Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats to play Belly Up Aspen
What: ‘Austin to Boston,’ presented by MountainSummit
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Saturday, Aug. 29, 9:30 p.m.
Who: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Saturday, Aug. 29, 10:45 p.m.
How much: $15 advance; $20 day of
On Nathaniel Rateliff’s past tour stops in Aspen, nobody seemed to notice he was here. But when the Denver-based singer and his band, The Night Sweats, play Belly Up tonight — with an acclaimed new self-titled album, a hit song, a recent performance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and a national buzz in tow — that’s not likely to be the case.
Before Fallon and the rest of the world came calling, Rateliff built a devoted fanbase in Denver and around the Front Range, but it didn’t translate to Aspen shows.
“We’re just going to do what we’ve been doing, get up and have a good time,” he said from Denver this week. “And there’ll be a handful of people there — every other time I’ve been to Belly Up there’s been nobody there.”
This evening, presented by KSPN and the ongoing MountainSummit film festival, opens with a screening of the documentary “Austin to Boston.” The film follows Rateliff and three other bands with cult followings — Ben Howard, The Staves and Bear’s Den — traveling in five Volkswaagen camper vans from the Austin SXSW Music Festival to the Northeast. Over two weeks — through storms and breakdowns — the bands play shows in bars, barns, rooftops and small rooms across 3,000 miles of the U.S.
The MountainSummit show continues a national tour that runs through Thanksgiving. The venues for most of those shows have been bumped up from small clubs to large theaters as demand for Rateliff and his band has quickly risen since the Aug. 21 release of the new album from Stax Records and the single “S.O.B.”
“I’m just trying to be healthy and not wake up hungover everyday,” Rateliff said of the rigorous tour ahead of him.
The record showcases the band’s exuberant, soul-infused folk, taking cues from Sam Cooke and Otis Redding but playing with a hard-rock attitude.
The full-band sound is a departure from the more stark singer-songwriter material that Rateliff had been focused on before (and that’s featured in “Austin to Boston”).
A Missouri native, at 18 years old, Rateliff moved to Denver with a friend — Joseph Pope III, now the bassist for The Night Sweats — to play music. His solo work earned him opening gigs for touring bands, including Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver. But until this summer, breakout success had eluded him.
After his 2013 solo album “Falling Faster Than You Can Run” failed to gain commercial traction, Ratefliff doubted whether he had a future in music. He thought about focusing on the voiceover and gardening work that’s helped pay his bills over the years. But then he started writing songs in a retro-soul style, and found himself creatively revived.
“I’d been working hard for a long time and I didn’t know if I was going to keep playing music or get a job or what,” he said. “So to push through, I just wrote one song, and then another, and kept going, and wanted to see where everything would go in that style.”
Out of that last-ditch songwriting effort came the formation of The Night Sweats and the self-titled album.
“It opened everything up for me, and I said, ‘I can do this,’” he said. “I was excited by the record.”
Music fans have been excited by it, too. “S.O.B” debuted in the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart last week, and the band appears poised for a big year.
“It’s really a surprise,” he said. “I knew from audience response that people would like the song. I didn’t know they would like it as much as they do.”
Rateliff has been recording and releasing music since 2007. The kind of attention he’s finally enjoying seemed always to be just over the horizon, at least according to his friends. When they told him “S.O.B” and the new album were going to get the country’s attention, he was dubious.
“My friends are all like, ‘Oh, this is going to be big,’” he said. “But I’ve heard that about every record I’ve put out and it’s never happened. I’ve just started ignoring it.”
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