New Year’s week in Aspen: Your nightly entertainment guide
The world descends on Aspen this week, beginning the annual spectacle of New Year’s Eve in Fat City.
Most are here here to ski, some are here to be seen, and everybody’s looking for a good time. Your daytime menu of choices is pretty straightforward: choose a mountain to ski, point yourself downhill and then pick an après spot. Navigating the menu of nightlife choices, however, is more complicated with a diverse glut of nightly options.
Here’s the lowdown on your nightly fix for entertainment and culture until the fireworks blast over Aspen Mountain on New Year’s Eve.
THURSDAY, DEC. 20
Did you know Aspen was a Bauhaus mecca? And that Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer helped transform the town from an abandoned mining city into the modern ski resort? If not, hit the Aspen Historical Society’s grand opening of “bayer & bauhaus: how design shaped aspen,” an exhibit of never-before-displayed Bayer materials that tell the story.
And do you know John Denver lived in Aspen? Of course you do. Local folkies Mack Bailey and Mollie Weaver will celebrate the late local legend with their “A Rocky Mountain Christmas” concert at the Wheeler Opera House.
At Belly Up Aspen, Pauly D — yes, that “Pauly D” — who has gone from “Jersey Shore” reality TV punch-line to a jet-setting and arguably legitimate DJ headliner.
And the Aspen Art Museum is hosting the opening reception for its zombie-themed group show, “Zombies: Pay Attention!”
FRIDAY, DEC. 21
For one of the best dance parties on Earth, check out Dillon Francis at Belly Up. For a dose of Christmas cheer, go see crooner Sweet Lu Olutison at the JAS Café as he opens a two-night four-concert run of holiday-themed shows. And for a family night out, grab a seat for the theatrical production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Wheeler.
SATURDAY, DEC. 22
On the family-friendly front, the famed illusionist Mike Super gives two performances at the Wheeler. And for an after-hours good time, see local favorite electro-rock duo BoomBox at Belly Up.
SUNDAY, DEC. 23
Belly Up has booked what seems like every bold-faced-name DJ on the international DJ scene this year and the club continues the trend with Frenchman Cedric Gervais. Over at the Wheeler, “Saturday Night Live” castmember Mellisa Villasenor is doing a stand-up set.
TUESDAY, DEC. 25
The big Christmas night show is The Fab Four at the Wheeler. The Beatles tribute act is including holiday songs set to Beatles melodies, in keeping with the spirit of the season.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 26
Aspen Film’s five-day festival of Academy Screenings opens with two hot awards-season movies: the Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” and the Aretha Franklin documentary “Amazing Grace.” The Baldwin Gallery opens its new exhibition of works by Tony Oursler and Marc Swanson. And over at Belly Up, the legendary Ms. Lauryn Hill plays the first of two shows where she’s billed to perform “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in full.
THURSDAY, DEC. 27
The ’90s nostalgia continues at Belly Up, with the “Semi-Charmed” hit-makers Third Eye Blind headlining. And at Academy Screenings, the sure-thing Oscar nominees “The Favourite” and “Roma” are on the bill.
FRIDAY, DEC 28
If you haven’t seen “Free Solo” yet, you must. And you must see this vertigo-inducing documentary about climber Alex Honnold’s death-defying rope-less ascent of El Capitan on the big screen. Academy Screenings hosts a 9 p.m. showing at Paepcke Auditorium.
Downtown, the pedal steel wizard Robert Randolph headlines the Wheeler, while Lauryn Hill plays her second show at Belly Up and jazz pianist Cory Henry begins his weekend-long run of shows at the JAS Café.
SATURDAY, DEC. 29
For kids of all ages, the high-flying Acrobats of Cirque-tacular will give an afternoon and evening performance at the Wheeler. Belly Up picks its EDM series back up with one of the week’s hottest tickets, Diplo, playing a sold-out set at Belly Up. And Academy Screenings’ full noon-to-nighttime bill includes the Natalie Portman music drama “Vox Lux” and the timely James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
SUNDAY, DEC. 30
At the Cha Cha Gallery, the ever-controversial artist Mr. Brainwash will unveil his “Neon” show — new work the Banksy protégé has been perfecting during a December gallery residency. Academy Screenings closes with the gripping addiction drama “Ben is Back,” starring Oscar hopefuls Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts. And the French DJ duo Justice begins its hotly anticipated two-night year-end run of sets at Belly Up.
MONDAY, DEC. 31
Of course, there are hundreds of Champagne-popping parties in Aspen on New Year’s, from celebrity-studded soirees to ski bum blow-outs to the annual bonfire party in Wagner Park. But if you want live entertainment there are three biggies to choose from: the alt-cabaret band Vaud and the Villains at the Wheeler (which includes arguably the best view of the fireworks over Aspen Mountain from the lobby); the masquerade ball-themed concert by Justice at Belly Up; and if you want to avoid the madness of Aspen but still want a helluva time and great live music, there’s the Portland-based pop band Dirty Revival down at The Temporary at Willits.
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Many locations on Basalt Mountain were barren as recently as two months ago. However, nutrients unlocked during the Lake Christine Fire and a wet winter have sparked a remarkable recovery. Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is leading fire ecology tours to discuss the changes.