Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Legendary Venues: Red Rocks Amphitheatre

It’s been over 75 years since Red Rocks Amphitheatre opened in Morrison, Colorado. The venue first opened on June 15, 1941, but had been hosting open-air music performances since the early 1900’s when John Brisben Walker envisioned the geological phenomenon as a place for live music.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is much different than any other music venue in the world because it’s the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect outdoor theater ever. What creates this natural perfection are two 300 foot rock structures known as Ship Rock to the south and Creation Rock to the north. The amphitheater sits between these monoliths that date back 160 million years and contain dinosaur fossil fragments from the Jurassic period. Both are bigger than Niagra Falls. There’s also a rock structure behind the stage (east) known as Stage Rock. Besides the incredible rock formation, the amphitheater overlooks downtown Denver, which creates one of the most beautiful, picturesque views offered at a music venue.

The city of Denver purchased Red Rocks from Walker in 1928 and hired Denver architect, Burnham Hoyt to design the area into a music venue while including the preservation of the land’s natural elements as part of the transformation. The construction took 12 years but was well worth the finished product that has since attracted musical acts from all over the world.

The Beatles concert on August 26, 1964 is considered to be one of the first notable rock concert performances in Red Rocks history. Another notable performance was the Jethro Tull concert in 1971 which resulted in a 5 year ban of rock concerts at the venue. Fans without tickets to the event attempted to barge through police lines and throw rocks at officers resulting in the deployment of tear gas to control the riot, which eventually carried into the venue affecting all in attendance.

The unique venue attracts bands across music genres from rock to pop to electronic to jam bands. Many bands have recorded performances at the famous venue as well. It has also been used in film and television. Then, in 2015, it became a national landmark.

I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Red Rocks. I’ve actually never even been in Colorado. After I began traveling around the country for work though, I learned about Red Rocks and it’s been high on my list of venues to see/work at ever since. I’d be beyond honored to work an event in such a place and I’d even be more awestruck by seeing a concert there. I’m not even sure if I can imagine what it’s like to be there. It sounds like such a spectacular venue. I think it’s one of those places you have to experience to understand how special it is even if pictures and descriptions already convince you. It’s one of those places where a picture really doesn’t do it justice. If Red Rocks isn’t the definition of legendary venue, I don’t know what is. It’s legacy has spanned the test of time and it continues to be a favored venue of many bands and artists. It’s definitely a place that concert and music lovers need to experience at least once or even countless times.

MGMT

Last weekend I went to visit my friend who lives outside of Baltimore, MD. The weekend trip initially was supposed to serve the purpose of attending a volunteer orientation for the Sweetlife Festival, which I’ll be attending and volunteering at next weekend, but the orientation got moved. I decided to make the trip anyway and have a fun weekend with my friend by hanging out and taking a day trip to Washington, D.C. on Saturday. This blog post isn’t a journal by any means so I don’t plan on telling you about all the things I did which included deciding whether Baked & Wired or Georgetown Cupcakes had the best DC Cupcakes or attending my little cousin’s tee ball game. What is really important is that I made an epic discovery on Friday night after our dinner in the city in Fells Point.

After being in Fells Point on two other occasions to go to bars, I found out they have a pretty well known record store in the area. I passed by the store before, but I didn’t have time to look inside. During this trip to Fells, I made it a point to go to the record store called The Sound Garden. The store was much better than expected on so many different levels. One of the best discoveries of the night was the cheapness of their vinyl. The selection was pretty solid too. It featured a great blend of new and used records. Most vinyl were $20 and under making it difficult to pass up the opportunity to purchase an album. I looked through much of the new vinyl and decided to purchase an album by a band whose music I’ve liked since 2008, MGMT.

MGMT was formed by Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser in 2002 while the two were freshman at Middletown, CT college, Wesleyan University. They originally called themselves The Management and released a demo called Climbing to New Lows under this name. Then, the group changed their name to MGMT (the abbreviation for Management) since The Management was in use by another band. To settle the confusion in case you were wondering, the band’s name is pronounced M-G-M-T though.

After graduating in 2005, MGMT toured in support of their Time to Pretend EP opening for Of Montreal. The EP was released on August 30, 2005. In 2006, they signed to Columbia Records and began recording their debut album. The album, Oracular Spectacular, was released digitally in October 2007 and physically on January 22, 2008. Since its release, the album has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone named it to their 2012 list of the Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time coming in at 494. The album has also gone Silver, Gold, and Platinum in many countries, including Gold in the U.S., Platinum in the U.K. and 2x Platinum in Ireland. The album even earned the band a Grammy nomination in 2010 for Best New Artist and the single “Kids” earned them a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

The band’s second album Congratulations was released on April 13, 2010. Their third and most recent album, MGMT, was released three years later in September 2013. In the midst of their three albums the band toured and played many major festivals worldwide including performances at, Coachella, Firefly, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Glastonbury. They’ve opened for acts such as Radiohead, Beck, and Paul McCartney, performed on a number of television shows, and even headlined a show at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO. Word on the street is that the band will be making a come back at some point this year after taking a break in 2015. Whether their return will be with more performances or a new album is yet to be known.

MGMT plays an indie psychedelic pop rock style of music. You could actually combine each of those styles any way you like and it would describe MGMT’s music. Their use of synth is apparent in most of their songs as is that trippy feeling associated with psychedelic style music.

I first heard MGMT sometime during the summer of 2008. Keep in mind, at this time my favorite music genres were pop-punk, punk, alternative, and alternative rock. I hadn’t transformed to an indie hipster yet. Their song “Time to Pretend” was used during the intro of a movie I really enjoyed during that time, 21. Despite my music interests at that time, I really enjoyed the song. I didn’t download it until a few months later though. About 2 years after hearing MGMT for the first time, my friends and I tried to do a cover of the song “Kids” so I downloaded that song as well. I then heard the song “Electric Feel”  somewhere along the way and the Erol Alkan remix of “Congratulations” which was featured the video game, MLB The Show 11. The group also collaborated with Kid Cudi on his song “Pursuit of Happiness”, which I used to listen to around the spring of 2011. On Friday night, I realized that I never actually listened to Oracular Spectacular despite knowing a handful of songs from it. I figured it was probably a great album to own on vinyl, especially with the great price, so I bought it. I figured correct. The album is stellar. MGMT is stellar. I’m disappointed I passed on seeing them 4 years ago when they played a show at a festival near me. Then again, I’d probably appreciate seeing them more now than I would have then. If they do tour again soon, I’ll have to get to a show. You might want to do the same. In case you do, here are some song recommendations:

  1. Time to Pretend
  2. Kids
  3. Electric Feel
  4. Congratulations (check out the regular version and the Erol Alkan remix)
  5. Weekend Wars
  6. The Youth
  7. Pieces of What
  8. Indie Rokkers