Part 2: The Journey Continues in the Rockies

Road leading to Red Rocks | Morrison, CO. | 09/05/19 | Photo: ©Pix Meyers 2019
Road leading to Red Rocks | Morrison, CO. | 09/05/19 | Photo: ©Pix Meyers 2019

Golden, CO. – Day two brought about the whole reason for this trip – getting the opportunity to see and photograph a show at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado for the first time! This was a dream come true for this music lover and a life goal that I was getting to check off my list. We started the day grabbing a quick breakfast and a case of water for our short drive to the park.  

Originally formed about 260-290 million years ago, Red Rocks is considered part of the Fountain Formation and made up of large red sandstones that include records dating back to the Jurassic period.  “Red Rocks” as we know it today was discovered by an Army expedition in 1820 and has been used for musical performances since the early 1900s due to the natural acoustics of the rocks.  Acquired by the City of Denver in 1928, construction began on the amphitheatre in 1936 and opened to the public for the first time in June of 1941.  The three most famous rocks in the park help make up the amphitheatre and are named Creation Rock (to the North), Ship Rock (to the South), and Stage Rock (to the East).  If you have never been to Red Rocks, I highly recommend going earlier in the day to be able to enjoy the trails, Trading Post, Colorado Music Hall of Fame and Interactive Hall, along with access to the amphitheatre.  It was truly a spiritual experience walking into the venue for the first time.  But be warned –  if there is a performance happening that evening, the amphitheatre does close down early (around 2 – 2:30 pm local time) to prepare for the night’s event! Be sure to plan accordingly as it is all free and worth every moment for any music or nature lover!  Seeing the history and pictures from all the great performances over the years was really interesting and fun to see for us, not to mention learning about the geological history of the rocks.

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We headed back to the hotel for a quick catnap before heading back to the venue for the show. It was recommended to us to take naps and drink lots of water while in Denver to help with the altitude adjustment.  Being on vacation, we were happy to oblige and honestly, it really did help.  

It was finally time to head back to Red Rocks! I was a little nervous and extremely excited about getting to photograph for the first time at this legendary venue.  We were headed to see The Wood Brothers with opening acts Fruition and Steep Canyon Rangers.  I felt this would be a great first show to see at Red Rocks as all three bands have that American folk, soul, and bluegrass sound that I thought would mix well with the scenic views and history of the venue.  First up was Steep Canyon Rangers.  

Straight up American bluegrass that really gets your foot tappin’ and shoulders swingin’! The quintet has been around for a decade but gained even more notoriety when actor/banjoist Steve Martin started collaborating with the boys in 2009 (even though tonight’s performance did not include him). As I sat watching the performance through the lens of my camera, I was thinking about the history of the venue and those early performances where these similar instruments and harmonies would just radiate off the rocks and bring the community together.  You could feel the energy move through the crowd like a wave as the music bounced off the rocks and filled the air.  There was a nice amber glow shining throughout the venue from the setting sun and I couldn’t help but just sit back in awe of the beauty this facility had to offer.  This was the first time seeing Steep Canyon Rangers and we really enjoyed their set and would definitely recommend them for a great family-filled evening of music and storytelling.  

Next to take the stage was Fruition out of Portland Oregon.  I had heard a lot of buzz surrounding this band so I was excited to finally be able to check them out.  The quintet continued that bluegrass feel but seemed to take it up a notch by leaving the traditional elements of bluegrass behind and bringing a more modern flare of blues and soul to the mix.  It too was a wonderful performance full of energy and band jams and by the end of Fruition’s set, the amphitheatre was packed and the crowd was up on their feet groovin’.

It was finally time for the final performance of the night, The Wood Brothers.  Tonight was a special night for the band.  They were set to release their new album, Live at the Fillmore, the very next day AND this was their first time ever headlining Red Rocks.  Needless to say they were excited and they definitely brought that energy to their performance for the evening.  Oliver told stories about growing up in Boulder Colorado and just what an honor it was to play on the stage that so many other great performances have taken place on.  (Side Note: As I was doing research for this article, I read an interview where Oliver mentioned he saw his first concert at Red Rocks…George Thorogood and the Destroyers).  Towards the end of their set, The Wood Brothers invited both opening acts to join them on stage as everyone gathered around a single microphone and did it like they use to in earlier years; singing and playing, showcasing the natural acoustics of the rocks.  It was downright spiritual.  

As we were leaving the venue, my husband and I were almost giddy from the experience.  You could see Denver twinkling on the horizon and we were just amazed at how smoothly the whole evening had gone.  We both have been to several venues across the U.S. over the years but had never experienced a staff like we did at Red Rocks!  Everyone was so kind, accommodating, and helpful.  They really aren’t joking when they say “No Place Better To See The Stars”!

Let’s Paint the Town

Our final full day in the Denver area left us open and looking for something to do.  When we first arrived into town we learned from the local news about an art festival taking place in RiNo district.  As luck had it, my cousin worked in that area and was able to meet us for lunch at a good burger joint before heading into work for the day.  This gave us an opportunity to go check out Crush Walls 2019 – An art festival featuring graffiti and street art from local, national, and international artists.  

RiNo (River North Arts District to the non-locals) is located just north of downtown Denver and is “Where Art Is Made”.  This former industrial hub spans four historic neighborhoods and has become a strong community made up of artists, businesses, galleries, restaurants and studios that all use art as a common communal thread.  This area is covered in art and creativity! From beautiful stencils on the trash cans to spray-painted quotes on the sidewalk; from a row of painted garage doors to a lovely mural on the side of a building.  Everywhere you look is some form of art.  It’s incredible.  This is where Crush Walls comes in.  For the past 10 years, artists have been coming from all over the world to RiNo during one week a year to transform the city and create an experience like no other.

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The weeklong festival gives visitors and creators an opportunity to get involved, learn, donate, and support the arts.  As you walk the streets during the festival, you can witness first hand an artist changing a blank wall into a beautiful piece of street art.  One fact I enjoyed learning about the festival was that all the artists are commissioned; meaning they are paid to come and share their creativity with the RiNo district.  Many artists have been with Crush since the beginning and the amazing work left behind when the festival ends gets larger and larger.  Last year alone produced over 80+ murals and this year was expected to top over 100.  Be sure to check out the link here to get a list of all the artists featured this year.  I was so glad my husband read about the festival in the local to-do guide the first night in town to lead us to this experience.  Plus, we were even invited to leave our own artistic mark for future generations to enjoy by contributing to a piece of art in progress.  If you like street and graffiti art, RiNo is definitely worth a visit when you have some extra time in the Denver area and are looking for something to do!  

We were able to finish the day reconnecting with our friends for an enjoyable evening hanging at their place.  Brenda fixed us a lovely home-cooked meal and we sat on the porch looking out over Denver with a full rainbow in view to send us on our way before heading back to the hotel to pack up and get ready to go home.  

Time for us to fly 

The next morning came early and we didn’t want to leave.  But as is life, all good things must come to an end and this was definitely a vacation for the books.  It changed us and as we sat in the airport bar getting ready to board our flight, we both talked about what it would be like to not just come back and visit but actually live in Denver.  We enjoyed it that much.  We made our way to our boarding gate and took a seat waiting for our group to be announced when we heard our names over the intercom asking us to come to the boarding gate…United took it upon themselves to upgrade us and give us better seats.  It seemed to be the icing on the cake as far as vacations go.  We both just smiled and said, “We Love Denver” knowing it wouldn’t be long before we returned.  

(Part 1: It was all about “First Times” in Colorado)

The Wood Brothers Online

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Fruition Online

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Steep Canyon Rangers Online

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