Shakedown Street, Policulture and an offseason of free shows at Belly Up Aspen
Come mud season, Aspen turns back into a sleepy mountain town. The bounty of nightlife and entertainment options of ski season and summer dries up, while restaurants and clubs and hotels go dark until the tourists return.
But Belly Up always keeps the stage lights on.
Locals can count on the club to continue bringing a mix of regional and national acts to town through even the quietest stretches of shoulder seasons. This spring, the venue is hosting a string of free shows (and food and drink specials with cash-strapped seasonal workers in mind) along with movie screenings, an offseason-long presentation of the BBC documentary series “Blue Planet II” and a handful of blue-chip bookings like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (May 19) and Nicki Bluhm (May 28).
The no-cover concerts started up last weekend with livetronica act Tnertle, the Sublime cover band 40 Oz. to Freedom, Denver duo South of France and the Hawaiian reggae man Mike Love. Here’s a run-down on the rest of the free events at the club this offseason:
Today, 9:30 p.m.
No cover until 10 p.m.; $10 thereafter
Formed in 1987 during barroom jam sessions in Manitou Springs, the Grateful Dead tribute band Shakedown Street has now been together longer than the actual Dead were with Jerry Garcia.
The band’s shows have become seasonal traditions in Aspen, dependably bringing out the Dead faithful – and devoted “Shakeheads” — for creative interpretations of the live versions from the original jam band. Local shows have included re-creations of specific live sets from decades yore. They’ve brought interpretations of the Dead’s “Europe ’72” and the Tivoli Theater show from Copenhagen in 1972 to Aspen, along with some more freewheeling outings.
With more than 200 Dead songs in its quiver and three decades of performing under its belt — and bona fides including jams with Dead musicians like Tom Constanten and Vince Welnich — Shakedown has earned its reputation as one of the best live Dead acts around.
“We try to set up like they did at the time, we use the same equipment they used at the time and we all chat about it a lot,” Shakedown keyboardist Joe Weisiger explained during one stop in Aspen. “But it’s impossible to play a show exactly like they did. I don’t even think they could do it themselves. But we try to be in the same mindset they were in at the time on those songs.”
CINCO DE MAYO PARTY WITH POLICULTURE Saturday, 10 p.m. No cover until 10:30 p.m.; $5 thereafter
Playing what they’ve dubbed “original mountain reggae,” this five-piece out of Boulder has honed an original blend of roots reggae — with a booming horn section and 420-friendly vibe — that’s made them a local favorite in their frequent swings through ski country over the past five years. They’ve shared stages with monumental reggae acts including The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, John Browns Body, SOJA and Katchafire.
‘BLUE PLANET II’
Wednesdays, May 9-30
The groundbreaking BBC documentary on ocean life plays for free on the Belly Up big screen every Wednesday through the end of May. Pick up the current issue of the Aspen Times Weekly for more on the series.
Thursday, May 10, 10 p.m.
This Austin-based bluegrass outfit is built for live performance with a crowd-pleasing, dance-centric, party-appropriate approach that has landed them onstage at SXSW, in the movie “Pitch Perfect 3” and on the Austin episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations.” The five-piece band plays string-based Americana with a hard-charging punk rock spirit. As singer and fiddle player Bobby Fitzgerals has put it, they’re out to create “a night where you can forget about your problems and just feel good, have a good time with your friends, make new friends, and be part of a little community for a while.”
Friday, May 11, 9 p.m.
No cover until 10:30 p.m.; $5 thereafter
A Denver psych-rock favorite, Eldren has become a staple at Belly Up as the band’s star has risen on the Front Range in recent years. Melding rock and pop with element of jazz and psychadelica, Eldren twice won Best Psych Rock Band at the Westword Music Awards and been nominated five times for iHeartRadio’s Best Band in Denver prize, while Colorado Public Radio named Eldren’s “Welcome to Deathville” a Best Album of 2015. THE REMINDERS
Saturday, May 12, 9 p.m.
No cover until 10 p.m.; $5 thereafter
This Colorado Springs-based husband-and-wife duo of emcee Big Samir and vocalist Aja Black plays a heady, socially conscious brand of hip-hop that’s earned them touring slots supporting artists like Brother Ali. But the pair still regularly makes the rounds in Colorado and has solidified a place at the top of the state’s rap scene.
THE MIGHTY PINES
Friday, May 18, 9 p.m.
A roots and bluegrass quartet out of St. Louis, The Mighty Pines have been touring hard for the past six years, earning a rep as a must-see live act, and preaching the gospel of progressive string music that marries its traditions to the sounds of country, funk, blues and rock. The band has released three albums and opened for local favorites like Greensky Bluegrass, Sam Bush and Fruition.
Sunday, May 20, 7:30 p.m.
Winter’s groundbreaking superhero box office smash gets the big screen 4K-projection treatment at Belly Up. You’ve probably seen it already, but of course you want a return trip to Wakanda.
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The nonprofit VOICES led 39 bilingual Basalt Middle School students through a visual journaling project to tell their stories this spring.