Denver’s newest outdoor amphitheater, Levitt Pavilion, opened last weekend with its first free and paid shows, promising attendance, and a brief thunderstorm.
Levitt Pavilion, run by non-profit Levitt Foundation, was built with the intention of equalizing access to the arts for Denver citizens and providing a platform for local musicians to thrive. The Foundation plans to host 50 free events per year at the new venue and opening night began by fulfilling their promise to help promote Colorado music.
“We opened with three Colorado bands and we purposely wanted to keep the first show scaled back and not have a larger show,” CEO and Executive Director Chris Zacher told Amplify. “We wanted to test the venue out because we moved in on Wednesday and the first show was on Thursday. We were really pleased with the crowd and I think they had a really great time. Our lower bowl fits 2,000 people, so it looked nice and packed.”
Thursday’s opening night saw Andy Thomas, Halden Wofford and Slim Cessna play to roughly 2,500 attendees in the amphitheater’s unique park space. A thunderstorm rolled in during the evening, forcing the bands to pause and the fans return to their cars for roughly 20 minutes. Zacher was relieved to see the majority of attendees return once the rain passed.
The following night, Emporium Presents presented the Pavilion’s first paid show with headliners UB40 and Matisyahu. Emporium Presents has a multi-year agreement to promote the venue’s ticketed events with eight shows scheduled for this season.
“The overall feeling was just how happy everyone was and how excited they were about the prospects of the venue. That’s what stood out, the audience reaction,” Emporium’s Jason Zink said of opening weekend. “To call it a park-like setting is an understatement, because it is literally in a beautiful public park. It’s a really unique and beautiful setting.”
The Levitt Pavilion is located within Ruby Hill Park with grassy hills and can accommodate shows from 2,000 to 17,500. Paid shows are expected to be capped at 7,500, while free events can be adjusted to incorporate the max occupancy.
“We picked a site that required a limited amount of shaping to it. When you’re standing on the stage and you look up at this massive bowl, you really would think that it was built for an amphitheater,” said Zacher. “All of promoters are looking for venues in this market where they can bring in something from 2,000-7,500 and not have the artist feel completely swallowed. We can do that through our moveable fence lines.”
Levitt Pavilion is also the only outdoor music venue within Denver’s city limits. Denver’s flourishing music scene includes Red Rocks Amphitheater to the west and Fiddler’s Green south of Denver proper.
“I feel like Denver greatly needs a venue this size,” Emporiums’ Dan Steinberg told Amplify. “I grew up in that market. I knew it well. You can talk about Red Rocks all day long and clearly it is beautiful, there’s just not enough dates there.” He added “We’re right in the city of Denver. I think we’re going to be able to live in cohesive, lovely harmony with Red Rocks in that market.”
As a non-profit, the Pavilion is looking to give back as much as possible to the Denver market. Zacher explained that with Denver’s hike in rent over the past few years and the increasing ticket prices and fees at the other major venues, the population’s access to art has diminished.
“This is about increasing access to the arts,” Zacher said. “For this market, when you look at the cost of shows at Red Rocks, Fiddler’s Green, Pepsi Center they are pretty pricey.”
The venue has also formed the Colorado Music Collective to help musicians connect with industry professionals and teamed up with Folk Alliance International to help showcase artists.
He added, “Then there’s having a venue that really thinks about local artists in a different way. We’re giving our local artists a really large stage, bringing them an audience, and not expecting them to sell any tickets. This way they can come in, focus on their art, and prepare themselves for that next step of their career.”
Levitt Pavilion is expected to host 50 free shows per year beginning in 2018 with Emporium Presents bringing in an additional 30 paid events. The next free event is Thursday (July 27) and Emporium will present 311 on Aug. 11.