Every artist who makes it to Red Rocks knows that they're on hallowed ground as they pass through a secret tunnel, smattered with signatures of those who proceeded them, beneath the stage. And that energy rubs off on the audience in a way that makes every Red Rocks show intimate and special.
And like the artists who spend a lifetime developing their craft, Red Rocks as a music venue came about slowly. Its sandstone walls rose from a prehistoric ocean floor 300 million years ago. From then on, it was shaped by eons of freezing and thawing, rain and wind. The amphitheater is anchored by two mighty monoliths, Ship Rock to the south and Creation Rock to the north, perched in the foothills beneath the Continental Divide. The area was originally known as the "Garden of Angels."
The idea of turning this stunning outcropping, only 15 miles from Denver, into a concert venue goes back to at least the early 1900s. Its steward at the time, John Brisben Walker, started producing small concerts. He later sold the land to the City of Denver. Thanks to federal funding and labor from the Civilian Conservation Corps and Work Projects Administration, Walker's dream was taken to the next level with a 12-year construction effort. With an eye toward protecting the natural beauty, the amphitheater took on its modern form. It was officially dedicated in 1941.
The Beatles performed there in 1964, marking the first rock ‘n' roll event of epic proportions. After that, the stars kept coming. Sonny & Cher, the Carpenters, Carole King, Depeche Mode, Jimi Hendrix, Rush, the Grateful Dead, Stevie Nicks, Phish, Neil Young, Kenny Chesney, Florence + The Machine. This list goes on and on, representing every genre. Live concerts, music videos, TV shows and movies were also filmed at the venue. In 1983, U2 experienced a watershed moment that made the Irish group internationally famous for its iconic album, "U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky."
While the artists come and go and literally leave their marks, Red Rocks endures. Whether visitors venture out to hike the trails within the surrounding park, do early morning yoga on the concert stands or see an evening show, the unique venue provides its own brand of unforgettable moments.
Happy birthday, Red Rocks!
Click on the image below to take a virtual tour of Red Rocks Amphitheatre via Google Street View.