Sept. 14-16 • Overland golf course • 40 + Artists
By Mary Anderson
Denver’s music scene is rising to new heights with the first festival of its kind in the city: Grandoozy. Headliners Kendrick Lamar, Florence + The Machine and Stevie Wonder will take the stage at Overland Park Golf Course.
“We couldn’t be happier with the lineup and believe it’s a great balance of some of the hottest names in music, legendary performers and even some great local bands,” Richard W. Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver says.
Put on by Superfly, the co-creators of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, the festival will give local bands a national platform to promote themselves and the city. This national spotlight is expected to amplify Denver as a music destination.For participants, it will be a weekend unlike any other.
“It’s gonna be different than most experiences people have in Denver,” executive producer of the event and long-time executive director of Denver Theatre District David Ehrlich says. “We really pride ourselves on the experience at our events. We do not just throw up a bunch of stages and port-a-lets.”
According to Kerry Black, co-founder of Superfly, “We really try to create mini-worlds within the festival for a full entertainment experience.”
The experiences will include nearly 40 musical acts in addition to food, craft beer, art and outdoor events. With Denver’s biggest chefs like Jennifer Jasinski and Tommy Lee, the Devour Denver event will feature some of the city’s most celebrated food.
The Arts & Crafts event will be curated by Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild with the help of Chad Michael George, partner at The Way Back, Wayward and American Grind. It will feature tons of craft beer, spirits and local artists.
Bringing it all together, the Backyard event will feature a 1980’s ski lodge and a range of outdoor brands, a nod to our state’s active lifestlye and love for everything outdoors.
“We’re combining a really deep neighborhood and community effort with a kind of sense of fun and outgoingness,” Ehrlich says. And for the music scene, “I think this was the missing piece,” he adds.
A Bo(u)lder Blend
Gasoline Lollipops frontman explains his band’s mix of folk, punk and country
Boulder’s Gasoline Lollipops will be right at home on the Grandoozy stage.
Much like some of the headliners that will hit the stage, Gasoline Lollipops, one of the top-billed Colorado acts in the festival, blends styles, including folk, punk and country.
Growing up, lead singer and founder Clay Rose split time between his songwriting mom in Tennessee and his truck-driving dad near Jamestown and Ward.
“Music was a big part of everywhere I went as a kid. Especially in Colorado, every Saturday night they would have a bluegrass jam up at the Millsite Inn, which is this little pizza bar up on the Peak to Peak Highway. Everyone would bring their instruments and just jam. That jam would go until like two, three in the morning sometimes. I’d fall asleep on the rawhide booth,” Rose said.
In the South, there was more of a folk element.
“It’s more about the story you’re telling. These songs that they would sing down there, they’re hundreds of years old,” Rose says.
They would play on homemade and unconventional instruments such as spoons and the washtub bass. According to Rose, instruments were simply there to frame the story. It was rough, but authentic.
“When I was in elementary school, I was made to start playing classic piano, violin and flute. And I didn’t like any of it,” he said. “That was not my idea of music. From what I had witnessed as a kid, music was something that was either in you or it wasn’t. And if it was in you, it was going to find a way out of you.”
It wasn’t long before music found its way out of him.
Rose spent a summer in the backwoods of Nova Scotia with no power or running water and only candles for light. With nothing else to do, he began mastering five chords his dad taught him.
“That was the first time that I was really just hooked,” Rose said. “I was just writing and writing, filling up notebooks every week with lyrics. And I never thought about playing these songs for anyone. I just played because I couldn’t not.”
Even when he did play those songs for a crowd, he didn’t plan for it.
One day, when Rose and his dad stopped in a small town for the night, they stumbled upon an open mic session in a barn.
“I got up there and I played a song,” he recalls. “The crowd erupted and they wanted another. So I played them another. And then a guy jumped up from the audience and started playing congas with me. And on the next song, a guy jumped up on fiddle, and started playing fiddle with me. And that was my
Rose later grew into a mindset of rebellion, following a bad record deal that put him out of the game for two and a half years. His heroes were early protest singers like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, along with more recent punk rockers NOFX, Rancid and The Distillers.
In 2006, while living in punk rock mode and listening to country music, Rose formed Gasoline Lollipops.
“Over the years, band members changed and I grew up a little,” Rose says. “Our sound refined. I calmed down. I wasn’t making music just to annoy people anymore. There was a period of time when that was my sole purpose. The Gasoline Lollipops still retain that punk rock spirit a little bit. But I’m not playing for the purpose of rebellion anymore.”
The reason for that change tracks back to a desire to unite, not destroy.
“I think change can come in the form of evolution, and it’s much gentler and more creative. We don’t have to destroy anything, we can just turn it into something new,” Rose says. “I spent a long time as a satellite in a really big universe. That gets lonely. But you still look around and there’s the phenomenon of life all around you. You are a part of it. So in that, we’re never alone. I think that’s a message worth amplifying.”
Rose is the last original member of the band. But the guys that play alongside him are special in their own ways, as are their initial encounters with their lead singer and acoustic guitarist.
After seeing Don Ambory play at the Gold Hill Inn, Rose invited the guitarist to the Lollipops’ weekly gig at the Waterloo. He’s been playing with them ever since.
“I’m grateful to alcohol for a few things. One is that I never would have had the courage to approach my wife, if I hadn’t been drunk. And two is I never would have had the courage to approach Donny Ambory if I hadn’t been drunk,” Rose recalls, laughing.
The rebellious Rose also went through a few bass players in the early days.
“Finally, I was auditioning bass players and this kid shows up, his name is Bradley Morse. He shows up to audition wearing a cardigan, khaki slacks, wingtips and these glasses,” Rose recalls, laughing. “But the boy could play. Tongue in cheek, we’ve named him Bad Brad. Baddest dude I know. And he’s still with us. That was four years ago.”
Morse also introduced Kevin Matthews to the group as a new drummer.
“I’m looking forward to this new incarnation,” Rose says.
Looking to Grandoozy, the band is “dazed” and excited to play at a festival with artists like Sturgill Simpson, who also plays at the edges of rock, country and folk.
“I’m really excited. I am really starstruck by Florence + The Machine. That’s the main thing I’m thinking about. Like can I sit backstage and watch her sing?” Rose says humbly with a chuckle.
Check out gasolinelollipops.com to learn more about the band before their performance at the inaugural Grandoozy Festival.
More about Clay Rose
- Rose’s mother Donna Farrar co-wrote “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning,” which was a hit for Willie Nelson.
- At those Millsite Inn jam sessions, Rose played with other musicians who joined Leftover Salmon and the Yonder Mountain String Band.
- Rose’s musical heroes as a child were Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, “early rock and rollers that pushed the envelope and were raw, like the bluegrass I was raised on.”
Mary Anderson is a freelance graphic designer and writer currently based in Denver. When she is not designing logos or writing magazine stories, you’ll most likely find her in the mountains.