Road trips and live music: A summer festival preview |

Road trips and live music: A summer festival preview

Andrew Fersch
Vail CO, Colorado

Summers were made for music festivals: warm breezes, sunburns and drunk strangers getting friendly while being serenaded by whatever style of music they happen to be smitten with at the moment. Colorado has its share of music festivals in the summertime, but to really experience the full spectrum of offerings, a road trip ” the other staple of summer ” might just be in order.

The summer music festival scene kicks off this weekend in Indio, Calif. Stagecoach Music Festival is a three-day country music extravaganza held on the Empire Polo Grounds. It will feature over 50 of today’s largest country stars, including Tim McGraw, Dwight Yoakam, Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, Dierks Bentley, The Eagles, Hayes Carll and more. This yee-hawing three-dayer may be a scalder even this early in the year, but there are too many cool artists and too many great extras (a rodeo, BBQ competitions, horseback riding) for that to be of any concern. Visit for more information.

For those who just can’t get enough country music, the CMA Music Festival (previously known as FanFair) is in Nashville, Tenn. from June 5 through 8. The four days are so packed with opportunities it seems unfair to only mention some of what will be happening in Music City, USA. With over 100 of the biggest (and future biggest) names in the country playing throughout the city with nightly blow-outs at LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans, this is a worthwhile investment for anyone who wants to truly experience country music in country music’s one true home. Faith Hill, Jewel, Sugarland, Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins, Billy Ray Cyrus and Randy Travis are just the tip of the iceberg. Visit for more information.

Fret not, those of you who would rather get stabbed in the face with a soldering iron than listen to a minute, let alone days, of country music. Just in time for high schoolers to involve themselves in a completely unreasonable (and amazing), once-in-a-lifetime experience, Bonnaroo returns to lovely Manchester, Tenn., from June 12 through 15, for three days of farm life. That is if farm life involved living with a small city of the most interesting and insane people to ever gather on a seemingly never-ending field. The soundtrack to Bonnaroo is more diverse than a college recruitment poster, with every possible genre represented. Pearl Jam, Metallica, OAR, Chris Rock, BB King, Talib Kweli, Mason Jennings and Jack Johnson are literally just a handful of the artists who will be playing this four-day test of just how much live music and debauchery you can take. Visit for more information.

So maybe being sandwiched between a hippie and a frat boy isn’t your bag, or perhaps you just don’t feel like hopping in the car with four friends for a 24-hour ride. Fortunately, Telluride’s Bluegrass Festival, June 19 through 22, cuts no corners this year, getting bigger and better names than ever before. Ryan Adams, Del McCoury, Ani DiFranco, Ricky Skaggs, Bela Fleck and Leftover Salmon are joined by more than 20 of their peers at the only festival consciously working to become truly green (the festival was even given its own day by Gov. Ritter for these efforts). Visit for more information.

Grand Junction doesn’t want to be left out either; it may not be a sustainable environment at Country Jam from June 26 through 29, but there’s certain to be a lot of recycled styles (mullets and cut-off jean shorts at the very least). Boasting some of the most beloved underdogs of country music today, Country Jam is more of a who’s who of artists who don’t get enough credit for how good they are. Rodney Atkins, Clay Walker, Josh Turner, and Little Big Town all headline, with Tim McGraw thrown in there just to satisfy anyone and everyone who might show. Visit for more information.

Maybe you were waiting all winter for something with a little more kick to it. Not to worry. Traveling festivals stop in town from time to time and on June 29 the Warped Tour will invade Bronco Country for their own punk rock extravaganza. Warped Tour will set up shop at Invesco Field with more than five stages and 50 bands rocking till the sun goes down. Blink 182’s newest incarnation, Angels and Airwaves, is joined by Gym Class Heroes, Relient K, The Academy Is …, Reel Big Fish, ex Dropkick Murphys lead Mike McColgan’s newest band, Street Dogs, and many more. Visit for more information.

Ryland Steen, drummer for Reel Big Fish, said he’s looking forward to the Warped Tour show.

“I’m really excited about playing with the other bands, The Beat Union, Say Anything, the Aggrolites ” they’re all good friends,” Steen said. “It’s my first (Warped Tour). I’m definitely excited, being able to hang out with friends all summer long. When you get to know people in bands you never get to see them because they’re in bands, too. From what I understand, it’s just a pretty crazy summer vacation. You play your half hour set, then you are free to do whatever you want.”

That fun punk rock atmosphere is likely to rub off on the crowd, who Steen assumes will likely not see the inside of Invesco that day.

“I’m guessing it’ll probably actually be in the parking lot, then you get to thinking, ‘Well, where does everybody park?’ I would just tell people to bring lots of sunblock and money for water.”

Mike McColgan of the Street Dogs said the band intends to have a good time but really only have one goal for the Warped Tour.

“We’re just pretty focused on what we’re doing: striving every day to make an impact, everywhere we go, make a mark,” McColgan said.

Anyone over the age of 25 might remember the good ole days of festivals, when there was one, maybe two stages, and the bands weren’t always well known, but about to blow up. Or at least you might remember them if you were ever fortunate enough to attend Lollapalooza to see Rage Against the Machine and Tool open for everyone else. These days, Lollapalooza is one more festival that picks the best of the best (already known bands) and showcases them. From Aug. 1 through 3 in Chicago, Ill., Perry Farrell brings back some of those bands he first helped break onto the national scene and put them together with an eclectic mix of well-knowns and a healthy dose of newbies. Radiohead, Wilco, Kanye West, Dierks Bentley and John Butler join old pros Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine (and more than 50 others) for the original alternative music festival. Visit for more information.

Dierks Bentley, who is playing both Stagecoach and Lollapalooza took a few minutes to talk about the upcoming festival season.

“I really love festivals, but the variety of touring feels great. I like being in control of our tour, but this time of year, after a long tour [over 100 days], I’m looking forward to being outside ” the feel, the atmosphere,” Dierks said.

Dierks is especially looking forward to playing with other Lollapalooza musicians.

“I’m a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails. Just to meet [Trent Reznor] will be great … It’ll just be fun to be a part of the whole deal.”

Whether you find joy in camping, hanging out in a cowboy hat, listening to aging rockers, getting into the pit, or just relaxing in one of the most pristine environments in Colorado while being serenaded, there’s something for you to do. After all, summertime really was made for festivals, and these days, there are an awful lot to choose from.

Andrew Fersch is a freelance writer for the Vail Daily. Visit his Web site at to read the full interviews for this story. E-mail questions or comments about this story to

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