By Dan England –
With the pandemic fading from view, the sound of music is in the air, not some nasty virus. That means summer concerts, and all the sweaty, exuberant crowds that come with them, are back.
Here’s a list of highlights you can expect from Northern Colorado. We focused on big events, so that’s why your favorite coffeehouse’s acoustic open mic night wasn’t included. Maybe next year.
Greeley Blues Jam—The Jam has a new location this year. The Jam will move onto a grassy spot just east of the Island Grove Events Center, close to a stone’s throw away from the Arena, where it took place for many years.
The events center now acts as a backup plan in case of bad weather, and organizers won’t have to spend thousands to lay sod on the Arena’s dirt floor.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds, famous for mid 1980s hits such as “Tuff Enuff” and “Wrap It Up,” will headline, but this is no ‘80s pop band. The founder is Kim Wilson, known for his blues chops as much as the Thunderbirds. Just this year, he was nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album.
Time, date and place: A blues jam invades downtown Greeley during Friday Fest the day before, and the Jam takes place at 11 a.m. on June 4 and runs all day.
Admission: $35 in advance, $45 the day of the event.
For more information: greeleybluesjam.org
Friday Fest—The Fest is back in full force in downtown Greeley, bringing back a TGIF slate of free favorites, newbies and Greeley’s Go-Cup that allows you to take a cup of alcohol around the block. There’s a headliner each Friday night, and you can bring lawn chairs or your dancing shoes. The evenings run now until Sept. 16 to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. Highlights include longtime favorite My Blue Sky, which plays Allman Brothers music; Hazel Miller, Colorado’s “queen of soul;” and Funkiphino kicking off the Greeley Arts Picnic, Friday Fest’s longest tradition.
“It’s always a struggle to get just the right mix of music so there’s something for everyone and a good flow to the season,” says Alison Hamling, the Promotional Association Chairperson, in a news release. “The worst part is having to turn away so many great bands and musicians. There is so much talent out there.”
Time, date and place: Go-cup service starts at 6 p.m., and the music usually starts at 6:30 p.m. and lasts until 9 p.m. or so. The party runs along 9th Street next to 8th Avenue, although it bleeds one block over into 8th Street.
For more information: greeleydowntown.com/special-events/friday-fest
Concerts Under the Stars—The University of Northern Colorado will bring back this treasured tradition of four concerts in the month of July after two years off. Concerts are family friendly and casual, with lawn chairs, blankets and dogs all allowed. The series will feature Denver Brass (July 5), the Colorado Jazz Orchestra (July 12), The Burroughs (July 19) and Salsa Forte (July 26).
Time, date and place: 8 p.m. Tuesdays in July at the Garden Theater on the UNC campus.
For more information: arts.unco.edu
Greely Arts Picnic—The Arts Picnic features arts, crafts, and food and beer vendors, along with activities for kids, but there’s always a good slate of 14 bands on both days, including many eclectic acts, from country swing to salsa, rock, jazz and blues.
Time, date and place: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, July 30, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at Lincoln Park, 802 10th Ave., downtown Greeley.
For more information: tickets.unco.edu
The Mishawaka—One of the most amazing and unique concert settings in the state—the stage sits outside next to the roaring Poudre River—features more than 15 bands on its summer schedule, some with multiple dates. They include Thievery Corporation, Leftover Salmon, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Yonder Mountain and the Teton Gravity Research outdoor film festival.
Time, date and place: The band schedule runs through Sept. 10.
For more information: themishawaka.com
Lagoon Summer Concert Series—One of Northern Colorado’s favorite family-friendly concert series returns to Colorado State University for Wednesday night picnics (with onsite food trucks). The wide variety of bands include funk, country and rock, nostalgia and longtime favorite Wendy Woo. The bands include Funky Business, Nothing But Nineties and oldies (actual oldies, not classic rock from the 80s). Bring blankets, lawn chairs, kids and even your leashed pets.
Time, date and place: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday nights between June 15-July 27 on the west lawn of CSU’s Lory Student Center.
For more information: lagoonseries.com
Thursday Night Live—Bohemian Nights may have canceled New West Fest, but it’s keeping the weekly, free concerts designed to showcase a diverse lineup that includes indie rock, funk, soul, hip-hop, reggae and mariachi. The groups include Slow Caves, the Brothers of Brass and Jackie Venson.
Time, date and place: 8 p.m. Thursday nights from June 2-Sept. 15 on the outdoor stage in Fort Collins’ Old Town Square.
For more information: bohemianfoundation.org
Live at The Gardens Summer Concert Series—Concerts from June to September at The Gardens on Spring Creek, with options to rent lawn chairs or purchase a charcuterie box. Artists include Kamasi Washington, country legend Marty Stuart and Stewart Copeland of the Police playing the iconic band’s greatest hits with the Fort Collins Symphony. Get your tickets soon; some shows have already sold out.
Time, date and place: Various times and dates at the Gardens in Fort Collins.
For more information: fcgov.com/gardens/concerts
A good place to go for the latest concert information is visitftcollins.com/events/music
One Sweet Summer Event Series—The series kicks off with an all-day bluegrass festival with live music, session beers from downtown craft breweries and a youth fiddle contest. The festival runs from 2-9 p.m. on June 11.
There are also Blues Nights from 6-9:30 p.m. on June 24, July 29 and August 26 with Rex People’s and the X Factor, Mojo Mama and Mr. Smyth.
Time, date and place: Various times and dates, but all take place at the Foundry plaza in downtown Loveland.
For more information: downtownloveland.org/onesweetsummer
Loveland Summer Concert Series—This series runs from July 7-28 and features music and kids’ activities, food trucks, a beer garden and the new Plaza Market.
Time, date and place: 6:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Foote Lagoon Amphitheater, 500 E. 3rd St., Loveland. The bands are the Blue Canyon Boys, the 17th Avenue All-Stars, Wendy Woo and the Dale Cisek Band.
For more information: rialtotheatercenter.org/loveland-summer-concerts
Summer Concert Series at Boardwalk Park in Windsor—This series encourages lawn chairs and blankets and runs from June through August. The bands include the FACE vocal band, the 6 Million Dollar Band (an 80s tribute band) and The Samples.
Time, date and place: 6:30-8:30 p.m. from June 2-Aug. 18 at Boardwalk Park
For more information: recreationliveshere.com/219/Summer-Concert-Series
Greeley Stampede Celebrates 100 Years
Justin Watada couldn’t be more excited about this year’s Greeley Stampede, so much so that his emotions come with a caveat.
“We can’t do it up like this every year,” says Watada, the Stampede’s executive director.
This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede, and so there is no better time to celebrate a bit. This is also the first Stampede without COVID-19 hanging over our heads—knock on wood—and as a result, the Stampede is expecting a big year, especially after last year. The Stampede had to cancel 2020, of course, and came back last year with an admittedly smaller lineup. The event reduced its expenses by 50 percent. But crowds thirsty for a good time packed Island Grove Regional Park anyway.
“We heard people were waiting 45 minutes for a funnel cake,” Watada says. “They were just so happy to be out. Even with our reduced costs, it ended up being such a great year. That allowed us to rebound.”
As a result, the Stampede will make some permanent changes as well as host one of the biggest events it’s ever had in terms of prestige. Brad Paisley, perhaps the biggest star since the event hosted Keith Urban and Tim McGraw in back-to-back years, will headline a lineup that also includes Stone Temple Pilots and Christian artist Jeremy Camp. The rest of the lineup reflects the more traditional headlining fare of country stars Jon Pardi, Jordan Davis and Cole Swindell.
“We did spend a little more money on the lineup,” Watada says. “More than a little more. The general consensus seems to be that it’s one of the best series we’ve had in a long time.”
The Stampede still kept tickets at $100 for all six shows. The Stampede won’t—and can’t—offer that level of artists for that ticket price every year, and there’s been some talk of attracting bigger acts and raising ticket prices as a result. But Watada is hesitant to do that because the event needs people to come out more than once to have a great year.
“When we had Keith Urban and Tim McGraw, people didn’t come out multiple times. That ticket price was their budget,” Watada says. “We consider one day big enough to cover our expenses for one month. We need people to bring the kids to the carnival one day, maybe have some fun during the day another time and maybe have a date night for a show. I do think people would pay more for a concert, but then that limits the rest of the time they come out.”
Watada believes in the Stampede’s ability to attract those big acts because of its huge new stage, a $2.5-million project that will make the Stampede look as close to a Denver show as it’s ever offered: The new stage allows them to hang lights and offer twice as much space, showers, a commercial-grade kitchen and green rooms. Watada compares the new setup to Red Rocks without the outdoor features. The Arena’s upgrades also include removing the fold up chairs on the ground floor for more dancing and a true outdoor concert experience and enclosed sky boxes for club-level seating. Those changes will bring the Arena to more than a 15,000-person capacity starting next year and the ability to compete with Denver venues. The stage will be ready for this year’s concerts (knock on wood again).
The Stampede also upgraded the Big Buckle Ball, the dance that kicks off the event, by hiring Chancey Williams, who competed in rodeos before turning to country music. Williams is “the biggest star we’ve had for the Buckle,” Watada says.
The free stage, which features bigger acts than what you’ll normally see in Greeley the rest of the year despite the price, will offer a more eclectic mix this year, including hip-hop.
“We’ve never tried hip-hop before,” Watada says. “But we are trying to have something for everyone.”
Time, date and place: The Big Buckle Ball starts at 6 p.m. June 18, and then the Stampede runs from June 19-July 4.
Admission: There is a $5 admission fee for most guests, though it is $2 for those age 6-12 and those 61 and older. Free coupons are available at Ace Hardware, Kings Soopers and the Greeley Chamber of Commerce. Admission is included in arena tickets. A $100 ticket gets you into all night shows (ticket prices do increase on June 15), and those shows are also available separately.
For more information: greeleystampede.org
Dan England is a mountain climber, ultrarunner, freelance writer and coach who lives in Greeley with his three kids, a son and twin girls, his singing wife Valerie, and his herding dog Pepper.