Methodist church presents Jesus Christ Superstar for Good Friday
Jonathan Gorst put on “Jesus Christ Superstar” for the Riviera Supper Club’s quarterly dinner theater because he wanted to do something that fit with Holy Week in the days preceding Easter when Christians celebrate the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Gorst’s show gets a second act at two Glenwood Springs churches for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.
“The show is really based on the last week of the life of Christ. It’s a very loose interpretation of it,” Gorst said. Still, all three nights of the dinner theater performance, which included seven songs from the musical paired with seven Middle Eastern, Hebrew and other dishes, were sold out.
The biblical story of Christ’s Passion presented in a rock-opera musical may seem as strange a pairing now as it did when Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice wrote the show in the late 1960s.
“Andrew Lloyd Weber was in college when he wrote that show, dreaming of being a British rock star and writing some amazing musical theater,” Gorst said.
No one in the London stage scene would produce the show, but it was released as a concept album in 1970 and became an instant hit. It only took a year for the show to make a debut on Broadway.
The show is not scripture, but is retelling a story told in the gospels, with a twist: The production is told from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the authorities to be sentenced to death on the cross.
“Fifty years on, I don’t think we really appreciate what an edgy, and fresh, and dare I say radical perspective this work presents of our Lord, and of Holy Week,” Carol Lillie, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Glenwood Springs, said in an interview.
Lillie remembers wearing out her first record of “Jesus Christ Superstar” when she was young.
A SECOND ACT IN THE SANCTUARY
The idea for “Scenes for Reflection: Jesus Christ Superstar,” to be performed today at 6:30 p.m. at United Methodist Church, started last fall when several of the local Protestant churches met to think of ways to collaborate on music and other events.
In February, Gorst began discussing sharing the Riviera’s production to Holy Week services and Lillie began working on a program that incorporated two of the songs.
“For me, every time I approach either Christmas or Easter, I try to bring these stories that we think we know so well to mind, and have people consider the relevance in our modern lives. It’s a question of how your faith makes a difference in your life today,” Lillie said.
Arthur Williams, who assists the choirs at Glenwood Springs High school and Middle School and plays the eponymous lead role in the Riviera’s dinner theater production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” will join Gorst’s piano accompaniment and Pontius Pilate for two critical scenes reenacting the time leading to Jesus’s crucifixion.
Gorst and Williams also performed a selection of the musical as part of a Maundy Thursday service and meal.
“We pretty much keep it the same as we did at the Riviera. The only difference is we didn’t get the whole band. So there won’t be a guitar and drum set,” Gorst said.
“That’s probably not a bad thing for being in a sanctuary,” he added.
Theatre Aspen announces casts for 2019 summer season
Theatre Aspen has announced the complete casts for its summer 2019 productions of “Guys and Dolls,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “God of Carnage,” along with a slate of special events for the season.
“One of the most distinctive things about Theatre Aspen is its ability to provide a home to so many artists, on and offstage. In this packed and exciting 2019 season, we are delighted to be welcoming so many alumni back to the Hurst Theatre,” producing director Jed Bernstein said in the announcement.
The 2019 Theatre Aspen company of actors includes Travis Anderson (“Guys and Dolls:” Angie The Ox; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Wino #1/Puppeteer), Heather Botts (“Guys and Dolls:” Sarah Brown; Cabaret Series), Kevin Michael Buckley (“Guys and Dolls:” Calvin, Havana Waiter; Cabaret Series), Galyana Castillo (“Guys and Dolls:” General Cartwright; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Crystal), Christian Conn (“God of Carnage:” Alan), Jon Cooper (“Guys and Dolls:” Benny Southstreet; Cabaret Series), Ray Demattis (“Guys and Dolls:” Arvide; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Mr. Mushnik), Robert Ellis (“Guys and Dolls:” Seldome Seen Kid; Cabaret Series), Rosharra Francis (“Guys and Dolls:” Hot Box Girl; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Ronette), Jonathan Gomolka (“Guys and Dolls:” Harry The Horse; Cabaret Series), Dion Greer (“Guys and Dolls:” Nicely, Nicely; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Audrey II), Joan Hess (“God of Carnage:” Veronica), Torsten Hillhouse (“God of Carnage:” Michael), Alisha Jury (“Guys and Dolls:” Hot Box Girl; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Chiffon), Julie Kavanaugh (“Guys and Dolls:” Adelaide; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Audrey), Nevada Koenig (“Guys and Dolls:” Hot Box Girl; Cabaret Series), Christopher Carter Minor (“Guys and Dolls:” Lt. Branigan; Cabaret Series), Tony Roach (“Guys and Dolls:” Sky Masterson; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Orin), Alice Sherman (“God of Carnage:” Annette), Blakely Slaybaugh (“Guys and Dolls:” Nathan Detroit; Cabaret Series), and Blake Stadnik (“Guys and Dolls:” Rusty Charlie, Joey Biltmore; “Little Shop of Horrors:” Seymour).
As previously announced, “Guys and Dolls” will run June 21 to Aug. 17 and will be directed by Tony Award nominee Hunter Foster. It will be choreographed by Lisa Shriver (first season) and a full creative team.
Carbonell Award winner Mark Martino returns to Theatre Aspen for the 11th time to direct and choreograph a newly reimagined production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” running July 11 to Aug. 17, alongside Elise Kinnon (associate director and co-choreographer).
Rounding out the main-stage season is Yasmina Reza’s play “God of Carnage” (July 17 to Aug. 3), directed Karen Azenberg, artistic director of the Pioneer Theatre Co., in her first summer at Theatre Aspen. Additionally, Theatre Aspen Education’s Summer Conservatory Program will present a limited-engagement student production of “The Wizard of Oz” (July 25 to Aug. 10) on the main stage, directed and choreographed by Elise Kinnon and designed by the 2019 Theatre Aspen Apprentices.
Complementing this year’s main-stage presentations, the season also will feature several special events. They include a Season Sneak Peek on Sunday, June 16 at the Hurst Theatre; the return of the Theatre Aspen Cabaret Series, now expanded to three dates (June 30 at the Caribou Club and July 14 and August 4 at Jimmy’s); in collaboration with the Aspen Music Festival, a one-night-only presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific: In Concert” on July 22 in the Benedict Music Tent; and the Theatre Aspen Apprentice Program Showcase on Aug. 11 on the Hurst Theatre stage.
Season passes are on sale now at theatreaspen.org or by phone at 970-925-9313. Single tickets will be available May 8.
Joan Osborne on her years-long Bob Dylan covers project
Joan Osborne felt Bob Dylan’s presence before she ever saw him in person.
In 1998, Osborne — hot off of her mega-hit “One of Us” — was set to record a new duet of Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom,” with Dylan himself, for the TV mini-series “The ’60s.”
She got to the New York City studio early, she recalled, and was hanging out with his band when he entered in silence.
“My back was to the door and when he arrived, even through I couldn’t hear him, I noticed how the weather in the room immediately changed,” she said in a recent phone interview from her country home in upstate New York. “No one really looked at him or talked to him, but all of a sudden everyone became hyper-aware of him, gauging his mood.”
She soon learned the response was from musicians who’d grown used to trying to keep up with him.
“People who work with him develop this low-key vigilance,” she explained, “because he changes his mind very quickly. He has this restless intelligence, where he tries out an idea and by the time he has tried one version of the idea he’s already moved on to something else.”
A lifelong Dylan devotee, Osborne’s singer-songwriter career always had been infused with his music and his influence. Her global sensation of a debut album, in 1995, included her take on the hidden Dylan gem “Man in the Long Black Coat” and she’d frequently included Dylan covers in her live sets.
But she’s gone all in for the past three years, with a full album of Dylan covers and a tour that comes to The Temporary at Willits today. (It’s been several years since she’s been back in the Aspen area, though Osborne has been playing here since a 1997 headlining slot at Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day Festival.)
The current project started with a 2016 residency at the Café Carlyle, the legendary cabaret room that’s been running in Upper East Side Manhattan’s Carlyle hotel since 1955. Given two weeks of shows and no creative restraints, Osborne decided to use the residency to immerse in Dylan’s songs.
“We were uncertain if people were going to like it, but from the very first night it’s been really fun and it’s been a joy for us to do this deep dive into this material,” Osborne said.
The Dylan catalog is deeper than the ocean, of course, spanning six decades and 38 albums and the ever-expanding trove of his “Bootleg Series.”
“It was definitely a difficult thing to choose from the hundreds and hundreds of great songs that Bob Dylan has,” Osborne said. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s so much to choose from. On the other hand, how do you decide?”
After the residency, she got to work on what would become her “Songs of Bob Dylan” album, released in 2017.
Throughout her long career, Osborne said, she’s kept in the back of her mind the late 1950s run of records by jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald that each tackled the catalog of an iconic American songwriter.
“I always thought this was a great idea and something that I would like to do with writers who I feel uniquely drawn to, who are from my era,” she said.
Osborne’s Dylan record offers new spins on the classics and shines a light on some overlooked Dylan compositions.
Her “Highway 61 Revisited” is a dark and ominous country song, her “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” is a slow and soulful blues. In “Masters of War,” Osborne puts her formidable voice up front, with a steady acoustic guitar in the background and a gradual build of piano.
The enduring relevance and resonance of Dylan’s early work continues to strike Osborne.
“These things that might have been written about something that was happening in his youth are very relevant to what is going on in the world right now,” Osborne said. “It’s particularly genius in the way that he wrote them that they could be timeless in that way.”
But along with those iconic early Dylan classics, the album spans five decades of the Dylan catalog and unearths some deep cuts like “Dark Eyes” (off Dylan’s largely forgotten 1985 album “Empire Burlesque”) and “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” (off the definitive late-career Dylan album “Time Out of Mind” from 1997) and “High Water” (from 2001’s “Love and Theft”).
“I wanted to put things on the record that people would know, but also to dig a little deeper to allow people to discover something they didn’t already know,” she said. “We really wanted people — even who are fans of Dylan — to find out something they didn’t already know about him.”
Osborne admitted that even she didn’t know “Dark Eyes” until Patti Smith — who recorded a live duet version of it with Dylan — told her about it. Osborne also has widely expanded her Dylan repertoire as she’s toured with the material over the past two years.
“As you’re on the road and doing the shows night after night, you want to keep it fresh for yourself and for the audience,” she explained. “So we put in some live-only bonus tracks and we are never really sure what those are going to be from night to night.”
Dylan is a towering culture figure and Nobel laureate who also is, somehow, an unknown and seemingly unknowable cipher of a human being. He has worn so many masks, taken on so many personas, revealed so little about his personal life, written and recorded so many hundreds of songs that he is beyond comprehension.
Though she’s spent time with the man and has now spent years studying and performing his work, Osborne remains in the dark like the rest of us.
When Osborne sang with the living members of the Grateful Dead for a stretch, beginning in 2003, they co-headlined a big summer tour with Dylan. They saw each other every day and sang together often onstage, but Dylan — true to form — managed to not quite be there.
“I wouldn’t say he and I were hanging out a lot and that I got to know him as a person,” she said. “It wasn’t like we were sitting down and rapping about our childhood experiences or something. He was funny and nice and charming and all of that, but it was a work situation.”
When Osborne released her album of his songs, she didn’t hear from Dylan directly but he did post a compliment on his Facebook page.
“I was surprised even to get that,” Osborne said with a laugh. “He’s got an awful lot on his plate and talking about someone else covering his work is not something that he has to do. So it was very generous.”
Osborne this spring has been finishing up a new album of original material. After her yearslong deep dive into Dylan’s world, he naturally seeped into her songwriting.
“He’s very funny in this wry, droll kind of way,” she observed. “I’ve tried to bring that out in this new record. … When you immerse yourself in this, it lets you be free in that way — and be humorous and real and bizarre.”
Carbondale’s adventure film event 5Point Adventure Film Festival announced the winners of the Dream Project scholarship program Monday. The program is celebrating its 10th year.
The program offers outstanding high school students from Aspen to Parachute the chance to explore their own personal boundaries and dreams.
The seven students that best exemplify 5Point Film’s five guiding principles — purpose, respect, commitment, humility and balance — will receive a $1,500 scholarship to embark on an opportunity to follow their passion and actualize a dream.
Previous recipients of the grant have undertaken projects including leading a youth backpacking trip in the Roaring Fork Valley, starting a peace garden at a local high school, shadowing writers in New York City, teaching soccer in Puerto Rico, kayaking and working to prevent malaria in Uganda.
This year’s 5Point Dream Project winners, along with a provided description of their project, are:
Ella Beck — A senior at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Beck will be using her Dream Project funding to travel to rural Nepal, where she will be working with the Oda Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Team. Her focus will be on breaking down the stigmas surrounding menstruation in poor, rural communities by helping distribute sanitary products.
Isaac Musselman — A sophomore at Basalt High School, Musselman used his passion in aeronautics to educate and inspire others by creating an aviation and space club, which will include work with drones and rockets, guest speakers and astronomy nights, among other things. In addition, he will work to bring an aviation curriculum into the Roaring Fork School system.
Beverly Patton — A junior at Roaring Fork High School discovered her passion for writing and poetry when Aspen Words poets visited her school, and she learned a powerful new way to express her voice. Her dream is to share her love of poetry by teaching a weekly, semester-long poetry class to local middle school students.
Emily Northrup — A senior at Basalt High School, Northrup will be using her Dream Project funding to purchase her own cello, which will allow her to pursue her dream of becoming a music educator when she attends Brigham Young University in the fall.
Molly Hancock — A junior at Glenwood Springs High School, Hancock will be channeling her love of horses into creating a documentary about the Riding Institute for Disabled Equestrians (RIDE), an equine therapy program for developmentally and physically disabled children and adults.
Carla Soto — A junior at Basalt High School, Soto, who cares deeply about immigration and art, will be traveling to El Paso, Texas, where she’ll use her passion for photography to bring awareness to immigration issues arising from current border policies.
Three additional students, Eli Li, Chloe Gonzalez and Sarah Teague, made history by applying for their Dream Project jointly. This dynamic force will be headed to Denver to work with Urban Peak, an organization serving homeless youth. In addition, they will be investigating what legislators are doing to address the issues of homelessness and extreme poverty in the United States.
Throughout 5Point Film 2019, taking place April 25-28, Dream Project recipients since 2009 will be honored through events and programming over the festival weekend, including a reception, a Dream Project retrospective exhibition, and an award ceremony for the 2019 recipients.
The scholarships are made possible through support from community partnerships with Timbers Resorts, Alpine Bank, Amore Realty, Colorado Office of Film Television & Media, Poss Architecture + Planning and Interior Design, and 2757 Design.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet to premiere first evening-length ballet
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will produce the first evening-length ballet in its 23-year history this summer with Nicolo Fonte’s “Beautiful Decay.”
A longtime company collaborator, Fonte’s originally created “Beautiful Decay” in 2013 for BalletX in Philadelphia, in a haunting work in two parts that juxtaposes daring athleticism and technical prowess against the reality of aging. It will include septuagenarian guest performers Hilary Cartwright and Gregg Bielemeier.
With original set design by Tony Award winner Mimi Lien, and set to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and Max Richter’s reinterpretations, the company will perform “Beautiful Decay” on July 9, July 19 and Aug. 24.
The production is the centerpiece of a summer 2019 season announced Thursday by the company.
The season also will include a one-night performance by Compagnie Hervé Koubi, an all-male troupe from Algeria and Burkina Faso that premiered in Aspen in 2017. The company will perform “Les Nuits Barbares ou Les Premiers Matin du Monde (The Barbarous Nights, or the First Dawns of the World)” on July 24. The piece takes its inspiration from the story of the Mediterranean Basin and the blending of cultures that occurred there throughout history.
“No matter if we are Algerian, Spanish, French, Greek, we are first and foremost Mediterranean, and this feeling of belonging is much more ancient than the concept of nations,” choreographer Hervé Koubi said in the announcement.
The fan-favorite Stars of American Ballet will return for one night Aug. 3. Handpicked and directed by New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht, this group of elite dancers will perform a varied program featuring classics by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, as well as Christopher Wheeldon’s “This Bitter Earth.” This year’s program also features an appearance by ballroom dancer Denys Drozdyuk — known to television viewers as half of DNA, the ballroom duo “World of Dance.”
Alonzo King LINES Ballet will bring a program of two ballets to Aspen on Aug. 10: “Handel” and “Common Ground.” Originally created for the Swedish Royal Ballet, “Handel” is choreographer Alonzo King’s exploration of the dramatic elegance of Baroque expression. “Common Ground” is the result of a much-anticipated collaboration with the renowned Kronos Quartet.
All performances will be held at the Aspen District Theatre.
Tickets for all summer series performances will go on sale May 21 and are available online at aspensantafeballet.com, by phone at 970-920-5770 and in-person at the Wheeler Opera House box office. Prices range from $36 to $94.
Tayari Jones’ ‘An American Marriage’ wins Aspen Words Literary Prize
Tayari Jones’ novel “An American Marriage” won the second annual Aspen Words Literary Prize on Thursday night in a ceremony at the Morgan Library in Manhattan.
The $35,000 prize from the locally based literary nonprofit Aspen Words aims to recognize a work of fiction published in English that addresses contemporary social issues.
“Thank you to Aspen Words for this award — for having this award at all,” Jones said in her acceptance speech. “Because many of us who write and engage the issues of the day, we’re told not to. We’re told that that’s not what real art does. An award like this, I think it encourages all of us to keep following the strength of our convictions.”
The novel, set in Atlanta, is about a young African-American couple split apart by a wrongful conviction and imprisonment. It was previously awarded the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work and was an Oprah’s Book Club selection.
Also among the finalists for the Aspen Words prize were “Friday Black” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, “Brother” by David Chariandy, “Gun Love” by Jennifer Clement and “There There” by Tommy Orange. All five finalists took part in a panel discussion, moderated by NPR’s Renee Montagne, before the winner was announced.
“Books matter, stories matter,” Jones said. “When you’re a writer people are constantly telling you that nobody reads anymore, that everyone just tweets. … Thank you for reminding us that this work is important. It makes a difference.”
The $35,000 attached to the prize ranks it among the more lucrative American publishing awards for fiction. It was endowed by an anonymous donor to Aspen Words and is to be given annually in perpetuity.
As this year’s winner, Jones — a professor of creative writing at Emory University — will speak in Aspen during the Summer Words literary festival June 18 in a public event. Last year’s inaugural winner, “Exit West” author Mohsin Hamid, appeared only for donors at the literary nonprofit’s benefit dinner.
The Pitkin County Library also will host a summer-long community read of “An American Marriage” in the Roaring Fork Valley.
A five-member jury selected the finalists, picking them from 177 nominations and 16 long-listed titles. The jury was comprised of “Bastard Out of Carolina” author Dorothy Allison, Aspen Words advisory board President Suzanne Bober, Aspen Institute Vice President Elliot Gerson, Columbia University professor Fara Jasmine Griffin and “Mad Country” author Samrat Upadhyay.
“’An American Marriage’ is a gripping novel about the dissolution of a marriage,” the jury wrote in its citation. “But beneath the surface of this deeply moving love story is a powerful statement about unjust incarceration and a corrupt criminal justice system that has ravaged generations of African-American families. Writing with poignancy and humor, Jones offers a much-needed meditation on issues of race, class, identity — and shows us how to move forward after a great loss.”
In his introductory remarks at the awards ceremony, Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield said that the nominated books are “really about awakening moral imagination.”
“That’s what we do and that’s what we celebrate today and it is what is so desperately needed in our country and in our world,” he said.
Art Base to host solo exhibition by Aspen’s Molly Peacock
Aspen sculptor Molly Peacock is staging a solo exhibition, titled “Morphous,” at the Art Base in Basalt opening today.
It marks Peacock’s first solo show in 20 years and will begin with an opening reception tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. “Morphous” will be up through May 3.
Representing shape and form in clay sculptures and charcoal drawings, Peacock explores the contemporary dialogue about the delicate balance — or imbalance — between human and natural environments.
The artist has been in the Advanced Mentored Studies program at Anderson Ranch Arts Center for the past two years, studying under Chris Gustin and Randy Johnston.
“What I’ve discovered is that the centerpiece of my work is change,” Peacock said in the gallery’s announcement. “I’m interested in how the landscape changes, how that mirrors what we experience as people, and how it branches out from there. Some of these pieces have a sense of imminent failure, like they are about to melt and change into something else — such as snow or aging bodies. I like how these gentle, sagging, colorful forms have almost humorous, anthropomorphic personalities.”
Passionate about both art and nature, Peacock first pursued science, receiving a BS in environmental science and biology from Middlebury College and an MES in Conservation Biology from Yale University. She left the conservation field and later received a BFA in ceramics at the University of Wyoming and an MFA in ceramics from Ohio University.
Peacock lived in Grand Junction for eight years before relocating with her family to Snowmass Village, where she now works as an independent ceramic artist. She has exhibited and taught ceramics nationally. Peacock has been a resident artist at the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen for the past seven years.
Student musicians face off in Jazz Aspen’s Sonic Showdown
Jazz Aspen Snowmass and the Jake Foerster Music Arts Fund will present the second annual Sonic Showdown at The Temporary in Basalt on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m.
Free and open to the public, the Showdown will showcase talented Roaring Fork Valley students in a variety of musical forms including singer-songwriters, rock and jazz bands and DJs. Jazz Aspen utilizes the Showcase to find talent to perform at side stages at the June and Labor Day Experiences as well as other events throughout the year.
Following the Showdown that night, the two organizations will host a new Sonic Silent Disco fundraiser for their joint scholarship fund.
Starting at 8 p.m., the Silent Disco will feature DJ Ronnie, DJ Knuttybird and XHAUSTION, playing a diverse mix of music at the same time. Participants are given a set of headphones and can tune into whichever DJ mix they choose at any time. The only way to hear the music is through the headphones, leaving the room silent with people dancing to different beats across the floor.
Tickets are $30, available at jasstore.org and 970-920-4996. Silent Disco proceeds will support the JAS/JFMAF Scholarship Fund, awarding college funds for local students with plans to expand their drive and expertise in the medium of sound.
Applications for Sonic Showdown student participants are still being accepted. For more information or to apply please visit jazzaspensnowmass.org. Additional details on the event can be found at JFMAF at jakefoersterfund.org or The Temporary at tacaw.org.
Teens bring ‘Superstition’ to Aspen Art Museum in Young Curators show
The Aspen Art Museum’s annual Young Curators of the Roaring Fork exhibition will open Saturday.
The show features artworks created by high school peer artists addressing the question, “What happens when we believe we can influence things that are outside of our control?”
It opens with a reception running from 3 to 5 p.m. and will hang through April 28. The reception will include a special reading by a winner of the Theatre Masters Aspiring Playwrights Competition.
Since 2005, the AAM’s Young Curators program has engaged high school students in a six-month program that builds aesthetic valuation, leadership, organizational and critical-thinking skills. After participants lead a call for submissions, identify a theme and assemble the exhibition, an opening is held to celebrate this student-driven initiative.
Gov’t Mule launching tour with Vail and Aspen shows
Singer-guitarist Warren Haynes and his band, Gov’t Mule, are carrying a legacy of throwback Southern rock, explosive guitar theatrics and folk storytelling.
It’s now been five years since Haynes played his final note with the Allman Brothers at the band’s farewell show, and two since the death of Gregg Allman and the band’s drummer Butch Trucks. Haynes regularly pays tribute with Allman Brothers’ songs at Mule’s live sets, and in the spirit of their improvisation-heavy rock.
“It’s been a tough couple years for everyone in our camp and our extended family,” Haynes said recently from his home north of New York City. “The Allman Brothers’ music will live on without our help or anyone else’s help. … That music proved itself to be timeless a long time ago and I’m just grateful to have been a part of it.”
Gov’t Mule opens a three-month, 30-plus-concert international tour this weekend in Colorado with a night show at Spring Back to Vail tonight followed by two concerts at Belly Up Aspen on Saturday and Sunday.
The big spring Mule tour follows a two-night March run of Haynes’ collaboration with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra in his North Carolina hometown, which saw Haynes and a band — including fellow greats like John Medeski, Oteil Burbidge and Jeff Sipe — performing orchestral adaptations of his songs.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for me to do something I’ve never done before,” Haynes said. “It was a cool combination of orchestrated music and improvised music that would weave in and out.”
The tour also is a sort of soft launch for Mule’s 25th anniversary. The band’s first show was May 12, 1994. The first Mule album was released the following year.
Mule’s earliest shows included a mountain town run that included Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.
“Some of our earliest shows were in Colorado,” Haynes said. “So I’m looking forward to going back and seeing what we played in those early shows and patterning some of the spirit of these shows around what we were doing back then.”
The band started as a side project for Haynes and the late Allen Woody while they were on a break from the Allman Brothers.
“A 25th anniversary is not something any of us ever expected,” he said. “We were going to do one record and one tour and we didn’t have any aspirations beyond that. But it kind of caught fire on its own and turned into a real band. And here we are 25 years later.”
Haynes has long been a regular in Aspen, playing here with the Allmans, with Mule and with side projects including his acoustic Ashes and Dust Band and the Sco-Mule collaboration with jazz guitarist John Scofield. All of that diverse work — and out-of-the-box experiments like the symphonies — inform Gov’t Mule.
“Being surrounded by so many great musicians, I’m constantly getting inspiration from all directions,” he said.
Haynes and Gov’t Mule’s repertoire of jam rock with notes of blues and soul and some jazz — Haynes has long dreamed of doing a jazz-centric instrumental album — is on full display in the band’s latest record.
“It’s a very diverse record – it covers a lot of ground musically,” Haynes said. “And it all connected with our audience right away.”
The quartet went into an Austin recording studio on Election Day 2016 to begin work on its most recent record, “Revolution Come, Revolution Go,” released in 2017. Songs from the album like the come-together anthem “Pressure Under Fire” and the cathartic rocker “Stone Cold Rage” sound now like responses to the early Trump era. But, Haynes noted, he actually wrote them before the election about the mounting tensions in the U.S.
“They were written about the divide going on in our country that wasn’t going to change, regardless of who won the presidency,” Haynes said. “So it takes on a little bit of a different meaning after Trump is elected, but it’s still the same message.”
A handful of songs from the record — including the title track, “Travelin’ Tune,” and “Dark Was the Night” — have become staples of Mule sets in the last two years.
“Our audience is always itching for new material, but this stuff seemed to connect more immediately.”