Megan Thee Stallion, Nathaniel Rateliff, Phoebe Bridgers, Lil Baby and Sam Hunt will play to an empty Red Rocks Amphitheatre Sept. 1, 2 and 3 as part of a new promotion from Denver-based mobile carrier Visible.
The Verizon spinoff, which has previously sponsored free, big-name music concerts in Denver as promotion for its service, has dubbed the series Red Rocks Unpaused.
The series will allow viewers to stream the concerts from home and even control aspects of the high-tech production, Visible officials said this week. The concerts are technically approved to host up to 175 attendees, but Visible opted to keep the amphitheater empty.
“We wanted to build a concept that didn’t have (the audience) as a factor, because (audiences) are very contingent on not only the latest laws but the level of comfort people would have seeing a show,” said Kirstie Rivard, head of experiential at Visible. “With large-scale events like this you want certainty, and those were unknowns, so we just removed that uncertainty altogether.”
The streamed shows will feature live performances from Colorado’s Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and acclaimed indie songwriter Phoebe Bridgers on Sept. 1; “WAP” rapper Megan Thee Stallion and Lil Baby on Sept. 2; and Georgia singer-songwriter Sam Hunt and Brett Young on Sept. 3.
The virtual concerts begin at 8 p.m. each night and can be viewed via Twitter or visiblexredrocks.com.
Visible’s marketing team had just secured a partnership with Denver Arts & Venues, which owns Red Rocks, earlier this year before the pandemic hit, Rivard said. The goal was to give Visible’s logo, and potentially even some recruitment staff, a presence at city-run events this summer, especially events such as Red Rocks’ Film on the Rocks and Yoga on the Rocks.
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The opportunity to stream concerts from Red Rocks — with huge names attached — offered a chance to make the best of the remaining summer concert season. Red Rocks Unpaused will also include several “firsts” for Red Rocks, Rivard said.
“Red Rocks is closed for most of the season, so that allowed us to do a whole suite of things that have never been done before there,” she said. “One is that we’re strategically placing the stage where viewers would normally be sitting, so you’ll be able to get different views of Red Rocks than you would from the stage.”
In fact, viewers can access different camera angles during the streamed shows that will allow them to “pick their seats” and play director with the concerts. The shows will also feature:
- The audience’s chat messages displayed on the faces of the Red Rocks “for artists to see and react to”
- The audience’s ability to “help set off pyrotechnics”
- Technology that allows viewers’ voices to affect the show’s lighting and color schemes
- The viewers’ ability to vote and choose the final encore song
- Audience polling that changes the outcome of the light show
“Red Rocks has had logos and lights projected onto the rocks during concerts before, but we’re talking about mapping messages from fans and viewers onto the rocks,” Rivard said. “Artists will also be able to see an audience Cheerometer where the louder you cheer at home, the higher it goes.”
That raises the question of whether these high-tech features will add to or detract from the experience of enjoying live music — for both fans and artists. For example: Will being asked to pay attention to a stream of incoming text messages and digital metrics distract the performers?
No way, Rivard said.
“You have to keep in mind there’s no one there, so it’s a very different dynamic,” she said. “All the artists will get to walk through this (before the shows), and we’re sharing all of our technology elements with them, so there will be no surprises. At the end of the day they’re performers, and interaction is something they enjoy and embrace.”
Despite a series of acoustic classical concerts from Colorado Symphony, and a single, socially-distanced rock show slipping through from Gasoline Lollipops (on Sept. 14), Red Rocks Amphitheatre has not hosted any live, public, full-band concerts from the main stage this year.
“I wouldn’t say we were forced to innovate, but it’s one of those moments where we had an opportunity to,” Rivard said. “It’s a truly collaborative thing because we’re bringing a lot of creative people together, and Denver Arts & Venues has made it a seamless process.”
Red Rocks Unpaused arrives about a year after Phonetopia, one of Visible’s Denver launch-events that included free (via RSVP) live performances in downtown Denver from Kacey Musgraves, Haim, Anderson. Paak and GRiZ. All took place inside a simulated, giant smartphone. The idea was to get the Visible name in front of potential new customers in a more engaging way than a billboard or radio ad — and in a way that would promote Instagram posts that tagged the start-up carrier.
“We can’t disclose details of that event (such as cost, number of new subscribers, etc.) but if it wasn’t successful or we didn’t see the value, we wouldn’t be doing Red Rocks Unpaused,” Rivard said. “We’re still a young company and awareness is incredibly important for us.”
Whether or not people tune in remains to be seen, but with so little live entertainment and so much demand for high-quality performances — even digitally mediated — there’s a good chance Visible will meet its promotional goals for the event. Big brands such as Red Bull have also invested in Denver in recent years, moving from sponsoring club shows with buzzy indie bands to full-scale art installations.
Besides, Rivard said, doing an event like this anywhere other than Visible’s home city of Denver would have seemed strange.
“It’s a really artist-friendly community,” said Rivard, a Colorado native. “And that just kind of builds on itself until brands realize it, so it’s kind of a supply-and-demand thing. Our very first experiential (event) was at Grandoozy, the big music festival that Superfly produced in 2018, so we’re committed to the creative community here.”
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