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Liner Notes

Spending the summer with live music

Small venues provide big shows

If there’s a better part of summer than music under the stars, I don’t know what it is.

Colorado has no shortage of picturesque locations for summer concerts, and while everyone is well aware of places like Red Rocks, many more intimate venues exist that provide a lovely setting for some classic acts.

The Denver Botanic Gardens, Arvada Center and Hudson Gardens in Littleton have concert lineups that are shining jewels.

“What makes a good concert series is a mix of the new with the familiar,” said Barry Osborne, marketing manager with Swallow Hill Music, which puts on the concerts at the Botanic Gardens and Arvada Center. “We want these experiences to be like relaxing in your backyard, listening to something you really love.”

The lineups at all three venues tend toward classic rock acts, with musicians like Three Dog Night coming to the Arvada Center, Joan Jett, Firefall and Yes heading to Hudson, and Stephen Stills, Judy Collins and Randy Newman performing at the Botanic Gardens.

“People are really excited about Stills and Collins, particularly because Collins is a Colorado musician,” Osborne said. “Newman is such a great songwriter. I think it will be really interesting to see how he balances his deep, sarcastic songs with his popular movie songs.”

Blues wizards are always fantastic performers, and this summer offers a mix of old hands and the new guard performing. The Robert Cray Band and Jonny Lang will be stopping by Arvada, Littleton will host The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, and the Botanic Gardens hosts blues god Buddy Guy and a special co-headlining performance with Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’.

“The Taj Mo’ show is going to be really special, because they’re in such high demand as solo artists,” Osborne said. “They’re well-known friends, and seeing them together will reinvent the way they approach their music.”

Among the three venues, all your stylistic bases are covered. A fan of country and bluegrass? Clint Black and The Punch Brothers are heading your way.

More of a jazz fan? You can’t miss Herbie Hancock and Béla Fleck & The Flecktones and The Chick Corea Elektric Band.

For pop lovers, The B-52s, Michael McDonald, Loverboy and Survivor will all be in town.

And if your leanings take you off the beaten path, José González and Dweezil Zappa playing years of his father’s music will more than serve.
As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. So I encourage you to check out one of these venues and see someone you’ve always been curious or have heard good things about.

“We’ve got the whole summer ahead,” Osborne said, “and we’re really excited about it.”

Me, too.

Clarke Reader’s column on how music connects to our lives appears every other week. A community editor with Colorado Community Media, he is so excited to see Randy Newman live — he better play “Sail Away.” Check out his music blog at calmacil20.blogspot.com. And share what concerts you’ll be going to this summer at creader@coloradocommunitymedia.com.


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