Colorado Springs may not have more music venues than other mid-sized cities, but it definitely has more unusual concert environments.
Drive through the Air Force Academy's northern entrance to get to Arnold Hall (2302 Cadet Drive, 333-4497) and you'll be welcomed by Diamond Lil. The B-52 bomber, which was known for shooting down an MiG jetfighter during a Christmas eve raid on Hanoi, now greets concertgoers en route to performances by the likes of LeAnn Rimes and B.B. King.
Or head over to Stargazers Theatre (stargazerstheatre.com) and you'll find a large geodesic dome that has, in previous lives, played host to punk shows, operas and church services. The theater was built 40 years ago by Vincent G. Raney, who was also the architect of the famed Hollywood Cinerama Dome.
Elsewhere around town you can find, in addition to the full-time venues listed in our live music club listings, a wide array of performance spaces with more sporadic music schedules.
Colorado College's Armstrong Hall (coloradocollege.edu), for instance, has booked bands ranging from slo-fi pioneers Low to mega-jam band Phish. It's also played host to public radio fixtures like Ira Glass and etown, operas, dance companies and the annual Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival.
More folk-inclined music fans will find something to love at the Black Forest Community Center (12530 Black Forest Road, 528-6119) and other local venues that host shows put on by the Black Rose Acoustic Society (blackroseacoustic.org). For 16 years now, this nonprofit has presented twice-monthly open stage events, where folk, bluegrass and other unplugged musicians present their music for that rarity of rarities, an attentive audience.
And despite what zealots may have you believe, the Colorado Springs World Arena (worldarena.com) is not the sole province of Tigers hockey games and Christian music tours — although there's no shortage of either. The venue also books the likes of Elton John, Mannheim Streamroller (c'mon, you know you love them) and enough country mega-stars to make you shiver in your Frye boots.
Under the same booking umbrella as the World Arena is the Pikes Peak Center (pikespeakcenter.com), a beautifully appointed and acoustically pristine setting for concerts ranging from Wilco and ZZ Top to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. The center is also home to Studio Bee, which hosts free Thursday evening performances by local bands and other events where a more intimate setting is called for.
The most recent addition to our local concert landscape is the La Foret Conference and Retreat Center (laforet.org), thanks to the MeadowGrass Music Festival (meadowgrass.org). The two-day event will return for its second year with a Memorial Day weekend lineup that includes Grant-Lee Phillips, Martha Scanlan, Great Lake Swimmers and the Greencards performing in a big old meadow surrounded by acres of pines. This year there are also plans for a big old tent, just in case inclement weather makes a return appearance.
And of course, no sampling of local venues would be complete without mention of Manitou Springs' Venue 515 (thebac.org) the Business of Art Center's performance space that keeps getting busier with an array of touring acts. Recent bookings have included up-and-coming bluesman Samuel James, insurgent country punks Split Lip Rayfield, and eclectic jazz bandleader Matt Wilson. You'll also find performances by area artists like the Haunted Windchimes and Creating a Newsense (watch out for the blissed-out woman with the hula hoop) as well as an annual day-long Mardi Gras celebration.