Bus to Show Ferries Fans to Red Rocks

All aboard the party bus that's keeping music fans safe and sound as they travel to and from Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Dave Watts, leader of the Boulder-based band The Motet, was pumped for his band's first headlining gig at Red Rocks, a venue that he (like many) holds in high esteem. A few weeks before the July 22 show, the drummer explained, as well, why fans of The Motet return to see the band again and again: "We hope that when people come out for a Motet show, they get a night of live music they will never forget: a sweat-soaked, kinetic experience that satisfies the body and mind."

In promoting their new recording Totem, the band partnered with the brewery Crooked Stave, which produced a Motet-themed draft beer, offered at pubs around the region, together with a commemorative pint glass dedicated to the band's Red Rocks milestone. Given that beery cross-promotion -- as well as a song title like "Rippin' Herb" and "So High" -- it's safe to say that devotees of The Motet enjoy partying down to the band's unique brand of oft-uptempo Boulder funk.

Pre-party station

On the night of the show, fans of The Motet -- and of Red Rocks concerts in general -- gather at the Cheba Hut location on East Colfax Avenue in Denver, awaiting their transportation to the amphitheater. Cheba Hut is the cannabis-themed sandwich shop that offers subs named after famous marijuana like, for instance, "Panama Red" and "Thai Stick." One side of the building is covered with a mural depicting a cartoonish figure holding a sandwich in one hand and a fountain drink in the other, surrounded by a forest of weed leaves. The lettering reads "Kindly Toasted On Colfax."
Pat Milbery's mural adorns Cheba Hut on Colfax.
Until recently, a competing message on a nearby billboard provided a stark warning seemingly directed straight at Cheba Hut patrons: The image of a wrecked car in the shape of a flaming, marijuana joint, along with the wording "Hits Lead To Hits" and "Don't Drive High." The Colorado Department of Transportation was one of the advertisement's sponsors.

The co-designer of that Cheba Hut pot-leaf advertisement -- esteemed muralist and cultural promoter Pat Milbery, a.k.a. So-Gnar -- responsibly notes, "It would be tragic for something like an experience at Red Rocks to vanish if you choose to make a wrong decision by drinking too much alcohol or not being in a sober state to drive yourself or your loved one home from the venue."

Luckily, a funky, orange school bus parked in Cheba Hut's parking lot was there to assist in keeping concertgoers safe.

Bus to Show

The bus' driver Amandine Aubertot, 28, explains that it's the dual mission of the nonprofit she works for, Bus to Show, to "support the local music scene and reduce DUIs." (Bus to Show operates as a "membership organization" with enrollment and bookings taking place online.)

"I really believe in the organization," echoes artist Milbery, who's painted a mural on one of Bus to Show's buses. In addition to businesses like Cheba Hut, Bus to Show regularly partners with comedians, musicians and deejays who perform on its buses. Bus to Show also has a contract to transport patrons to Film on the Rocks events.
Bus to Show founder Dustin Huth.
Bus to Show was incorporated in 2009 in Boulder. Founder Dustin Huth, 37, explains in clear-eyed fashion the nonprofit's role in reducing DUIs: "Last year, we moved 25,000 people statewide. . . . When you separate 25,000 people from their keys and their cars at the moments when they're partying their hardest, it's bound to have an effect."

On the night of The Motet's concert, several Bus to Show buses disembark from various Denver and Boulder locales to bring concertgoers to Red Rocks and back, all in one piece.

Huth calls Bus to Show's safety record "impeccable." He adds the following directive for the people who pay the $25 or so for the round trip to Red Rocks or other concert venues: "You guys dance hard for me, I'll drive hard for you."

(Although a FOX 31 news report in May alleged that Bus to Show was running a fleet of "outlaw" party buses, apparently the state hadn't found any reason to stop Bus to Show from transporting people to concerts.)

In the patio attached to the Cheba Hut's bar, concertgoers enjoy pre-show pints before boarding their Bus to Show vehicles. Some of the women are dressed as if they were about to hit a dance club in LoDo on a Saturday night. Other guys 'n' gals look like the younger demographic at a Jimmy Buffet concert, bedecked in nautical-meets-Superfly style. One 30-year-old fan of The Motet named "Spinner" wears his Grateful Dead-themed T-shirt and lets his freak flag fly.

"Spinner" explains that he's been in Colorado (by way of Florida and New York) for two years now. "I moved here for Red Rocks," he declares, having now attended around 30 shows at the amphitheater. Additionally, he's seen The Motet nine times, give or take. When asked what a novice can expect from the The Motet in concert, "Spinner" replies, "A lot of booty-shaking, a lot of smiles, a lot of good feelings."

Soon enough, the first Bus to Show vehicle is ready to take off. No luxury touring bus, and short on legroom, the interior floor looked like it had recently taken a group of sixth graders hiking in the hills. Concertgoers haul six-packs and cases of beer on board, consuming the brew during the drive and after arriving on the grounds of Red Rocks, before entering the amphitheater (where a single beer is upwards of $9).

Aubertot explains the bus' rules, noting what's allowed and what isn't. Smoking (whether it be cigarettes or medication) would be permitted. But extending or tossing anything out of the vehicle's windows is verboten: "Your butt -- and butts -- should stay on the bus!" She notes that she had once been pulled over by police because someone had been mooning passing traffic.

Aubertot also informs passengers that the bus would depart back to Denver a half-hour after the end of the final encore. And she issues the following reminder concerning the bus' location down at the very bottom parking lot: "If you're, like, totally faded and you can't figure out what's going on, think, 'Where would water go? Water goes downhill!'"

Jam band parking lot

Once at Red Rocks, the celebration continues in the Lower South Lot 2. Burgers are grilled, beers cracked, plumes of cannabis smoke exhaled. Pre-show entertainment is provided by Breaking Spaces, courtesy of Bus to Show, before folks even hike up to the amphitheater to see the scheduled acts.

Becca Jacobson and crew pose with their ride.The rental of one of Bus to Show's buses was organized by Becca Jacobson, who manages the Cheba Hut location on Champa Street in Denver. Apparently, Cheba Hut not only endorses Bus to Show, its employees patronize the service as well. Jacobson has traveled with her crew of friends and colleagues to see The Motet, once again, and says, "If you dig '70s funk music, it's a great show!"

That opinion is seconded by Josh Critchfield, who manages the Boulder Cheba Hut: "It's going to be the funkiest show you've ever seen!"

Then they introduce Tony Kozak, described by Jacobson and Critchfield as "the biggest Motet supporter you'll ever meet." Kozak, who's seen the band upwards of 30 times, provides a review of the band's latest release: "This new album Totem just blew the roof off of funk music, where it incorporates, like, a throwback to every funk artist ever! It has some Stevie Wonder in it, it has Herbie Hancock in it, P-Funk, Neville Brothers."

And that's exactly what The Motet deliver, featuring a punch interplay of horns and extended jams.

Before the band took the stage, another fan of both Red Rocks and The Motet prepares for his work. Photographer Derek Miles is shooting the night's acts for the Boulder-based magazine The Marquee. For the first three songs of each band's set (the time period during which photographers are allowed to do their work, up close and personal), Miles has just about the best seat in the house: extending his long legs under the railing at the very front of the stage as he zooms in on his subjects through is viewfinder. In between photos, he signifies his appreciation for the music by shouting out the occasional "Yeeaaahhh!"

For his photographic work, Miles' compensation is solely the music, but attending a show by The Motet at a venue like Red Rocks pays off for him in other ways: "They're a great funk band. They throw the best dance party you can imagine. . . . People love them."
The band's point of view.
Miles adds, "Red Rocks is, like, the pinnacle of the Colorado music scene. Every local band that comes up in Colorado wishes they could play Red Rocks -- and this is the goal, this is what they're working towards. It's a destination: It's probably one of the greatest outdoor venues in the world."

Kennan Krause, who's employed at the venue as part of the backstage security team, is another fan of live music and Red Rocks. His ability to see the acts is limited, though. Krause, 19, says, "I try and get at least 10 minutes in, for every show. Sometimes during my lunch break, I get 30 minutes." Which means, he's seen bits and pieces of the 100-plus shows he's worked there. Krause says of Red Rocks, "Growing up a local Colorado boy, it's a staple here. So it's cool working here and being a part of that."

Krause is also a musician who plays guitar: "I'm a worship leader for a Christian organization at my school [Montana State University]." He cites two of his favorite Red Rocks acts as Hillsong United, an Australian worship band, and Needtobreathe, a South Carolina-based Christian rock act.

"Needtobreathe and Hillsong United aren't ringing any bells," says Bus to Show's Huth, when asked if the organization provided buses to those shows. Nevertheless, Brett Banfe, the nonprofit's membership coordinator, says that Bus to Show's fleet operates akin to church buses that bring congregation members to various events; he sometimes tells people, "Music is our religion."

In the parking lot after the show, rolling beer cans sound like bits and pieces of an extended drum solo. One young man relieves himself on a fence post, as a woman crawls under another post nearby. Several folks get on the wrong bus before realizing their error, prior to the vehicle departing back to Denver.

Soon enough, spent concertgoers jerk awake. Thanks to the capable hands behind the wheel, Bus to Show has delivered them back to the Cheba Hut on East Colfax in Denver, where their journey had begun.

A successful -- and safe -- night of booty-shaking at Red Rocks had just taken place.

Check out writer Gregory Daurer's song and essay on what Red Rocks means to him personally here.

Read more articles by Gregory Daurer.

Gregory Daurer is a Denver-based freelance writer and singer-songwriter, whose credits include 5280, WestwordSalon, Draft and High Times. He's also authored the novel A Western Capitol Hill.
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