Behind the Scenes, the History of Red Rocks
Nestled into stunning rock formations, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison is one of Colorado’s (and the world’s) premier venues for concerts, comedy performances, films, and even group yoga. Everyone from the Beatles to U2, Springsteen, Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead have all graced music fans with an unforgettable show at Red Rocks.
So, how did this natural wonder come to be? While the land changed hands over many years, the city of Denver purchased Red Rocks Park in 1927. While mayor Ben Stapleton resisted developing the park further, parks manager, George Cranmer, envisioned creating an outdoor theater.
In 1933, Cranmer secured funding from one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs which were designed to help invigorate the nation amidst the Great Depression. Cranmer put together a crew from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to construct the first iteration of Red Rocks with the help of Burnham F. Hoyt as the head architect.
While the actual build did not get started until 1936 and the venue didn’t open until 1941, the long wait, countless sticks of dynamite, and neighbors grumbling about the racket were worth it.
With towering rock formations surrounding the stage and audience seating area, the natural acoustics are unrivaled. As music reverberates and bounces off the rocks, attendees experience every note in surround sound. Even performers have praised the sound quality of Red Rocks.
Beyond concerts, Red Rocks is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The 738-acre park surrounding the venue features miles of hiking trails, geological finds, all kinds of native wildlife, and of course, stunning views. It was even designated a National Historic Landmark in 2015.
Find Your Perfect Summer Concert
According to the Red Rocks website, the venue typically keeps up with current culture and popular music.
“Opera, classical and chamber music performances of the early 1900s to 1940s gave way to the rock and roll and psychedelic music of the 1960s and 70s. Soft rock took over the venue for the majority of the 1970s, a genre deemed “safe” for the amphitheater after a tumultuous and legendary Jethro Tull concert in 1971 resulted in a ban on rock and roll music being performed at the venue enacted by then-Mayor William H. McNichols and San Feiner, director of the city’s Theaters and Arenas division at the time.”
Luckily for all of us, the ban was later lifted. And the 2023 season includes big acts, both current and a little vintage, including Steve Miller Band, Widespread Panic, Sofi Tukker, Sublime, Vance Joy and more. Love Queen and miss Freddie? Check out Killer Queen, the longest-established worldwide Queen tribute. There will also be several high school graduations held at Red Rocks, and even a night of comedy with headliner, Chelsea Handler.
Here’s our quick guide to help you find a show to attend—or be there for all of them if you can swing it. To view the full schedule, browse the Red Rocks calendar for the lineup.