Folk Band

Colorado Artist Spotlight: Swallow Hill Music

Swallow Hill Music has a long and impressive history as Denver’s home of roots music: folk, bluegrass, old-time, acoustic, Americana and beyond. The concept grew out of the idea that roots music concerts, and teaching enthusiasts how to play that music, could be combined into a nonprofit association. Harry Tuft, inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental in 2011, saw such an organization as a way to bring the best in folk artists to Colorado, while Julie Davis, a well-respected autoharp performer and teacher, added a music school to the equation. Swallow Hill was established in 1979 at Tuft’s Denver Folklore Center in the Swallow Hill neighborhood just east of downtown.

Now celebrating its fortieth anniversary, Swallow Hill has grown to become the nation’s second-largest roots music concert organization and music school. But the road to success was not always easy: As with the roots music it celebrates, interest in the organization suffered in the 1980s.

Early Roots of Swallow Hill Music

By the 1990s, though, a permanent home had been established at 1905 South Pearl Street. Under the Swallow Hill Music board and executive director Seth Weisberg (1987-1995), class enrollment swelled to 2,700, with Rebecca Micklitch as the school director. The number of concerts grew to almost 100 a year, with Meredith Carson as concert director.

Twenty years ago, under the leadership of Chris Daniels (executive director from 1995 to 2000, and inducted into the Hall in 2013), Swallow Hill moved into its current location at Yale Avenue and South Lincoln Street. But that was only the beginning of the organization’s real growth spurt.

Performances and Community Outreach

Swallow Hill Music now has a combined concert attendance well over 60,000 annually, and produces about 250 shows in the three concert halls at the group’s home at 71 East Yale Avenue, as well as the Denver Botanic Gardens series at York Street and at Chatfield Farms, the Oriental Theater and Four Mile Historic Park, to name a few venues. Today Swallow Hill Music School hosts 64,000 student visits each year, with seventy teachers who provide private lessons and classes for everyone from toddlers to seniors at the Yale Avenue location and satellite locations in the Highland and Lowry neighborhoods. And Swallow Hill’s Community Outreach programs create more than 75,000 music connections annually. These programs in Denver’s underserved communities bring music education and experiences into pre-schools, K-12 schools, libraries and senior centers, working with more than 200 schools and organizations across the Front Range.

Awards

Swallow Hill Music has won awards that include accolades from the El Pomar Foundation, the Mayor and Governor’s awards for excellence in the arts, and countless Best of Denver honors from Westword. Musicians and music fans around the country continue to heap praise on the organization.

Swallow Hill Testimonials

Says Mary Flower, award-winning blues guitarist, vocalist and a founding member of the Mother Folkers,”For me, Swallow Hill has been an enormous network of friends who have grown together since they worked behind the counter in their early twenties at the old Denver Folklore Center.”

According to Paul Kashmann, guitar player, former Swallow Hill board member and current Denver City Council representative, “There’s really nothing like Swallow Hill in that you can literally reach out and touch the performers, if you don’t pass them in the hall before the show.”

Folksinger Tish Hinojosa, spokesperson for the National Association of Bilingual Education, adds, “It’s wonderful to see them growing. It’s an encouraging sign for the power of acoustic music. The intellectual-circle places, like the Northeast, have ongoing music venues that have always presented acoustic and folk music. But in the heart of the country, it’s a little more rare. It’s great that Denver has one.”

Paul Lhevine, the current CEO of Swallow Hill Music, is effusive in his excitement about the organization’s potential. “The future looks ever more promising,” he says. “We continue to attract new audiences while paying homage to our historical roots – we’ve found ways to stay relevant in a quickly changing music scene. Our additional locations are proof-positive that folks want music in their neighborhoods, and our Community Outreach programs are ensuring that everyone in our community has an opportunity to learn and grow through music.”

Swallow Hill Music’s Induction into CMHOF

From the early dreams of a group of dedicated musicians at Harry Tuft’s Denver Folklore Center to the award-winning arts organization that it has become, Swallow Hill is one of the most vibrant music resources in not just Colorado but the nation. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is proud to induct Swallow Hill Music into the Hall of Fame. We are honored to celebrate the contribution of all the performers, teachers, volunteers, members and supporters who make Swallow Hill an essential part of this state’s music history.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Roman Zaiets

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Colorado Artist Spotlight: 3OH!3

3OH!3 came together in Boulder in 2004 during the Myspace cultural revolution. Founding members Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte named the electronic music duo after the area code that once covered all of Colorado, and what started as a way to entertain friends at parties soon grew into a musical phenomenon.

From the release of their first album in 2007, 3OH!3 has thrilled fans with one successful single after another and albums full of exciting tunes that blend multiple genres of music.

3OH!3 Hits

The self-titled debut album spawned 3OH!3’s first successful single, “Electroshock.” 3OH!3 signed with Photo Finish Records, a division of Atlantic, and since then, Foreman and Motte have continued to produce hit music for more than ten years.

Here are a few of the greatest 3OH!3 songs:

  • “Don’t Trust Me,” from the album Want
  • “Starstrukk,” also from Want, featuring Katy Perry
  • “Follow Me Down” written for the film Alice in Wonderland
  • “I Know How to Say,” featuring Kesha, written for Disney’s Mars Needs Moms
  • “Hit It Again,” released to iTunes in December 2010
  • “My First Kiss,” featuring Kesha, from the album Streets of Gold

Besides these singles, 3OH!3 contributed “Sex on the Beach,” a theme song for The Real World: Cancun, and created an anthem for the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team.

The duo’s music also appears via sampling in the work of other famous artists: Lil John sampled its music on the track “Hey” from his 2010 album Crunk Rock, and Kesha featured 3OH!3 on her song “Blah Blah Blah,” which went to number seven on the Billboard charts.

3OH!3 Performances

While 3OH!3 started out playing Colorado venues such as the Fox Theatre in Boulder and the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins, the act broke out on the Warped Tour 2008 and subsequently took their music all over the country at appearances like these:

  • MTVU Spring Break in Panama City Beach, Florida, on March 2009
  • Mile High Music Festival in Denver in July 2009
  • End Fest in Sacramento, California, in 2009
  • Kiss Concert ’09 in Mansfield, Massachusetts
  • Kiss the Summer Hello 2009 in Buffalo, New York
  • Reading/Leeds festival in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2009

3OH!3 Videos

In addition to its unique style of music, 3OH!3 is also known for some mind-blowing video work. The video for “Don’t Trust Me,” for example, tells the story of two male models who are the only survivors of a virus that wipes out every other man on the planet.

They appear in various famous locations around the world while beautiful women run toward them, but never seem to get close. And the video for “Starstrukk” is a collaboration with Katy Perry. These videos extend the feel of 3OH!3’s music to the visual realm.

 

More of 3OH!3 Coming Up

In 2018, the musicians behind 3OH!3 celebrated the tenth anniversary of the release of Want. Today they tell stories of couples who met at concerts in those early days and are now married and raising children.

Myspace has gone the way of the dodo, but 3OH!3’s music continues to evolve and grow for platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. A new generation is discovering the duo’s music in new ways.

Whether you’ve followed 3OH!3 for the last ten years or you’re new to their music, you can keep up with what’s next by visiting 3OH!3’s website, where you’ll find upcoming performances and appearances as well as fun merchandise.

3OH!3’s music brings people together from various personal and musical backgrounds, yet the team never takes themselves too seriously: Check it out and join the fun!

Also, make sure to visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental website for news of upcoming events and concerts.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Timo Nausch

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Listen up, Colorado!

Colorado’s music scene is about much more than its famous musicians: Without the support of music-minded businesses, this state’s award-winning scene might never have developed.

ListenUp’s Beginnings

Definitely deserving the status of best-supporting player, ListenUp has been an intrinsic part of the scene for almost five decades. The business got its start in 1972, when college friends Walt Stinson, Mary Kay Stinson and Steven Weiner opened a small storefront in Denver with a single goal: to offer the very best in sound. From there, ListenUp has grown into a company with over 100 employees and stores in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque and Portland, as well as a robust online presence that’s given it a global reputation. But providing incomparable sound and service remain the primary missions. “To put it simply, our goal is to create loyal and enthusiastic customers,” says Walt Stinson. “From staying ahead of the latest technologies and trends to hiring and retaining the people best qualified to take care of our clients, we are totally focused on that goal.”

ListenUp on The Road

To realize that goal, ListenUp has often taken its show on the road. In the mid-’70s, it orchestrated regular weekend concert broadcasts for KFML at the legendary Ebbets Field (where “Sound by ListenUp” became a hallmark), then went on to install the sound system as well as a recording studio at the legendary Rainbow Music Hall, founded by Colorado Music Hall of Fame members Barry Fey and Chuck Morris and which, like Ebbets, was named Billboard magazine’s Club of the Year. “We created a pretty amazing system – it still gets talked about,” remembers Stinson. “We were doing more live broadcasting than had ever been done in Denver’s history.”

LIstenUp & Technological Innovation

But soon ListenUp became known for another technological innovation: The founders bet the company’s future on compact discs, laying the groundwork for the CD market before the product even hit the streets in the early ‘80s and helping CMHOF inductee KBCO become one of the first stations in the country to adopt that digital format. A few years later, they created a custom installation department, focusing on the best in high-fidelity, high-definition sight and sound, an emphasis that continues to this day. When ListenUp moved its longtime headquarters at the start of the millennium, it created the cutting-edge Reference Theatre as a testing ground for new technologies.

LIstenUp’s Commitment to Excellent Service & Products

And since everything old is new again, ListenUp has rededicated itself to analog perfection with its world-class selection of turntables, accessories and service. From ListenUp’s hands-on customer service to its stellar reputation for commercial sound reinforcement, the company is a part of Colorado’s music past, present and future, continuing to provide sound systems for businesses and venues like Fiddler’s Green, as well as outfitting homes around the country. “Our knowledge of commercial systems prepared us well when home systems began to get more complex,” recalls Weiner. Adds Phil Murray, longtime ListenUp marketing manager, “We’ve helped music fans bring the excitement of a night at Red Rocks to their home audio systems.”

ListenUp Supporting the Music of Colorado

As Listen Up’s reputation continues to expand, it hasn’t forgotten the state it calls home, or the music fans who live here. And just as Walt Stinson was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2009, ListenUp has recognized Colorado’s own music all-stars. The company recently renewed its sponsorship of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental, in an extension of its commitment to the music community. ListenUp helped design and install the screens for the CMHOF’s archived movies and videos on display throughout our Trading Post location at Red Rocks; those movies bring the history of Colorado music to life for the thousands of music fans and visitors who see the Hall exhibits. “We’re proud to continue to support the state’s musical heritage through our involvement with the Colorado Music Hall of Fame,” says Murray.

Listen up, Colorado!

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Red Rocks Amphitheatre

History and Future of Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Over the past century, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has become one of the most storied venues not just in the United States, but around the world. Now it’s getting ready to open another chapter as the summer concert season kicks off in April.

Garden of the Angels

Back at the turn of the last century, John Brisben Walker realized that the 200-million-year-old formation of red rocks southwest of Denver provided the ideal acoustic environment for live performances, and began producing concerts there in addition to offering a thrill ride. In 1911, opera singer Mary Garden became the first nationally-recognized act to perform on a makeshift stage at what was then known as the Garden of the Angels. It was not long before the natural amphitheater was recognized as a Natural Wonder of the World.

Construction of The Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Later, the City of Denver purchased the property for just over $50,000. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps Works Progress Administration created by then-President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1936 the city began constructing a formal amphitheater in the rocks, along with other buildings.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre was officially dedicated on June 15, 1941. Into the ‘50s, orchestras and opera companies typically performedat Red Rocks. But soon solo artists began appearing more frequently.

The Beatles at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Concert Ban

The earliest rock performance at Red Rocks? The Beatles in 1964. It was the only venue on the band’s first U.S. tour that did not sell out. Many legendary acts followed. But during a Jethro Tull performance in 1971, an incident between concertgoers and police resulted in a five-year ban on any rock acts performing at Red Rocks.

U2 and Lifting of the Concert Ban Red Rocks Amphitheatre

That ban was lifted well before U2’s renowned show at Red Rocks in 1983. The performance was filmed, and later released as the band’s concert film U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky.

Live CDs and DVDs Recorded at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Other acts that have produced CD and DVD material at Red Rocks include the Dave Matthews Band, The Samples, The Moody Blues, Incubus, Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, Boukman Eksperyans and Neil Young. B.o.B., the Zac Brown Band and Train have all filmed music videos at the venue.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre’s Cultural Influence

Red Rocks’ influence on pop culture extends well beyond music, too. The venue has been featured on episodes of The Simpsons, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Amazing Race and South Park. And with only a few exceptions for weather, Red Rocks has hosted a sunrise service every Easter since 1947.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre as a Right of Passage

For Colorado-based acts, performing at Red Rocks has become a rite of passage. John Denver; Earth, Wind & Fire; The Lumineers; OneRepublic; 3OH!3 and Judy Collins have all done shows there.

Shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre for Summer 2019

Over the past decade, the number of shows booked at Red Rocks has tripled, to over 2019 slated for 2019. The season opens on April 13 with Flabbush Zombies/Joey Bada$$; go to redrocksonline.com for the complete schedule.

 

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Colorado Has Inspired Many Famous Musicians and Artists

If you happened to venture out to Herman’s Hideaway in the 1980s, you might have caught Big Head Todd & The Monsters before their big break with Giant Records. Similarly, if you had found your way to the Meadowlark on “open mic night” around 2010, you might have caught The Lumineers debuting their new song, “Ho Hey.” Over the years, Colorado’s been the proving ground for acts ranging from Leftover Salmon and String Cheese Incident, which started out in the mountain bars of Crested Butte and Telluride, to Dianne Reeves and Charles Burrell, her uncle, who played late-night gigs at El Chapultepec. And members of The Fray wrote songs while they were attending the University of Colorado Denver.

Here are just a few examples of Colorado-based music makers.

Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire is considered one of the greatest pop-funk bands of all time. From its origins in the 1970s, when Denver’s Philip Bailey, Andre Woolfolk and Larry Dunn (all graduates of East High School) joined the act, to its continued success touring the world with Bailey leading the band after Maurice White passed away, EW&F has won nine Grammys and recorded some of the biggest hits that continue in rotation on pop and soul radio stations today. Known for its costumes, dancing, positive vibes and incredible vocals (Bailey has a five-octave range), EW&F brought funk to the forefront of pop music with songs like “Sweetback’s Theme,” “Shining Star,” “Devotion,” “That’s the Way of the World” and “September.”

The Lumineers

One of the hottest acts to come out of the folk-rock tradition of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and The Band with Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm is The Lumineers. Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites began playing together in their hometown of Ramsey, New Jersey, then moved to New York in what proved to be a frustrating attempt to carve a niche in the Brooklyn music scene. The two came to Colorado in 2010 and began playing “open mics” and “basket houses” for tips. As their focus and songwriting moved towards the emerging Americana sound and radio format, they added Neyla Pekarek on cello. With songs like “Ho Hey,” from the band’s first widely successful album, to hits like “Ophelia,” from the second album, Cleopatra, The Lumineers earned two Grammy nominations, five Billboard award nominations and both Song of the Year and Group of the Year from the Americana Music and Awards organization. And The Lumineers have only just begun. At the 2018 induction of 97.3 KBCO, The Lumineers debuted their new lineup and new songs for an upcoming third album.

OneRepublic

OneRepublic may be the most successful pop band to come out of Colorado. It formed in Colorado Springs in 2002 with lead vocalist and songwriter Ryan Tedder, guitarist Zach Filkins, guitarist Drew Brown, bassist and cellist Brent Kutzle, and drummer Eddie Fisher. This was one of the first acts to exploit the power of social media to build an online following: In 2006, OneRepublic released its first single, “Apologize,” through the MySpace platform; it went to #1 on the MySpace chart and helped the band secure a 2007 release of its first album, Dreaming Out Loud. The musicians remixed “Apologize,” and it went to #1 in sixteen countries and was nominated for a Grammy. The second album, Waking Up, reached the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart; the third album, Native, became the band’s biggest-selling album and reached top ten on the American charts. OneRepublic has sold more than 10 million albums so far, and the act continues to evolve. In 2016 and 2017 it moved away from the album/touring model and focused on releasing singles through the internet; future plans include a more traditional album release and international tour.

India.Arie

India.Arie, who was born in Denver, has sold over 3.3 million albums in the United States alone; around the globe, she has sold over 10 million records. She has also won four Grammys and accumulated 21 nominations. The first of eight albums, Acoustic Soul, came out in 2001 and the latest album, Worthy, was released in February 2019 to critical raves and worldwide radio and internet airplay. India.Arie is one the most successful and prolific artists to come from Denver.

3OH!3

The band’s members are natives of Boulder, and took the group’s name from Colorado’s original area code. The band’s hits include “Don’t Trust Me,” “Want” and “My First Kiss.”

Breathe Carolina

This electronic act may have “Carolina” in its name, but the members hail from Denver. Since 2007, they have released nine EPs and four albums, all in the electronic dance music genre. Although the group has gone through various members over the years, David Schmitt remains a constant.

Flobots

Most people know Flobots for its 2007 hit “Handlebars,” which was played on modern rock stations around the country. Over the years, the band has proven incredibly successful at merging rock and hip-hop… and it all began in Denver.

If you want to learn more about the history of Colorado music and musicians, or see who’s playing where,  Colorado Music Hall of Fame has stories and lists of upcoming events.