The whole state’s a stage

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Among the dozens of questions I answered during the first month or so I lived in Denver, one of the most frequent one was, “are you going to go to any shows this summer?”

On face value, this might strike you as an odd question. I mean, why would anybody care about a plan that specific?

You see, the Mile High City happens to be home to a hell of a music scene and more than a few impressive venues, including the world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, about 25 minutes from downtown Denver.

Even in the weeks leading up to my move out here, friends in Florida and elsewhere would exclaim that I’d be able to go and check out concerts at Red Rocks. It’s the kind of venue that seemingly everyone’s aware of, whether they’d even been to Colorado or not.

And regardless of who was asking, my response was always the same: “You know, I’m actually not really a live-music kind of guy.”

As you can imagine, that got me some looks like I’d grown a second head. Who doesn’t like live music?

For me, it’s probably been out of silly insecurity than anything else. Worried about not knowing every word to every single song that the band played, not knowing a single song the openers played, not knowing how to dance without looking like I was having a seizure, being an awkward rhythmless white guy in general.

It’s not like I’d never been to a concert, but the last ones I can even remember seeing were arena shows in Brisbane back in 9th and 11th grade, and a 50 Cent gig the night before my college graduation. That makes it at least a dozen years, if not longer, since I bought a ticket to a show.

When I first started dating Alex, the get-to-know-ya conversation of course included music, and I knew it would eventually come to “going to see a show.” When I begrudgingly told her my stance, my confession was met with more excitement than derision. I’m paraphrasing, but the response was something to the effect of, “I’m taking you to a show this summer.”

Within mere days, I’d already agreed to join Alex, her older brother and his girlfriend at a Pitbull show at the Pepsi Center on a Tuesday night. My fear remained that I a) can’t dance and b) couldn’t name a Pitbull song if I tried, but I’d have agreed to attend a dramatic reading of the phone book if she’d asked me to.

But with enough liquid courage before the show, I loosened up and did indeed enjoy myself. And wouldn’t you know? I actually knew a bunch of the songs Mr. Worldwide sang on the night. He’s a hell of a showman.

With my Denver concert virginity taken, I began to be more open to the idea of seeing a show or two across the course of the summer. I had no idea that I’d get my next chance just three nights later, when Alex offered up a spare ticket to a show she and her friends were going to at Red Rocks.

I ummed and ahhed about it for a couple hours. I had absolutely never heard of the bands on the bill, Red Rocks was entirely unfamiliar territory to me apart from one workout on the bleachers there in 2013, and had money on the back of my mind after spending a not-quite-small figure on food and drink before the Pitbull show a few nights prior.

In the end I replied in the affirmative — again, I’d have gone with Alex to a cow shit-shoveling convention if she’d invited me — and so we all set off around 5:30 for Red Rocks. And as we walked the steep slopes to the amphitheater, I was immediately blown away. We had a beautiful June evening unfolding in front of us, the rock faces surrounding the bleacher seating were glowing and the drinks were flowing.

As Nahko and Medicine for the People really got stuck into their set, I looked around at the scene I’d found myself in, and I was completely awestruck to the point of being overwhelmed. Ah to hell with it, I had tears in my eyes. The sunset, the company, the music, the stunning scenery, the feeling of being one with a crowd that couldn’t care less than I didn’t know the band, didn’t know the songs, moved like a plank — it was incredible. I’d go so far as to say it was life-changing.

After that, I was hooked. Due to the Liquid Courage Machine, I felt like death warmed over the next morning at work, but at least it was a Saturday and I could have a couple extra hours of sleep before I went to the office. But I can’t deny that I went straight to the Red Rocks concert schedule to see who else I might want to go see before the season was out.

Since then I’ve bought tickets to see Nahko again in December as well as seen Common and Lauryn Hill (although we missed En Vogue opening), A Tribe Called Quest, The Xx, LCD Soundsystem and Delbert McClinton. The latter we threw on Pandora at the bar one Saturday afternoon after discovering he was playing down the street. Nobody had heard of him, but his music was funky enough that we all ended up at the Ogden, a 100-year-old theater a few blocks away, mere hours later for $20 a head.

It’s not just music that Denver has to offer either. In the short space of seven months I’ve seen comedy ranging from open mic night at the local taco joint on a Saturday night to a weeknight New Faces competition at a comedy joint downtown to my personal favorite, Dave Chappelle, at the convention center when my aunt visited. That was a show and a half, and so high-caliber that the theater required to either leave your phones at home or have them locked in pouches so that photos and video recording were impossible.

And who could forget the chance to see a pre-Broadway performance of Disney’s “Frozen,” which did a test run in Denver before it headed to New York City. That was the night I discovered the bar at the Denver Center for Performing Arts does NOT dick around when it comes to wine pours pre- and mid-show. Woof.

So it’s safe to say that, now that Denver’s most definitely going to be my home for the foreseeable future, my apathy to live music may have been cured. It’s funny how you can realize you enjoy something if you just let someone you trust ease you into it a little bit, right?

I guess this is growing up.

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