by Bill Husted –
Colorado’s music scene moves to a higher level. When it comes to music, Colorado hands-down is one of the country’s top places for pretty much any type of performance. The thing is, musicians want to play here, especially in the summer when they can choose from a wide variety of wonderful outdoor venues. From picturesque Red Rocks to the serene beauty of The Denver Botanic Gardens, performers love to strut their stuff, and audiences love listening to their sounds.
For more insight into the local music scene, we spoke with Libby Anschutz, who has music in her bones and songs in her head. For Anschutz, it’s about more than making great music, it’s also about giving back in meaningful ways. The lowkey easy-going bandleader daughter of Colorado money-man Phil Anschutz, she believes in philanthropy and in giving back to the state and country that have embraced her brand and her band.
“I am philanthropy-minded,” she says. “I hope that all people want to be.”
Her band is Tracksuit Wedding, a soulful rock combo that plays these parts and beyond: Red Rocks, the intimate alt theater venues in Denver, the Broadmoor (dad’s B&B), and street festivals, most recently Day of Rock. Tracksuit Wedding was a standout there in May among 25 bands on five stages – all to raise money for Amp the Cause, a non-profit run by Denver power-couple Walter and Christie Isenberg that supports child-focused health and educational organizations.
Anschutz joined spoken-word, hip hop, jazz artist Michael Franti and legendary Colorado promoter Chuck Morris on a trip to Uganda in March for the Global Livingston Institute. They performed at huge festivals with Ugandan music stars to bring out thousands of people for music and medicine – free testing for HIV, cervical cancer and a dose of family planning. The online videos of the concerts are impressive and moving.
“I often go back to look at the photos and watch the videos because I want to have that experience again,” Anschutz told CBS in a recent interview. “It’s that powerful to me.”
Franti, an activist in many arenas, is a native Californian but he spends so much time in Colorado we have adopted him. He performed a free concert in Denver this spring, he played Aspen on June 4 and filled up Red Rocks with his band Spearhead on June 7. The Red Rocks gig included a VIP party for local nonprofit Take Note Colorado.
Anschutz and Franti hopped on then-Governor John Hickenlooper’s idea to encourage all Colorado students to take up music, making instruments and instruction readily available in public schools. Dubbed Take Note Colorado, the agency hosts concerts all year long featuring Colorado’s biggest names (members of the The Fray, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, The Lumineers, Tracksuit Wedding, Michael Franti & Spearhead). This year Take Note Colorado once again tops off with the annual Sing It To Me Santa, a Dec. 7 extravaganza at the Ogden Theatre.
The Lumineers is another wildly popular hometown band that supports Take Note Colorado. Band cofounder Wesley Schultz explains his passion for Colorado and music. “Ten years ago, Jer (cofounder Jeremiah Fraite) and I moved to Denver and have called it home ever since. There’s been a lot of growth and change for our band and our city in that time.” This August, The Lumineers are slated to be the opening act at the much-anticipated Mission Ballroom, a state-of-the-art venue in RiNo operated by AEG Presents Rocky Mountain.
“We feel lucky to be a part of history by opening the Mission Ballroom. We are also happy announce that this show will benefit a school which is local to the venue — Wyatt Academy — by keeping its music program alive through the donations and proceeds of our Mission Ballroom show.”
There’s a lot of giving from Anschuhtz, Franti and The Lumineers. And in Colorado, fans give the love right back.
“I believe in random acts of kindness,” says Anschutz. “Do the right thing when nobody is looking. I hope that’s not a fairy tale.”