Spoon returns to Aspen for free outdoor show, Belly Up concert
IF YOU GO …
Where: Aspen Skiing Co. Hi-Fi Concert Series Core Party (at Galena St. and Cooper Ave.); Belly Up Aspen
When: Core Party on Friday, March 30, 8 p.m.; Belly Up on Saturday, March 31, 9:30 p.m.
How much: Core Party, Free; Belly Up, $85-$165
Tickets: Belly Up box office; www.bellyupaspen.com
It took the indie rock band Spoon nearly 25 years to make its Aspen debut last August at Belly Up. But the Austin-based rock stalwarts aren’t wasting any time returning.
The band will be back in town for two much-anticipated shows this week, still touring in support of its acclaimed 2017 album “Hot Thoughts.”
Spoon will headline the Aspen Skiing Co.’s annual free Core Party in downtown Aspen today, taking over the corner of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street with a crowd of spring breakers. And Saturday, Spoon will be back on-stage at Belly Up.
The 10 songs on “Hot Thoughts” have evolved and grown concert legs as the hard-touring members of Spoon have played them on a nearly nonstop run of concerts for more than a year now.
“There’s a two- or three-month period when things are starting to take on new shape,” keyboardist and guitarist Alex Fischel said in a recent phone interview between stops at My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday festival in the Dominican Republic and Lollapalooza sets in Brazil, Chile and Argentina. “They get a different life that you can’t get without performing in front of people. So they’ve taken on a more energetic, live feel.”
“Hot Thoughts” is Spoon’s ninth album and its fourth in a row to crack the top 10 on the charts as the band has belatedly found a place in the mainstream pop landscape. Critical accolades for the record have included New York magazine saying the band is “incapable of releasing a bad record” and The Ringer proclaiming the record proves “a case to be made for Spoon being the greatest rock band of the 21st century.”
Spoon’s records have been consistently excellent but remarkably diverse. With songs written by singer Britt Daniel, and built around his ragged wail of a voice, the quartet manages not to repeat itself and pulls off some out-there experiments.
“It’d be boring to just go in and do the same kinds of songs over and over again,” Fischel said. “We’re always trying to push the envelope and see what kinds of new things we can come up with.”
“Hot Thoughts,” for instance, is heavy on synthesizers and has a New Wave-y spirit. It incorporates some new elements into the Spoon sound, including samples and some hip-hop beats. The opening track and standout live song, “Do I Have to Talk You Into It,” includes a strange distorted organ sound. The album’s closer, “Us,” is heavy on saxophone.
To pull off the new sounds live, Spoon has added a new touring member, the Austin-based multi-instrumentalist Gerardo Larios, to its lineup.
“He’s taken a lot of the weight off of us to get the songs ready to go live,” Fischel said. “He came in and really killed it.”
Heading toward the dance-friendly, hip-hop sound of “Hot Thoughts” began as Spoon finished recording their previous album, “They Want My Soul,” five years ago. The last track they finished was “Inside Out,” with an infectious, head-bobbing beat and minimalist piano that have made it a set list staple.
“Without talking or thinking about it, we just liked that song a lot and liked playing it live, so we picked up there,” Fischel said. “That’s how we ended up with the record, I think. … It wasn’t a conscious decision where we said, ‘Let’s go down this hip-hop road.’”
The touches of glam and dance rock on the new record might have something to do with the untimely deaths of David Bowie and Prince in early 2016 while Spoon was recording “Hot Thoughts.” Fischel recalled the news of Prince’s death: “Everyone was in a weird mood. It was like, ‘Maybe we work on a Prince cover today?’ And that didn’t work out. I think Britt took it the hardest. He’s looked up to Prince his whole life. He just called it a day and took the day off.”
The band has been touring, more or less, nonstop for over a year. After the Aspen shows this weekend, they’re taking a month-and-a-half off, followed by a run of North American and European tour dates that run through June. After that, Fischel said, they’ll probably sit down — and get to work on new music.
“It takes a while to get back on that track again, but we want to start doing that sooner than later,” he said. “I’m not sure what the next chapter is. I’m curious myself to find out.”
Spoon is nothing if not touring pros. For 25 years now — from their early club days in Austin to recent years headlining festivals — they’ve held on to a reputation as one of the great live rock bands. But playing an outdoor, nighttime show in the Rockies in winter poses some unique challenges. Even springtime shows have been known to turn bitter around here (does anyone remember Vampire Weekend’s subzero Core Party show in 2010?).
The Texas-bred members of Spoon have had limited experience playing ski town outdoor shows, though Fischel and Daniel played a frigid Vail concert a few winters ago with their side project Divine Fits: “It was like 4 degrees out. They had stage heaters and hand warmers I kept grabbing onto. Hopefully it won’t be that cold this time, but we’ll see.”
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