Dierks Bentley was looking for ways to spend more time in Colorado.
A frequent visitor to the Centennial State while growing up in Arizona, the country music superstar started performing annually at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival a few years ago because the event gave him an excuse to come back to the Rockies.
Bentley went to Nashville when he was 19 and started his long trek toward stardom. Twenty-five years later he has a wife and kids and is happy with his life in Tennessee. But still, the mountains were calling.
They beckoned him back last year for a songwriting retreat and Bentley enjoyed the experience so much that he decided to record his new album in Telluride. He recorded the album, titled “The Mountain,” at Studio In The Clouds and the collection landed at the top of the country charts upon its release.
The album was also well-received by the critics and has produced a steady stream of hit singles including “Burning Man,” “Woman, Amen” and his brand new single “Living.”
Bentley’s connection to Colorado is deep and strong, and for years he had been thinking about putting together a music festival in the mountains. Finding the perfect place proved to be difficult, though, since the stubborn songwriter was determined to stage the event, literally, in the mountains … not somewhere on the Front Range with just a distant view of those peaks.
After relentless location scouting, Bentley and Live Nation finally scored when they found Buena Vista. The little mountain town had previously hosted an EDM festival and the infrastructure worked. While that EDM festival was ill-fated – electronic dance music, in hindsight, probably wasn’t a good fit for the community – the fact that it went off technically without a hitch gave Bentley and his team hope.
The venue in Buena Vista offered everything Bentley was looking for – plenty of room for camping, beautiful views of the Collegiate Peaks, and lots of ways for festival-goers to really enjoy the mountain setting. Want to go whitewater rafting before the music starts? You can do that, courtesy of one of the local small businesses Live Nation has partnered with to help make the festival an immersive Rocky Mountain experience.
The Seven Peaks Festival launched in 2018 and everyone involved deemed it a success. Success in this instance is a relative term. Was it as popular as Country Jam, the annual country music festival held in Grand Junction? No. That festival draws upwards of 100,000 people every year. But Country Jam was designed to be a huge affair. The Seven Peaks Festival was aiming for something very different.
Brian O’Connell is Live Nation’s president of country touring and was instrumental in helping to find the venue in Buena Vista, and in establishing a vision for Seven Peaks. “We of course wanted a world-class festival,” O’Connell said in a recent interview with The Colorado Adventure. But they didn’t necessarily want 100,000 country music fans invading Buena Vista. No one wanted that - least of all the local community.
O’Connell and his team spent a lot of time with officials in Buena Vista and Chaffee County convincing them that the Seven Peaks Festival wasn’t going to be like the EDM debacle that ruffled so many local feathers. “Dierks really wanted to do the festival in Buena Vista, so we worked at gaining their trust and confidence,” O’Connell said. “Our word had to be our bond.”
Upwards of 10,000 people attended the inaugural Seven Peaks Festival in 2018. The event was designed to accommodate about 30,000, so there’s plenty of room for growth. O’Connell thinks this year’s attendance will be higher, because the festival was such a success by all other metrics. “We put on a great festival,” he said, “and it’s only going to get better.”
One aspect of the Seven Peaks Festival that sets it apart from some other world-class events of its nature is the fact that it was designed to be very family friendly. “We want it to be a family-friendly, three-day, end-of-summer getaway,” O’Connell explained.
Buena Vista is a short drive from Denver, which makes the festival an attractive option for the city dweller. The town got its name, which translates to “good view,” from the Collegiate Peaks … “no matter what we do, it’s hard to screw up that view,” O’Connell said … and there is an abundance of world-class activities available in the area.
The festival schedule allows for a lot of “free time” to take advantage of those views and those activities. Most shows don’t start until later in the day, which will give attendees the morning and most of the afternoon to explore and immerse themselves in the local culture. Whether you’re into hiking, bicycling, rafting, fly fishing, or just looking to soak all the beauty up, there’s really no better place for any of it than Buena Vista and Chaffee County.
You can book some of those activities directly through the Seven Peaks Festival website. Want to book an Arkansas River whitewater rafting adventure? CLICK HERE! Is an exhilarating ATV tour more your speed? CLICK HERE! What about an inflatable kayak tour? CLICK HERE!
All of these adventures are offered in partnership with local small businesses; and the synergy doesn’t stop there.
O’Connell said Live Nation wants to encourage festival-goers to spend time in Buena Vista and Chaffee County; and to visit the business districts and support the local communities.
In that spirit, the festival is using as many Colorado-based vendors as possible. For instance, much of the beer sold at the festival will be from the state’s craft brewing industry. The artist catering tent will feature organic vegetables from a local farm. The arts and craft booths that are part of the festival feature products made by local artisans.
Of course, none of that matters if Bentley and Live Nation don’t deliver on their promise of a unique, eclectic music festival that brings in the people. Not too many people, though; just the right amount.
Bentley is the top-liner, of course. But this year he is sharing the spotlight with Luke Bryan, one of the true mega-watt superstars of the music world. Beyond Bentley and Bryan, the festival line-up is stacked with current hit-makers like Maren Morris and Jon Pardi. But a closer look at the lineup reveals some of the method to Bentley’s madness.
The Friday night lineup is being billed as 90’s Night and is structured as a celebration of country music from that decade. Bentley has lured some stunning talent to the stage for the festivities.
Diamond Rio was one of the most successful bands of the era, and they just recently started touring together again. Songs like “Meet in the Middle” and “One More Day” made the group a mainstay of country radio in the 1990’s. Their soaring harmonies set them apart from many of their contemporaries.
Travis Tritt had his own remarkable run in the 1990’s. His Outlaw-style country struck a chord with traditionalists and modern country fans alike. Hits like “Here’s a Quarter” and “It’s a Great Day to be Alive” still get heavy airplay to this day.
Deana Carter broke through in 1996 with her debut album “Did I Shave My Legs for This,” which sold over 5 million copies. The album featured her runaway hit “Strawberry Wine” which hit the top of the country charts and won multiple Grammy awards.
Tracy Lawrence was one of the most popular hit-makers of the 1990’s. Perhaps best known for his chart-topping single “Time Marches On,” Lawrence is famous for writing and singing old-fashioned story songs. “Time Marches On” stayed atop the country charts for three straight weeks.
And what would 90’s Night be without a good cover band? In this case, it’s a group called Hot Country Knights and they will cover some of the biggest country hits of the 1990’s. But wait! The catch here is that Hot Country Knights is actually Dierks Bentley and his band, dressed up like 90’s country musicians and belting out the hits. The act features a heavy dose of comedy and has become a mainstay of Bentley’s live shows and will certainly be a hit on the Seven Peaks festival stage. O’Connell calls it “the country version of Spinal Tap.”
Saturday night’s lineup features Luke Bryan, Maren Morris, Mitchell Tenpenny, Ryan Hurd, Caylee Hammack and Steep Canyon Rangers. Sunday night will see Bentley take center stage along with Jon Pardi, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The War and Treaty, and Tenille Townes.
It’s an eclectic mix of talent, for sure. But that’s what Bentley was going for. Anyone can do a straight-up modern country music festival. But it’s a unique festival indeed that can lure the mythological Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the white-hot The War and Treaty to the same stage.
We will be taking a closer look at the incredible talent taking the Seven Peaks stage over the next few weeks. In the meantime, visit the festival’s homepage by CLICKING HERE. From that website you can purchase tickets, book adventure excursions, and learn more about the festival and the beautiful Buena Vista and Chaffee County.