Summer's here and the time is right for jetting off to see Kanye and Elton at Bonnaroo, or Eminem and Kings of Leon at Lollapalooza, or the Killers and Tom Petty at Outside Lands.
Unless, like us, you can't afford it.
Happily, there's no shortage of summer festivals right here on the Front Range. Less hyped, to be sure, but also less expensive and, in many cases, more intriguing. Here are some of the most interesting and eclectic, all within reach and ready to fulfill your summer festival needs.
Five Points Jazz festival (May 17, various Five Points neighborhood sites, Denver, facebook.com/fivepointsjazz)
One of Denver's oldest and most culturally diverse neighborhoods, Five Points has been home to venues that once played host to jazz deities ranging from Duke to Dizzy and Miles to Monk. Now in its 11th year, this free festival carries on in that hallowed tradition, with some two dozen jazz acts on eight stages, including the Brad Leali Orchestra and the Nelson Rangell Quartet. Find more details in this week's Reverb column here.
MeadowGrass Music Festival (May 23-25, La Foret Conference Center, rockymountainhighway.org/meadowgrass)
The Memorial Day weekend festival's 2014 lineup ranges from Colorado favorites Elephant Revival and Canadian "fusion-folk" band The Duhks to West Coast indie stalwarts Mother Hips (who were Americana way before you were Americana). Also look for lots of food and beer, campfire performances under the stars, and workshops with a number of the main-stage acts — including stunningly talented newcomer Caitlin Rose, who'll be interviewed in next week's Indy.
Westword Music Showcase (June 21, various downtown Denver locations, westword.com)
While the Denver Post has its Underground Music Showcase (see below), its alt-weekly rival hosts the Westword Music Showcase. Based on the acts announced so far, Westword is in the lead with main-stage headliners Diplo and 2 Chainz. Diplo is best known for his collaborative role in M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" as well as his own oddball dancehall project, Major Lazer. 2 Chainz is, of course, the ubiquitous featured guest on dozens of hip-hop hits like Drake's "All Me" and Nicki Minaj's "Beez in the Trap." And with 150 mostly local acts on 12 stages, that's just scratching the surface.
Blues Under the Bridge (July 19, 218 W. Colorado Ave., under the Colorado Avenue bridge, bluesunderthebridge.com)
Once the sun's gone down and performers are cast in silhouette against passing trains, this festival can be as atmospheric as your favorite Robert Johnson or Howlin' Wolf songs. The 2014 Blues Under the Bridge lineup ranges from Texas blues heavyweight Sugaray Rayford to Australian blueswoman Kara Grainger, as well as local favorites like the Austin Young Band.
Underground Music Showcase (July 24-27, various Denver locations, theums.com)
This festival has been touted as "Denver's very own version of Austin's SXSW." Of course, the Mile High City has a long way to go before it can compete with the Live Music Capital of the World, but with some 500 acts playing a couple dozen stages over the course of four days, this Denver Post-sponsored event is still pretty impressive. This year's lineup includes People Under the Stairs, Real Estate, Blonde Redhead, Baths and Colorado Springs' own El Toro de la Muerte, with many, many more performers to be announced.
Fiddles, Vittles & Vino (July 27, Rock Ledge Ranch, fiddlesvittlesandvino.com)
In what's easily among the 10-year-old festival's biggest booking coups, David Grisman will be headlining this year's FV&V. The "dawg music" mandolinist and bandleader did seven collaborative albums with Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, and has released dozens of critically acclaimed albums with his own bands. In addition to Grisman's FolkJazz Trio, the event will feature performances by WMD Bluegrass Band, Grass It Up, Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout.
Warped Tour (Aug. 3, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, vanswarpedtour.com)
Over the course of two decades, Warped has become an annual rite of passage, drawing new generations of metal-heads and scene-queens who get nearly as excitable as Faygo fans at a Gathering of the Juggalos. Denver is the 44th and final date on this year's tour, which means that bands ranging from Air Dubai and Anberlin to We the Kings and We Are the In Crowd will either be totally tight or weary and wasted.
Mad Decent Block Party feat. OutKast (Aug. 22, Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, Greenwood Village, fiddlersgreenamphitheatre.net)
When's the last time you've had the chance to see OutKast? The much-revered hip-hop duo is following up on last month's Coachella performance with a reunion tour of more than 40 festivals, including this one in Greenwood Village. "It's truly an honor to celebrate 20 years and still be free to do music the way we choose," says Big Boi in the tour's press announcement. "Don't just think outside the box, know that there is no box." Other performers will include Flosstradamus, GRiZ, Liz, and Run The Jewels.
Indy Music Awards Festival (Sept. 4, Tejon Street stages and venues, csindy.com)
Don't worry: You'll be hearing a lot more about our annual festival, which features winners in our local music readers' poll, after balloting happens this summer. For now, suffice it to say that there will once again be multiple stages downtown, featuring full-length sets by IMA winners as well as special collaborations between artists from a wide range of genres.
Riot Fest (Sept. 19-21, Denver, riotfest.org)
We're not sure how Denver got to be one of the three cities to host 2013's Riot Fest, but it made a great first impression with acts like the Replacements (what's left of them) and Iggy Pop (what's left of him), as well as Rocket from the Crypt, Guided by Voices and others. As of this writing, 2014's Denver lineup has yet to be announced, but if it's even a fraction as interesting as Toronto's (Flaming Lips, Die Antwoord, Rise Against, Buzzcocks, Thurston Moore, the Head and the Heart, Death Cab for Cutie, etc.), you'll want to get your tickets fast.