Live music can be a magical experience. It can transcend the physical space and take you somewhere else. It helps when the physical space is freaking Red Rocks. Damn, we are lucky.

I try to go to at least one show at Red Rocks every summer. There's no bad show there, but certainly some summers, the concert booking gods smile down on us. A few years ago, I put together a pretty solid lineup for myself: The Shins, Florence and the Machine, and Mumford and Sons. Each show was nice. But one moment stands out.

Florence and the Machine played just after the Aurora theater massacre. Everyone was in shock — it felt wrong to be attempting to have a good time. But Florence is some sort of otherworldly goddess, and she did not demand that her audience enjoy themselves. Instead she gently led us through her songbook, right up to the obligatory moment of silence for those who had been killed. Thousands of people fell silent together. You could have heard a pin drop in that massive amphitheater. When it was over, she didn't speak. The music started slowly and swelled into "Never Let Me Go" as she floated across the stage. It was a breathtaking moment and one of the best experiences I've ever had at a concert.


This year, I completely blew through my concert budget when I realized that every angsty, weepy band I have ever wanted to see would be coming through Red Rocks. The National and Sufjan Stevens were fine, but they didn't really pack a punch. I started to think that maybe live music just didn't hit me in the feels like it used to.

My best friend and I rolled up late to the Brandi Carlile show on Sunday. We couldn't find parking or our tickets. By the time we got inside, there were no seats, so we stood awkwardly near a tree. This wasn't a show I had been looking forward to, and I wasn't thrilled about how much effort we were putting in. Then she started to sing "The Story," and it was like a goddamn train hit me. She howled into the twilight, her voice cracking with emotion. I looked up at the moon above the towering rocks, I looked over at my best friend who will be moving away in a week, and I lost my shit.

As it turns out, an incredible musician on a gorgeous night in the most beautiful venue on Earth can still make me feel all the feelings.

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