I keep telling people that I want to live in a version of Austin where the weather is nice. Austin has a unique enough vibe that I assumed a nicer-weather version didn’t exist. That is, until Callie and I went to Colorado. Granted, I’ve only been here for 2 days, so far, it has this homegrown, friendly attitude that really reminds me of Texas. In fact, for the first few hours, if it wasn’t for the mountains, I would have assumed we had landed in Austin.
We’re here for one night to see Pretty Lights play at Red Rocks. I’ve never been here and Callie swears it’s one of the coolest venues she’s ever been to. Pretty Lights is apparently a Colorado native and does two shows every year for a sold-out hometown audience. One of Callie’s oldest friends has come to the show with a huge group of friends for the last 7 years and this year, we were invited.
Red Rocks is incredible. The drive from the city is about 20 minutes and the view on the drive is breathtaking. On one side of the modest two-lane highway is a national state park that stretched for miles. It looked exactly like where I imagined Little House on the Prairie took place. Miles of undeveloped land, save for the occasional cabin that had been built before the regulations stopping such buildings were put in place. Rolling foothills as far as the eye could see, capped with the biggest, clearest blue sky I’ve seen since Texas.
The massive red and brown rock formations were actually really unexpected. They seemed really out of place – like someone had dropped them out in the grass. It actually felt kind of Stonhenge(y). A few huge monuments, jutting out of the lush green landscape. The clarity of the colors was staggering. Regardless of where you pointed your camera, you got sprawling panoramas with bright reds, blues, greens.
We met up with Grayson’s (Callie’s friend) friends in the parking lot. Apparently, tailgating before a Red Rocks show is pretty normal. Everyone brings ice-chests, food, and beer. Grayson and a friend of his are actually in the process of starting their own brewery and brought some of the beers they had crafted – they were awesome. There was a honey IPA that tasted like a Dogfish Head 90, but smelled like honey. I loved it. I really hope they do well.
Everyone we met was really nice and welcoming. It’s been my experience to expect a certain level of pretentious snobbery when I meet people who make their own beer – this group had none of that going on. We hung out and talked about beer, music, and the virtues of the Coloradian. By the time we actually headed into the venue, I was so impressed with everyone that I was ready to list everything I owned on Craigslist and just stay here.
The show was incredible. Even thought it’s a natural amphitheater, the sound behaved completely different than it did at a place like the Hollywood Bowl. The soft, gentle, airy audio that I had expected was replaced by a loud and furious wave. The best way I can describe it is that at the Bowl, it sounded like the music was totally unobstructed, floating over your heads. At Red Rocks, it felt like it was hitting you right in the chest.
The stage design was minimal and Pretty Lights looked tiny on it. Screens covered the ground his booth was on, the booth itself, and the rear of the stage. Hanging above him were rectangular screens that moved vertically throughout the show. With that many screens overlapping, he was able to pull off this really cool effect where he would line up images on different screens to make it look like the screens vanished. Several times, his booth screens synced up with the ground and it looked like he disappeared.
The show lasted about three hours (with no opener) and I have no doubt that he could have gone for another three. We were told afterwards that he had broken a noise ordinance by playing past midnight. The show was mostly a combination of deep house, trap, and trip hop. He played a ton of his hits but remixed them all for the show. It was a great crowd that felt populated by ravers from the 90’s.
We got back to Grayson’s at about two and passed out almost immediately. We woke up this morning at around 11 and made some plans to visit a couple Breweries before going to the airport. The plan was to hit up Avery and Flanders in Boulder and then head to Denver for The Great Divide and Breckenridge – it was a bold plan that didn’t pan out. Next time, we’re renting a car. We got to Boulder and had some amazing beers at Flanders, but then just hung out and walked around for an hour before grabbing an Uber to the airport.
We’re about to board the plane back to California and I’m still not ready to leave. I’m going to miss the scenery, the people, and the beer. Just now, two strangers talking behind us remarked that they love it here and hate that they have to head back to California. We leaned back and told them that we feel the same way. I don’t doubt that we’ll be back before long.