Drive-By Truckers, immersive art and ‘Us’: What to expect at the first Bluebird Art + Sound in Snowmass Village | AspenTimes.com

Drive-By Truckers, immersive art and ‘Us’: What to expect at the first Bluebird Art + Sound in Snowmass Village

As producer Garrett Chau refined the vision for what would become Bluebird Art + Sound, he decided he couldn't launch a new music festival in 2017 without addressing the divided, divisive, down right bonkers state of American culture in 2017.

He and his partners decided to steer into the social unrest of our current moment with Bluebird — which gets its inaugural offing in Snowmass Village June 30 to July 2 — by presenting music and art that with social relevance.

"It was not only an opportunity but a calling to imbue into this new festival a message that was reflective of these interesting times," Chau said. "We're living in a society — and it's not just America — where it is very polarized, very us versus them, American citizen versus immigrant, self versus other."

Chau and his team built the festival around the theme "Us," aiming to unite through art while not ignoring the reality of a nation divided (typographically, the festival is actually dubbing the theme "u/s").

So, as Chau — a music festival veteran from large-scale productions like Lollapalooza — looked for the best band to headline Bluebird and set the tone, there ended up being only one real option: the Drive-By Truckers.

This is the Alabama-bred, Georgia-based rock outfit, which plays Friday night at Bluebird, has been traveling the land since last summer supporting "American Band," its overtly political album that uses a punked up Southern rock sound in service of social justice.

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Being a band of white guys from the South compelled the Truckers to speak up at this moment.

"It did occur to me that maybe we are in a unique position to speak to this with our accents," singer, songwriter and guitarist Mike Cooley said before a concert in Aspen last summer. "Every time I turn around I'm hearing the anatomy of a Trump voter. And they always describe middle-aged white guys, working class, non-college educated — and I'm like, 'Whoa, f— you, that's us!' So maybe it's important for guys who fit that description to make ourselves heard."

The album includes songs like "Surrender Under Protest," about the 2015 massacre of churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina and the campaigns to bring down Confederate symbols across the south. On "What It Means," the band responds to the rash of police murdering young black men in the U.S.

The Truckers have been encouraged by the traction of the Black Lives Matter movement. Most Americans today, Cooley said, probably believe they would have stood with Martin Luther King in the 1950s and 1960s. But, he noted, most white people did not do so during King's lifetime. "American Band" is the Truckers' call for all Americans to be on the right side of history this time.

"You're being given another opportunity right now," he said. "You can be on the right side of this one, if you'll quit feeling the need to respond with 'All Lives Matter' and 'Blue Lives Matter' and looking for someone to blame."

Political stands are nothing new for the band, founded by Cooley and Patterson Hood two decades ago. The Truckers once wrote a song about segregationist George Wallace burning in hell and another about the dirty tricks of Republican strategist Lee Atwater. Nonetheless, "American Band" has driven some fans away and inspired some social media vitriol, but Cooley doesn't see much of Facebook and Twitter anyway ("I don't participate in that world at all, mostly because I've been to middle school and I didn't like it all that much").

While churning out great rock songs over 11 albums and 20 years and staging notoriously loud, rollicking shows, the Truckers have played with their identity as a southern rock band — nodding to the sonic legacy of Muscle Shoals and Lynyrd Skynyrd along while not shying away from the region's troubled history in race relations.

At Bluebird, the Truckers' show is the marquee event in a larger festival focused on art and unity.

"We want to be relevant socially, but we're not trying to get up on a soapbox," said Chau. "It's not pro-Trump or anti-Trump. It's about examining those issues in a provocative way and creating civilized discourse."

On Saturday, the festival opens a free, immersive and interactive art experience that will fill a 2,600-square-foot tent in Base Village. Curated by Los Angeles-based artist Jesse Fleming, the group show features contemporary artwork themed around "self vs. other."

"We're designing it like an installation iself," Fleming said of the massive art experience, filled with sound, video, still art and virtual reality experiences. "It's meant as one cohesive experience but it's bracketed by in- and out-points."

Fleming and dancer Laurel Jenkins will premiere their video collaboration "Remember." The Art Experience also runs all day Sunday, when Miguel de Pedro (better known as the DJ Kid606) will perform and host a guided meditation.

atravers@aspentimes.com

If You Go …

Who: Drive-By Truckers

Where: Bluebird Art + Sound, Fanny Hill, Snowmass Village

When: Friday, June 30, 5 p.m.

How much: $30-$70

Tickets: bluebirdartsound.com

More info: http://www.gosnowmass.com

Bluebird Art + Sound Full Schedule

Friday, June 30

5-10 p.m. Drive-By Truckers and the Seratones

Saturday, July 1

Noon – 5 p.m. Art Experience

1 p.m. Discussion and Q&A with the artists

4-5 p.m. ‘Remember’ by Jesse Fleming and Laurel Jenkins

Sunday, July 2

Noon-5 p.m. Art Experience

4-5 p.m. Guided Meditation and sound performance by Miguel de Pedro

6-10 p.m. Closing Party with DJ Naka G, Berkel Beats and X

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