‘Political Pollution’ of Country Music Festival Alarmed Some Guests
Sources have reported that the Friday night ambiance at the Sept. 2-4 Seven Peaks Music Festival, this year held in Villa Grove, had instances of right-wing demonstrators on the Live Nation grounds and a political overtone that it had never had before. The concert was shut down earlier than scheduled on Friday night. But according to law enforcement, the official reason for the early closure wasn’t politics or violence, it was lightning.
An Airbnb guest who stayed in Chaffee County, and who is also a long-time U.S. military personnel attended the concert. She reported that on Friday evening there were demonstrators on the concert grounds chanting “Let’s Go Brandon” (a version of an obscenity directed at President Joe Biden, as well as more graphic chants); they were waving Trump signs and confederate flags. The guest, who asked not to be identified, said she viewed it as interrupting the ordinarily peaceful, non-political, family-friendly country music event. She reported that from her military perception of the situation and the tension in the area, she sensed that violence could break out, and she left early.
The Seven Peaks concert headlined by county music star Dierks Bentley was reportedly one of the largest Live Nation events held since the November 2021 Astroworld Music Festival in Houston. At that Houston tragedy, 10 people died and scores of others were injured after a crowd surged during a Travis Scott performance.
Other Chaffee County residents who had been at two earlier Seven Peaks events held in Chaffee County attended the event on Friday night (as well as other days). They reported that on Friday, the camping areas of the grounds were filled with political flags and banners with obscene comments the like of which they had never seen at past Seven Peaks events.
“There were political flags and banners all over with things like ‘Save America 2024’, and ‘Trump 2024’ and more,” said one camper. “We wondered how did those flagpoles get in here? And there were disgusting signs full of obscenities.”
She added that not only did the Live Nation staff seem less than professional (she and her friends observed staff asleep at checkpoints, appearing drunk, and ignoring unruly behavior), but that “we felt this uncomfortable vibe that we’ve never felt at Seven Peaks before. It was just off. It didn’t feel like the family-friendly event it’s been in the past.”
On Saturday morning, the Airbnb guest said she talked with some of the vendors on the concert grounds and one confirmed regarding the Friday situation that “‘Things were getting strange’.” He said “we had to cut things short because these guys were waving confederate flags. It was the Let’s go Brandon folks.” According to this vendor, “We weren’t ever prepared for anything like that.”
On Saturday this person said that it appeared that flags and banners were banned from the actual concert area, but she did not know if they were still allowed in the camping areas.
Concert organizer Live Nation reportedly met on Saturday morning, Sept. 3 with county commissioners, the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado State Patrol, as well as citizens and business owners, to review the concerns that arose over the Labor Day weekend event. But the prospect of politically motivated disturbances and violence, has not been something that has occurred in the past, and certainly not at a family-oriented event.
Calls to the Seven Peaks Site Manager have not been returned.
This is the first year Live Nation has held this Labor Day Weekend concert in Saguache county. For the past few years, it has been held on the edge of Buena Vista, at The Meadows in Chaffee County. Last year a disagreement occurred when the concert organizers sold more tickets than Chaffee County Public Health allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 festival was canceled and Live Nation announced it would move it out of Chaffee County.
Over the years of large concerts on the edge of Buena Vista in Chaffee County, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Dept. the Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and Chaffee EMS learned quite a lot about how to plan for and execute a major concert. Transportation and traffic are major community disruptions, as well as people driving under the influence (DUIs) or acting out under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But the prospect of political violence or demonstrations has never occurred. At least not until now.
This year Live Nation said it expected around 13,000 fans to attend; in prior years the concert has attracted a crowd of 20,000. Saguache County residents had expressed growing dissatisfaction with their county commissioners, some saying the commissioners made the decision to approve the festival for the San Luis Valley without telling residents.
The Saguache Commissioners claimed that notification about the 2022 Seven Peaks Music Festival was the job of Live Nation. They added that it was Live Nation who was to send letters to Saguache County residents about the Labor Day Concert.
Early on, it was reported that Villa Grove and Saguache County had planned for peak times (translation — traffic into and out of the concert site) with up to 50 additional officers, deputies, and troopers on site. But this included the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service Agents, as well as law enforcement from places as far away as Fountain. The speed limit on U.S. 285 was temporarily lowered to 35 mph through Villa Grove.
Chaffee Sheriff John Spezze confirmed that no Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office personnel were asked to assist, although they and other Chaffee County law enforcement agencies obviously have the most experience in the area with concerts of this size, and with this specific concert.
The Seven Peaks Music Festival ran from September 2 – 4. For more information go to: SevenPeaksFestival.com.
Editor’s note: several Ark Valley Voice reporters contributed to this news piece.