Sounds of summer 

Your festival guide to the best in folk, rock, blues and bohemia

Sure, the idea of WINTER music festivals is all well and good, especially if you live in Jamaica or the Mojave Desert. But for folks up this way, summer is the best time to stumble around in a threadbare Phish T-shirt, amid hacky sacks and beach balls, drinking overpriced beer while listening to roadies drone, "Check-ONE, check-TWO, check, check."

In the mood yet? Good, then let's get right to it. Here, for your summer planning delight, is a roundup of area festivals that are all within easy driving distance. And, yes, we've made it almost completely chronological, so that you can follow along at home!

Blues it up

Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of the summer season with our local MeadowGrass Music Festival (May 28-30) at the pastoral La Foret Conference and Retreat Center. La Foret is located in Black Forest, just a bit north of the Air Force Academy, and this year's lineup includes Grant-Lee Phillips, Great Lake Swimmers, Greencards, Martha Scanlan, Sons and Brothers and tons of others.

You get one weekend off and then it's on to the Greeley Blues Jam (June 11-12), featuring the likes of Sonny Landreth, Shemekia Copeland and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, who were tough enough to headline last year's Blues Under the Bridge opening night.

OK, we kind of lied about the weekend off, although technically Friday evenings don't count, right? Then there's no excuse not to check out the First & Main Free Summer Concert Series, which actually begins June 4 with the Jake Loggins Band and continues through July with other local stalwarts like Phat Daddy & the Phat Horn Doctors and George Whitesell & His All Stars. All shows are held at the park in front of Cinemark at Powers Boulevard and North Carefree Circle.

And while we're still on the subject of summer series, you totally need to catch the World Music Festival at Colorado College's Armstrong Quad. The festival kicks off with Bomba Estereo (June 14), the Bogotá, Colombia electro-tropical outfit that recently played Austin's South by Southwest. The World Music Festival will continue with Ocote Soul Sounds (July 2) and Rupa and the April Fishes (Aug. 9). Add them to your calendar, because this is a great way to keep up with remarkably good acts from around the world — and it's absolutely free.

Here comes July, and one of summer's premier music events. Blues Under the Bridge (July 17) is a one-day affair this year, featuring blues legend Charlie Musselwhite supported by Candye Kane, Corey Harris, Tempa & the Tantrums, and Magic Dave and friends. If you haven't gone yet, it really is a unique setting, especially when the sun goes down and the spotlights cast the musicians' silhouettes against the sides of passing trains. (Calling out a request for "Cannonball Blues" would not be inappropriate.)

By the end of July, you'll be needing a break from two months of nachos and Bud Light, which means it's time for the far more gourmet fare of Fiddles, Vittles and Vino (July 25). We're already fans of the Stanleytones, and you'll also want to be on hand for 49 Special (no relation to 38 Special, we hope), Finders and Youngberg, and the Blue Canyon Boys.

Mile-high menu

August may be a good month to hit the road for festivals that are a bit farther afield. If your tastes run toward Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews, then point the Subaru toward Denver and head to Dick's Sporting Goods Park for the Mile High Music Festival (Aug. 14-15).

Given that the much more adventurous Monolith Festival is, barring some last-minute rescue, dead and gone, it would have been nice if Mile High had picked up some of the slack. But this year's incredibly tepid lineup (Steve Miller, Derek Trucks, Rusted Root, Train, Tim Reynolds, Slightly Stoopid and on and on) is as safe as milk. (Although I've always maintained that milk is a gateway drug to heroin.) There are some potentially bright spots — My Morning Jacket, Mayer Hawthorne, Weezer, Phoenix and Keane — but not many.

The Newhoma Camping and Music Festival (Aug. 20-22) is the newest arrival on the summer circuit, featuring an eclectic array of semi-obscure out-of-towners like New York City's avant-jazz Sex Mob and Georgia jam band Outformation. Closer-to-home talent like Denver's Paper Bird and the Springs' own Grass It Up will also take the stage at the rustic Big Spring Ranch, which is 35 miles due west on the backside of Pikes Peak. Promoters are also promising quality food and beer, mountain biking, hiking and camping as an alternative to "cheap beer, low-quality food, marginal bands and unreliable sound."

On the other hand, if you've been looking for a reason to go up to Fort Collins — and really, who hasn't? — here it is. The lineup for the town's free Bohemian Nights festival (Aug. 20-22) is ridiculously diverse. The three-day outdoor extravaganza kicks off with Friday headliner Flobots, followed Saturday by shining stars Earth, Wind & Fire and, on Sunday, bluegrass banjo overlord Earl Scruggs. Plus 50 Colorado bands playing on five stages, and it's all for free.

Just be sure to save enough gas for one last out-of-town festival jaunt, this time in a southerly direction for Trinidad's 12th annual Trinidaddio Blues Fest (Aug. 28). This year's lineup includes Oakland's Mark Hummel & the Blues Survivors featuring Rusty Zinn, Chicago's Lil Ed and the Blue Imperials and — straight out of Muskegon, Michigan — the one and only Bettye LaVette, whose closing set at last year's Blues Under the Bridge was altogether jaw-dropping.

There you have it: Three months, 10 festivals, hundreds of bands and (if you're not careful) expanded waistlines and blistering sunburns. So drive safe, dance responsibly, and enjoy the summer.



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