Mishawaka still a landmark in the Colorado music scene

 Nearly 100 years since its founding, the Mishawaka Amphitheatre continues to thrive within the walls of the Poudre Canyon.

As a scenic destination for musicians and music lovers alike, the Mishawaka, affectionately called the Mish by locals, consistently draws hundreds of people to the venue, which is nearly 18 miles northwest of Bellvue. Alana Rolfe, the assistant general manager of the Mishawaka, believes nostalgia may be one thing that drives people to the shows.

“I hope it holds a magical spot in everyone’s heart where you have this intimate experience with your favorite band, with the sound of the river behind you and the stars above you and the way the lights play off the trees and the other side of the river up on the hillside,” Rolfe said. “You stand there and have this nature moment with your favorite band and I feel like that’s why people love the Mish.”

The venue, as part of the Mishawaka restaurant and bar, has changed ownership several times but the current owner, Dani Grant, has made several changes to the organization since becoming the owner in 2010. A security agency has been hired to keep concert attendees safe and a shuttle system is now in place to take people to and from shows.

Grant also charges $40 for parking, but Rolfe said it is less about making money and more about encouraging carpooling and to eliminate drunk drivers as much as possible. The 950-person capacity of the venue, coupled with its riverside location, means there is limited space for parking in the first place, another reason for the high price.

All parking aside, it is remarkable that the venue still stands after the September 2013 flood and the High Park forest fire in 2012. Even though the flood did not affect the venue other than road closures, the fire almost destroyed it. The fire was so close that firefighters used the Mishawaka as a base of operations, according to Rolfe.

“Some people say that firefighters saved my house and sometimes it’s very literal, like they were digging around the house. In the Mish’s case, that’s very true. They very literally made sure that it’s still standing today,” Rolfe said.

The musicians that play there are thankful for the firefighter’s efforts, as well. Even artists who have yet to play there, such as Brent Michael Cowles of local band You Me & Apollo, revel in the chance to be a part of the historic venue’s lineup. You Me & Apollo are set to play at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre on Sept. 26 with Paper Bird and Mosey West, and Cowles said he has heard only great things about the venue.

“It’s been a staple to the music scene for a long time. Though I’ve yet to attend a show there, everyone knows the Mish is a popular venue to see great bands in a special place,” Cowles said. “I’m incredibly grateful we have the opportunity to play a show there after all that happened.”

The amphitheatre may only be open from May until early October, but the Mishawaka also has an indoor stage, called the SpokesBUZZ Lounge, that is open year-round. Even so, the atmosphere of an outdoor stage next to a river is something that can only be experienced to fully understand.

“Every time you go it’s like a small festival. People travel to get to it and deal with the extra effort it takes to get there. It’s rewarded by having that unique experience that you can find at few other places. It’s just a beautiful place and it holds people’s memories,” Rolfe said.

With 13 more shows planned for this year, it could prove to be a much better year in regards to attendance for the Mishawaka Amphitheatre, barring another natural disaster. (See the graphic below)


Upcoming shows include dubstep act EOTO on Aug. 22, and reggae band John Brown’s Body on Aug. 23. (Click here for a full list of shows)


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