Every year when July rolls around, most people in the US are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day. A select few may be observing the first-ever Walmart’s opening day or Sony’s introduction of the Walkman. Conversely, for the residents of one small Denver suburb, the first week of July marks a painful anniversary. Morrison, CO, home to a population of roughly 430 primarily senior citizens, is also home to the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. Every July 2-3 (since 2014) Zeds Dead delivers Red Rocks’ first major EDM event of the summer- Dead Rocks. With six installments of the event now on the books, the yearly explosion of Morrison noise complaints seems more like a tradition. After two bass-fueled days on the rocks with 1788-L, Liquid Stanger, Noisia, Zeds Dead and more, those complaints were surely flying at Mach speed.
The open-air atmosphere, amazing natural acoustics, and breathtaking views. It’s easy to see why Red Rocks is a premier destination on every DJ’s tour wish list. Hence why Dead Rocks never misses a summer festival season on the rocks. No matter the genre, the beats always sound bangin’ when they bounce off of these hallowed walls which turns every experience ,and the bass, up a notch (Just ask the residents of Morrison). At least, once you get inside that’s the case. As you can see from the photo above, the venue is literally carved into the side of a huge slab of bedrock. Furthermore, it sits at an elevation of nearly 5,800 feet. Just getting inside is an event all its own, especially if you fail to snag parking in the upper north lot.
If so, strap in for a decently strenuous trudge up the side of a hill to one of the entrances. Once inside- more stairs. Or rather, nothing but stairs. Unless you camp out at the top in the vendor areas, they’re an unavoidable drawback of partying atop a foothill. Nevertheless, the music and vibes more than make up for any unwanted exercise.
Pros And Cons
The nature of the venue inhibits people from venturing too far from the crew. No more wandering through a sea of kids trying to meet up with lost (or wasted) friends. Nor are there hordes of people constantly pushing past you, elbowing their way to the front. Additionally, Red Rocks’ ban on totems/hula hoops is still in full effect, so no concerns about dealing with any of that nonsense either. Groups generally find a spot to call theirs and post-up throughout the night. This too is ideal when trying to go full-on into a Dead Rocks headbanging sesh. It actually makes for a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. It creates better opportunities to have meaningful interactions with the other attendees, as a result. Obviously, that’s a huge part of the lore that is synonymous with the Red Rocks experience. Still, though, back-to-back 7-hour shows on the Rocks will kick anyone’s ass! Wear comfortable shoes.
Besides the stairs from hell, the other major setback is the early start and end to the show. The gates pop at 5 pm which doesn’t leave much time if you’re heading to the party from work. The 20-minute drive from Denver quickly becomes an hour in peak traffic. Similarly, by showing up at say… 9 pm (the usual nightlife jump-off point), you’ll miss all the other acts. Due to area noise ordinances, the venue pulls the plug on the music promptly at 11:30 pm. Long gone are the days of partying on the rocks ’til 2 in the morning. However, the organizers are attempting to mitigate the problem by hosting after parties. One for each night featuring Zeds Dead and other artists on the bill. Enlisting, the Gothic Theater for the festivities, bassheads can keep the party going until 4 am!
Beyond the sound and the beautiful location, Red Rocks has a demonstrative aura about it that cannot be broken. That, in and of itself, is reason enough to never miss out on one of these shows. Dead Rocks VI exemplifies this vibe which manifests itself in unique yet interconnected ways. Certainly, this all starts with the fans. Many of whom spend the entire day at the venue; tailgating before the gates open and after-partying in the lots afterward. Although the venue is in our proverbial backyards, parties on the rocks are always something special. Keep in mind, this is the sixth year of Dead Rocks too. Indeed, the event owes it’s longevity to the countless memories and friendships formed over the years. The hype over the nostalgia is contagious and keeps us all coming back for more.
On the other hand, the artists have a unique affinity for and perspective of their Red Rocks performances. For instance, the venue presented Zeds Dead with this commemorative cake honoring their sixth year as headliners. Powerful moments like these are rarely seen by fans that aren’t backstage. Chase that down with the feels of having 9500+ fans screaming down at you in a packed amphitheater- Undoubtedly, it’s an overwhelming experience. Particularly for Zeds Dead, whose fan base never fails to deliver the energy. The effects of that transfer of energy permeate the artists when they amp up their performance with emotional crowd engagement. Dead Rocks gives everyone involved a chance to annually renew these collective encounters which connect us all.
By its third year, Dead Rocks is already a signature Colorado bass music event. Now, it’s a certified festival spanning multiple dates and venues. Fortunately, the party is becoming more comprehensive with regard to bookings and genres, as a consequence. Sprinkling seasoned veterans in with hot up-and-coming acts while broadening the genre exposure suggests one thing- growth. Specifically, in each of the last three years, the event has undergone some form of expansion.
Over the course of the two-day party, you could hear future bass, trap, moombah, dubstep, drum & bass, glitch, bass house, electro, and breaks. Besides that, Dead Rocks VI brings the first ever Denver appearance of 1788-L who is killing the game right now. He brought his grimiest stuff for the occasion, delivering a dark and heavy dubstep set. Additionally, the rocks got a healthy dose of d&b from a high octane Noisia set. No stranger to the game, he put on an exhibition highlighting his expertise in mixing, track selection, and uplifting a crowd.
Zeds Dead closed out each night with bangin’ two-hour sets. Filling out each set are old favorites and new material with a dash of hip-hop here and there as usual. Their tribute to the late emcee Sean Price was definitely a highlight of night one. Beyond the beats, Dead Rocks VI also stepped up its stage production. This year’s setup includes a new variation of their LED DJ booth complimented by four 30-foot LED panels in the backdrop. The visuals seamlessly flowed throughout the booth and were fully integrated with the music, pyrotechnics, laser arrays, and fireworks. Sadly, the stage production isn’t nearly as dialed in for the other artists. That could’ve been a game changer. Nevertheless, the visual experience definitely brings everything full circle and is easily the best of the event series so far. The cherry on top- minimal intermissions. Hardly a noticeable pause before Zeds Dead took the stage.
Looking back, Dead Rocks VI was definitely one for the books. The biggest takeaway is the rate at which the event continues to grow. Seemingly, the event organizers are aware of this. The latest improvements confirm this and are pushing the event into the upper echelon of Colorado music festivals. Hopefully, Dead Rocks continues to grow. With plenty of empty space left up top, a second stage is the obvious next step. Or perhaps, a third day. Either way, Dead Rocks is sure to be back bigger and better next year and we can’t wait! See you there…
Be sure to check out the recap video below! Keep it locked on EDMTunes as we continue bringing you the freshest summer festival news.