Asher on Aspen: The art of the encore
Asher on Aspen
The lights dimmed and the chatter on the dance floor subsided. Whistling and cheering began to build as the musicians took the stage. I was about five rows back, but I knew if I was patient, I would be front row soon enough. Patrons stood there, wide-eyed, and childlike, eagerly waiting for the music to take them away. I locked eyes with the bass player, and he grinned at me as if to say, “Just wait, you’re in for a treat.”
In my experience, I have never seen a Jamestown Revival show that didn’t shake me to my core and boost my mood exponentially. From the first time I saw them at a free Fanny Hill Snowmass Concert, to seeing them in Telluride where I witnessed them perform a profound version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” to the countless times I’ve seen them at Belly Up — I am always impressed. I knew this soldout Belly Up show on a recent Sunday evening would be no different.
After opening the show and waiting for the excitement to settle, the Austin-based duo asked permission to play their recently released album “Young Man” from start to finish. I quietly pondered the last time I listened to an entire album from start to finish in one sitting and I questioned why we don’t all do that more.
The Americana folk group includes pianist Zach Chance and guitarist Jonathan Clay. Exuding the cowboy western spirit, they were dressed in button-up shirts, sport coats and leather boots. They each wore vintage bolo ties and multiple members of the band sported hats that looked like they could have been purchased at Kemo Sabe earlier that day. They all appeared to fit the western vibe except for one.
On stage left stood fellow Lone Star State musician Robert Ellis. He wore bold-colored eye makeup and a dazzling, denim space cowboy outfit. He brought a much more enthusiastic and louder approach to his performance in comparison to the others. Admittedly, the juxtaposition of his look and energy next to the western, soul singers was amusing to watch.
In line with the storytelling aspect of folk music, Clay and Chance recounted amusing anecdotes about their music in between songs. One tune unraveled the story of a road trip from Texas to Colorado. Another was based on the band’s love for dive bars. Listening to their logic and reasoning behind the lyrics is fascinating to me. I think the storytelling aspect allows the audience to humanize the musician and subtly remind them of how similar we all are.
Almost in unison, I watch fans bob back and forth in rhythm with the music. Some were mouthing the words and staring intently at the stage while others had their eyes closed and it was almost like the music had transported them to a different place. The song “Young Man” brings acute nostalgia for me. It takes me back to sitting on the railroad tracks and running through cornfields at my family cabin in rural Nebraska. “California” reminds me of driving down Frying Pan Road on a Sunday afternoon returning from a long weekend of camping at Ruedi Reservoir. Isn’t it funny how a melody can spark a memory like that?
As quickly as they arrived, they seemed to have vanished off stage. The question always lingers: Will they reappear for an encore with songs that they neglected to play earlier? I rack my brain to think of songs they hadn’t yet played while I see my friend turn to leave. She thinks it has ended and starts to give up her prized, front-row standing space. I refuse to believe it’s over and command that she waits with me. The audience goes wild, and the cheering becomes louder than the venue has been all night. Will they come back?
Now having made it to the front row as less-eager fans file out, I find myself at eye level with the musician’s cowboy boots as they walk back on stage. I watch as they tap their toes in unison and start back in on another one of their hits “Midnight Hour.” The encore, the grand finale, is always the most memorable part of the show for me.
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.