Best of Boulder 2013: Music Festival, Venues and Band/Musician

Music Director Michael Butterman conducting the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra.
Photo by Glenn Ross Photography/

Classical Music

2590 Walnut St., 303-449-1343

Second Place: Colorado Music Festival
Third Place: Colorado Symphony Orchestra
Fourth Place: CU Presents
Fifth Place: Boulder Chamber Orchestra

is definitely a great place to be when it comes to the music scene.
But in a city full of college-aged dwellers, it’s easy to forget about
the part of the population who would rather not listen to dubstep at
some raging keg party on the Hill this weekend.

turns out that Boulder has a soft spot for the classics and is home to
an uncommon diversity of classical music options. Our winner this
year, Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, has been churning out
classical masterpieces since the 1950s. There’s no doubt that the
Boulder Philharmonic is an essential piece of Boulder’s music scene,
and without it, well, we’d all be a little less classy.

Live Jazz Venue

900 Walnut St., 720-406-9696

Second Place: Laughing Goat Coffeehouse
Third Place: Oskar Blues Grill & Brew
Fourth Place: Hotel Boulderado
Fifth Place: Nissi’s

Boulder may not have the jazz clubs of Chicago or New Orleans, but it does have the St Julien Hotel & Spa. Step
into the swanky ballroom area, with its fireplace and leather
armchairs, and you’ll be stoked that they host live music several nights
a week. With plenty of room for big bands and many instruments, the St
Julien is the perfect setting for a jazz-filled evening. And it offers
beverages like martinis that pair well with smooth jazz. The Laughing
Goat Coffeehouse, our runner-up in this category, hosts live jazz
musicians in a more intimate setting.

Local Musician/Group


Second Place: Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Third Place: Face
Fourth Place: Gregory Alan Isakov
Fifth Place: Big Gigantic

Yonder Mountain String Band’s “progressive
bluegrass” is as catchy and addictive as it is insanely popular. These
guys are playing at such a high level it’s hard to consider them
local: They sell out Red Rocks Amphitheatre, host their own festival …
Yonder Mountain is big, and they launched out of Boulder and the
surrounding mountain towns. They’re so popular they won this category
despite not having released an album since 2009. With just four members
and not a drummer in sight (unless you count the brief stint when
Phish drummer Jon Fishman toured with them), the four acoustic string
players create grooves and jams that will get entire arenas full of
people dancing.

Music Festival

500 E. Colorado Ave., Telluride, 303-823-0848

Second Place: Colorado Music Festival
Third Place: RockyGrass
Fourth Place: NedFest
Fifth Place: Rocky Mountain Folks Festival

So why is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival even
in our Best of Boulder competition? And even more to the point, why
does it keep winning this category year after year? There are a couple
of reasons, really. First, Planet Bluegrass, the company that puts on
this amazing event, is a Boulder County operation located in Lyons. And
second, because you could say that “Boulder” is as much a state of
mind as it is a place. Boulderites love this festival and every year it
seems like half the county shuts down and makes the sevenhour trek to
Telluride. So we figure Boulder is a moveable feast of sorts. Once the
music starts, Telluride is Boulder, at least in spirit. That’s our
story and we’re sticking to it. Or there’s the shorter explanation: As
long as our readers keep voting it first place, we’ll keep writing it
up. See you there.

Music Venue

18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, 720-865-2494

Second Place: Boulder Theater
Third Place: Chautauqua Auditorium
Fourth Place: Fox Theatre
Fifth Place: Planet Bluegrass

isn’t even a contest. This is like 1997 Jerome Bettis lining up
against a Pop Warner team. Or like John Bonham and Justin Bieber having
a drum battle. It’s not fair for the other venues when they’re up
against Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the best place in the world to
see music. The breathtaking natural beauty of Red Rocks makes any show
there that much better. Ask Colorado music fans to list their favorite
concerts, and chances are more than a few will have been at Red Rocks.
The runner-up, Boulder Theater, provides a more intimate concert
experience, shrouded in a gorgeous art deco backdrop.

Open Mic

1709 Pearl St., 303-440-4628

Second Place: Conor O’Neill’s
Third Place: Catacombs
Fourth Place: Boulder Outlook Hotel and Suites
Fifth Place: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe

a place where you can have your choice of fair trade coffee,
loose-leaf tea or local craft beer ranks pretty high up on the totem
pole for most Boulderites. But when you can find a place with all of
that and a decent live music scene, not to mention a laid back
atmosphere, well you can’t get much higher than that. But The Laughing Goat on
Pearl Street has got all of that and then some. The baristas are
almost always smiling, the pastries are fresh and there’s always a new
batch of local talent brewing on The Laughing Goat stage, which opens
up its microphones each week, as it has for decades, to poets and
musicians alike.

STAFF PICK: Elbow Room at a Concert


the goofy ideas that CU had for keeping people from smoking pot at the
annual 4/20 event on Norlin Quad in 2012 (remember the fish
fertilizer?) was to bring in Wyclef Jean to play a concert at
the Coors Events Center. Um, the trouble was, hardly anyone showed up.
The CU student government shelled out about $150,000 for the event.
Lesson learned.


3141 28th St., 303 444-0081

Honorable Mention: The World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill

vast majority of well-adjusted adults have faced the fact that they
won’t ever be rock stars. Let’s just admit it: Most of us won’t even get
the 15 minutes of fame we are all promised. Thankfully, there’s karaoke
to fulfill our inner rock-star fantasies, and our favorite place to ham
it up on the mic is Outback Saloon, where the friendly KJ and
non-judgmental crowds bring out the David Lee Roth in us all. The
singing starts at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, so
get there early, get a pitcher to lubricate the vocal chords and start
looking for your favorite song.

STAFF PICK: Attempt to Get in a Taylor Swift Song


it comes to lyrics, country superstar Taylor Swift really only has one
trick in her bag. Heartbreak, namely her own, is Swift’s favorite
subject to sing about, and given her fame, beauty and wealth, there are
many men out there dying for the chance to inspire a new hit.

But when Crocs founder George Boedecker got
arrested on a DUI charge in August 2012 (to which he eventually pled
guilty), he took celebrity-chasing to a whole different level. When
officers found his Porsche Carrera parked askew with one wheel on the
sidewalk, he told them his girlfriend had been driving the car and had
gotten out and left him. He told the officer his lady friend was “really
fucking famous,” and then asked, “Do you know who Taylor Swift is?”

makes Manti Te’o look like a total gentleman. At least Te’o claimed to
be in love with his imaginary girlfriend — Boedecker tried to make his
a patsy. One thing we know for sure: She will never, ever, ever write a
song about that imaginary experience.

STAFF PICK: Made-up Riot


In March 2013, Tyler, The Creator, of
rap group Odd Future, was scheduled to play a free show at the Fox
Theatre. Crowds, estimated to be in the thousands, started lining up for
tickets at 3 p.m., and at around 6 p.m., things started getting unruly.
A Jimmy John’s employee got punched in the face, bottles might have
been thrown. Cue the Boulder Police Department, which responded to the
“riot situation” by sending 75 officers, some in riot gear, to the
scene. (Tyler, for his part, did his role to help calm the situation by
tweeting out gay slurs.) But judging by all accounts, a riot it was not.
It’s tough to tell what exactly warranted all those cops from BPD —
wouldn’t 15 have done the trick? It’s not like a herd of elk was
marching on the Hill or anything.

STAFF PICK: Place for Enjoying Reverse Gravity

2922 Baseline Road, 303-442-8162

If you think too long about the age of the Dark Horse, and the litany of stuff affixed to the bar’s ceiling — like a carriage — you could start to wonder about exactly how that
stuff is attached to the surfaces above your head. So let’s go with
gravity. Secure, constant, unfailing. Now, tip your chin back in wonder
and marvel at the veritable trip down memory lane affixed to the
ceiling of the bar. Then get your burger and beer and ready your
tricycle for the races.

also like to note that the Dark Horse was in consideration for an
award for “oldest joke in town.” Yes, the bathroom labels were funny
the first time — you know, back in 1975 when the bar opened? At this
point, though, it feels a little more groan-worthy.