After releasing first album in 8 years, Ghostland Observatory to headline Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Who: Ghostland Observatory
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, Sept. 30, 10 p.m.
How much: $45-$60
Tickets: Belly Up Aspen box office; bellyupaspen.com
After an eight-year break from releasing music and a hiatus from the road, Ghostland Observatory is back with a new album and a fall tour that comes to Belly Up Aspen on Sunday, Sept. 30, during the opening weekend of the concert run.
“This is our rebirth, the phoenix rising from the ashes, and we have no plans to slow down,” Ghostland’s Aaron Behrens says in the “See You Later, Simulator” tour announcement.
With Thomas Ross Turner producing, drumming and playing keyboards and Behrens singing and thrashing on guitar, the Austin, Texas, duo carved out a niche in pop music that combines minimalist electronic tracks with rock’n’roll swagger and stomp and, of course, a psychedelic laser light show.
Formed in 2003, the duo rose to the heights of the festival scene at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Coachella and the like, playing explosive, notoriously fun sets with ginormous production bells and whistles.
“At first, the show was real raw, nothing fancy. Just the two of us up there,” Turner told The Aspen Times on one swing through town. “But as we progressed and got more people to the shows, we didn’t think, ‘Oh, we can make more money.’ We thought, ‘We can add more lasers and stuff.’ We always grew it out as our fan base grew, always tried to give the fans more of a show.”
While they reached rock stardom, Ghostland still thrived on small club shows.
Even through their hiatus, Behrens and Turner made a handful of stops in Aspen for rapturously received shows. Theirs is an irresistible oddball blend of electro-dance instrumentals and soulful, Freddy Mercury-inflected, high drama vocals.
The new record, released earlier this month, is the band’s first since 2010’s “Codename: Rondo.”
“See You Later, Simulator” showcases a Ghostland that’s a little more subdued, maybe a little more grown-up, crafting spacey soundscapes in its genre-exploding tracks. There are touches of rock and country here, with a heavy dose of ’80s-tinged electronica.
“I’ve always been on the sci-fi edge of things, which is just a reflection of being a child of the ’80s and growing up with video games and computers, but also remembering a time before those things were common,” Behrens says. “I think all of that comes into play on this record. It’s a real comment on what’s going on right now, and on trying to figure out what’s reality and what’s a simulation.”
The band has pointed to its hands-on, DIY approach to touring as contributing to a dual burnout, which forced the hiatus.
Before releasing the new album, Ghostland gave some performances this summer to test the waters and get back into touring shape. The fall tour runs through November. It opened in Tulsa on Wednesday, Sept. 26, followed this weekend by headlining slots at the Ogden Theatre in Denver (Friday, Sept. 28) and the Boulder Theater (Saturday, Sept. 29).
“We’re really ready to get back out there,” Behrens says. “We’ve already played some big shows and a couple of big festivals. It’s been awhile since we’ve played in front of that many people, but as soon as we hit that stage, everybody was one. That feeling of connection made me happy to realize that we’re back in a position to uplift people.”
Ghostland Observatory, it seems, is here to stay.
“I’m just so thankful that our band has gotten over that hump that some other bands might not have been able to get over,” Behrens says. “I’m super-happy and super-proud that we’ve gotten past that last challenge and that we’re still here.”
“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.