MusicFest brings Texas country, a Grammy winner, and more free shows to Steamboat

Cooper Gutierrez performs during a MusicFest free concert in Steamboat Square at the base of Steamboat Resort. In 2022, there will be four days each featuring three bands or artists performing free shows at the base area's new stage.
Matt Stensland/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

The Texas Red Dirt show known as MusicFest is back in Steamboat Springs for the 37th year, showcasing about 70 artists and bands at more than a dozen venues between Saturday, Jan. 7, and Thursday, Jan. 12.

Venues are scattered across the Steamboat Resort base area and even extend up the slopes. The variety of locations in which people can take in a few tunes is just one of the many things that make MusicFest such a special event. 

Founder John Dickson said what is truly exceptional about the festival is the people coming together. 

“We found out how special it is when we didn’t have it,” he said, referencing 2021. “We skipped a year, we didn’t have it. It emphasized this is really a special thing where we all get to come together. My wife and I, we’ve made friends for life out here.”

And of course, the music is pretty great, too. 

This year, there are 20 artists who have been to MusicFest 10 or more times. There are also 16 artists making their first appearance.

Artists will perform on stages ranging in size from The Big Tent in the Knoll Lot, to the Stargazer Series at Thunderhead Lodge. There will be strumming and serenading from Slopeside to the Ptom’s. 

Some spaces are totally transformed to transport music lovers to a whole new setting, such as the Dung Beetle Saloon, which is in the Steamboat Grand conference room, but no one would know. 

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“A conference room is a conference room in any hotel,” Dickson said. “Let’s see if we can change this into something completely different. We put up all kinds of Western gear in there and we turn out the lights for most of the room, so it doesn’t feel like a conference room. It’s a very popular room for the festival.”

Sure, the festival sold out ages ago, so tickets to the more intimate settings are no longer available, but there are free shows in Steamboat Square that will allow passerbys to see and hear what MusicFest is all about. 

Shows in Steamboat Square will take place at the all-new stage, part of the $200 million project at Steamboat Resort known as Full Steam Ahead. 

Music will be played from noon to 4 p.m. everyday from Sunday, Jan. 8, through Wednesday, Jan. 11. 

“We knew the base area was going to be almost finished, so we added more music” Dickson said. “You’ve got four days and we used to do two bands, now you’ve got three bands each day. That’ll be really special.”

Artists include The Great Divide, Kylie Frey, Bri Bagwell, Kevin Fowler and Wayne Toups. 

“Wayen Toups, he’s a Grammy award winner, playing the base area on the last day,” Dickson said. “He’s Cajun, Zydeco, one of the icons in that genre of music. That’s kind of fun. That’ll be a fun party. Tell everyone to bring their beads and get ready to get a feel for south Louisiana.”

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