By Brian F. Johnson
When the Monolith Music Festival takes over Red Rocks Amphitheatre this month, there’s a man in Denver’s city government that will take special notice of the event. For it was this man, Erik Dyce, the director of the city’s Theatres and Arenas Division, who helped give the festival organizers the idea to make the event a reality.
Dyce often gets referred to as “Mr. Red Rocks,” but the truth of the matter is that moniker is really only the tip of the iceberg, because he also oversees marketing for all of the facilities under the Theatres and Arena’s umbrella, including Boetcher Concert Hall, Buell Theatre, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, The Wells Fargo Theatre, the Colorado Convention Center and the Denver Coliseum, among others.
For 22 years Dyce has held this post, or more correctly held the position that grew into this post. Dyce had visited Denver when he was still managing the 16,000 seat Cajun Dome in Louisiana. As soon as he saw Red Rocks he approached then facilities manager Fred Luetzen and told him that he had to hire him. For three years, Dyce called Lutzen every few months until one day, Luetzen called him back and in his thick German accent asked, “Air-ik, you steel vant zat job?”
Dyce did still want the job and moved to Denver to take on the position of facilities manager, which he held for many years until the City tore down McNichols Arena and moved the department into the Theatres and Arenas Division, and he’s been there ever since.
Sitting in that office in mid-August, across the street from the Denver Convention Center, Dyce calmly sat noodling a Fender Stratocaster signed by Susan Tedeschi. It was the same day that he was launching the new Denver Theater District program, which he had been working on for two years. It was two weeks until the Democratic National Convention was set to descend on Denver, and yet Dyce sat with the relaxed mannerisms of a man with nothing on his schedule. But that’s Dyce’s job — to make it seem like no matter how hectic things are that everything is going smoothly.
Marquee: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Dyce: Fleetwood Mac.
Marquee: What was the first album you remember owning?
Dyce: The Allman Brothers, Eat a Peach.
Marquee: What’s the role of Theatres and Arenas?
Dyce: I liken us to a Holiday Inn. We rent rooms, but they just happen to be very big rooms. So if AEG Live or Live Nation comes to us to rent the room, we’re the landlord. We fly under the radar and a lot of people don’t know what we do, but that’s fine because people don’t need to know what we do. We’re transparent to the experience. We make sure that there’s parking, that it’s easy to find your way in and out, concessions and all of that.
Marquee: So you’ve been with Red Rocks for 22 years, seen countless shows. What are some of your fondest memories?
Dyce: There are so many that I have to split it up into genres. There was the first Coldplay show here … it was raining and Gwyneth Paltrow was right next to me. It was quintessential Red Rocks, Crosby, Stills and Nash’s voices moving across the rocks, Metallica blowing the place apart. There’s so many. But, you know, I’m also partial to Film On The Rocks, because I created that and have had a number of people help make it bigger and better. In our second year, we broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of people to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We’re in our ninth year now on that.
Marquee: You played a role in making Monolith a reality. How’d that happen?
Dyce: Well, Matt Fecher (the director of Monolith) had invited me to his other event, the South Park Music Festival, and when I got there, to Fairplay, they told me I’d be staying in Breckenridge over the mountain pass where it was snowing. They had just handed me a P.B.R. tall-boy and I’m thinking, ‘This isn’t going to work out.’ And I told Matt that he had this beautiful thing going on but you’re not giving fans or bands a transparent experience, you gotta move this to Red Rocks. Well, seven or eight P.B.R.s later, Matt started dreaming and thinking about the possibilities. He had the experience of doing multiple stages and when he placed it on the canvas of Red Rocks he just came alive.
Marquee: How much work, then, did you put in on Monolith?
Dyce: That was all Matt and his business partner Josh Baker, they thought up the algorithm and really came up with a winner. They partnered with AEG Live and Don Strasburg, who put a lot of heart and soul into it because he has those years of experience. I just guided the idea, so now, I just get to sit back and watch it happen.
Marquee: Why do you do what you do?
Dyce: Denver spends more money each year on art and culture than we do on sports teams. We have the largest performing arts complex under one roof — the second largest if you count it by number of seats, but add the Wells Fargo Theater and we blow away Lincoln Center. And, almost, not always, but almost every show when the lights go down and those first notes hit, I still get that chill.