Family Night in Denver

Phil Vassar rocks the Red Rocks
Published on August 15, 2003
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Phil VassarFamily night attendees may not have known who Phil Vassar was before his performance at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, July 21, but they were well-acquainted by the night's end.

Vassar, named the top new male artist in 2002 by the Academy of Country Music Awards, spent as much time mingling with the crowd as he did on stage at Family Night. The country crooner swept through the crowd during songs and between, shaking hands, signing autographs, and even dancing with a few attendees. Bayer Animal Health sponsored the event.

Vassar, who is also an accomplished songwriter, played some of his hit songs—"Carlene," "Six-pack Summer," and "American Child"—as well as songs he has written for other artists. He performed "My Next 30 years," a song that Tim McGraw has taken to the top of the charts, and "Bye Bye," a song that helped propel Jo Dee Messina into the country spotlight.

At one point during the concert, Vassar invited Family Night attendees to sing, a segment he referred to as "Karaoke with Phil and the boys." One young woman belted out a rendition of Celine Dion's "I'm Your Lady" and a veterinarian followed up with a lively performance of Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville."

Throughout the show, Vassar was athletic and energized. Clad in a cowboy hat, T-shirt, and jeans, he even did push-ups atop his piano.

Vassar thanked the AVMA for giving him and his band the opportunity to play at the Red Rocks, one of the most storied concert venues in the United States.

"We've always wanted to play here, like forever," he said at the start of his set.

The venue itself was spectacular. The Red Rocks is a natural geographic formation, with the amphitheatre situated between two, 300-foot red rock monoliths. Musicians began performing there at the turn of the century, but the formation's history goes back much further, hundreds of millions of years to be exact.

Attendee Dr. Walter Woolf was very impressed.

"This is absolutely gorgeous," he said. "You couldn't ask for a better location or better weather."

His 7-year-old grandson, Charlie, agreed. "It's cool," he said.

The animal and plant life of the area for the past 250 million years is documented in the rock formations. Dinosaur tracks and fossil fragments of a plesiosaur, a 40-foot sea serpent, have been found nearby.

Family Night attendees were transported to the venue, located about 30 minutes outside Denver, by buses. Characters from the Wild West, including a bejeweled, cigar-chomping Molly Brown and a gunslinging Annie Oakley, greeted attendees as they arrived.

Bayer Animal Health provided complimentary binoculars and boxed dinners.

Grupo Tlaloc, a group of Aztec dancers, started the evening off by sharing their culture and customs. The all-ages dance troupe wore traditional costumes decorated with bright-colored fabric and beads. Some of the dancers wore elaborate feather headdresses.

Two of the young dancers, 12-year-old Xochitl and 10-year-old Mago, explained that the costumes reflect the personalities of the dancers. Xochitl said her metallic pink costume decorated with silver, gold, and black revealed the fact that she is a good dancer.

The dancers walked among the crowd and answered questions before they took the stage.

"I hope you enjoy a taste of our culture," said one dancer at the beginning of the performance. She explained that the dance would begin with a ritual acknowledging Father Sun and Mother Earth.

A pair of drummers provided rhythm for the dancers, who supplemented the sounds with rattling shells attached to their costumes.

At the end of the night, attendees were treated to a spectacular view of the Denver city lights as they walked down a ramp to a fleet of buses waiting to return them to the convention hotels.