Tim Van Schmidt | New SCENE
I handled a recent trip to Red Rocks differently than normal.
Usually, it’s a matter of hitting the highway early enough to plow through traffic, get into the parking lot, maybe grab a snack, then start hiking into the show. Then there’s a long, dark drive back well after the midnight hour.
This time, though, my wife and I booked a hotel room in Golden, just over the hill from the venue. We checked in early and started out for Red Rocks with the idea that we could get in some hiking on one of the many trails throughout the park.
At Entrance One of Red Rocks, we also took the time to visit the Dinosaur Ridge Discovery Center. Here, a modest little museum had some pretty cool displays — including colorful models of various dinos, bones, eggs, tracks, and info about the significance of the area geologically and for paleontologists.
From there we got in our hike — tracing the Geologic Overlook Trail upward from the Upper North Parking Lot — and had a picnic afterward; and saw a great concert.
The next morning, we had an excellent breakfast at the local eatery the Blue Sky Cafe, then went back over the hill to experience Dinosaur Ridge itself.
I’ve always loved this stuff and the walk up the wide paved “trail” from the Red Rocks side revealed bulges — the undersides of big dino footprints — bones in the hillside, area vistas, geologic curiosities, worm tracks, and what is considered the number one dinosaur track site in the country.
I’m glad that we took the time to go back in time. It’s hard to imagine this dry, rocky landscape as a place full of plants, water, and huge animals — but the evidence is compelling.
About that concert: Let’s not be making any cracks about going to see an old dinosaur perform at Red Rocks. Robert Plant is not that “old dinosaur”.
Instead, the man who rose to legendary status as vocalist for Led Zeppelin is currently in a vital and even transcendent artistic partnership with Alison Krauss, a bluegrass-country legend in her own right.
Their voices work so well together, their choice of material underscores that and where Plant once rocked with a mighty sound, now he makes music with Krauss that simmers.
Sure there were Led Zeppelin tunes in the set — a jaunty reworking of “Rock and Roll”, a lighter-than-air reading of “The Battle of Evermore”, and a deep, dark ten-minute version of “When the Levee Breaks”. But that is only a part of the story here — everything Plant and Krauss choose to do seems to work.
The man doing double duty that night was guitarist JD McPherson, who opened the show with his own rocking band, then played guitar in the Plant-Krauss group.
The full ensemble went everyplace Plant and Krauss went with their voices. This unit was fully on board with what McPherson called, earlier in the night, “the psychedelic splendor” of Plant and Krauss’ music.
This wasn’t just showmanship in action; this was musicianship becoming something fine, something “transcendent” that went beyond just the sum of the band and singers. And they had to climb a mountain and face an insistent evening wind to do it.
This all adds up to an epic concert experience. There were no dinosaurs on stage at Red Rocks like on Dinosaur Ridge — only living, breathing artists who strike a rich and savory chord together.
Visit “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt” on YouTube.