Folsom Field hasn't hosted concerts since 2001. The sonic drought ends this summer with back-to-back shows by Dead & Company.
January 1924: Ground breaks for a new campus stadium to replace the existing Gamble Field
October 1924: Colorado Stadium, as Folsom Field was first called, opens and hosts the first football game, versus Regis College
1944: Stadium is renamed Folsom Field after death of legendary CU football coach Fred Folsom (Law’1899)
September 1969: First large stadium concert features the Byrds, Sons of Champlin, Buddy Guy and the Steve Miller Band
September 1972: The Grateful Dead perform in Folsom for the first time
May 1977: Fleetwood Mac, Bob Seger, Firefall and John Sebastian play for 61,500 people, the largest crowd in the stadium’s history
July 1978: The Rolling Stones perform
June 1980: The Grateful Dead play three days in a row
July 1986: Brief hiatus in Folsom concerts starts after extremely loud appearance by Van Halen
August 1989: The Who perform, part of the band's 25th anniversary tour
May 1993: Paul McCartney performs
July 2001: Long concert hiatus begins after performance by Dave Matthews Band
July 2016: Concerts scheduled to resume with two shows by Dead & Company
On July 11, 2001, the Dave Matthews Band played an electrifying 2.5-hour set at Folsom Field. The night was rainy, but that didn’t stop a crowd of 40,000 from showing up, or the band from going long.
By the time they finished a nearly eight-minute encore of “Ants Marching,” it was 10:45, 15 minutes past the curfew for outdoor concerts at Folsom. CU-Boulder fined the band $15,000 — $1,000 a minute — and concerts in the stadium were suspended indefinitely.
Michael Goldman (Pharm’78) was in the crowd that night, as he had been for almost every Folsom concert since 1973, when he attended a Leon Russell performance as a freshman.
“The campus would be taken over by whoever was playing,” the Denver pharmacist said, adding that the time to revive Folsom as a concert venue “is definitely long overdue.”
That day has arrived. The university announced Feb. 8 that Dead & Company — three surviving members of the Grateful Dead and John Mayer — will play at Folsom on July 2 and 3, 2016, the first concerts there in 15 years.
Like Goldman, former Buffs wide receiver Lance Carl (Soc’91) was at the infamous Dave Matthews Band show. After he joined CU-Boulder as an associate athletic director in 2013, he proposed bringing concerts back to revive a tradition and to generate additional revenue.
If the Dead & Company shows go well, other concerts could follow.
“I would love to have concerts every year,” Carl said.
In early 2015, Carl approached longtime friend Don Strasburg, co-president of live-music promoter AEG Live Rocky Mountains, about booking a big-name band. After Dead & Company were well received at a sold-out 2015 show in Broomfield, Colo., Strasburg went after them, and learned they were interested in a larger, more distinctive venue.
The return of the Grateful Dead, or an incarnation of it, is symbolic in a way: In 1972 the Dead was among the first acts to play Folsom. They’d come back in 1980 to roaring crowds of around 60,000.
“The Grateful Dead has found a way to transcend time and generations,” said Ari Kononov (Comm’18), a sophomore and director of the CU Program Council, a campus group with a history of promoting concerts. “They’re a really hot comeback band right now.”
Bob Weir, a Grateful Dead founder and Dead & Company star, recalled happy memories of playing Folsom, including a rainy first show where he saw what he called “St. Elmo’s fire,” a natural electrical phenomenon, from the stage.
“It got crazier from there,” Weir said in an April conference call. “I have nothing but the fondest memories of playing that facility.”
Weir added that Colorado’s thin air has sometimes made it difficult for him to sing, but that Boulder’s elevation always seemed to work well for him.
“I’m looking forward to going back there in the biggest way,” he said. “This will be more fun for me in many regards than Red Rocks.”
An estimated 30-35,000 people are expected to attend the Saturday night concert, Carl said, and 25-30,000 on Sunday. Tickets range in price from $30 to $120 each.
Besides scheduling the band, there’s the matter of transforming a football stadium into a concert venue. Carl helped determine the stage location — the north end zone extending to the 15-yard line, facing the Flatirons — and arranged for a breathable plastic covering to protect the grass from the dancing and hula-hooping crowd of 7,500 people with lawn tickets.
Dead & Company’s set-up crew plans to arrive June 26, along with 11 truckloads of equipment and others filled with steel for the stage. In all, about 200 workers, many of them locals, will participate, said Dead & Company production manager Chris Adamson. Altogether, it will take about five days to build the stage, with the crew working eight-to-10 hour days.
On the day of the shows, doors open at 5 p.m. — and the music will end by 11.
Of that, said Carl, “I’m confident.”
One person sure to be there is Goldman, now in his 60s. The former CU Program Council photographer shot a legendary 1977 Fleetwood Mac concert at Folsom, among many others, and old habits die hard: He’ll bring his camera.
“I’ll be there for at least one of the nights,” he said, “if not both.”
For information about this year’s Dead and Company concerts, please visit Colorado.edu/deadandcompany.
Photos by Michael Goldman