Dillon Amphitheater, about an hour and a half from Denver when there’s no traffic, is a hidden jewel among Colorado music venues, sitting right along sparkling Lake Dillon between Dillon and Frisco. Concertgoers may be gouged when it comes to concessions (like a tiny $11.50 gyro) but the mountain views are breathtaking, the sound is incredible everywhere in the 5,000-capacity venue – and even outside the gates along the water and on the streets above – and making a weekend of camping nearby and checking out a concert is a great summer pastime.
Most shows at Dillon Amphitheater, which underwent $9 million in renovations two years ago, are free, but promoters have also been bringing in big-name acts for ticketed concerts, like Lake Street Dive’s highly anticipated show Saturday night. Tickets were $45 but quickly sold out; soon, they started at $100 on StubHub and other sites, and finding a campsite or hotel room nearby after spring ended became an impossibility.
I booked a campsite at Prospector Campground, just a few miles up the road from Dillon Amphitheater, the day the Lake Street Dive show was announced, knowing that a group that’s sold out Red Rocks would easily pack Dillon’s idyllic lakeside venue and thus all nearby accommodations. I shared the campsite with a friend and spent the afternoon biking to Frisco and back before arriving at Dillon Amphitheater a few minutes before the opening act, the renowned English singer Yola, began her 7pm performance.
Everyone I spoke with expressed surprise that there was an opening act (as Yola was not listed on tickets or in the Facebook event) and complained about planning their afternoons around making it to the show by 7pm, the listed start time, only to discover Lake Street Dive wouldn’t start until 8pm. But Yola brought some soulful fire, and the water-and-mountains sunset vista behind Lake Street Dive was spectacular.
Singer Rachel Price, who helped form Lake Street Dive at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2004, commanded and mesmerized the capacity crowd with her soulful, confessional and occasionally brutal tales of romance from the first notes of “Neighbor Song.” Price’s huge, soulful voice seemed like it could reach the highest peaks across the reservoir, and her between-song banter was entertaining too. At one point Price joked about the wind, saying, “My hair tastes good. I’ve been eating it a lot. If anybody has a headband that matches my outfit, I’d really appreciate it.”
Within moments, an audience member did hand Price a headband. Problem solved.
Lake Street Dive has been touring relentlessly for many years, and several songs early in the set exuded a workman/workwoman-like, going-through-the-motions feeling, but each of the band’s ridiculously talented musicians shined at various moments, and Price is such a powerful vocalist and entertainer that any lull was short-lived. On tunes like “Rental Love,” she repeated “I wanted it all” like a 1940’s jazz singer bringing the Apollo Theater to a boil, and on the funky, vicious takedown “Daryl” she was a sensational middle ground between Susan Tedeschi and Erykah Badu.
When intermittent rain turned into a spate of lightning, the band took an intermission, and many in attendance fled for the bars and restaurants in town. Possessing the welcoming campsite nearby, and a good amount of exhaustion, I did take my cue to leave the show as well, but Dillon Amphitheater is a venue I’ll be returning to as soon as possible.