Who says Sunday isn’t a party night? Despite the weeknight curfew of 11:30 p.m., the four act lineup this past Sunday rocked hard until the house lights came on. Luckily, Red Rocks began the shows earlier than your average night between the monoliths, with doors at 5 p.m. Machinedrum (with a mustache reminiscent of the neighbor your parents warned you about) kicked things off just 25 minutes later.
After an hour of the first act, RJD2 (who we are positive is not used to performing during the daylight hours) went on next. RJD2 — real name Ramble John Krohn — along with a drummer and a bassist, sparked up their performance abruptly with a modest stage set up. Modest, except for the main musician of the three, who sported a long table complete with four turntables, an MPC and other technical devices. Wearing a trendy David Bowie shirt, RJD2 – real name Ramble John Krohn – sprinted up and down the table, rapidly switching out LPs and landing the beat drops with (nearly) zero hiccups.
The day melted our sweet city and did not cool off as the evening approached. Jordan Brown, featured on the album Dame Fortune, joined the performance for their collaborative track “Peace of What,” which was eagerly well received by the crowd. However, Brown was not the only MC to join the act. Rapper and longtime associated RJD2 musician STS came out to bump “See You Leave” from album More Is Than Isn’t. “Hold on, Here it Go,” a lengthy drum solo and the ever-anticipated “Ghostwriter” brought the sun to its set and the set to its close.
In another quick stage change, The Opiuo Band was ready to rock right at 7:25 p.m. The group’s formation was a bit more dramatic than the previous, with Opiuo (real name Oscar Davey-Wraight) front and center along with his drum machine and keyboards. The sky was gray, which matched the smokey air as the New Zealander dropped the first of his heavy beats. Usually a dubstep golden-boy, playing with The Opiuo Band offers a much different experience to Opiuo’s sound, especially due to the sultry vocalist. The vibe of the audience shifted from swaying along politely to stomping the ground and flailing arms perforating the wild light show.
“Who likes to shut the fuck up and dance?” Asked Davey-Wraight, in reference to one of his most popular tracks before it busted out into the airwaves.
“Shut the Fuck up and Dance” not only received roars from the crowd and instant reactions from the bodies in the amphitheatre, but was the theme of easily the most common piece of merchandise in the building. Hundreds of tees that had the simple yet bold title of enforcement could be seen all over the packed house. “Sneakers” came next before the set intertwined back with more soulful tracks. As the set felt it might be coming to a close, Davey-Wraight announced that instead of going backstage and returning for an encore, the band would consider just playing through if the crowd made enough noise. The challenge was accepted, and the band pushed on for a few more tracks, introduced the full band and then Davey-Wraight threw his drum sticks into the crowd, impressively reaching row 21.
For the third time that evening, the stage crew knocked down a set and threw a new one up just as quickly. Emancipator, also known as Doug Appling, is no stranger to the Red Rocks stage. However, this year was the first headlining performance for him to date — not to mention he brought an entire band. The five added instruments in his band – bass, drums, violin/mandolin and keyboards were situated in a U-shape (perhaps as RJD2’s table should have been) with the leading man, Emancipator himself, as the centerpiece. There was, strangely, another percussionist to the side, however obviously not involved in the “band” presence and not included in the blue and pink steps leading back to the leader of the band, Emancipator.
“First Snow” played out and proved just how deeply different the acts Opiuo and Emancipator are – one like fire, the other as calm as water, the latter of which was Emancipator. Perhaps the slower pace is why we have not seen this act as a headliner before, but the lack of speed did not hinder the audience participation. Sensual swaying and couples embracing each other may have replaced the neck-cracking gyrations from earlier but the essence felt all the same. The sound Appling and the band brought was borderline orchestral and therefore intrinsically beautiful.
The fog ridden atmosphere must have stayed so after the sun remained behind the hills, as the sky was a pitch-black starless blanket over the heads of the fans. So, whether you came to see the “Mad Men” theme song, a womp artist turned band-leader, or a veteran marking the first of what is sure to be many headlining Red Rocks performances, Sunday night sure felt like an extension of the weekend. What more can we ask for?