What: Bands on the Bricks
When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: 1300 block, Pearl St., Boulder
More info: boulderdowntown.com
For 16 years, Bands on the Bricks has been a centerpiece for summer weekdays in Boulder.
Every Wednesday night -- this year from June 12 to Aug. 14 -- the 1300 block of Pearl Street turns into a dance party thrown by locals, for locals. In its current form, the Downtown Boulder-organized event serves up cold ones from Avery and West Flanders breweries, and margaritas from Rio Grande, with music that spans funk, soul, bluegrass, rock and '80s covers.
"It's always been about providing free, family-friendly concerts on a night which, when the event started, wasn't a busy night downtown," Anna Salim, Downtown Boulder's event director. The farmers market was going on and that was downtown Boulder's effort to say, 'Let's keep that interest and activity to keep things going on Wednesday night.'"
Anyone who's strolled down Pearl Street on a Wednesday can see that it's worked. The stage area is consistently surrounded by dancers, while others mill around, sipping on drinks, and kids play in the grass. Even with the growing presence of alcohol at the event, it's remained a family attraction -- something Salim said the organizers have worked to maintain with clearly separate drinking areas.
The music is what brings the different parts of the crowd together; what connects it all is danceability.
"Bands on the Bricks is a music-you-can-dance-to kind of event, so we're looking for music that will appeal to a broad range of people," Salim said. "We actually have an application process on our website. We listen to about 150 different acts, and we do go through all of those applications and look at everybody who applies."
This year's lineup is proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Among the tribute bands and cover acts are a fresher sound from Denver soul group Bop Skizzum and frontranger mainstays Mountain Standard Time. But, as ever, Hazel Miller is at the heart of the event. She's played Bands on the Bricks for all of the event's 16 years.
"Has it been that long?" she asked upon being given the number. "I knew it had been a long time, but I didn't know it was that long."
"Boy, do we love this job. We do love it so much. I think I've done this job with four different bands. It's the friendliest -- it's like a huge, old-school dance party, like when I was growing up."
Miller usually winds up playing right around her birthday, so the show ends up as "a really cool birthday party," one that she gets to celebrate with a community she's long been a part of.
"It's like you feel like you're part of the fabric," Miller said. "After a while you just get comfortable. You see people in the audience and their name might not pop up right away, but you know them. I've met some really great people who come back year after year. A lot of the young people that I met when they were teenagers are bringing their kids to he gig. That's been fabulous."
This year, she'll bring one of the youngest of those people up on stage with her.
"This week, I've got a young lady, I think she's probably 11 or 12, and she's going to sit in with me." Miller said. "I met her probably when she was an infant, and she wants to be a singer and I encourage it."
And so even though the years go uncounted for someone who's been to Bands on the Bricks as many times as Miller, it's new for some. And while the faces and sounds might not be new, they're familiar, and that's really all you need in a small town street fair.
That, and some room to dance.