Unexpected Places

House shows and tiny concerts along the Front Range


On a Friday evening in July, two people stand outside a shoe store on the Pearl Street Mall, checking ID and vaccination cards for people who want to enter. Inside, among the shoes, about 30 people sit on sarape blankets laid on the floor and along curvy, contemporary wooden benches in the back. There’s a chill vibe in the air, and shoe shopping isn’t the reason. 

Attending concerts and small, intimate shows held in unexpected places brings another layer of ambience to a night of live music. These places in Boulder and areas along the Front Range invite people to experience this enchantment year-round. The only question is: Where? 

Sofar Sounds 

The show I decided to see was at Allbirds that Friday evening, hosted by Sofar Sounds. Hours before I arrived, I had no clue where I was going to watch the musicians play. I also didn’t know who was going to play. The mystery added to the excitement. 

This was also Denver-based amateur DJ Maxwell Poyser’s first time at a Sofar Sounds concert. What brought her to the event was “the love of music and trying out new things,” she said, as she sat with her friend and drank the canned beer they brought to the BYOB show. 

Before the music began, MC and show experience lead Jamaal Curry entertained the crowd and prepped the audience for the show. He interacted with the audience to discover that one person present attended a Sofar Sounds event in Sydney, Australia. The company connects artists with communities in over 400 cities around the world. 

Curry, who also is an artist, said, “the goal of these shows is to pay attention to the artist. It’s a global music community where artists are not the background.” 

Then, he introduced the first act, Dora. 

Dora sat down in front of the audience with her guitar. She introduced her friend, Froggy, who performed with her for the first few songs. Together, they sang sad breakup songs with an acoustic guitar. Dora captivated through some cover songs and personal stories. She blended myriad covers into one song, snippets of each, including Justin Bieber’s “Peaches” and Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” It was a hit. We all sang along and she suggested we all sing to the person sitting next to us during a chorus. 

Originally from Boston, but currently residing in LA, the alternative-pop singer/songwriter was on her first Sofar Sounds tour. 

“It’s the best,” Dora said of performing with Sofar. “They’re built for people that are songwriters. I feel like because people sit and want to listen … the vibe is so chill.” 

For Brandy Sachen, Sofar Sounds regional crew operations manager in Denver, the events blend many of her favorite things—live music, community, discovery and an intrinsically eccentric flair. 

“They happen in magical backyards that are lit up by twinkling, dreamy rooftops that overlook the city and mountains,” Sachen said. “Union Station in Denver, we’ve hosted in shoe stores, museums, breweries, motorcycle shops, music studios, you name it.” 

Future dates to look out for are a ’90s-hits night in Englewood, and a Beyonce-themed night in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood. Sofar also offers a back-to-school discount between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30. (Promo code: backtoschool) 

Mile High Music 

Less than 30 miles north of Boulder, in Berthoud, Mile High Music host Terry Georgia began the singer/songwriter venue a year and a half ago. Originally from Colorado, she moved back to the Centennial State from D.C. to take care of her sick father and be closer to family. She wanted to host house concerts since attending her first 15 years ago, but never had the space until her move back West. Here, she intentionally moved into a house to accommodate enough people for the shows. 

“Each (house concert) has its own personality,” Georgia said. “I’ve been to some where there’s a lot of alcohol involved and people are having a good time that way. But others are very quiet, you know, you sit there and you listen. And people come in, they listen, they go home. Other times, people hang out after the show and it becomes a real community.” 

She prefers to host singer/songwriters because she found there’s an entire network of talented artists she hasn’t experienced anywhere else. She wants to expose her audience to a more underground music scene. 

“You realize there’s this entire network of hosts across the country who do this, mostly for the love of music, almost entirely for the love of music, because we don’t get paid,” she said. “And we don’t make money, we end up spending money to host these things. And all the money that comes in is donations. And all of that goes directly to the artist. The hosts make nothing.”

Since she recently moved to the area, her audience is gradually catching on about her house shows through word of mouth and the Colorado House Concerts Facebook page. Sometimes a significant number of people show up (no more than 20 due to COVID) and sometimes only a few. 

Mile High Music’s last house show this year will be Sept. 23 with traveling musician Marc Douglas Berardo. 

When speaking about her passion to share music, Terry said, “People have been doing house concerts forever… inviting the village to sit around the campfire and listen to a traveling troubadour. It’s been going on forever. It’s something that’s kind of ingrained in us, in a way. It’s just finding ways to access that.” 

Fraser Valley Folk 

Heading west, another small concert series is held in the emerald green Fraser Historic Church six times a year. 

Originally from Wisconsin, husband-and-wife team Bambi and John Statz moved to the mountain town in 2013 and began attending small house concerts and classical music series in the area. They were inspired to emulate the small concert setting with folk musicians. They founded Fraser Valley Folk in 2015 . 

Their traveling folk-musician son, John Statz, plays a role in connecting with musicians and scheduling them to perform at the small shows. Musicians from all over the country—and one from Sweden—have played in the historic church-turned-community center. 

Bambi said she believes the musicians “leave with a flavor of our town from people who truly appreciate them.” 

Again, musicians are not background noises at a Fraser Valley Folk concert, as they can be in bars. During a show, the audience often learns about the musicians’ life stories and the meanings behind their songs. 

“We have listening audiences, you could hear a pin drop, because they’re listening to the lyrics,” Bambi said. 

Fraser Valley Folk holds three concerts in the spring and another three in the fall each year. Audience members must RSVP through the Fraser Valley Fork Facebook page, or email (fraservalleyfolk@gmail.com). They ask for $15 donations and most of it goes to the musicians. 

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