Club owner: Article missed the beat
Ryan Summerlin January 4, 2013
Belly Up sells its product to the public, so we are fair game for critique. You write to the public, and therefore you have an obligation to be accurate (note: accurate, not fair).
I am curious how you came to certain conclusions, and I’m equally at a loss to understand a couple of your comments. First, you say, “Anyone who has lived in Aspen over the past seven or so years is familiar with changes in the quality of musical offerings available locally.” Belly Up has been in Aspen almost eight years, so that would put us right in the time frame you are speaking to.
Since you didn’t really expound on the nature of the change you refer to, I’ll make my own observation. Not in the 24 years I have lived here has there been the availability of live music of all genres in such quantity and quality as exists today. I am not just speaking about the Belly Up but the Wheeler, Jazz Aspen (including expanded jazz programming in its intimate setting in The Little Nell), PAC3 in Carbondale, the free Bud Light Hi-Fi winter series put on by Aspen Skiing Co. and the free summer series at Snowmass.
As to your comment that “Live music has largely given way to the DJ experience. … Even Belly Up Aspen … has followed this trend,” had you checked your facts, you would know that isn’t an accurate statement. I picked a halfway point in our existence and contrasted the summer of 2008 with this past summer’s acts with the following summary:
From June through August in 2008, we did the following:
• Nine DJ or electronic shows.
• Sixty-seven non-electronic shows. Highlights were Maceo Parker, Big Daddy Kane, Ani DiFranco, the Radiators, Israel Vibration, the Raconteurs (with Jack White), Amos Lee, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Pato Banton, Blues Traveler, Steve Earle, the Presidents of the United States of America, Black Francis, UB40, Pat Benatar, Cowboy Junkies, Todd Rundgren, Jonny Lang, Andrew Bird, Leo Kottke, Ottmar Liebert, Patty Griffin, Boz Scaggs, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, KT Tunstall, Rahzel and the Roots.
In 2012, from June through August, we did:
• Sixteen DJ or electronic shows.
• Seventy-two non-electronic shows (highlights were Kenny Loggins, Blues Traveler, Mayer Hawthorne, Chris Robinson, Chris Isaak, Beach House, Al Green, Reel Big Fish, Black Uhuru, Ottmar Liebert, Taj Mahal, Lucinda Williams, Jimmie Vaughan, the Indigo Girls, Pat Green, the English Beat, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Dashboard Confessional, Merle Haggard, the Wood Brothers, Pat Benatar, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Joe Walsh, Third World, the Dandy Warhols, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, MarchFourth Marching Band, Emmitt-Nershi Band and the 7 Walkers.
So over four years, the percentage of our electronic shows to all other shows increased from 13 percent to 22 percent. Technically, that’s more electronic shows in 2012 than in 2008, but hardly a trend that would indicate we favor DJs to live music (and not all electronic shows have DJs).
Of course, there is a national trend toward EDM (electronic dance music) that would correlate to the increase in popularity here (take, for example, Kaskade, who sold out the club this past summer a few days after having sold out the Staples Center in L.A.). Nor is that audience limited to those younger than 35. We had two nights of Moby during Aspen Ideas Festival this past summer. Half of his show was an acoustic performance with a band before he did a pure electronic set. That audience was more older than 35 than younger.
Likewise, we do fewer reggae and hip-hop shows because our current audience doesn’t support those genres as much as it did in the past. EDM is here to stay, but we do more than 300 nights of live music a year, so extrapolating from the 22 percent during the summer, there are more than 230 live (non-electronic) shows a year. That did not exist prior to 2005, when we opened the club.
Finally, to your comment about fewer places for live music. Indeed, venues come and go, and at times there are more local musicians than places for them to play. This summer we did 21 free shows with six of them headlining local artists. (Two were showcases with several acts.) We are committed to having local artists on our stage with more than 25 locals either headlining or supporting other acts this year.
I have nothing against Retro DJ nights or any other local musical endeavors. In fact, the more music in Aspen and the more Aspen is viewed as a town known for music (including DJs), the better for all of us who love music. I do, however, think that ignoring the reality of what music currently exists is a mistake that proper journalism should not make.
Michael A. Goldberg
Owner, Belly Up Aspen