Combined, we saw over 100 shows at Red Rocks this year. From Chris Stapleton to local-talent GRiZ, there’s always something for everyone each Red Rocks season — and 2017 was no different. Check out our favorites below.
Bonobo – May 12
Bonobo and Nick Murphy’s (aka Chet Faker) headline performance early in the year at Red Rocks felt otherworldly. Through bursts of rain and hail, Murphy drove the audience through a range of emotions. One moment we were incapacitated by the beauty of his piano rendition of “Stop Me (Stop You)” and the next finding ourselves lost in the dancing hysteria of “The Trouble With Us.” Bonobo, on the other hand, came with a formidable live band and an array of guest singers, including Moroccan band Innov Gnawa for a killer version of “Bambro Koyo Ganda.” The entire night was spent lost in the sounds of both musicians for what may have been the most awe-inspiring night of the season. By shows end, we weren’t the only ones pinching ourselves to make sure what we had just witnessed was in fact real life. – Kori Hazel
Check out our full review here.
Chris Stapleton – May 23
After moving to Colorado, I decided to “save myself” for the perfect show to take my Red Rocks virginity. After almost 10 months, I’m so, so glad I waited for Chris Stapleton — it was his first time at Red Rocks too, but you would have never known. The chemistry between Stapleton and his wife Morgane was electric, and the guitar work was seriously unmatched. (Considering he hurt his hand and had to cancel a couple of shows just afterward, we felt extremely lucky to catch him at the right time.) And, to top it off, Peyton Manning showed up to sing “Tennessee Whiskey” — you can relive the moment with us here. There will be many more Red Rocks shows in my future, but likely none will top that first time. – Alexandra Palmerton
The Motet – June 2
Hometown favorites The Motet have been shaking Red Rocks down every summer for the last few years, and this year they partnered with hip-hop icons Jurassic 5. The rappers went on first, setting the funky tone for the evening and proving that Red Rocks is not just for jam bands. When The Motet hit the scene, the crowd was eagerly vamped up from the high energy opener and completely absorbed the rocking jams displayed across the legendary stage. The contrast between the two amazing acts created the greatest show of the summer but offering differing yet cohesive sounds. No other performance matched the diverse talent and eccentric crowd reception and we can only hope this encourages more unlikely pairings on the Rocks. – Denby Gardiner
Check out our gallery here.
Phoenix – June 7
Earlier this summer Phoenix released their sixth album Ti Amo, a meticulously constructed blur of soft-rock and disco synths. Just days before its release, Phoenix was scheduled to play Red Rocks with Swedish pop-rock band Miike Snow. Coincidentally the concert happened on the same evening as the monster Metallica show, which may have pulled some allure from ticket buyers since Red Rocks didn’t hit capacity. In the peak of Red Rocks season, this was a welcomed relief and led to an incredibly seamless day getting into the amphitheater. Sunny blue skies, open parking lots and even second-row seats teed up the perfect day. That was until the massive storm clouds rolled in unleashing heavy sheets of rain for nearly an hour. It was looking like the show was going to be canceled, until the clouds suddenly lifted. Phoenix came on with a siren blaring — it was clear they were ready to bring a storm of their own. The second the title track of their album hit, the floodgates were open — letting loose a powerful wave of glossy synth beats and hard hitting drums. In fact, the drummer was playing so furiously I swear at one point a stick would snap. But like the rest of Phoenix, they kept the show incredibly tight even during their most unbridled attempt to let it all out. After 17 years as a band, Phoenix proved that rain or shine they could deliver. – Brittany Werges
Check out our full review here.
Portugal. The Man – June 17
Portugal. the Man is no stranger to Red Rocks — but they still made our “best of” list. That’s because this year the Oregon/Alaskan band mixed it up a bit at the venue. For their 2017 Red Rocks show, Portugal. the Man used incredible light projections that shined on the band and the rocks alike. The psychedelic lights moved about the rock formations, reminiscent of a damn good acid trip. John Gourley’s wife Zoe Manville tagged along for backup vocals, spending a majority of the show wearing a tribal-esque dress, tapping a tambourine and unintentionally casting eerie silhouettes onto the rocks. This was one of the first Portugal. the Man shows where the group didn’t play their most popular song twice, which was a plus. Adding to the greatness of this show was Local Natives who let loose with an energetic set, never sacrificing the quality of their sounds. The vocalist soothed the audience with his ambient howls and transitions, even running into the crowd at one point. – Tyler Harvey
Check out our gallery here.
The String Cheese Incident – July 21-23
All in all, this past July Boulder’s own The String Cheese Incident gave meaning to the saying, ‘Never miss a Sunday show.’ Their annual three-night run at Red Rocks ended on the highest note, with the setlist of Sunday’s first set having been voted on by the fans themselves. And since we got to pick what we heard, the crowd was on a euphoric level while taking in the joyful sounds of Kang, Nershi, Hollingsworth, Moseley, Travis and Hann. The sunset timed up perfectly with “Texas” to close out the first set, whereupon the second set saw guest appearances from Tyler Grant and the Infamous Stringdusters’ Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfini. A three-part encore finishing out the evening, which included original tunes and a Grateful Dead cover, and wrapped up yet another fantastic three-night run from the String Cheese Incident, bluegrass and jam music icons that Colorado should feel proud to call its own. – Emma Jerry
Check out our full review here.
Die Antwoord – August 20
My favorite Red Rocks show this year was Die Antwoord. Their unabashed commitment to flaunting their personalities no matter how strange was surprisingly inspiring. Amidst the frenetic beats, many outfit changes and disturbing phallic-saturated visuals a rare sense of humanity was revealed. The assembly of some of the front range’s finest oddballs that filled the venue made the already batty scene even more peculiar and enjoyable. An appearance by the group’s daughter and a technically poor but emotionally rich a cappella from Ninja lent the otherwise jagged affair a bit of intimacy and tenderness. This juxtaposition of intensity and warmth was unexpected and made what could have been flat entertainment highly dynamic and memorable. The mullet-clad South African frontman was even gracious enough to show the amphitheater his whole ass. – Colin Wrenn
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – August 29
As a native of Colorado, I always take pride in seeing successful Colorado artists sell out one of the world’s most sought-after venues at Red Rocks. Nathaniel Rateliff is a prime example of breakthrough Colorado talent who has sold out the beautiful venue on multiple occasions. To some, performing in the same venue multiple times can start to feel like a novelty. Rateliff demonstrated his gratitude and respect for Red Rocks as he performed like was his first time there. From the simple yet elegant use of lighting to the full big band sound delivered by The Night Sweats — August 29 was a night full of music, dancing and love which is exactly what Red Rocks is all about. – Michael Tritsch
GRiZ – September 1 and 2
On September 1 and 2, GRiZ shut down Red Rocks for an epic two-night performance featuring over six different openers, and different genre sets both nights. The first night featured GRiZ and Muzzy Bearr backed by a full live band, making the night feel like an intimate back-patio jazz set — there were no LED screens, no lasers, and definitely no fire shooting from the stage. To top it off, GRiZ wore a sweatshirt that read “be a good person,” sending good vibes all around. The second night was the complete opposite of the first — an EDM night-club vibe featuring lasers, LED screen light shows and fire shooting from the stage. GRiZ, always accompanied by his saxophone, brought out all the openers (Brasstracks, JNTHN STEIN, BXRBER, S’natra and more) to perform the finale song in unison. GRiZ played many of his most popular electro-funk songs including “Good Times Roll,” “Gotta Push On” and “PS GFY.” Many songs, like “PS GFY,” GRiZ played both nights but in completely different ways, giving the crowd a unique perspective of GRiZ’s musical abilities. The first weekend in September 2017 saw an epic GRiZ performance that could be classified as the best Red Rocks show of the year. – Emily McCarter
Sound Tribe Sector 9 Artifact Set – September 8
While it certainly wasn’t their first time at Red Rocks, the Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) show on September 8 is one the band and fans will remember for a lifetime. Celebrating their 20-year anniversary as a group, STS9 played their 2005 Artifact album in its entirety for the first time live. Nightmares on Wax warmed up the already anxious audience with hip-hop infused electric jams, while Moon Boots kept the party going by playing a high-energy set in the crowd, performing where the soundboard usually resides. STS9 is all about originality; you’ll never see the same set twice. Fans knew to expect the Artifact setlist, but the classic STS9 improvisational jams are what put this night on the list of best Red Rocks shows of 2017. A common move for Sound Tribe, the band kept a low profile and used the surrounding red rock formations and audience as a canvas for mind-melting visuals. Fans left with a greater appreciation for the album, the band, and the natural beauty we often take for granted at the park. – Ellie Herring
Check out our full review here.
Gorillaz – September 27
Gorillaz Red Rocks performance was a long time coming but it was worth every minute. The long sold-out show may have arguably been the most in-demand ticket of the season, but for many, it offered a rare opportunity to catch an incredibly influential band at one of the most beautiful venues in the world. It was a no-brainer if you were of the lucky few to snag a ticket. The career-spanning setlist which included many of the original guest singers was every bit as imaginative and rambunctious as you’d think and then some. Even the rain trickling down on the amphitheater couldn’t put a damper on the sheer excitement radiating from the venue from start to finish. – Kori Hazel
Beach House – September 27
Beach House at Red Rocks felt like a dream. With an illuminated backdrop and themselves mere silhouettes, the band conjured decadent melodies that seemed to baptize the audience in its sheer beauty. The enthralling set rendered Red Rocks eerily silent as everyone basked in the band’s mysterious tunes. Literally overshadowing the night’s headliner Fleet Foxes may not have been the plan, but it was effortless nonetheless. Finishing their last song and dissipating before our eyes was the icing on the cake. – Kori Hazel
Russ – October 28
Russ has been making waves in the music world with his brash and completely confident attitude. His live show backs up his big talk. Russ performed in front of a sold-out Red Rocks crowd who had nothing but love for his bravado. The show was fast-paced, which allowed the crowd to dance and shake off the chilly, October weather. Moments of clarity were also created by toning down the energy and serenading the crowd. His setlist was diverse and took the audience on a journey through peaks and valleys. Legendary producer Scott Storch made a guest appearance to help perform their new song “Wife You Up” on the keyboard. A couple attendees got dressed in all types of Halloween costumes adding to the show’s surreal ambiance. Russ jumped around on stage in a green sweatsuit, with a jumbo-screen behind him that displayed lion’s faces and flashing lights. The best lights of the show came when Russ directed the audience to pull out their phones and sing lyrics to his song “Losin Control.” You could feel the raw emotion of the crowd. When “What They Want” came on, the glory of his fans displayed itself. His confidence oozed onto his fans, who wanted every part of the artist. Russ had dedicated fans that came out even on a frigid, Halloween weekend and an underlying theme of confidence and community settled beneath the fun rowdiness. – Dawit Wolday