- Getty Images for Stagecoach/Kevin Winter
- Aaron Watson’s eclectic mix of indie and country styles will keep the crowds happy at the upcoming Colorado State Fair.
As the month of August winds down, we find Labor Day weekend coming up quickly and signaling the end of summer. But this actually means good news on the local music front, as the weekends ahead feature, accordingly, a wealth of small festivals to take in along with your regularly scheduled shows.
The first — and lengthiest — to-do is the Colorado State Fair, which features 11 full days of entertainment nestled amidst all the corn dogs you could possibly eat. Concert attendees can catch a fairly diverse lineup between Aug. 23 and Sept. 2. There’s some heavy, post-grunge rock in the form of Halestorm, a generous collection of classic rock via tributes to The Doors, Aerosmith and others, plus the actual 38 Special and the actual Beach Boys (well, by that, I mean Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and some other guys). Even Norteño legend Ramón Ayala, who was instrumental in making the accordion a staple of the genre, will be performing.
As one might expect, however, the State Fair lineup’s bread and butter, if you’ll allow such a shoddy State Fair pun, is in its country artists, led by BMI award-winner Granger Smith (and his alter-ego, Earl Dibbles Jr.), Jackson Michelson, Brett Young and Aaron Watson.
Watson will likely be of particular interest to a broad spectrum of country fans, as his material ranges from rootsy, classic country-inspired to more modern, rock-influenced, and always performed with a staunchly independent mindset that’s never too eager to conform to entirely traditional or mainstream ideas. His 2015 LP The Underdog managed to top both the Billboard Country and Indie charts, and his subsequent effort, 2017’s Vaquero, topped out at number 10 on the Billboard 200.
Watson’s latest release, the 20-track, 2019 LP Red Bandana, has enjoyed similar crossover success, and its fairly sprawling tracklist allows Watson ample opportunity to explore a wide variety of styles and sonic territories.
While there are local artists peppered throughout all of the upcoming festivals, probably the best avenue for enjoying the most concentrated dose of local talent will be the 45th annual Commonwheel Labor Day Arts Festival, which is held from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, in Manitou Springs’ Memorial Park.
As you’ve probably grown to expect, Commonwheel features a musical lineup as diverse as the art on display, featuring sets from singer-songwriters John Spengler, Dave Arvizu and Andy Clifton; indie-rockers Edith; and some more extrinsic sounds, courtesy of Roma Ransom, Mizmar Madness and Mistura Bela, among many others. The full schedule of participating musicians and artists, along with other information on the festivities, is available at commonwheel.com.
The fun actually extends beyond Labor Day, as the following weekend of Sept. 6 to 8 finds the jam-packed Compound Sound Music, Art and Camping Festival held at Hummingbird Ranch near Rye, Colorado. Like its fellow Hummingbird Ranch-based Sonic Bloom Festival, Compound Sound looks to be an ideal getaway for fans of bass music and other EDM, showcasing over 50 artists (with yet more likely to be announced) across two stages.
Along with a slew of regional talent — Boulder-based bass-funk purveyor Jantsen, Denver-based Late Night Radio and the eclectic Eminence Ensemble, just for starters — attendees can look forward to sets from Psymbionic, Austin’s Govinda and German DJ Bukez Finezt, all in a downright bucolic setting.
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