Boulder’s Fox Theater Shaped Colorado’s Musical Community and Sound Identity

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There are a few key people and places that have grown to define the sound of Colorado and the bold musical initiative, and it’s fair to assume that Colorado’s sonic identity and reputation wouldn’t be the same without the Fox Theater, who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall. of fame in December 2021. Opened in 1993 by Don Strasburg – who is now co-president of AEG Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest – the Fox Theater represents Colorado’s musical culture and sound in every way. It’s a place where music will thrive and community comes first.

Shortly after graduating from Colorado College in 1991, Don Strasburg had a mission: to bring his favorite bands to Colorado. So, at 23, he opened the Fox Theater in Boulder, a city that Strasbourg describes as “the oasis of everything I thought was cool”.

Although Denver today retains a renowned reputation as a top touring destination for national and international artists, the Mile High City looked very different 30 years ago, when Boulder was where culture was shaped.

“Denver was very, very different from Boulder in 1992. We didn’t want to go to Denver. We wanted nothing to do with Denver in 1992. Now, I think people look at Denver the same way we looked at Boulder back then. Denver didn’t impact Boulder, Boulder impacted Denver.

The Wallows at the Fox Theatre. Photo by Adrienne Thomas.

The Boulder and Denver music community has been shaped by a few key industry players, including Don Strasburg, who now hosts the majority of Red Rocks shows and is largely responsible for AEG’s takeover of the Colorado’s live music industry. His remarkable reputation has been built over the past three decades, but when he first opened the Fox Theater he was just a 23-year-old music lover who wanted to give his favorite bands a home to play. in his favorite city. How did he do that? By putting sound and community first.

“Without a doubt, the sound made the difference. The sound is the difference. I wanted to help create a home for the music and the community that I felt didn’t yet have a home.

Those early years at the Fox Theater weren’t easy. Money was tough and owning a concert hall had a pretty steep learning curve. Strasbourg even remembers having taken out a loan from his grandparents for a year to bring the place to life. Looking back, Strasbourg remembers those early days with gratitude and joy.

“There is something pure and honest at the beginning that you can never replicate. Yes, we have made credible mistakes. We have had incredible successes. I think we succeeded because we really saw a real need for the community rather than seeing [The Fox Theatre] as a commercial enterprise.

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Photo by Adrienne Thomas

In the early 1990s, a bold and totally original new genre began to break into popular culture: hip-hop. The hip-hop sound was raw, unfiltered and provocative, which made investing in this new movement a financial risk. Strasburg didn’t care, and the Fox Theater embraced this new culture with open arms, becoming one of the first venues in Colorado to aggressively book hip-hop acts.

A few years later, a new movement started to take over called Electronic Dance Music or EDM. A genre almost entirely devoid of lyrical content, many people failed to see the appeal when the term “EDM” was coined to describe this relatively new sound. Strasburg and the rest of the Fox Theater staff, however, saw the potential and passion of this new movement and gave electronic artists a chance to perform in Colorado. Fast forward to 2022, and Denver – now known as the bass capital of the world – has become an essential touring destination for bassists everywhere.

Colorado’s musical notoriety didn’t happen overnight. It was built on the backs of passionate people and hard work. The Fox Theater is a perfect example of the impact a single location can have on an entire community, as Strasburg explained:

I have come to recognize that what we created at the Fox Theater put the entire Colorado community on a road that is flourishing today. We set a bar that everyone had to reach or at least fight for every day and that changed the landscape of our community, I believe, with tremendous positivity.

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Atlas Genius at the Fox Theater. Photo by Meg O’Neill.

As the world is still recovering from the devastating impact of COVID on the live entertainment industry, small music venues are playing a bigger role than ever. As we return to a social world, Strasbourg believes that live music has taken on a new importance in our society.

“I think [the lockdown] reminded people that what you get at the Fox Theater is something you can’t get any other way. It’s something really special and not to be taken for granted. I think coming out of that situation, people realized that the important things in life are getting together with our friends and family and dancing. When you take that away, it makes life so much bland.

That’s not to say Fox Theater overlooks the harsh realities of COVID. Their staff works tirelessly to ensure that each concert adheres to CDC and state regulations. Whatever the precautions, however, the risk is never completely denied and there is always lingering anxiety about reintegrating into social spaces after chronic isolation. So to get people to come to the shows in 2022, you better have good music and great performance.

“You can tell when the music is compelling [enough] that people will overcome their fears and remember what is important.

Tyler the Creator at the Fox Theatre. Photo by Darian Simon.

Over the past 30 years, Colorado has become an American oasis of good music and good people. It’s what defines Colorado, and it’s what defines the Fox Theatre.

Colorado is always changing and will always continue to do so. Likewise, no moment defined Fox’s legacy and its story is still being written, but there’s no denying Fox Theater’s impact on the Colorado music community we know and love today. .

“Change is something you can only put your finger on in the exact moment long after, when you can go back and analyze it. You might be able to choose certain moments, but a moment in itself is not a story.

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