Likewise hangs it up, and Los Lobos improvises | AspenTimes.com

Likewise hangs it up, and Los Lobos improvises

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Being a local Aspen bar band is a rough ride. The pay stinks, the hours are worse, the opportunities are slim, and it is easy to get overlooked amidst all the top-flight talent that comes to town.

So Likewise deserves a hand. For four years, the band – anchored by the original quartet of singer-guitarists Eli Madden and Jim Trowbridge, bassist Paul Boneau and drummer Greg Asiala – has made a go at being Aspen’s house band. Their regular Friday night gig at the Grottos led to shows at the Double Diamond, performances at major parties throughout the valley and road gigs in Denver.

The best thing about Likewise is that they never stopped in their quest to get better. Every few months I would see them perform and be amazed at the improvement. They impressed me with tight covers of tricky Little Feat tunes, and their jams went into surprisingly interesting places.

Likewise’s too-short trip comes to an end with a farewell gig on Friday, April 4, at the Grottos. The group will be joined by former members Asiala, who has moved to Denver, and keyboardist Kevin Roper.

Fare thee well.

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The winter that wouldn’t quit isn’t going down quietly on the music end either. It’s April, and things are slowing down, but there are more than a few scraps to feast on.

Aspen Spring Jam has been scaled back from the full slate of concerts of the last two years. But the two Spring Jam offerings ensure maximum impact. The Vandals, a punk-rock outfit from Huntington Beach, Calif., that has released such titles as “Oi to the World” and their latest, “Internet Dating Superstuds,” performs an apres-ski show at the base of Buttermilk on Sunday, April 6. Barrington Levy, a Jamaican reggae singer known as the “Mellow Canary,” plays on April 13 near the Spider Sabich Race Course on Snowmass Mountain.

The Grottos has Colorado hardcore band Sucker on Saturday, April 5, and local band the Drop, headed by Tom Van Amburgh, on Friday, April 11.

The Amazing Rhythm Aces, a country-rock band whose hits include “The End is Not in Sight” and “Third-Rate Romance,” is at the Buffalo Valley Inn on Saturday, April 5.

The Bacon Brothers, a band fronted by actor Kevin Bacon and brother Michael Bacon, is at the Wheeler Opera House April 12.

The Family Groove Company, a Chicago-based funk-jazz-rock quartet, makes its Aspen debut April 12 at the Grottos, and follows with an apres-ski gig at the Cirque in Snowmass the next day.

Speaking of the Cirque, these April days of abundant sunshine and deep snow means the apres-ski scene is bound to be smoking. The Cirque has a lineup that includes Acoustic Jes’ Grew, Little Blue, the Damian Smith Trio and more in the week ahead.

For those requiring an early-season road trip, Yonder Mountain String Band is at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium April 12.

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What’s a band to do if some of their equipment – a left-handed guitar, an accordion, one of their drummers – gets rerouted to Grand Junction while the rest of the group is onstage at the Wheeler Opera House?

If you’re Los Lobos, you take the opportunity to get good and relaxed and goofy.

With one of their backing musicians – one of two drummers, fortunately, on the road with them – delayed in getting to Aspen, Los Lobos took the Wheeler stage 40 minutes late for their show last week. When they finally got there, they were loose: Abandoning their prepared set list – I snuck a peek at the copy in the sound booth – Los Lobos started improvising. Early tunes included a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “One Way Out,” by way of the Allman Brothers, and a medley of “Papa was a Rolling Stone” and Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” David Hidalgo introduced a cover of Richard Thompson’s “Shoot Out the Lights” by saying, “Here’s a song we don’t know. And we’re going to prove it.” With on-the-spot directions from Hidalgo, the band made its way through. When the missing drummer joined the band a half-hour into the proceedings, it seemed too late to revert to the normal show mode, and Los Lobos carried on in spontaneous fashion.

On the whole, Los Lobos pulled it off well, though it was a mixed bag. The band went into longer jams than is their custom, and usually these were impressive. Hidalgo’s rocker “Evangeline” and a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” – both absent from the prepared set list – were welcome additions. Singer-guitarist Cesar Rosas seemed to embrace the chaos most, cracking jokes throughout the show.

On the downside, the sound was below par for a Wheeler show. Not all of the songs pulled out of the hat worked so well. And with no accordion, an essential element of Los Lobos’ Mexican flavor was missing.

All in all, it was close enough for rock ‘n’ roll.

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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