast’s dates. While Bon Jovi’s website posted an apology to Denver due to illness, fans were left feeling that the band instead chose to honor the Garden’s rescheduled dates.
Kayne West (Late 2016)
Kanye West, an artist that has eluded Denver tour dates several times already, is also on our list of disappointment. Albeit it was at the tail end of 2016, we included it since it was a relatively newsworthy cancellation and his tour dates were scheduled into 2017. The rapper was slated to play at the Pepsi Center late last year, but abruptly canceled the Denver show, as well as the remaining stops on his Saint Pablo tour. We can’t say we were surprised of the cancellation because of several incidents, including an onstage rant which led to hospitalization, that occurred prior to his scheduled visit to Denver. West’s show in Sacramento, California was cut short after only a few songs and the aforementioned 17-minute long rant followed by the rap idol’s mic drop and storm off stage.
Another canceled concert that was booked at the Fillmore for May 22 was put off due to the untimely death of Soundgarden’s lead singer Chris Cornell. The revered 52-year-old musician passed away May 18, and the band has since canceled all forthcoming shows. The news of his death was followed by an emotional outpouring by his fans and a beautiful statement released by his family, which you can read here.
A second big-name rapper has removed Denver from his list of scheduled performances. Future’s Nobody Safe Tour with artists Migos, Kodak Black and Tory Lanez also slated to play at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, June 13. However, the venue has made note on their website that the event has been canceled. So far neither Altitude Tickets nor AXS has issued a statement as to why, though according to XXL Future has made several adjustments to his tour. The changes include the accompanying artists on the tour as well as canceling a performance in Jackson, Mississippi. Although we’re not the only city being stood up by the rapper, that fact doesn’t make it any less disappointing.
More recently, Project Pabst returned to Denver just last month with Noname scheduled to play as one of the headliners. Only hours before, the event posted on its Facebook page that due to unforeseen circumstances, she would not be able to perform at Project Pabst. There was no further statement made as to why.
Chromeo’s annual Funk on the Rocks was put on June 1 with D.R.A.M. initially booked as a performer along with RÜFÜS du Sol and Hayden James. However the day of the show the hip-hop artist was replaced with Claptone. There was no official statement regarding the reason behind his replacement though there was speculation of a scheduling conflict.
Despite the various circumstances that have created cancellations, the rest of Denver’s concert scene remains persistent. This even includes some previously postponed concerts that were rescheduled (like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon and the crazy up and down of the Die Antwoord show). So even with these lost concerts, venues like Red Rocks, Pepsi Center, The Ogden and Fillmore are still bringing some of the biggest artists of every genre and era of music. Here’s to the festivals and concerts that will sorely be missed, as well as the ones that are still (hopefully) forthcoming.