One of the few natural amphitheaters on the globe, Red Rocks Amphiteater in Morrison, Colorado manifested from enormous sloping rock monoliths that have been carbon dated back to the Jurassic Period – complete with sea serpent, flying reptile and marine reptile fossils from over 160 Million Years ago. The Rocks have been called many things, like ‘Garden of the Angels’ and ‘Garden of the Titans’, and at one point, Red Rocks was considered one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World‘. Anyone who’s been there, including me, will vehemently agree with that statement.
As Dance Music continues to dominate the music industry, the landscape of musical acts at Red Rocks has shifted accordingly; and now that we’re in 2015 – ‘Pop’ has become pseudo-synonymous with EDM. If you’ve been living under a Rock, or at least living under ‘Rock and Roll’ – EDM is an uber generalized term for the bass heavy, synth rich Dance Music you hear coming from those Tweens, 20-anythings and young professionals in the car next to you… or, at the gym, on the sidewalk or in a State of the Union address. Honestly, it’s just everywhere at this point. And that includes Red Rocks.
“Over the 50 years, the biggest and brightest pop stars in the music industry have graced the Amphitheater stage…” – but even that’s a loaded statement. For some, ‘Pop’ is the culmination of redundant records on the radio, for others, it’s the ‘Sound of the Youth’ and even then – you can just make the argument that ‘Pop’ is simply what sells. All statistics aside, ‘Pop’ is a simple, watered down version of the complexities of ‘Underground’ Dance Music that’s made acceptable for approval by the masses. Starting in the 60’s, fans at the Rocks bore witness to the musical genius of The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, John Denver, Fleetwood Mac, Rush and Jimi Hendrix. This is the location where U2’s fabled ‘Under a Blood Red Sky‘ was filmed. As we catapulted into the 90’s – Rock Bands from Dave Matthews, Incubus and Oasis to A Perfect Circle, Phish and Colorado’s own The String Cheese Incident have all hosted musically monumental events at Red Rocks.
As we ushered in a new millennium, Red Rocks witnessed a parallel changing of the guard. In addition to raucous rock and roll evenings, the night air at Red Rocks is filled with the delirious, delectable Electro sounds from industry greats – for at least one night a year. In 1999 local radio station KTCL hosted the first ‘Rave on the Rocks‘ with The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim; and in, 2000, Moby became the first solo EDM artist to perform at Red Rocks. Rave in the Rocks eventually disintegrated and reappeared as Global Dance Festival – a recurring, now multiday, Music Festival at the Rocks in the Summer. And let’s not forget, the grounds also play host to annual events like Punk at the Rocks, ‘Reggae on the Rocks’ ‘Opera on the Rocks’, The Mayor’s Jazz Festival and more.
As the decade wore on, there were spotted dance acts including Paul Oakenfold in 2002, Daft Punk in 2007 and STS9 starting in 06 (who never left the bill, and trust me – no one is complaining about that!) but the only real EDM show in town was Global Dance. It wasn’t until 2011 that the people of Morrison were truly taken for a spin. Yes, it’s true that there were more shows in general – jumping from 74 events in ’08 to 98 in ’11, but a larger proportion of acts also had deep roots in EDM. In one concert season, ears and eyes feasted on Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, The Glitch Mob, Thievery Corporation, Benny Benassi, and LMFAO – a 700% increase in solo performance EDM nights at the venue compared to previous years. The amount doubled the next year, with 2 nights of Bassnectar and Pretty Lights (not combined, mind you, I would have known about that one…), Avicii, Kaskade, Skrillex, and Justice in addition to previous performers. And it was only uphill, or downhill, from there – depending on how you want to look at it.
Between graduations, Festivals, Concerts and community events – 2014 has been the heaviest scheduled event season ever at Red Rocks with over 150 Scheduled Events – and over 10% of them were EDM. From Flux Pavillion to Zeds Dead, Global Dance to 2 nights of Skrillex, it went off this Summer at the Rocks. Red Rocks even went HARD thanks to Gary Richard’s – and now, the city of Morrison wants us to go home.
The first time there was a crack down on the musical mayhem at Red Rocks it was almost 50 years ago. Back in the 70’s, a rowdy group of Jethro Tull fans changed the game for the next five years as non-ticket holders attempted to crash the festival – this led to a ban on ‘heavier sounding’ acts that was finally dropped in ’75. And now, it’s happening again. The heavy metalhead turned dubstep producer and most epices of DJs, Bassnectar literally brought the noise – busting out his own speakers and incurring over $100,000 in fines at the Rocks – on multiple occasions. Over time, this pushed the residents of Morrison– and then the city of Denver – to enact a new noise ordinance on the area. In a tour de force, the music community came together to help contribute to the atrocious fine as well as speak up in support of his decision to be heard loud and clear, but that doesn’t change how the legislators and residents feel.
In 2013, the city of Denver imposed several sound regulations over Red Rocks. And now again in 2015, we’re witnessing yet another schedule heavily riddled with EDM and a city with residents that want the genre banned all together. Set in motion at the beginning of the year, there are some new regulations for artists to take notice of. Instead of having a to tone down the music, 2013’s music regulations are now extended to the entire set. The entire show must be at or below 105 dB for one minute averages, and the bass levels are limited to 125 dB between 25 and 80 Hz for one minute averages. The weekday music curfew has been moved a quarter of an hour back to 11:45 pm, and on weekends – the music has to shut off by 12:30am. The sound levels are measured independently by the city’s equipment at the Front of House, and performers can be fined $10,000 for every five times the one minute dB limit is surpassed – not to mention $5,000 for every half hour they go over curfew. Going into effect January 1st, the new laws stipulate that the City of Denver has the authority to ban any offending artist for the subsequent concert season.
Though some artists aren’t happy, others – including Pretty Lights labelmate Michal Menert don’t seem to take issue:
As an audiophile myself, I whole heartedly agree. Though there’s a lot of music I love listening to loud and proud, when you change the volume on any song – you’re presented with new nuances in tonalities and melodies, a novel way of interpreting the melodies and a richer understanding of the song. Generation Y, Y-Not, or Generation NOW seems to disagree – and has brought an influx of music that effortlessly blends together in a barrage of bass defaced by drops. When you add that on top of rocks that are already breaking apart and falling on fans, well, you’re going to have a bad time. So, bring on a new era of music at the infamous rocks and let’s see how (or if) this season’s musicians – including Adventure Club, Excision, Chromeo and Odesza – fare under new regulation.
Do you live in Morrison or does your city have amplification regulations?
Are you a musical artist that feels slightly devalued by their sonic restrictions or do you merely see this as a minor obstacle?
Or, are you a fan that just likes your music loud, bass filled and proud?
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below?