Gasoline Lollipops to play in-person concerts at Red Rocks in September

The first live, public rock concerts of the summer 2020 season at Red Rocks Amphitheatre are coming in September.

Acclaimed Boulder roots-rock band Gasoline Lollipops will play two sets, at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m., on Monday, Sept. 14 to celebrate the release of its new album, “All the Misery Money Can Buy.”

The shows will mark the first time a rock band has played the Morrison venue’s outdoor stage in front of a live audience since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in March.

In fact, they may be the only live, public shows that any rock band plays on the Red Rocks main stage this year.

“I’ve never booked a show so complex,” said lead singer Clay Rose via phone this week. “It was a huge learning curve for us, and a pretty big learning curve for Red Rocks, too. Booking during a pandemic is a whole different animal.”

Rose and his alt-country bandmates usually release albums at venues such as Boulder’s Fox Theatre, Denver’s Bluebird Theater or Fort Collins’ Aggie, where they pack houses with ardent fans.

With no option for an indoor album-release, they turned to outdoor venues such as Planet Bluegrass in Lyons and Denver’s Levitt Pavilion. Both canceled their seasons before Gasoline Lollipops could play.

“So really, Red Rocks was the last venue, that I knew of, doing outdoor live music,” Rose said, noting that Bellvue’s Mishawaka Amphitheatre (which is hosting socially distanced shows) seemed too far a drive for its Boulder-rooted audience.

So why aren’t dozens more bands doing this? Rose thinks that Gasoline Lollipops got lucky. There are events, both public and private, scheduled at Red Rocks nearly every day for the next few weeks — including fall concerts that have yet to be canceled (but that undoubtedly will be before the show date), as well as yoga sessions and drive-in movies from Denver Film.

RELATED: Film on the Rocks back in August with first-ever drive-in movie series at Red Rocks

“When we booked I think it was the last day they had available in their season,” Rose said. “I would guess the main reason is that it’s pretty difficult to break even there, so we talked them into letting us do two shows in one day. That’s what makes it a possibility.”

When the idea was first proposed about a month ago, Red Rocks countered with a $15,000 rental offer. While past album-release shows at the Fox and other venues have generated enough money to cover an album’s production, the Red Rocks show seemed out of reach for the band — at least until an enterprising Gasoline Lollipops fan took it upon herself to advocate for them, hacking through the red tape and satisfying application requirements.

The band was also able to secure steeply discounted sound equipment from Fort Collins’ Rockfan Entertainment since the standard Red Rocks rental does not include sound or lighting equipment. However, audiences will still be limited to the statewide cap of 175 people per show, with all the attendant health and safety guidelines (mask requirements, enforced social distancing, etc.)

Tickets for the shows, which Rose expects to sell out quickly, are on sale for $65 starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 28 via The only other live, public concerts at Red Rocks this season have been acoustic shows from the Colorado Symphony, and all of those have sold out, too.

“There was a moment when I almost threw in the towel and said, ‘We’ll just do this in somebody’s back yard,’ ” Rose said. “But our good friend Angela Valero (the aforementioned superfan) said, ‘We’re not allowing this to happen. You guys have put too much work into this album.’ ”

Not every band has such passionate supporters. But even large, popular acts such as Nathaniel Rateliff and The Lumineers won’t be playing Red Rocks this year. The fact that Gasoline Lollipops is a mid-level (though still world-touring) band may have worked in its favor, since its relatively low costs have the potential to justify the expense of Colorado’s best-known venue.

In most cases, musical acts have canceled their slots at Red Rocks this summer because the ticket limits — 175 people, a fraction of the 9,450-capacity venue — make it economically infeasible.

“The limitations are pretty strict,” Rose said. “There’s no crossover at all between backstage and the audience, so we’re not going to be able to sign CDs or meet people or anything like that. We have to have two photographers — one for the audience and one backstage — where we’d normally have one. It’s going to be surreal, but at the same time it fits with the theme of the album (‘All the Misery Money Can Buy’) and everything that’s going on right now.”

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