Carl Cox brought something fresh and different to Red Rocks Amphitheatre on October 8th. Just like the venue itself, it was magic at every moment. For the first time in Colorado, he showcased his hybrid live set and the massive production that goes with it. Here is how it went for those of us in the crowd.
The night started around 6:30 PM when we did what everyone must do to experience Red Rocks right: We began the gruesome and exhausting climb uphill into the rock formations surrounding the venue. Even from the bottom, we could hear The Bordas Brothers play a dark, smooth sound that will forever be the soundtrack to my wheezing and struggling to breathe as I walked up towards the ramp at the beginning of Entrance 2. If you’ve never walked that ramp, I envy you. If you have, you know it makes you earn the music you are there to hear.
We finally made it inside and found a spot right up front in the second row just in time to hear UK DJ Will Clarke, whom I first heard at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe right before the quarantine. That night, he played house, disco, and the Dirtybird sound he helped shape during that era. Since then, a lot has changed, including Will Clarke moving to Detroit, which you could hear immediately in his first song.
He played funky, heavy, and dark, very much a representation of where he had been and what had changed since I heard him last. The power in his music could be felt and heard. We didn’t move from our spot the entire time he played — except to dance, of course.
After Will’s energetic, one-hour set, the crowd was so packed it felt like all of Denver was there just for the night. What I’ve come to love so much about the Mile High City is that the people here dance with full intent, free of shame or fear. Denver loves music as much as anywhere I’ve been, and this was a night where house and techno were allowed to take control.
Next up was Nicole Moudaber. I have always been a fan of techno, but I never gave my soul to it until I saw Nicole bring her In the MOOD sound to EDC’s Neon Garden stage in 2017, where she captivated me in such a way that I am still riding a high from it now. But as with the previous DJ, I could hear the change in Nicole — and perhaps techno as a whole — in that she played a more trance-style sound than I had expected. Her path had changed. But isn’t that what we want from our DJs? Isn’t that what we want for ourselves?
Nicole, as much as anybody, has reminded me that genres never matter, and she proved that again with a demonstration of where techno is right now. It’s somewhere in the middle. Then, at about the 28th minute of her set, she did what we all knew would happen: She dropped the hammer and played that raw techno sound we know and love, and she did not let up until the very last beat. Building and building, the music was like a skyscraper in the city that grew taller with every drop. My favorite moment was when an older European lady turned to me during her set and said with a grin (and thick, German accent), “Now that’s techno.” I couldn’t help but smile back and agree. Nicole proved why she stole my soul those years ago.
From there came the legendary Carl Cox, doing something in Denver he had never done before by playing a hybrid set. The word “legend” gets thrown around too casually. In Carl’s case, it couldn’t apply more. From his days playing the ’90s Euro techno sound I discovered as a teenager, or even during his legendary stretch at the epic Club Space in Ibiza, Carl Cox has led the way both in his enthusiasm and his taste. He drives our culture as much as any artist today and represents it well.
What made this night so unique was that at this point in his unmatched career, Carl Cox still wants to evolve. He still wants to try something new, give us more of his art, and go further. It’s incredibly inspiring to see somebody at the forefront still encouraging the rest of us to always keep moving. A highlight for me was when he dropped a remixed version of the great Josh Wink track “Higher State Of Consciousness.” You could hear the acid breaks from the ’90s echo out into the October sky like it was just as fresh as ever.
We heard such energy and power over the next 90 minutes, mixed in with a reminder that he’s just as involved as all of us when he exclaimed his catchphrase, “OH YES OH YES.” Carl Cox could have played a DJ set somewhere in town, and we all still would have shown up. Instead, he wanted to show us a side of himself we had not heard yet, and I love him so much for that.
The best part for me will always be that moment right around 10:40 PM, when we were all getting tired and aware of that walk back to our car. Just like that, in the middle of the high-energy techno he helped spread across the world, he dropped a house track I know so well from all the times I’ve heard it — but still to this day just can’t remember the name. We all reacted in joy and acknowledgment that a true DJ cares nothing for genres, only for how good the music makes you feel. He then ended with a driving final track that left us all smiling as we slowly made our way home.
On October 8th at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Carl Cox gave us something new and beautiful, and we loved every minute of it. Along with The Bordas Brothers, Will Clarke, and Nicole Moudaber, he gifted us a full night of wonderful music in a magical setting. We will never forget these moments, and we only had them because we agreed to go a little bit further. Thank you to Carl Cox for this one. See you on the dance floor.