The year 2014: It’s here. It’s busy. Be prepared.

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Singer-songwriter Brett Dennen has a March date scheduled at Belly Up.
Stewart Oksenhorn The Aspen Times |

You’ve got your 2014 calendar, right? It’s the one with a whole lot of blank white spaces, waiting to be filled in with all the cool stuff that you’re going to do these next 12 months. Grab your pen (or start clicking on your keypad of choice); the list of local art and culture events is already starting to accumulate.


Belly Up doesn’t give you even a slight breather. Tonight’s show by indie-rock sensation The National is sold out (which doesn’t rule out nontraditional means of finding a ticket). On Saturday, the club acts as if we’re not all worn out by the recent frenzy of holiday activity: There’s a tripleheader of two shows by comedian Kevin Nealon followed by a late-night show by electronic dance duo The Crystal Method.

That’s just the beginning. Other highlights of the Belly Up month include “American Idol” vet David Cook (Jan. 8), ’90s hit-makers Collective Soul in their local debut (Jan. 15), French rock quartet Phoenix (Jan. 25), superstar DJ Tiesto (Jan. 26) and a two-night stand by livetronica pioneers STS9 (Jan. 29 and 30).

“All You Need Is Love,” Jan. 10 through 12, Aspen District Theatre: Theatre Aspen’s Teen Conservatory presents its first-ever cabaret-style show.

Wycliffe Gordon, Jan. 10 and 11, Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ JAS Cafe Downstairs@the Nell: Straight-ahead instrumental jazz makes an appearance at Jazz Aspen’s JAS Cafe series, with trombonist Gordon playing “Hello Pops!” a tribute to Louis Armstrong.

Gay Ski Week, Jan. 12 through 19: The Group Civil Union Ceremony, once aiming to be the biggest of its kind, isn’t looking to be all that massive; as of last week, only two couples had signed on for the event (Jan. 18, Wagner Park). Still, there’s all kinds of action at the world’s oldest Gay Ski Week, with a long slate of friendship dinners, fashion shows, movies, dance parties and comedy. The downhill costume party at the bottom of Aspen Mountain is always worth seeing, but possibly even better is the Bowl Is a Drag hike up Highland Bowl (Jan. 16).

Brad Watson, Jan. 13, Woody Creek Community Center: The Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s residence program presents Watson, who has been earning honors for his novels (“The Heaven of Mercury”) and short stories (“Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives”). The appearance will include a discussion of his current project.

• Terrapin Flyer, Jan. 23, PAC3, Carbondale: Deadheads, congregate. This band features keyboardist Melvin Seals and guitarist Mark Karan, both certified members of the extended Grateful Dead family. Other nights of note at PAC3: roots rockers Cody Canada & the Departed (Thursday), Colorado icons The Samples (Jan. 17) and progressive bluegrassers Head for the Hills (Jan. 24).

• Savoy, Jan. 24, Aspen Gondola Plaza: A Boulder jam band that turned into a Brooklyn electro-rock act, Savoy plays in Aspen Skiing Co.’s free Hi-Fi Concert Series.

• X Games MUSIC, Jan. 25 and 26, Wagner Park: Not free shows in the park, but big shows: Phoenix (Jan. 25) and Tiesto (Jan. 26), each performing early-evening sets before heading to nighttime festivities. Let the games (and mayhem?) begin.

• Young Curators of the Roaring Fork, opening reception on Jan. 25, Aspen Art Museum: A group of local young curators embrace the theme “Escape.” Other museum events: Museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson presents an “I Don’t Get It” discussion about the current exhibition by Holt Quentel (Wednesday); and Create Your Own Lift Ticket (Jan. 19 in Snowmass Village).

Monday Docs: This annual documentary film series, presented by the Wheeler Opera House and Aspen Film, opens with “Stories We Tell” (Jan. 27), actor-director Sarah Polley’s personal, revealing look at the complex family dynamics in her family history.

Ricardo Blanco, Jan. 28, Woody Creek Community Center: The poet who read at President Obama’s second inauguration opens the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Winter Words series.

Leon Russell, Jan. 28, Wheeler: The keyboardist with a stunning list of credits (Bob Dylan, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, and his own hits including “Tightrope”) comes to play.


Ralph Stanley, Feb. 1, Wheeler: A farewell tour that probably won’t be reprised. Stanley, an icon of American acoustic music, is 86. More music at the Wheeler: singer Judy Collins (Feb. 14), renegade singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker (Feb. 15), bluegrassers The Steep Canyon Rangers (Feb. 26) and a solo show by singer-guitarist Keb’ Mo’ (Feb. 28).

• “Uranium Drive-In,” Feb. 17, Wheeler: Telluride filmmaker Suzan Beraza offers a compassionate view of both sides of the debate over whether a mining operation should open in a shrinking Colorado community. Also in the Monday Docs series: “Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence,” about the founder of the Snowmass Monastery (Feb. 3); and “Salinger” (Feb. 24).

• “Amy Sillman: One Lump or Two,” opening reception on Feb. 13, Aspen Art Museum: The first museum survey of New Yorker Sillman features drawings, paintings and her first work in animated film.

• Joyce Yang, Feb. 13, Harris Hall: The Aspen Music Festival’s Winter Music series opens with Korean-born pianist Yang, an Aspen favorite, playing a Rachmaninoff-heavy program. Also in the series: violinist Jennifer Koh (Feb. 20), with an eclectic program of Bach, Berio and John Zorn.

Eliane Elias, Feb. 14 through 16, JAS Cafe: The Brazilian singer-songwriter returns after an acclaimed appearance last year. Also at the JAS Café: jazz-fusion group Spyro Gyra, celebrating its 35th anniversary (Feb. 20 through 22).

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Feb. 14 and 15, Aspen District Theatre: The local company’s program features the world premiere of a new piece by Nicolo Fonte, the eighth dance he has created for the company. The program, also featuring works by Cayetano Soto and Norbert de la Cruz, has an encore performance March 29.

• A packed Belly Up schedule is topped by an interesting Valentine’s treat: the local debut of alt-rock heroes The Pixies (Feb. 14, with Best Coast opening). Also: blues rockers The North Mississippi Allstars (Feb. 7), young soul singer Mayer Hawthorne & the County (Feb. 10), Zappa Plays Zappa, Dweezil Zappa’s tribute to his father, Frank (Feb. 13), and saxophonist Karl Denson leading his Tiny Universe through a Ray Charles tribute (Feb. 23).

• Aspen Laff Festival, Feb. 20 through 22, Wheeler: The Wheeler’s fourth annual Laff Festival includes headliner Josh Blue, a Denverite with cerebral palsey; Tom Papa, who has made 13 appearances on “The Tonight Show”; “Modern Dads” co-star Sean Kent; and a group show of three Jewish women who break from their day jobs as Los Angeles-based sitcom writers.


• “Frogz,” March 1, Wheeler: This animal-centered theatrical presentation has delighted audiences of all ages. Also at the Wheeler: South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo (March 11), the New York-based storytelling event The Moth (March 13), YES singer Jon Anderson (March 14) pianist-songwriter Randy Newman (March 15) and Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra (March 30).

• ZZ Top, March 7, Belly Up: The long-riding, long-bearded Texas trio returns to Aspen. Also on the schedule: electro-jam duo Big Gigantic (March 8), New Orleans modern funk band Galactic (March 9) and singer-songwriter Brett Dennen (March 15).

• Rob Brinker, opening reception on March 7, Quintenz Gallery: The Aspenite continues his exploration of abstract art; here he jumps from cut-paper pieces to paintings.

• Robert McDuffie, March 15, Harris Hall: The violinist, a former student in Aspen, plays sonatas by Brahms and Beethoven.

• “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” March 17, Wheeler: A profile of the one-of-a-kind social critic. Also in Monday Docs: “Antarctica: A Year on Ice” (March 3) and “Maidentrip” (March 24).

• Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, March 21 and 22, JAS Cafe: This San Francisco band, led by singer Smith, heats up the JAS Cafe with sounds from the 1930s and ’40s.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, March 29, Snowmass Base Village: Those who have seen Nelson’s performances at Belly Up know he is more than Willie Nelson’s son.

• Maria Semple, March 31, Paepcke Auditorium: Semple, who spent much of her childhood in Aspen, hit it big with her recent novel “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” which satirizes Seattle. Semple is likely to discuss plans for a novel set in Aspen. Also in the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Winter Words series: Tom Reiss (March 19), winner of the Pulitzer for the recent biography “The Black Count.”


• Pedrito Martinez, April 3 and 4, JAS Cafe: The Cuban-born percussionist returns with his unique take on Latin jazz.

• Aspen Shortsfest, April 8 through 13, Wheeler: Aspen Film’s 23rd annual celebration of short films is sure to include dozens of filmmakers in attendance.

• Empire of the Sun, April 14 and 15, Belly Up: The ambitious Australian electronic dance act brings its multimedia extravaganza to a two-night stand. Also at Belly Up: March Fourth Marching Band (April 13) and hip-hoppers Mobb Deep (April 25).

• “The Hobbit,” April 17 through 19, Wheeler: Theatre Aspen’s teenagers in their interpretation of the fantasy classic.


Stephen Ragga Marley, April 2, Belly Up: A son of reggae’s royal family.


Aspen Music Festival, June 18 through Aug. 17: The 65th annual Aspen Music Festival is presented under the theme “The New Romantica,” an exploration of the wave of Romantic music that emerged in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Composers getting attention include John Adams, Osvaldo Golijov and Kaija Saariaho. The opera season features “Eugene Onegin,” “Carmen” and Lowell Liebermann’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

• Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival, June 19 through 28: Jazz Aspen hits a home run with an attractive (and very jazz-oriented) lineup that includes headliners Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Trombone Shorty and Steve Winwood. The free lawn party, with two stages, returns, and there are shows at the JAS Cafe with vocalists Rene Marie and Tierney Sutton.

• America, June 23, Belly Up: The ’70s soft rockers’ catalog includes “A Horse With No Name” and “Sister Golden Hair.”

• Theatre Aspen, June 24 through Aug. 16: Theatre Aspen’s summer season includes the musicals “The Full Monty” and “Little Women” and the new farce “The Cottage,” inspired by the writings of Noel Coward.


Anderson Ranch Recognition Dinner, July 19: Anderson Ranch’s annual salute goes to artist Theaster Gates. Also, the Ranch’s Featured Artist series will include events with Wendell Castle, Charles Gaines, Ron Nagle and Catherine Opie.


Monty Alexander, Aug. 8 and 9, JAS Cafe: The Jamiacan-born pianist brings his jazz-meets-reggae show, Harlem-Kingston Express, back to town. Also: guitarist John Pizzarelli (Aug. 15-16).

• Aspen Art Museum new building opening, Aug. 9: The 35-year-old Aspen Art Museum introduces its new, 33,000-square-foot downtown building with an all-day celebration (as in a full 24 hours). Inaugural exhibitions include one that pairs Yves Klein and David Hammons; drawing by Tomma Abts created specially for the museum; ceramics by Rosemarie Trockel; an outdoor installation by Jim Hodges; and a look at the humanitarian relief work of Shigeru Ban, the architect behind the new building.