Steamboat Free Summer Concerts begin 30th year with Jesse Royal

JJ Grey & Mofro rock Howelsen Hill Amphitheater on Saturday for Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series in 2018.
Katie Berning/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Free Summer Concert series will kick off a full summer lineup with a performance from reggae star Jesse Royal on Friday evening, June 24, at Howelsen Hill.

Doors for the event open at 5:30 p.m. with a performance from local band Ruckus Squad to launch the concert.

The series is celebrating its 30th anniversary with five performances scheduled for the summer, including Royal, the eclectic band Big Something and the Devon Allman Project.

After the concerts had to be canceled in 2020 and reduced in number for 2021 because of the pandemic, the series is returning to a full lineup for the first time since 2019.

“Last year, we had a short season, so we’re really excited to be coming out with five shows  — a normal, full schedule this year,” said Ted Carey, board member and past president for the Steamboat Free Summer Concert series. “It’s gonna be a great time.”

“We’re really excited to be able to present a full summer of free shows,” said John Waldman, founder and promoter for the summer concert series.

Waldman explained that he has seen the event grow in size and scope in the last 30 summers.

“I think the level of talent has grown,” Waldman said. “The size of attendance has grown for every show.”

If you go:

What: Jesse Royal with the Steamboat Free Summer Concert series
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 24
Where: Howelsen Hill

“We’ve got a really dedicated board who volunteer their time endlessly to put the pieces together and raise money,” he added.

Carey explained that he was looking forward to Royal opening the series with his fun sound, which is perfect for summertime.

“Jesse Royal is a Grammy-nominated reggae artist from Jamaica,” Carey said. “It’s gonna be an awesome show, and I think it’s gonna be a busy show.”

Royal explained that his musical origins began when he was growing up in a church in St. James Parish, Jamaica, and his grandmother was the choir director. That influence carries on in his process for making music today.

“I think it comes through in the reverence that I approach music with,” Royal said. 

Royal has been making music professionally since 2011. He describes his sound as “definitely reggae,” with influences from other genres such as dancehall, jazz and blues.

He explained that he hopes positive energy permeates his music, bringing people together to enjoy his songs.

“I’m really just bringing some positive vibrations,” Royal said. “I think that’s what the world needs. I think we’re all competent, capable, loving, understanding human beings, we just need to be reminded that it’s OK to not have everything worked out.”

His most recent album “Royal” earned him a nomination for the best reggae album of the year at the 64th Grammys in February.

Royal emphasized that he hopes his music is a force for reconciliation in divided times.

“We’re all in this thing together,” he said. “Regardless of the color of your skin, we have the same color heart.”

Royal is looking forward to performing in Steamboat, in addition to new creative projects he has in the works.

“Now we are working on some new singles, which will lead into another album,” he said.

Waldman emphasized that for the series overall, there will be “huge diversity” in the genre and style of performances for the summer.

“There will be many different styles of music from reggae to bluegrass to blues and rock,” Waldman said. “Some funk and jam, music with the Big Something and a little bit of New Orleans soul, rock and funk from Neal Francis in August.”

Carey said that attendees should not bring alcohol or dogs to the concert, and asked patrons to carry clear bags for their belongings to ease the screening process.

“We’re gonna have lots of good food out there,” Carey said. “We’re just really excited to see everybody.”

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