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Not your dad’s art gallery: Straight Line Studio to host first art show in new One Snowmass space

Local artists Kelly Peters and Teal Wilson have joined forces to launch the Straight Line Studio, a gallery and experimental space located in Snowmass Base Village.

Their new gallery opens in the west One Snowmass building Friday with their inaugural show, “First Tracks,” featuring paintings by Peters and woodcut prints by Wilson.

Beyond hanging work on their walls, these artists-gallerists envision a diverse range of events and activities. They plan to use a portion of the space for making their own work, but also to periodically devote the entire gallery to workshops and classes in artistic technique.

This mix of uses reflects their desire to move beyond the traditional gallery model and actively support the arts community. Straight Line, Wilson said over a coffee at the nearby Crepe Shack, will be a gathering place for artists and those who understand that a vital arts scene is critical to the success of the new Snowmass. She sees friends and visitors dropping by after skiing for a glass of wine, perhaps sitting around an outdoor table in good weather, and making social and cultural connections.

“Straight Line is looking to up the energy in Snowmass Base Village and create a community space, to create a space where art is accessible and where artists can show work in the Roaring Fork Valley,” Peters said.

For more information about the new gallery space, visit its website at www.straightlinestudiollc.com.

Artist and toymaker Spencer Hansen returns to Skye Gallery

The multidisciplinary artist Spencer Hansen has been on nearly a yearlong journey with Aspen’s Skye Gallery.

It began early this year with his popular “Please Play” exhibition at the downtown space and continued with the Skye’s first foray into the international frenzy surrounding Art Basel Miami, where the gallery presented Hansen’s “Strangers” at Aqua Art Miami.

On Saturday night, Hansen’s new exhibition comes to Skye Gallery in downtown Aspen.

As the title suggests, “Please Play” encouraged viewers quite literally to play with Hansen’s furry, bendable art objects.

“I hope it inspires us to play with the creatures,” he said at the opening in January. “I don’t want a static environment.”

The works at that show were handmade sculptures — most of them made with bendable wire, foam and beads inside of woven stuffed animal exteriors.

The uncanny new creatures featured in “Strangers” are unmistakably from the same imagination, though fashioned in wood, metal, ceramics, bone and leather.

An interdisciplinary artist who graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute, Hansen straddles the worlds of mass-produced toys, textiles and fine art. His toy line BLAMO makes otherworldly creatures that encourage play and look like nothing else you’ll find in a toy store and his BLAMO clothing line includes Hansen’s spin on hats, outerwear and the like along with playful onesies for adults.

“I’ve been making creatures as long as I can remember,” he said of the interrelated toy, fashion and art pieces. “I think of them all as sort of cousins from a different planet.”

Originally from rural Idaho, Hansen works out of a studio in Bali, which he and friends built out of recycled Javanes boat wood.


The Head and the Heart reborn and back at Belly Up Aspen

Members of the folk band The Head and the Heart went into the California desert last year to figure out who they were.

The band’s trajectory to that point had been the stuff of throwback rock ’n’ roll lore — scrappy Seattle beginnings, a rootsy and auspicious debut record, a sophomore album that crossed over into the pop mainstream, topped the charts and saw the band playing a sold-out Red Rocks and the main stage at Coachella. After a few years of that, naturally, came something like an identity crisis.

So they followed in the footsteps of rock stars past and retreated to Joshua Tree for three weeks of playing music together and recording.

“We had gotten to a place in our career where we knew who each other was based on who we were when we started the band,” drummer Tyler Williams said this week in a phone interview. “We realized, with 10 years gone by, that people are different. We wanted to re-establish who each person is. We wanted to explore and explode our relationships in the band.”

The result of that introspective process is “Living Mirage,” a surprising and triumphant fourth album from the band released in May. They played two nights at Belly Up Aspen in March, on what Williams called a “mountain-hopping” tour trying out the new songs before the release. They are back at Belly Up on Monday night, following a Saturday night show at Vail Snow Says. (In between the spring and winter Colorado runs this year, the band played two summer nights at Red Rocks.)

“Living Mirage” is the first Head and the Heart album since guitarist and vocalist Josiah Johnson left the band (amicably, they’ve said). Matt Gervais, husband of the singer and violinist Charity Rose Thielen, took his place and former keyboardist Kenny Hensley came back into the fold. They’ve written the new songs cooperatively, rather than with frontman Jonathan Russell taking the lead.

The Joshua Tree sessions were propelled by free-form jamming and working out musical ideas together without set song structures — a new process for the band.

“We may not be able to speak about it out loud, but we can have a conversation musically,” Williams explained. “We found where everyone’s thinking was in Joshua Tree through the music.”

The title track of the new record was the first song birthed out of those improvisatory sessions. It’s been trimmed in half from an original 10 minutes into a slow-building anthem, which steadily grows from a quietly dreamy and harmonica-tinged opening into a fist-pumping rocker. Unsurprisingly, Williams said, the track has become one of the high points of recent live sets.

And while the improvisatory writing and the soul-searching deep-dive in the desert might seem to be a recipe for rock ’n’ roll self-indulgence and navel-gazing, to the contrary, this record is filled with tight, catchy and irresistible pop songs like the lead single “Missed Connection” and the ballad “Honeybee,” which have been the big streaming hits so far from “Living Mirage.” The Head and the Heart didn’t set out to write loveable pop songs, though.

“The magic of this band is that we align ourselves while we’re doing it, but we don’t ever sit down and say, ‘OK, we’re going to write a song that sounds like this!’” Williams said. “It’s weird and mystical for us, too.”

The new songs introduce a more grand, more fun version of the folk rock that The Head and the Heart was making a decade ago. The band has grown since the bare-bones folk of their self-titled 2011 debut and defining early songs like “Lost in My Mind” and “Rivers and Roads,” and since the chart-topping and more radio-friendly 2013 album “Let’s Be Still.”

But they could just as easily turn around and make a more somber and no-frills album next time out (a live acoustic version of “Honeybee,” released online last week, proves they can still mesmerize with intimate folk songs). Williams said he and his bandmates love creatively adventurous artists like Bruce Springsteen and sonic U-turns like Springsteen’s early-1980s jump from the stark “Nebraska” to the anthemic “Born in the U.S.A.”

“Every new album we like to come in from a different place and not rehash the past,” Williams said, “to come in with new ideas that feel genuine and new.”


Aspen Choral Society’s ‘Messiah’ Messiah returns for 42nd year

The Aspen Choral Society has been performing Handel’s “Messiah” for 42 years, becoming a holiday tradition that transcends religious affiliation.

“I don’t think you have to have any religious leaning or inclination to be able to appreciate yet another retelling of this classic story,” Choral Society music director and conductor Paul Dankers said of the Christ story in a recent phone interview.

With an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in choral music education, Dankers is no stranger to the choral music world. After having taught vocal music education and music theory and composition for eight years in public schools, he is now in his sixth season as the music director for the Snowmass Chapel and the Aspen Choral Society.

“Even if you happen to think that the entire thing is fiction, it’s still a very compelling story,” Dankers said. “I think the music itself is also very compelling and worth the investment that it takes to adjust our modern ears to the music of another time.” The holidays can be tough for people, he noted. Whatever holiday one happens to be celebrating, even in the best of circumstances, it’s stressful. There’s a lot going on. The schedule gets tight, there is shopping to do, cookies to be baked, food to prepare, people to invite, etc. People can easily get overwhelmed with the holidays and Dankers hopes this tradition can relieve some of that stress.

“I always try to have the concert be a place where people can set all of that aside and just have this time where we can let our light and our love wash over them,” Dankers said. “This should be a time where they can just close their eyes and immerse themselves in the music, feel that lack of anywhere that they have to be, that lack of anything that they have to do, and just be present in that moment and enjoy what we have to offer them.”

With about 80 singers total, the choir is made up of locals from Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood and even as far away as Rifle and New Castle. For the past seven weeks, the choir has come together once a week to rehearse this hourlong performance. There are seven rehearsals and one dress rehearsal that culminate in three performances throughout the valley this weekend.

The Aspen Choral Society welcomes anyone who is interested in being involved. There is no audition process to join.

“Anybody can sing with us and we welcome anybody — even if they’re a brand-new singer or even if they have been told as a child that they can’t match pitch,” Dankers said. “I think that is utter nonsense for the most part. I’m amazed at how many people are told as children, ‘Just mouth the words because you can’t match pitch.’ There are so few human beings who are truly tone-deaf. The average person is neither tone-deaf nor unable to match pitch. It’s just a question of training and development.”

Part of Aspen Choral Society’s mission is to develop that ability in people and to give them the vocal training and musical training to be able to sing a piece like “Messiah.” Everyone is welcome to join regardless of whether they can read music or have vocal training or choir experience.

“I really work hard to make sure that this choir is loving and accepting of all voice types,” Dankers said. “That’s one of the first things that I tell the choir at the beginning of the process. We have people of many varying talents. I try to put people who have less experience next to people with more experience.”

The Aspen Choral Society works to foster a community of people who love and support each other rather than compete.

“I really think choral singing is one of the most egoless, most egalitarian things that we do,” Dankers said. “Most of the time when we do stuff, it’s to further ourselves. When you sing in the choir, you are subverting your own ego. Rather than being there so that you shine as an individual, you’re there to support the entire thing, that your sound actually fits inside the sound of all the other voices rather than standing out among the voices.”

These days, that in itself can seem like a miracle.

“I think that’s such a cool thing in this day and age,” Dankers said. “We’re all about our egos. It’s an amazing thing that all these people come together to not be noticed in the group.”

Wood Brothers back in Aspen for another sold out Belly Up show

The Wood Brothers are living the dream.

The rootsy folk-blues trio had long fantasized about what they might do if they could write and record music on their own terms, Oliver Wood said in a phone interview. They found out on their 2018 album “One Drop of Truth.”

The Woods made it without a record label, produced it themselves and recorded it over the course of a year in independent Nashville studios. They funded it on their own with touring income. The result is what the band has described as its “free-est” songs and its “most fun” recording experience.

 “We were not beholden to anyone financially or creatively and we just did it ourselves,” Oliver Wood said. “That was very liberating. It just felt like, ‘This is us.’ We’re having a great time doing it, so there’s no pressure. It’s just fun and this is how we sound when we do that.”

The trio will play a sold-out show at Belly Up Aspen on Wednesday night, in what’s become an annual tradition of playing to a full house at Belly Up every December.

The freedom of the recording process on their sixth album translates into a diverse group of songs that retain the Woods’ well-established rustic folk sound, but with a jolt of sonic and stylistic playfulness. There’s the upbeat and peppy “Happiness Jones” laced with a subversive social commentary. There’s a sweet and stripped-down folk number “Strange as it Seems,” which stands alongside classic bare-bones Woods Brothers songs like “Postcards from Hell” and “Luckiest Man.” And there are boot-stomping Southern rock sing-alongs like “This Is It,” which have been high points of the Woods’ live show (captured on the recently released “Live at the Fillmore” concert album).

Rather than writing songs for an extended period and then squeezing the recording process into a week or two in a studio, the trio went into the studio over the course of a year and recorded whenever a song was ready.

“We’ve always fantasized about making albums a song at a time,” Wood said. “Write a song you’re excited about, record it, then move on to the next song.”

Though it was made in creative spurts, some themes emerge here that reflect our stormy times. There is, for example, quite a lot of apocalyptic weather in these new songs — a broken levee, stormy seas, hurricanes.

“Often that’s subconscious,” Wood said. “It’s the coolest thing about artists: sometimes you create something and you don’t know where you got it from until you look back in retrospect and you’re like, ‘Oh, man, that was during the election or that’s when somebody dumped me or somebody died.”

Formed 13 years ago after the brothers Chris and Oliver each had separate, successful bands — bass player Chris with Medeski, Martin & Wood; guitarist Oliver as frontman for King Johnson — the Wood Brothers are round out by multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix. They’ve become a staple at big summer festivals, with a devoted nationwide following and a reputation as a must-see live act.

The Woods have made regular appearances at Belly Up in recent years, playing the club at least annually. But their Aspen connection goes back long before they were selling out the club every winter. Oliver and Chris spent boyhood summers in Aspen, when their father — a microbiologist — worked on textbooks with a locally based editor. Those days included classical music concerts at the Benedict tent and selling The Aspen Times on the streets. The family later moved to Boulder, where the Woods spent their high school years.

“I have super fond memories of those places,” Wood said. “I love coming back there.”

The Woods plan to keep making records the way they made “One Drop of Truth” and have now obtained their own studio space to do it. There, he said, they plan to keep experimenting and relishing their creative freedom.

“We’re going to do things that we haven’t done before and avoid things we have done in the past — try something new,” Wood said. “We aren’t sure what it is yet, but we know what it isn’t.”


Galactic, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Monty Alexander to headline Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience

Jazz Aspen Snowmass has released the initial lineup of both artists and venues for the 2020 June Experience, which debuted a new multi-venue format in 2019. It includes headlining slots from vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, a capella group Take 6 and New Orleans jam band Galactic.

Taking place June 25 to 28 the Experience will consist of multiple staggered shows daily, allowing attendees to the opportunity to walk from venue to venue for a diverse mix of music genres.

Returning venues for 2020 will include Belly Up, Aspen Art Museum, The Little Nell, St. Regis Aspen, Victoria’s and the Skye Gallery, with additional venues to be announced in the new year. The festival will kick off the 30th anniversary summer season for the nonprofit born as Jazz Aspen in June 21 1991.

The Experience will open June 25 with two rooftop performances at the Aspen Art Museum featuring the New Orleans band Tuba Skinny, who draw on a wide range of musical influences from spirituals to Depression-era blues, ragtime to traditional jazz.

Confirmed artists for the June 26 to 28 performances include multi-Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater; the most awarded a cappella group in history, 10-time Grammy recipients Take 6; funk and jazz jam band Galactic with special guest Anjelika Jelly Joseph; Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander with his Harlem Kingston Express show; virtuoso guitarist Charlie Hunter joining former Snarky Puppy singer Lucy Woodward in a trio performing vintage pop and classic standards; the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio; the Brazilian guitar talent with unique mouth percussion Badi Assad; and the return of four former JAS Academy students performing with Ulysses Owens Jr. and Gen Y showcasing an exciting mix of young new artists. All artists will play multiple shows allowing attendees the opportunity to experience all acts.

Three-day passes for the event go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. Based on availability, single day passes will be released later this winter. A weekend VIP pass also will be available Thursday and will include three nights of dinners at the Downtown VIP Tent (June 25 to 27). The festival also will host two private VIP concerts in the tent. VIP purchasers for 2020 will have the new option of reserving a seat at one show of their choice nightly.

On June 28, JAS will present a New Orleans Brunch at the VIP tent with $65 tickets also going on sale Thursday. Tickets include a full brunch, bloody mary and mimosa bar and a performance from seven-piece joyful jazz group Sammy Miller and the Congregation.

Additional artists and venues will be announced this winter, along with a detailed grid outlining the full schedule of events, including artist talks and VIP hospitality. Events will generally take place starting as early as 5 p.m. nightly and ending as late as midnight.

Tickets will be available at jazzaspensnowmass.org or 866-JAS-TIXX (527-8499). VIP passes also will be available starting Thursday at jazzaspensnowmass.org or 970-920-4996.

‘Hippie Chick’ Jill Sheeley looks back in new Aspen memoir

Jill Sheeley had dreamed of coming to live in Aspen since her childhood in Illinois, when she saw the Aspen-filmed movie “Little Skier’s Big Day.”

She made it here for a visit as a high school senior in 1968, then entered the University of Denver that fall, soon to be hitchhiking up to Aspen for ski trips. When she finished school, she settled here and found herself in the midst of the town’s ski bum heyday.

Sheeley has been in Aspen ever since, best known these days as a children’s book author, writing instructor and as the force behind the Fraser Writing Contest for local elementary school kids. But her latest release is for grown-ups. “Those Were the Days: Memories of a Hippie Chick” is a fond and episodic memoir of her charmed days during the ski town’s freewheeling 1970s.

She calls it “a story about the town of Aspen and how she wooed me, then charmed me and then wove me into her fabric.”

The book joyfully recounts the ski bum life, juggling service industry jobs at iconic local spots like Gretl’s, Gwyn’s and the Wienerstube, living in the far reaches of Lenado when it was a drop-out Shangri-La, crashing in the hippie haven of the Agate Lodge, the colorful on-mountain scene of the era and its ski gangs (Sheeley was a member of the “Powder Sluts”).

She also has chapters devoted to her experiences of defining Aspen moments, from the anxiety during the Vietnam War draft and the terror after Ted Bundy’s courthouse escape, to the rich local music scene and crossing paths with John Denver, to Spider Sabich being shot and killed by the singer and actress Claudine Longet (Sheeley was a nanny for Longet’s children).

Sheeley is releasing “Those Were the Days” with a book launch party Tuesday evening at the Mountain Chalet, where she’s planning more than the standard signing and talk. Sheeley will be inviting people who lived through the ’70s in Aspen to tell their own stories, and expects some who’ve moved away to come back for the event.

“I thought it would be fun to throw a big party,” she said.

Sheeley has been writing books in Aspen for 40 years now, going back to the now-classic children’s book “Christmas in Aspen” in 1980 and continuing with the popular “Fraser the Yellow Dog” series.

“Those Were the Days” is a departure for the author, who along with children’s titles has published cookbooks and the young adult novel “The Blue Bottle,” though she renders Aspen’s notorious sex, drugs and skiing era in mostly PG-13 fashion.

“I do have a daughter and grandson and son-in-law,” Sheeley said with a laugh of the lightly sanitized tales in the book. “I didn’t want to tell all and I didn’t want to make anybody angry.”

Her inspiration for the book came during a trip to Gulf Island, near Vancouver, when she came across a light-hearted memoir by a local about settling there in the ’70s.

“A lightbulb went off and I said, ‘I need to do something like this,’” Sheeley recalled.

She started taking notes, conjuring the old days and favorite stories, including her courtship with the charming Snowmass ski patroller and Ruedi sailor Don Sheeley, which began a 48-year partnership and and a long marriage.

When Don died in 2017, at 68, the manuscript became a joyful refuge from her grief.

“It brought back all these fun memories,” she said. “It helped with my sadness. It was cathartic when I thought about the hippie days, his long hair and how we evolved together.”

Don had read and loved the first few chapters before he died, Sheeley recalled.

As she attempted to piece together her early days in Aspen, Sheeley made charts of the years to keep her memories straight and called many old friends she hadn’t seen and talked to in years to jog her memories and reminisce.

“It was amazing to connect with all these people,” she said.

Sheeley is also remarkably uninfected by the bitterness so common among longtime Aspenites who’ve seen the town evolve and commercialize since those days.

“She can deal with change,” said Marjorie DeLuca, Sheeley’s longtime editor and publisher at Carbondale-based AGS Publishing. “She doesn’t like it any better than anybody else, but she’s not someone who is going to spend her life grousing about it.”

The grousing in the book is limited to a tongue-in-cheek two-page section listing some of the trappings of contemporary Aspen that Sheeley and her former hippie cohort didn’t have to contend with (paid parking, facelifts, leash laws and ski helmets make the list).


Folk singer and farmer Gregory Alan Isakov returns to Belly Up Aspen

Most musicians’ touring and recording schedules are dictated by music label demands and marketing plans. These days, Gregory Alan Isakov’s run is according to the needs of beets, fennel and other crops on his 3-acre farm outside Boulder.

The singer-songwriter, among the state’s most beloved working artists, has in recent years devoted himself to the farm, working the land from the spring planting season through the fall harvest. Come winter, he hits the road to play music, which brings him back to Belly Up Aspen on Friday night during a Colorado stretch that also includes shows in Breckenridge, Estes Park, Steamboat Springs and Boulder this month.

Isakov, 40, studied horticulture at Naropa in Boulder, but had all but given up farming as his stripped-down folk found a national audience.

“I think, ‘Gosh, three or four years ago the band and I were playing 200 shows a year or more,’” he said recently in a phone interview from the road in Indiana. “It was amazing, because I didn’t know that was possible. It was a dream realized, like, ‘Wow, we can do this, it’s happening.’ But I never investigated why.”

He fell prey to anxiety, he wasn’t writing on tour and, after losing his home in Boulder and most of his possessions to a flood in 2013, Isakov decided to return to the rhythms of the land.

“I found I wasn’t writing a lot, because we were traveling so much,” he recalled. “I missed work and I missed having the time to actually write about life that wasn’t related to being on tour.”

The first album he’s made in his barn studio on the farm, recorded mostly at night between producing vegetables for Front Range restaurants, is “Evening Machines,” which last month was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album. It is filled with intelligent and economical lyrics to parse and pore over, lush melodies to hum and deceptively complex arrangements that include touches of pedal steel, electric guitar and strings.

“I wanted to make a lo-fi rock ’n’ roll record,” Isakov recalled. “For some reason, the record started and wanted to go in a different direction.”

Concurrently, the singer-songwriter took on other projects including his collaboration with the Colorado Symphony and 10 other national orchestras. The residue of that work is on the new record, which includes gorgeously integrated string arrangements on songs like “Southern Star.”

“I still trip out that that happened,” Isakov said of the orchestral project.

The record effectively employs nature metaphors — the colors of the sky, the angles of stars, tangles of brambles and the immensity of the sea — in diverse songs from the meditation on loss in “Wings in Black” to the timely immigrant story “Berth” (Isakov immigrated to the U.S. from South Africa as a child).

The bittersweet songs on “Evening Machines” were carved out from three dozen that he wrote and recorded for the project. And though it’s his first full-length studio release since 2013’s “The Weatherman,” Isakov has many album’s worth of unshared songs.

He’s been releasing music for nearly half his life, going back to his 2003 debut. But Isakov still finds every songwriting attempt a challenge and has learned to be patient with his creative process.

“I feel every time I try to write a song, it’s brand new — like I’ve never done it,” he said. “I wish it was more calculated.”

Most often they start as poems or bits of prose, and as they become songs he waits — unsurprisingly for a guy who composes surrounded by his tended beds of greens, vegetables and flowers — to see whether they blossom.

“I sit on songs for a long time and I like that feeling of a song when it’s just sitting in the background of your life for a while,” he said. “I’m cool with letting it hang out for quite a long time. I know that’s different than a lot of writers. I love that feeling of, ‘Let’s see where it can go. Is it going to stand the test of time if I come back to it in a few weeks or months? Will I still feel the same way about it?’”

Despite commercial and critical success, Isakov has operated in DIY fashion from the beginning. He’s always kept his music production in-house, recording at home and tracking all the instruments himself before bringing the band in, releasing albums through his own independent Suitcase Town Music label.

So “Evening Machines” would seem to be a step toward the pop music mainstream. It’s his first album licensed to a record label — Dualtone — and supported by marketing muscle he’s never before had behind him, leading to a wider national audience, milestones like a sold-out Red Rocks show last year and the Grammy nod.

The songs “San Luis” and “Chemicals,” from the new record, have racked up 21 million and 31 million Spotify streams, respectively, over the past year.

“To me it hasn’t changed all that much,” he said, adding that he and his manager, Sarah Levin, simply wanted to see what it’d be like working with a label. “We didn’t need to sign to a label, but thought it might be fun. It came out of this place of experimenting. I’m not sure if we’ll do the next one with a label or not, we’re still figuring that out, but it was nice to see what it was like.”


Adrienne Brodeur brings ‘Wild Game’ book tour back to Aspen

Since her memoir, “Wild Game,” was released this fall, Aspen Words executive director Adrienne Brodeur has been on a whirlwind national book tour.

“Wild Game” has become one of the most acclaimed nonfiction titles of the year, earning a rave in the New York Times Book Review, a recommendation from the The Skimm and winning spots on best-of-the-year lists at NPR, Slate and the Washington Post and Amazon.

On Friday evening, she returns to Aspen for a talk and signing at the Wheeler Opera House with the literary community she’s called home since 2013.

“I’ve been on a tour for ‘Wild Game’ since October, traveling across the country to bookstores, libraries and literary events where at virtually every stop, members of the Aspen Words community turned out for me: Emerging Writing Fellows, Winter Words speakers, staff, Aspen Summer Words faculty and students, writers in residence and more,” she wrote in an email Thursday. “Never have I felt more buoyed by support.”

Along with the homecoming event in Aspen, Brodeur will give a talk at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver on Saturday.

The book recounts her complicated relationship with her narcissistic mother and details the role she played in abetting an extra-marital affair her mother carried on from Brodeur’s teenage years through early adulthood.

It was the subject of breathless prepublication attention, both in the publishing industry press and mainstream entertainment outlets. Before the book’s release, Brodeur — a longtime book editor who splits her time between Aspen and Cambridge, Massachusetts — said she hadn’t thought much about how the public might receive “Wild Game.”

“I couldn’t imagine a lot of people were going to relate to it,” she said. “I thought the writing was good because I worked very hard on it, but I never thought, ‘Oh, this is the one people are going to connect to,’ because it is shocking and it is unusual. I don’t think a lot of people have had a similar experience.”

She’d begun writing it to make sense of the experience for herself. To better understand how, beginning at age 14, she served as her mother’s confidante and co-conspirator, and in what ways her deceptions shaped her own struggles with depression and fraught relationships.

A film adaptation, by “Edge of Seventeen” writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig, is in development.


Aspen’s Most-Anticipated Arts Events, Winter 2019-20

Anybody who hangs around in Aspen long enough will grow weary of tourism boosters talking incessantly about how exceptional this place is. All the superlatives and all that “my life is better than your vacation” bull is tiresome and indecent.

But then you look at the arts and culture lineup for the winter ahead and, yeah, you realize how spoiled we are here — how, yes, exceptional it is to have access to this caliber of exhibitions and performance and events in a remote mountain town so isolated from the cosmopolitan centers where you’d expect, say, a Kusama “Infinity Room” and a Trevor Noah show. For most winter destinations, the skiing is enough.

Looking ahead at 2019-20 on the culture beat in Aspen, there are tentpole events you can count on, like splashy art openings over Presidents’ Day weekend for the jet-set and huge New Year’s Eve concerts at Belly Up, those few days over X Games when Aspen is the center of youth culture and pop music. There are series that have gotten hotter in recent years and have the town abuzz, like the Aspen Laugh Fest and the JAS Café.

And there are always some new wrinkles, like Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings this year moving from its Christmas-to-New Year’s slot to early January, changing the long-established rhythm of entertainment during Aspen’s freakiest week.

As always, there will be surprises to come, like last year’s late addition of an on-mountain springtime music festival with String Cheese Incident and Umphrey’s McGee headlining.

So keep your edges sharp and mark your calendars. This is the Aspen Times Weekly’s Most Anticipated list for 2019-20.

–Andrew Travers


Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Where the Lights in My Heart Go’

Aspen Art Museum, Dec. 20 through May 10

You’ve probably seen your friends’ Instagram posts from inside Kusama’s “Infinity Room” installations around the world, for which people wait for hours in line and on which museums and galleries have had to implement strict time limits for visitors. Kusama, a 90-year-old titan of contemporary art and recent viral fame, brings this mirrored room to the rooftop sculpture garden at the Aspen Art Museum in time for Christmas and everybody in Aspen is going to want to step inside.

AND DON’T FORGET: Oscar Murillo’s “Social Altitude” at Aspen Art Museum (through May 17) … “bayer & bauhaus: how design shaped aspen” at Aspen Historical Society (through April) … Anderson Ranch Arts Center Holiday Open House (Dec. 17) … Mickalene Thomas at Baldwin Gallery (opening late December) … Emma Senft’s “Dappling” at Anderson Ranch Arts Center (Feb. 3-28) … Lisa Yuskavage’s “Wilderness” at Aspen Art Museum (Feb. 16-May 31) … “Our Planet: Exploring Our Changing Environment” at Anderson Ranch (March 9-April 8).


Christopher McDougall

Aspen Winter Words at Paepcke Auditorium, Tuesday, Feb. 18

Few books in recent years have been as ubiquitous on Aspen bookshelves as McDougall’s 2009 narrative nonfiction blockbuster “Born to Run.” It sparked the barefoot running craze and shined a fascinating light on Mexico’s Tarahumara tribe. McDougall’s latest, “Running with Sherman,” is about a donkey jogging partner and animal-human partnerships.

AND DON’T FORGET: “Wild Game” memoirist Adrienne Brodeur at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 6) … “Three Women” author Lisa Taddeo at Winter Words (Jan. 7) … Poets Jericho Brown and Ada Limon at Aspen Winter Words (Jan. 28) … Naomi McDougall Jones’ “The Wrong Kind of Women” (published Feb. 4) … “Shutter Island” author Dennis Lehane at Winter Words (March 10) … “Dopesick” author Beth Macy at Aspen Winter Words (March 31).


David Finckel and Wu Han
Courtesy photo

David Finckel and Wu Han

Harris Concert Hall, Thursday, Feb. 20

If our summers are overstuffed with classical offerings, winter is starvation season. But the Aspen Music Festival’s three-part winter series dependably brings summertime favorites back to satiate year-round local listeners. This beloved husband-and-wife pair has long been synonymous with Aspen’s music scene, giving rapturously received recitals and running influential chamber music workshops at the festival. They’ll perform cello sonatas by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Chopin.

AND DON’T FORGET: Aspen Choral Society’s “Messiah” (Dec. 13, 14 & 15) … “A Celtic Family Christmas” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 19) … William Hagen and Albert Cano Smit at Harris Concert Hall (Feb. 6) … Joyce Yang at Harris Concert Hall (Feb. 13).


Trevor Noah
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Trevor Noah

Aspen Laugh Festival at the Wheeler Opera House, Saturday, Feb. 22, 7 & 9:30 p.m.

The Wheeler has raised expectations sky-high for Laugh Fest, as it’s booked the biggest names in comedy for several years in a row. But, man, landing the “Daily Show” host and stand-up comic for two shows in the middle of presidential primary season? This is already the most talked-about event of the season.

AND DON’T FORGET: Best of “SNL” with Alex Moffat and Mikey Day at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 27) … David Spade at Belly Up (Jan. 2) … Fortune Feimster at Wheeler Opera House (Jan. 11) … Brian Regan at Belly Up (Feb. 10) … Second City at Aspen Laugh Festival (Feb. 19) … Norm Macdonald at Aspen Laugh Festival (Feb. 20) … Taylor Tomlinson at Aspen Laugh Festival (Feb. 21) … Paula Poundstone at Wheeler Opera House (March 12) … Piff the Magic Dragon at Wheeler Opera House (March 13).


Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s “Beautiful Decay”
Aspen Times file

‘Beautiful Decay’ by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Aspen District Theatre, Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, 7:30 p.m.

This piece by Nicolo Fonte, staged for three performances last summer, was the first evening-length contemporary ballet ever produced by Aspen Santa Fe. A touching meditation on mortality, featuring a multi-generational cast, if you missed the first round of shows you must see it this winter.

AND DON’T FORGET: “The Nutcracker” by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (Dec. 21 & 22) … “Shimmer” by Acrobats of Cirque-Tacular at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 26) … Cirque Zuma Zuma at Wheeler Opera House (Feb. 16) … Diavolo at Aspen District Theatre (March 27).


“Just Mercy”

Aspen Film Academy Screenings, Jan. 7

Director Destin Daniel Cretton brings the work and life of death row activist attorney Bryan Stevenson to the screen, with Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx starring. You may remember Cretton from his presentation at Aspen Shortsfest last spring and you may have caught one of Stevenson’s many talks at the Aspen Institute over the years. So you’ve got to see this during Aspen Film’s annual festival of Oscar hopefuls.

AND DON’T FORGET: “Pain and Glory,” presented by Aspen Film at Isis Theatre (Dec. 4) … Warren Miller’s “Timeless” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 4 & 5) … “Heavy Water” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 15) … ‘Polar Express” at Wheeler Opera House, Dec. 20 … “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” at Isis Theatre (Dec. 20) … X Games film series, Diamond Club at Buttermilk (Jan. 23-26) … “The Longest Wave” at Wheeler Opera House (March 20) … Aspen Film’s Aspen Shortsfest at Wheeler Opera House (March 31-April 5).


Rae Sremmurd
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Rae Sremmurd

X Games & Belly Up, Jan. 24 & 25

If you have ears, you’ve heard “Black Beatles” a lot in the last three years. And if you’re a hip-hop head, you probably know the album “SR3MM.” The duo’s fourth full-length album, “SremmLife 4,” is rumored for a winter release. So expect Rae Sremmurd to make their big X Games show and ESPN tie-ins a key part of their album launch with all eyes on Aspen, these concerts and these new tracks.

AND DON’T FORGET: Gregory Alan Isakov at Belly Up (Dec. 6) … Robert Glasper at Belly Up (Dec. 9) … The Wood Brothers at Belly Up (Dec. 11) … Bone Thugs-N-Harmony at Belly Up (Dec. 13) … Modest Mouse at Belly Up (Dec. 14) … The Head and the Heart at Belly Up (Dec. 16) … Thievery Corporation at Belly Up (Dec. 18 & 19) … Big Gigantic at Belly Up (Dec. 22) … Cedric Gervais at Belly Up (Dec. 23) … ABBA Mania at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 25) … Zhu at Belly Up (Dec. 26) … Third Eye Blind at Belly Up (Dec. 27 & 28) … Bob Moses and Nora En Pure at Belly Up (Dec. 29) … Flume at Belly Up (Dec. 30-31) … Yonder Mountain String Band at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 31) … Dillon Francis at Belly Up (Jan. 4) … Pat Green at Belly Up (Jan. 10) … Alphonso Horne & the Gotham City Kings at JAS Café (Jan. 10 & 11) … Illenium (Belly Up Jan 22 & X Games Jan. 25) … Alesso (Belly Up Jan. 24 & X Games Jan. 25) … Bazzi at Belly Up & X Games (Jan. 26) … Railroad Earth at Belly Up (Jan. 28 & 29) … The Doo Wop Project at Wheeler Opera House (Feb. 8) … Lupe Fiasco at Belly Up (Feb. 9) … Martin Sexton at Belly Up (Feb. 11) … Curtis Stigers at JAS Café (Feb. 13 & 14) … North Mississippi Allstars at Belly Up (Feb. 19) … Duchess at JAS Café (Feb. 20 & 21) … Donavon Frankenreiter at Belly Up (Feb. 21) … O.A.R. at Belly Up (Feb. 27) … Lyle Lovett at Belly Up (March 3) … Guster at Wheeler Opera House (March 4) … Poncho Sanchez at JAS Café (March 7) … Keller Williams at Belly Up (March 8) … Spafford at Belly Up (March 13) … Carolyn Leonhart at JAS Café (March 13 & 14) … Classic Albums Live: “Abbey Road” at Wheeler Opera House (March 25) … Grace Potter at Belly Up (March 26 & 27) … Killer Queen at Wheeler Opera House (March 27) … Jamison Ross at JAS Café at the Collective (March 27 & 28) … Steel Betty at Wheeler Opera House (March 29).


Mead Metcalf
Aspen Times file

Crystal Palace “Review”

Wheeler Opera House, Jan. 31 & Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.

Mead Metcalf and the Crystal Palace players made a nostalgia-fueled, still-funny and politically incorrect return to Aspen last winter at the Wheeler and it appears this may be turning into an annual tradition. Metcalf’s old dinner theater was reduced to rubble this fall, but the Palace lives on in this most local of local’s nights at the Wheeler.

AND DON’T FORGET: “The Doyle and Debbie Show” at Thunder River Theatre (Dec. 5-21) … “A Very Electric Christmas” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 8) … Theatre Aspen Holiday Cabaret (Dec. 15-19) … Ken Ludwig’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 22) … Adam Trent’s “Holiday Magic” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 28) …‘The Great Dubois” at Wheeler Opera House (Jan. 10) …“A View From the Bridge” at Thunder River Theatre (Feb. 20-March 7) … “Million Dollar Quartet” at Wheeler Opera House (March 6) … “Wild Creatures” at Wheeler Opera House (March 7) … “Peter Rabbit Tales” at Wheeler Opera House (March 19) … Justin Willman’s “Magic for Humans” at Wheeler Opera House (March 21).