A peek inside some of Colorado’s legendary backstage hangouts.

There’s something so inherently alluring about off-limits places. It’s the secretive nature of the no-access areas that drives us mad, because regardless of what’s really in those closed-off rooms, we just can’t bear to not be a part of something. It’s distressing. Maybe our mothers hugged us too much  — or not enough — but some serious abandonment issues come to light when we’re not invited to be a part of something; even if it’s as frivolous as a forbidden backstage area.

Those areas are generally reserved for artists, but recently we drove some of this state’s venue managers absolutely insane with our groveling to get backstage. We, of course, were only allowed during non-show hours, had to promise to be sober and couldn’t bring our beloved alpaca. Even on a leash. So we complied, and we’re sharing them with you before you get drunk and try to sneak in, namely so you’ll sneak in to the best ones.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Red Rocks is the greatest live music venue in the world. Period. End statement. That’s an incontestable science-laden fact. It’s also something most of us never take for granted during the music season. Regardless of the weather, the show or how barren our bank accounts may be, most of us are able to get to Morrison at least once a season. If nothing else, we go for the sheer beauty of the locale. We wouldn’t expect anything less from its green rooms, either.

It’s not so much that the backstage area of the venue is insanely decadent with golden gnomes granting wishes at every beck and call like we had hoped. In fact, it’s modest. With three separate dressing rooms to accommodate large celebrity bills, Red Rocks also boasts a large surrounding backstage area with a meeting/eating room and a world-class kitchen for catering or room service. The features are all built into the rocks, with most of the surrounding walls actually a piece of the formation. It’s half bat-cave, half human building and all remarkable.

The true uniqueness, however, lies in the tunnel leading up to the sound booth. With such a rich history of artists coming through, the tunnel is one of the only areas that maintains that raw history written by the hands of the artists themselves. The entirety of it is signed with iconic names stretching over decades, as well as some who definitely shouldn’t have signed it because they didn’t perform there. Sacrilege! Regardless, it’s an unreal sight that weans away claustrophobic notions of feeling trapped inside of the mountain.

Summit Music Hall

When the world’s scariest nightclub on 19th and Blake in downtown Denver was shut down and subsequently bought by the Soda Jerk Presents camp, most music fans were excited about the endeavor. The company had been supplying entertainment for some time before, but had never really owned its own mid-level venue to present acts that would have normally sold far more tickets than the smaller Marquis Theater or Black Sheep could facilitate.

The strategy seems fruitful, as the Summit Music Hall continues to be a favorite amongst artists and fans. Spacious, accommodating and (gasp) clean, the venue maintains a reputation unlike any others in the industry with A-list staff and a green room that shows intense respect for artists.

More of a side-venue than anything else, the green room boasts amenities fit for artist royalty. The private bar is more than just a bucket filled with last night’s dropped cans and half-melted ice. It’s a real-life bar with a real human bartender and selections unfounded in other private areas. It also comes complete with a foosball table, flat-screen TV (to catch up on “True Detective” between sets), square footage that rivals most studio apartments, and windows. Whoa windows!


Last November the Hi-Dive celebrated its 10th year as one of the city’s most enviable destinations to see live music. It’s a smaller crowd venue, but what it lacks in capacity it more than makes up for in character and gratifying bookings. Look to the Hi-Dive’s roster of performers for playlists because the talent buying is, and always has been, ahead of the other venues. Most of those who play there today will no doubt go on to bigger and brighter futures tomorrow.

That rich history is the defining personality of the Hi-Dive. Countless influential acts come through its doors on tour, and many solidified that moment in time by signing the green room walls à la Red Rocks style. The scribbles (and stickers) are often a means to spoken legend and lore, and most old heads who have been around for the better part of the decade will gladly tell stories of performances past.

While the green room isn’t something one would find between the covers of home and style magazines, its charm reflects in the comfort of discomfort. Where one sees a necessary furniture swap, others see a serene and calming area of relaxation. The vibe, of course, relies solely on the company an artist chooses to keep in the accessible basement room. Depending on the crowd, the atmosphere can just as easily go from a calming pre-show ritual to chaotic shit-show calamity in seconds.

Fox Theatre

The building the Fox Theatre resides in boasts an incredible and storied history within its walls. It’s seen iconic acts the likes of Phish, Snoop Dogg, Deadmau5 and Wu-Tang Clan in 22 years under its current ownership. Another one of those venues that may not look like much to shallow blockheads, The Fox’s goal is to be an unrivaled rock venue, not a fancy-pants drinkery.  

The green rooms are no different. Perhaps a bit drab for common folk, the rooms aren’t necessarily for looks, but this isn’t the la de da parade of fucking homes. The main room is snuggled nicely below the stage and has two access points for musicians to climb when it’s go time. Always stocked with employee-chosen catering or rider obligations, the main area is cozy, comfortable and serene. There’s also a secondary support room next to the VIP balcony upstairs that offers an incredible view of the venue.

Last year Rolling Stone even stepped away from its busy schedule of glorifying terrorists to name the venue the fourth best in the country. The list was compiled by polling managers, promoters and musicians; so there’s high credibility behind the results and some good bragging rights to boot.

Band Van

Band vans make for a terrible anything. They’re cramped, filthy, slow and an egregious assault on most of the five senses. Their one purpose in life is to transport a heap of musicians and their equipment to a variety of destinations, all while attempting to counteract the rampant abuse with a blemish-free safety record. Spending even an infinitesimal amount of time in one is psychological suicide. There’s no reason for anyone to hang out in those things more than is absolutely necessary for touring.

So what does a musician do when there is no green room? Park close, and hope the fuzz isn’t snooping around the alley, that’s what. At times the inside of the shit-hole van is the only solace a musician gets from a chaotic venue. Simply speaking, it’s because some venues don’t even accommodate the talent with a private enclave. It’s not being a diva to demand peace and quiet before a show, and any kind of venue that wants to be taken seriously should understand that.

The most popular choice of serious touring musicians is the Chevy Express 3500 or something similar. Basically, it’s the type of vehicle that’s always on the nightly news flipping over guardrails killing full loads of church groups in half-ass weather. They’re big, clunky and dangerous, which is why the (probably) broken A/C, stain-resistant cloth seats (read: not stain resistant) and shoddy AM/FM radio won’t make up for any kind of couch or private bathroom amenities.

– Brian Frederick