Update: Courtney Barnett has canceled her Project Pabst Festival performance in order to accept an invitation to appear on Saturday Night Live’s season finale. Best Coast will be taking her place as headliner.
Sometimes you want to hang out under a bridge by the railroad, drinking craft beer, eating barbecue, and listening to blues and R&B legends.
Other times, you want to be overwhelmed by hundreds of local and national indie bands as you sprint from stage to stage to catch as many as possible.
Or maybe you just want to sit outside and gaze up at the stars, surrounded by really big red rocks and sampling a summer schedule that ranges from Bob Dylan to Tame Impala.
For all of the above and more, you're living in the right place.
No, we don't have the tribal excesses of a Gathering of the Juggalos, nor the holograms and 130-degree temperatures of a Coachella. What we do have is an impressive range of summer festivals and concert series — some old, some new — to suit most every taste.
Here, then, are some of this summer's highlights.
We begin with rock — as in punk-rock, metal and various other high-decibel permutations — with the two newest kids on the block being the PBR and PRB festivals.
Let's walk through this one: PBR is, as all old-school hipsters know, the official acronym for Pabst Blue Ribbon, which will be hosting its first Denver block party later this month. Project Pabst (May 20 and 21, denver.projectpabst.com), which started out in Portland, will showcase a fairly all-star lineup playing two stages along Larimer Street.
The two-day festival's headliners are Australian chanteuse Courtney Barnett and Missouri singer-songwriter-turned-soulman Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (whose Aug. 21 Red Rocks show is already sold out). Other noteworthy acts include a reunited Violent Femmes, indie-rock raves Baroness, garage punks FIDLAR, Southern rapper Big K.R.I.T. and R&B legend Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires.
PRB, meanwhile, signifies the Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival (June 2 to 4, punkrockbowling.com), which started out in Las Vegas and is now expanding to Denver. While bowling was a key part of the original concept back in 1999, the Denver incarnation is an altogether musocentric affair featuring post-punk godfathers The Buzzcocks, FLAG (the Keith Morris-led band that, lawsuits notwithstanding, best captures the Black Flag spirit), D.O.A., Millencon, Anti-Nowhere League, and a Love Me Destroyer reunion. Catch all that and more at Summit Music Hall.
Riot Fest (Sept. 2 to 4, riotfest.org/denver) is, of course, a more established import, having become the area's premier showcase for big-name rock and rap acts since it migrated from Chicago to Denver back in 2013. This year's installment will once again be at the National Western Complex. Tickets are already available, even though this year's lineup has yet to be announced.
In other news, the traveling Vans Warped Tour (July 31, vanswarpedtour.com), which has been around since the dawn of time, will be returning to the Pepsi Center Arena lot.
Denver will also see the two local print media once again duking it out with their long-running festivals.
The Westword Music Festival (June 25, westword.com) will take over the Golden Triangle District with a lineup that includes headliners Matt & Kim, Cold Water Kids, Brick + Mortar, New Politics, Health, Pistol Fire and Grizfolk.
The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase (July 28 to 31, theums.com, various locations) will present Poliça, Thee Oh Sees, Lee Fields & the Expressions, Allah-Las and hundreds more on a couple dozen stages around town.
Closer to home, the Colorado Springs metal and punk communities will come together for a festival so big that it requires two all-ages venues. 71GRIND Fest (June 3 and 4) will be held at Flux Capacitor and the Black Sheep with a roster of local, national and international acts that's too big to list here, but that's what event websites are for.
Those whose genre preferences are rooted in blues, folk and bluegrass can also stay close to home for their summertime fix.
This year's Blues Under the Bridge (July 30, bluesunderthebridge.com) will be headlined by Blues Music Award-winning soul shouter Shemekia Copeland and legendary bandleader and organist Booker T. Jones, whose group the M.G.'s, pioneered instrumental R&B/funk back in the '60s. The festival will once again be held under the Bridge at 218 W. Colorado Ave.
The MeadowGrass Music Festival (May 27 to 29, rockymountainhighway.org), now in its eighth year at the pastoral La Foret Conference & Retreat Center, is the much-loved Memorial Day weekend event that will treat indie-folk, Americana and bluegrass fans to dozens of impressive local and touring acts, including headliners Fruit Bats and The Jeff Austin Band. The Springs' most ambitious festival will also feature musician workshops, food, drink and camping.
Meanwhile, if you loved Kid Rock in the first episode of Silicon Valley, you'll love him even more at Pueblo's annual Bands in the Backyard (June 17 and 18, bandsinthebackyard.com). The campout-friendly event is a nice fit for those who prefer straight-up country and Southern rock with their sunblock. Alabama co-headlines this year's lineup, which also includes Joe Diffie, Sawyer Brown, Sarah Ross and 3 Doors Down.
Also in Pueblo, you can catch some serious picking during the three-day Bluegrass at the Fair (June 3 to 5, bluegrassatthefair.com). This year's talent includes the Rapid Grass Quintet, Blue Canyon Boys and High Plains Tradition, as well as local favorites like Grass It Up and Acme Bluegrass.
For bluegrass fans with high-end culinary inclinations, this year's Fiddles, Vittles & Vino (July 31, fiddlesvittlesandvino.com) will feature performances by Chatham County Line, Finnders and Youngberg, WireWood Station, and the WMD Bluegrass Band.
Meanwhile, for those who miss the days of endless raves, the Global Dance Festival (July 8 to 10) is returning to Red Rocks. Headliners include Knife Party — purveyors of the classic "Internet Friends (You Blocked Me on Facebook and Now You're Going to Die)" — as well as Above & Beyond, DJ Snake, W&W and Dash Berlin.
Another date you'll want to save is the Indy Music Awards Festival (Sept. 10, csindy.com). In conjunction with downtown Colorado Springs' What If Festival, the event will feature performances by 2016 Indy Music Awards winners. It's the perfect one-stop way to check out our readers' favorite local artists in a wide range of genres.
And finally, if you need a break from all that sunstroke and sensory overload, there's always the summer concert series at Red Rocks (redrocksonline.com). Recently written up by influential music site Consequence of Sound as one of the world's Top 10 venues, the outdoor amphitheater has played host to everyone from The Beatles during the '60s British Invasion, to U2 at the height of Bono's flagwaving, lighting-rig-climbing glory.
In addition to the aforementioned Dylan (June 19) and Tame Impala (Aug. 31) shows, this summer's highlights include perennial psychedelicists The Flaming Lips (May 26), Funk on the Rocks featuring Chromeo & Jamie XX (June 2), ho-hey propagators The Lumineers (June 7 and 8), Devotchka with the Colorado Symphony (June 16), the first-ever Red Rocks performance by Dolly Parton (July 27), a three-night run by the Avett Brothers (July 28 to 30), and, last but far from least, Minneapolis hip-hop heroes Atmosphere (Aug. 28).