BoomBox is back at Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Friday, May 17, 9 p.m.
How much: $40-$50
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
Every recent spring has brought something new to Aspen from BoomBox.
Two years ago around this time, the electro-rock duo debuted its new lineup for local fans at Belly Up in 2017 — with founder and songwriter Zion Rock Godchaux bringing new partner DJ Harry — to the club for the first time.
A year later they returned to showcase new BoomBox songs from the new lineup. Those songs have since filled a new album, titled “Western Voodoo,” which is the occasion of their return to Belly Up tonight. Colorado favorites, BoomBox also is hitting Steamboat for two nights and Denver’s Spread the Word Fest on this swing.
Released in October, “Western Voodoo” is the first BoomBox record since 2014 and the first made with Harry.
“This new record is the most musical and varied, yet it’s tightly wound in respect to that syncopation,” Godchaux said. “There are only a few rules: It should be heavy groove; it should make you want to move. Overall, I’ve further developed the sound people are used to.”
Indeed, the band’s chilled-out psychadelia and funky dance music aesthetic that the band established in its 2005 debut disc, “Visions of Backbeat” and early songs like “Stereo” is intact on “Western Voodoo” in new songs like “Restless Too.” But there’s also a lot more organic instrumentation.
The title comes from the Godchaux’s sense of the American West’s spiritual and magical traditions.
“The West, in general, has its own voodoo influenced by the blues,” Godchaux, who grew up in San Francisco, said upon the album’s release. “That’s what shaped me as a musician growing up in this country. It’s hard to put in the words, but you know it when you hear it.
DJ Harry also has helped Godchaux revitalize some older BoomBox songs and shape the new ones for live renditions.
“Harry brings a new energy to the show — he’s an amazing DJ and an excellent musician,” Godchaux said.
The songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is the son of 1970s Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Godchaux Mackway and the late Dead keyboardist Keith Godchaux. So the freewheeling chill that is BoomBox’s signature is in his blood, though nobody would mistake BoomBox for a jam band or lump the duo in with the current generation of Dead-derivative acts.
Over the past eight years, BoomBox has become a local favorite and a regular at Belly Up Aspen, including these annual spring offseason shows that have reliably become a live music high point of the often-quiet mud seasons.
Colorado is home to some of the Alabama-based band’s most fervent and loyal fans and has been a touchstone for BoomBox since its inception in 2004. Godchaux plucked DJ Harry from Boulder to join the band.
The original pairing of Godchaux and Russ Randolph split amicably after a 2016 New Year’s Eve concert at the Gothic Theatre in Denver.
Godchaux never considered ending the BoomBox project when Randolph left.
“Quite the contrary, I’m ready to make — and am making — a lot of music these days for BoomBox,” Godchaux said. “We need to be releasing lots of music. That’s the reason Russ and I went our separate ways.”
Godchaux wanted BoomBox to record and release music more actively than it had been. He also wanted to grow the band’s international audience.
“BoomBox needs our full attention,” he said. “That’s pretty much my mode right now: to record and make as much music as I can in my studio at home.”
After years of performing clad in the signature BoomBox feather boas, the duo began dialing back some of its familiar stage aesthetic in recent Aspen appearances, to instead focus on the music and creating the laid-back party vibe that connected with audiences immediately in Colorado and made BoomBox a regular at Belly Up over the past decade.
“Our music is about release and it’s supposed to be healing and relaxing and freeing — very disarming by nature,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s a universal sound. Something anybody can cue into.”
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