The sun set slowly and left soft rays of light to rest on the warmly tinted landscape that separates the Great Plains from the base of the Rocky Mountains. Groups of young men and women wearing flower headbands gathered in a valley surrounded by a formation of glowing monolithic stones. The ending of summer, the beauty of Colorado, and the spirit of Boulder came alive in a single evening.
Jam-band fans from all over the state gathered to watch the band Lotus. But in the midst of it all, a mini-Boulder emerged, complete with thousands of CU students, as well as others from town. They gathered for a night of song, dance, and live music in the heart of nature.
Friday’s show was electronic jam at Red Rocks Amphitheater, and tomorrow it could be bluegrass jam at The Boulder Theater. The day and place carry secondary importance to the culture.
Boulder jam-music fans have developed a culture that follows them to various shows and welcomes all comers. It is as much about connecting with the experience as it is about the music.
“You can tell we’re all from Boulder because of our spirit,” said 24-year-old Braden Waller at the Lotus show.
Upon arrival to the venue, the parking lot, which many call the “lot,” served as the prime social gathering spot for Boulder’s attendees. People stood next to the open trunks of their cars and drank beer as they socialized and met friends.
The scene resembled a tailgate of sorts, augmented by the added Boulder flare of Grateful Dead t-shirts, Hula Hoops, and crystal trades.
People walked around the lot with no specific destination and met new friends, bonding over their outfits and tastes in music. The amicable Boulderite culture became apparent with their similarities in disposition— casual, cool, and laid-back.
Though this phenomenon is representative of Boulder’s jam-music scene, it is recognized universally. Paste Magazine’s journalist Josh Baron describes the scene as “a nomadic and transient community of people who love music and a good time. This is tailgating at it’s best.”
“I’ve seen Lotus all over, and no other fans are like us- they don’t dress up or groove like we do,” Waller said.
And this “groove” intensified as soon as the moon rose and the lot ramblers all drifted into the show. People tilted their heads up, closed their eyes, and smiled as they swayed with the music, without adherence to the groups they came with.
The kinetic energy seemed contagious in the venue. The show on stage, the people in the crowd, the lights reflecting into the monoliths, and even the distant lights of Downtown Denver behind the stage reflected movement and positivity.
The show served as a culmination of preparations and a necessary way to end the summer for some.
“I have been waiting for this night all summer,” said Valerie Reynolds, a 23-year-old CU Boulder student.
“It took me skipping a lot of other shows to save enough money to come, but everyone’s here tonight and I wouldn’t miss it.”
Just a year ago, the people of Boulder had just begun a long recovery process from the devastating September 2013 flood that ravaged Boulder and left many homeless or with significant damages. Yet the crowd of Boulder’s youth this night embodied a resilience and bond, strong as the red rocks themselves.
Perhaps it was the fresh air of the forest, or the aura of the rocks that electrified the night. Or perhaps it was the youth culture of Boulder that brought power to the rocks.
One thing remains certain about a night at Red Rocks—in the spirits of Boulderites such as Braden Waller.
“It’s pretty much a Boulder phenomenon and a great tradition.”