Contemporary Fiction Author, Infrequent Blogger & Retired Clown

Zach Bryan’s Snow Show at Red Rocks

Zach Bryan’s Snow Show at Red Rocks

Snow started falling while we were enjoying dinner.

And by enjoying dinner, I mean playing darts and drinking beers while a couple of burgers got cold on a nearby table. What better way to pregame before seeing Zach Bryan headline at Red Rocks for the first time?

When I originally bought the tickets, it was early June and I was on vacation in the Florida Keys. One too many margaritas, a warm evening breeze, and a little voice in my head saying “Treat yo self” led me to click the purchase button on the two most expensive concert tickets I’ve ever bought in my life.

Seeing a show at Red Rocks was at the top of my bucket list, and Zach Bryan was at the top of my playlist, so the combination of the two just seemed like kismet. A few weeks after my ticket splurge, I saw Zach do a split headlining show in my hometown, St. Augustine, with Nathaniel Rateliff. It was my first time seeing him live, and the hour-long set left me longing for more.

Cut to Halloween, almost five months later, when my plane touched down in Denver. I checked my weather app and spotted a rare symbol in Floridian meteorological language: a snowflake. It was hovering over Thursday, four days away, which coincidentally was the night of Zach’s show.

His show at a famous outdoor amphitheater tucked in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

I proceeded on from the airport to stay with family members in nearby Boulder. When I’d first called to tell them I was coming to Colorado for a show at Red Rocks in November, they expressed shock and disbelief that Red Rocks would host a show so late in the season. 

This should have sounded some alarm bells for me, but it did not. After all, November is still autumn in my worldview. What were they concerned about – a few too many leaves stacked up on the amphitheater seats? Not to worry, I love a good fall scene. Perfect for Instagram photos.

Photo of the Flat Iron mountains above a fall meadow outside Boulder, CO

Leading up to the concert, each Colorado day dawned more sunny and beautiful than the last. High temperatures grazed the lower 70s and I lavished in a few glorious hikes in low humidity. Each night when I consulted my weather app, I was astonished to see the snowflake hovering over Thursday not only hadn’t disappeared, it was now joined by two friends. In a short few days, the predicted accumulation of snow had gone from less than an inch to a potential six to eight inches.

A year after this show, I would become intimately familiar with how useless weather apps are in predicting Colorado weather; but at the time of Zach’s Red Rocks debut, I was not aware of the Centennial State’s notoriously manic weather patterns.

The night before the big event, I was joined in Denver by my friends Thomas and Jeff who drove over from Oklahoma. We enjoyed an evening on the town and woke up early the day of the show, anxious to scope out Red Rocks in the daylight. As we stepped out onto the top step of the amphitheater for our first peek at the world famous venue, an icy wind sliced across foothills and cut straight into our bones. Not only was snow expected for the evening, temperatures were also supposed to drop to the low 20s. 

Nevertheless, we persisted.

Empty Red Rocks amphitheater with curved bench seats and a large red rock rising in the background A trio of friends in sunglasses and winter gear in front of the stage at Red Rocks Empty Red Rocks amphitheater with seats, stage, and view of Denver in the distance

Late that afternoon, Zach had promised the show would go on and as planned, with free hand warmers and hot cocoa for all in attendance. I layered up in my best Florida winter wear and off we went for beers, darts, and burgers. 

By the time we left the bar for Red Rocks, the snow was steadily falling and I was feeling very grateful for Thomas, an experienced winter driver, and his four-wheel drive Jeep. Me and my rental Kia had zero business navigating this weather, especially as we began climbing the mountainous terrain leading up to the historic amphitheater.

We got to the venue two hours before the gates opened and were able to snag a great spot for tailgating. Nothing about the thick curtain of falling flakes deterred Zach Bryan fans from enjoying themselves pre-show. We passed a bottle between us that did a pretty good job of keeping everyone warm.

However, it became quickly apparent that my Florida winter gear was not made for Colorado winter. Snow, as it turns out, is quite wet. It soaked right through my silly knit gloves, knit hat, and knit scarf. 

Again, I was very thankful for Thomas, who had anticipated that I might not be as prepared as I claimed to be for the snow. He brought along his sister’s ski gear just in case, and very graciously loaned me a more water-resistant set of winter accessories that probably saved me from getting hypothermia that night.

Woman in a knit hat and jacket covered in snow Red Rocks Amphitheater covered in snow A woman in a knit hat, scarf and jacket with a man in a cowboy hat, scarf and jacket, tailgating at Red Rocks

We slipped into our seats just before the show started – due to the weather, the opening act (Charles Wesley Godwin) was skipped, though he did get to lead the audience in singing his favorite cover – Country Roads.

Zach came out next and launched into one of the more impressive concert performances I’ve ever seen. Even with heaters on the stage, I knew it still wasn’t much warmer than we were in the stands. That kind of weather can wreak havoc on instruments, not to mention the cold fingers trying to play them. But Zach and his band played on – you can hear the whole thing on the live album “All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster” that he recorded that night.

Three songs stood out to me above the others:

Billy Stay is one of Zach’s best writing feats, a bittersweet love story from the point of view of an elderly woman losing her husband to his brain before he’s lost in the flesh. It’s such a gorgeous song and he rarely plays it live. I would be even more thankful to have heard this song live months later when my father was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease. Music has a way of healing, and this sweet song will always have ties for me to the love between my parents.

Snow, was of course a prerequisite for Zach to play under the circumstances. Steady sheets of the stuff fell throughout the entire show, building slush around our feet and covering the blanket we brought to spread over our seats. Belting that song along with the rest of the crowd was a special moment that will stay with me forever.

Burn, Burn, Burn was released a few months before this show. Also one of Zach’s best writing efforts, I was struck by the last few lines. I tilted my head back, feeling each flake of freezing precipitation crash softly against my skin, and sang this line from the heart:

So let me go down the line. I wanna feel it all, joy, pain, and sky. So let me go down the line. ‘Cause we all burn, burn, burn and die.

Those words would be part of a series of meaningful lyrics that compelled me to make a huge change in my life months after the show – a change that would bring me back to Red Rocks many more times. 

Still, nothing will ever top my very first show at Red Rocks – one of my favorite artists, with a couple of my favorite people, under a blanket of pure white snow. 

Zach Bryan on stage at Red Rocks under yellow and orange lights while heavy snow falls Zach Bryan performing on stage at Red Rocks in the snow Two friends in the foreground, covered in snow, with Zach Bryan on stage in the background at Red Rocks



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