2009 Summer Festival Guide


Mile High brings Tool and Panic to Denver

By David Stuhlemmer
July 18-20
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Commerce City, CO

After a hugely successful inaugural  event last July, Commerce City will once again play host to Colorado’s only version of a mega-fest.Set to return in mid-July to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — home to the MLS Colorado Rapids — the venue will go up in the vast practice fields, providing the space necessary to host some of the top touring bands in the country. Although the site seems a little barren out there, due to the lack of trees, the grounds actually provide a relatively ideal spot for a mega-festival, where multiple stages can be live simultaneously without interference.AEG Live was not hesitant to bring out the big guns and strap them with major exclusivity for 2009’s event. The first Tool performance since 2007 and the only two nights in Colorado for Widespread Panic in 2009 will cap off what is in the works to be a wonderful weekend.Festival organizers are taking major strides to make the event more sustainable by teaming up with The Green Event Company and Simple Solar. These two management teams will implement clean technology solutions including carbon neutrality and on-site renewable solar and wind energy.Conscious Alliance will also be back to support the festival with their food drive to benefit The Food Bank of the Rockies.

Travel time:
(As calculated by mapquest.com from
Denver, Colo. to Commerce City, Colo.)
Total Est. Time: 18 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 9 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: There are pretty cool water displays and misting tents at Mile High but the outer fields at Dick’s still get very hot, as there is little shade at the site. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate! The good news is that with so much space out there, there’s bound to be tons of parking and the industrial nature of the area should make traffic flow easier than downtown.

Price: $$$

Camping: No Camping

Rothbury emerges as new type of festival

By Jeffrey V. Smith
July 2-5
Double J Ranch - Rothbury, MI

Rothbury exploded in 2008 and plans to build upon its inaugural-year successes in 2009 with another outstanding line-up in one of the country’s best festival locations. The event enjoyed a successful first year that proved a new, large-scale music festival could be crafted from scratch in an unknown location and compete with the best of the rest. Rothbury 2009 will “continue the adventure” began last year in the festival’s idyllic, wooded setting at the Double J Ranch, which is an experience in itself. It also hopes to evolve its mission of creating a state-of-the-art, sustainable event that organizes and nurtures community involvement.Billed as the “next evolution” in music festivals, Rothbury in 2009 is offering the summer’s only chance to see Colorado’s The String Cheese Incident, which is playing its first, and only, performance since its “final” show at Red Rocks in 2007.The fate of this year’s festival remained in question until February when court orders and legal proceedings allowed the event’s host location at the Double J Ranch to become available. Rothbury’s Colorado-based promoters, Madison House and AEG Live, finally got the go ahead and are busy creating another amazing live-music experience.

TRAVEL TIME:(As calculated by maps.google.com from Denver, Colo. to Rothbury, Mich.)
Total Est. Time: 17 hours, 34 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 1,191 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: This is a very long drive that goes across the Great Plains through Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan — and if you opt to fly in, you still have a three-hour drive from the airport. This isn’t a festival Coloradoans can go to on a whim. It takes some planning, but it’s one of the few festivals in the world where you can pamper yourself. Packages range from rustic to down-right opulent amenities.

PRICE: $$$$$

CAMPING: Yes, plus many on-site lodging options.

Forecastle designed as a symposium for art

By Jeffrey V. Smith
July 10-12
Riverfront Park/Galt House Hotel – Louisville, KY

Now in its eighth year, the Forecastle Festival has established itself as one of the premier regional events of the summer. This year, over 65 bands and DJs will descend on downtown Louisville, KY, July 10-12. Two nights of Widespread Panic, some of the band’s only summer dates other than Mile High Music Festival, are this year’s highlight. Also, The Black Crowes, The Black Keys and The Avett Brothers headline, while performances by Umphrey’s McGee, Yonder Mountain String Band, Zappa Plays Zappa, The New Mastersounds, and Outformation are featured.The goal of Forecastle, which calls itself “a symposium for musicians, artists, and environmentalists,” is to connect the progressive Midwest and establish a “cultural entertainment medium showcased in a scenic, outdoor environment.” Merging entertainment with education, Forecastle unites the creative and activism communities of the region, while developing what it calls a “new festival model.”The festival takes place in the heart of downtown Louisville among the tall buildings and along a $60 million waterfront park that attracts millions of visitors. Camping is offered a couple of miles up river on the water with shuttle service, and many hotels surround the event’s central location.

TRAVEL TIME:(As calculated by maps.google.com from Denver, Colo. to Louisville, Ky.)
Total Est. Time: 16 hours, 21 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 1,108 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: O.K., this is a bit out of the way, but if you’re already going to be in Louisville, you have to make a detour about an hour-and-a-half out of your way. Head south to Loretto, KY. There you will find the Maker’s Mark distillery, and yes, they do give tours. What better way to celebrate being in the south than with Panic and some fresh Maker’s Mark.


CAMPING: Nearby, plus multiple hotels

Wakarusa departs Kansas for Ozarks site

By Brian F. Johnson
June 4-7
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR

I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!2009 will mark the sixth anniversary of the Midwest’s best summer party, the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, but it will also be Wakarusa’s first year at a new home — Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas.Last year severe storms cancelled the first day of music and cut short the last night. Tornadoes were all over the area last year, and while none of them actually touched down on festival grounds it was close enough that the entire festival was picked up Dorothy and Toto-style and relocated to the Ozarks — or OZ.Over the years, the festival had struggled with authorities in Kansas since it took place on public grounds. But this year Waka officials, with a deep sigh of relief, announced that the festival would be held on private land with “the amenities of a well-developed campground” and that they are returning to their primary mission: “producing a world class festival that is steadfastly about the music.”Instead of being in a park on the outskirts of Lawrence, Kansas, attendees will find themselves on top of a mountain (an Arkansas mountain, but a mountain nonetheless) surrounded by streams, waterfalls and swimming holes.Wakarusa is the little festival that could, and has taken some tough knocks on the chin in years past — in addition to weather issues, there was the highly publicized, high-tech surveillance used by local law enforcement in 2006 to spy on festival goers — but through it they’ve proven, with professionalism and a sense of community, that the show will go on.Now if they actually have Munchkins and flying monkey’s, I’ll freak.

Travel time: (As calculated by maps.google.com fromDenver, Colo. to Ozark, Ark.)
Total Est. Time: 12 hours, 14 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 844 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: Every festival claims to have cool things to do other than the music, but the new location of Wakarusa might have a lot of them beat. There’s rafting, horse and RV trails, waterfalls and lakes. So, while considering the music line-up try to build in time to do things in the vicinity of the festival.

Price: $$$

Camping: Yes, from “primitive campgrounds” to VIP camping. RV passes are sold out.

Telluride Bluegrass still the best of the best

By Brian F. Johnson
June 18-21
Telluride Town Park
Telluride, CO

In its 36 year existence, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has grown into one of the best festivals in the world. With that much history, they’ve got the strings to get any bluegrass artist in the world that they want (and they do), but they’ve never rested on that, as each year the promoters take tradition and throw it out the window — which leads to this year’s headliners of David Byrne and Elvis Costello.But in addition to the musicians that the festival attracts, the entire event goes off so smoothly year after year because there’s nothing these guys haven’t dealt with before. They were one of the first festivals in the country to really start pushing the green envelope and several years ago went so far as to offset carbon emissions for its audience’s travel to the event — making it the first festival in the country to be carbon neutral.The afternoons and evenings in Town Park can be filled with epic moments of music, but the NightGrass events are the time to really whoop it up and this year, with sets by Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Punch Brothers, Oakhurst and more, the NightGrass shows are the icing on an already tasty cake.A lot of festivals discuss a family feeling, but Telluride is like that multiplied. Festivarians and musicians alike aren’t content with attending a couple years in a row. It’s all about longevity at Telluride — a point that is driven home this year by Jerry Douglas, who is appearing at his 25th consecutive Telluride Bluegrass in 2009. But seasoned veteran or neophyte, it’s pretty apparent that the festival has harnessed some magic and once you’ve seen the spectacle, it’s hard to find anything comparable.

TRAVEL TIME: (As calculated by maps.google.com from Denver, Colo. to Telluride, Colo.)
Total Est. Time: 6 hours, 53 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 330 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: If it hasn’t been made abundantly clear by now, Telluride is all about creating a sustainable festival. Last year they started a new contest called How Green is Your Grass?, a creative campsite challenge, meant to further encourage responsible festival attendance. The motivation? A pair of passes to the following year’s fest. Not too shabby.

PRICE: $$$$

CAMPING: Yes — but if you’re just thinking of camping now, think again. Camping passes are like gold for this event.

RockyGrass focuses on traditional bluegrass

By David Stuhlemmer
July 24-26
Planet Bluegrass Ranch, Lyons, CO

In the fall of 1972 Bill Monroe played a show at the Boulder landmark Tulagi, trekking through the Rocky Mountain region in an attempt to promote his bluegrass music.Around this time, founding members of the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society approached him with the idea for a festival, and the Father of Bluegrass agreed to book the talent at the inaugural Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Festival in August of 1973.Thirty-six years of tradition have evolved into Planet Bluegrass Ranch, tucked neatly into beautiful Lyons, Colorado, the home of what is now RockyGrass. The Planet Bluegrass Ranch is a refined bluegrass festival site located right next to the St. Vrain River, with a glorious red rock cliffs backdrop.Modeled on the ideals of Bill Monroe, RockyGrass sticks very close to bluegrass roots when it comes to booking the bands — whereas RockyGrass’s big brother Telluride Bluegrass blurs the lines of tradition.Class act musicians will take the stage all day and into the night before joining the party for late night picking into the wee hours of the morning. A relaxing summer atmosphere in a gorgeous mountain town caters kindly to all ages. For the old-time bluegrass fan, RockyGrass is not to be missed.

TRAVEL TIME:(As calculated by maps.google.com from Denver, Colo. to Lyons, Colo.)Total Est. Time: 52 minutesTotal Est. Distance: 42 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: RockyGrass has been described as a musician’s festival. They run a world class bluegrass camp called RockyGrass Academy in the five days leading up to the festival. Open jamming continues all day, every day throughout the festival site and campgrounds. Also, be wary of the temperature drop that will occur each night as you will be camping out in the mountains.

PRICE: $$$$

CAMPING: Yes, but hard to get.

Folks Fest strikes a perfect chord

By Timothy Dwenger
Aug. 14-16
Planet Bluegrass Ranch, Lyons, CO

Set just a few minutes walk up the road from the beautiful downtown of Lyons, CO, this festival is the perfect compliment to a summer afternoon.Along the St. Vrain River, Planet Bluegrass Ranch is a music lover’s oasis nestled among the majestic red rock formations that dominate the Lyons landscape. The Festival, now in its 19th year, brings together some of the most recognized names in the folk world with some bright new up-and-comers.The organizers at Planet Bluegrass are more than willing to push the boundaries of the genre when booking acts at their marquee festival in Telluride and rest assured that Folks Fest will have a similarly adventurous lineup. There are a healthy dose of old favorites on the bill, but if you are a music lover who can’t wait to find a new act to sink your teeth into, you won’t be disappointed.Like the on-site camping in Telluride, quarters are often close but sure to foster new friendships, jam sessions and more than a few good laughs. For those who are intimated by the big crowds at many festivals, the relatively low capacity of the Ranch allows this to be one of the most intimate feeling festivals around. And, it’s also one of the most family friendly festivals around.

TRAVEL TIME:(As calculated by maps.google.com from Denver, Colo. to Lyons, Colo.)
Total Est. Time: 52 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 42 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: Preceding the Folks Festival is the week-long Song School, for songwriters. Keep an eye on the website leading up to the festival itself as, inevitably, some of the break-out students end up being the buzz to catch and often last-minute sets get added to accommodate those folks, at the festival and at other venues around town.

PRICE: $$$

CAMPING: On-site camping is available, but very limited

Blues and Brews mixes suds and sounds

By Joe Kovack
September 18-20
Telluride Town Park
Telluride, CO

Telluride Blues and Brews Festival has been combining three of Colorado’s biggest loves — music, microbrews and the outdoors — for the past 16 years. Nestled at 8,750 feet in the small mountain town of Telluride, the Blues and Brews Festival brings its annual array of blues, rock, soul, gospel, funk and microbrews to the amazing scenery of Telluride Town Park, where the three-day festival takes place.As gates open early Friday afternoon, the festival takes over the town, filling the park with music till the late evening, and again at 10:00 p.m. each night for “juke joints,” where artists will bring their music to various bars around town. And with the Second Annual Coolest Campsite Competition, and the Acoustic Blues Competition, the opportunities to win free admission and great prizes bring a sense of participation and creativity for guests.

Travel time: (As calculated by maps.google.com from Denver, Colo. to Telluride, Colo.)
Total Est. Time: 6 hours, 53 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 330 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: When you go to get your festival passes, make sure you spend the extra few dollars and get the juke joint pass. That pass will get you into the evening concerts up and down Main Street, which begin at 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Be aware, however, that a juke joint pass does not guarantee that you will get into the show of your choice, but it does guarantee that you will get into one of the juke joints – it all depends on the capacity of each venue.

PRICE: $$$

CAMPING: A campsite and two RV parks are adjacent to the festival grounds.

Monolith blazing a trail as indie as its bands

By Brian F. Johnson
September 12-13
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

There was a slight hiccup this year for Monolith, when promoter AEG Live said they would not be involved with the festival in 2009. It was a bit sad, but the truth is that the festival is now like many of the bands they cater to — the cool indie kids who have been kicked off a major label and are now forging their own path.But before I use the word ‘indie’ again, the festival’s directors insist that it’s more about new music and emerging artists than it is an indie thing. That may be true, but it’s almost guaranteed you’ll see more skinny jeans here than any other festival you attend this summer.Like the last two years, this year’s Monolith will feature five stages and more than 50 bands. That size of a lineup was a first for Red Rocks and the City of Denver (who owns the amphitheatre), which deemed Monolith the largest two-day music festival ever to take place at the venue.Those familiar with the venue will wonder how that many stages can be placed on the site, but the promoter ingeniously utilizes the stages and side rooms in the relatively new visitor center to spread the music into every nook and cranny of Red Rocks.That layout helps to set the stage for Monolith’s main goal, which is to create an unparalleled event for the festival’s headliners, while also creating a springboard for unsigned and under-the-radar bands.Monolith is the festival that a whole sector of music freaks has been waiting for in Colorado for a long time. Now, it’s not just hippies and bluegrassers who get to go outside and put all of their musical heroes in one place.

Travel time: (As calculated by mapquest.com fromDenver, Colo. to Morrison, Colo.)
Total Est. Time: 28 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 20.2 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: Bring your blanket to throw down in the main amphitheatre, but don’t expect to spend the whole day in the main seating area. If you do you’re wasting the whole experience. Be ready to jump and run to other stages at any time. Traveling light and being comfortable is the name of the game once you’re in the venue.


CAMPING: No. (Hipsters don’t camp).

Grand Targhee provides resort setting for fest

By Brian F. Johnson
July 17-19
Grand Targhee Resort, Alta, WY

The Grand Targhee Music Festival isn’t a big festival, but what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for with bands. This year Gov’t Mule, who played the festival in 2005, will return, along with Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Johnny Lang, The Wallflowers, Keb Mo, Betty Lavette, and many more.The event is held at a resort, and while that may be a bit different than other festivals, it also provides some luxuries as well. Grand Targhee Resort is a full-service, year-round resort, situated on the western slope of the Teton Mountains. Grand Targhee is located in the Caribou-Targhee National ForestWhile the campgrounds are dialed in with amenities, the resort also allows the opportunity to kick it in a room versus a tent, and pools, restaurants, bars and other creature comforts abound.This festival is off the beaten path, which will serve to keep prices down, crowds more manageable and could provide a more intimate setting than most festivals.

Travel time: (As calculated by mapquest.com fromDenver, Colo. to Alta, Wyo.)
Total Est. Time: 9 hours, 23 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 568 miles

YOU NEED TO KNOW: Smoking at festivals is a touchy thing. On one hand you’re outside, but on the other, you’re surrounded by people. At the Targhee Festival you have no choice but to smoke in designated areas, as the resort itself is smoke free. But whether you’re in a smoke free kind of place or a free-for-all, be respectful of non-smokers and don’t drop your butts.

PRICE: $$$


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