A Labor Day Fest youth movement
August 31, 2007
SNOWMASS VILLAGE Over the last several years, Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival pitched partly as a more youth-oriented alternative to the organizations jazz- and blues-oriented June Festival was teetering toward geezerdom. Which was not necessarily a bad thing. John Fogerty, David Byrne and Steve Miller all delivered outstanding concerts from the far side of 50. (Loggins & Messina joins that group in age, if not achievement.) The 2002 and 2003 events stand as the most memorable back-to-back festivals yet; the first was headlined by Bob Dylan and Phil Lesh, both having reached 60 at the time, and Willie Nelson, whos got nearly a decade on them. The following year was capped by Neil Young and Tom Petty, holdovers from the classic-rock era. Last years festival was marked by mostly younger headliners, but the biggest draw of the weekend and perhaps the artistic highlight was former Eagle, Don Henley.This years festival lets music-loving youths get wasted on the young. Headliners include 28-year-old soul singer John Legend and 37-year-old soul rocker Ben Harper. Opening acts in a notably strong lineup include the acoustic trio Nickel Creek, whose oldest member is 30; 26-year-old singer-songwriter Jackie Greene; and, in her local debut, British soul star Joss Stone, who hit the not-so-big 2-0 earlier this year. The only true geezer group hitting the main stage will be the long-running Allman Brothers Band though, by several reports, their live shows these days are led, more or less, by Derek Trucks, the 28-year-old slide guitar sensation. Trucks may emerge as the sensation of the festival, as he also appears in the Soul Stew Revival, a group he co-leads with his 36-year-old wife, singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi.
Of the other acts playing the Labor Day Festival main stage this weekend, none is old enough to have played the old Fillmore auditoriums either the original, in San Francisco, or New Yorks Fillmore East and if they did attend them, it was at their parents risk. Warren Haynes, who plays in the Allman Brothers and also leads Govt Mule, is, after the founding members of the Allmans who remain in the band, the granddaddy of the bunch, at 47. The Colorado jam-band Leftover Salmon is led by two musicians in their mid-40s, Drew Emmitt and Vince Herman; the group is rounded out with younger players. (Though Leftover Salmon, as a band, might not be getting any older. The group returned this summer after a two-year hiatus, but the Jazz Aspen gig is the last one on their schedule.) Michael Franti, the socially and politically conscious leader of Spearhead, is 41. The members of the New Orleans groove-band Galactic are all in their 30s.The sense of youth is evident not just in the numbers, but the sounds. The biggest mark of youthfulness, for a generation raised on MP3-swapping, digital radio, and ordering CDs over the Internet, is stylistic adventurousness. John Fogertys new CD, Revival, due out in early October, is a wonderful album in that it sounds very much like Creedence Clearwater Revival-era Fogerty. Which is to say, a driving, country-tinged shot of classic rock.Theres no such consistency, no playing within stylistic bounds, for most of this years Labor Day acts. The most obvious example is Galactic. The quintet made its reputation with New Orleans-tinged jazz-funk, but their new CD, From the Corner to the Block, is an experiment in hip-hop. The album features a slew of rappers and MCs, and their set this weekend will have a pair of those guests, Boots Riley of the Coup and Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, joining them onstage.Trucks will show two of his sides this weekend, playing Southern boogie-blues with the Allman Brothers and a take on old-school soul in the Soul Stew Revival. In his Derek Trucks Band, which he has been leading since his teens, Trucks reveals even more facets stirring 60s jazz, Delta blues, Pakistani qawwali and more.Govt Mule is generally thrown in with the jam bands, and guitarist Haynes lengthy solos dont dispel that categorization. But, almost unique among their jam-happy brethren, Govt Mule comes from a hard-rock background, far more likely to cover Black Sabbath and Deep Purple than the Grateful Dead. Even those who think they have a feel for the bands music might be surprised by the Mules latest wanderings. An EP due out this fall, Mighty High, is a reggae recording, with plenty of dub-style remixes of their songs. And as Haynes and company showed in an Aspen gig last Labor Day weekend, the reggae vibe is not limited to the studio. Haynes rounds out his weekend by doing the Southern rock thing with the Allmans and playing a sold-out solo acoustic set at Belly Up Aspen.Like Govt Mule, Nickel Creek is thrown into a broad category in their case, bluegrass for convenience sake. But the groups influences range wide, encompassing the Beatles, modern indie-rock and classical. Dont be surprised to see Chris Thile, the groups mandolinist, throw in a bit of Bach, and dont be surprised when it comes off as artistry instead of novelty.Listening to Jackie Greenes 2006 CD, American Myth, one hears the influence of Bob Dylan, and other song-oriented singer-writers. But Greenes latest gig is being one of the Friends in former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Leshs Phil & Friends, where has no doubt soaking up the glories of the 10-minute, improvised instrumental jam.And perhaps the kings of the eclectic are Leftover Salmon. Early on, the band dubbed its sound polyethnic Cajun slamgrass, a tag that hinted at the variety of influences zydeco, bluegrass, rock, country, blues and more they stirred into their pot.Classic rock isnt prominent on the menu this Labor Day Festival. Even the Allman Brothers arent likely to play their most familiar radio hits, Ramblin Man and Blue Skies; the Bro who wrote and sang those songs, Dickey Betts, was booted from the band seven years ago. Listen for something younger and fresher.Take the busThe Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival runs Friday through Monday, Aug. 31-Sept. 3 in Snowmass Town Park, Snowmass Village.Jazz Aspen Snowmass recommends taking RFTA bus service to and from the festival grounds. Service is available valleywide. Fares apply going to the festival, but bus rides leaving the festival grounds are provided free.Free parking is available at the Intercept Lot at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82. Limited paid parking will be available at the Rodeo Lot ($20) and at the Two Creeks lot ($10). Free shuttles run continuously from Two Creeks and the Intercept Lot.There will also be expanded shuttle service to and from the festival within the town of Snowmass Village.RFTA can be reached at 925-8484. The Snowmass Village shuttle service can be reached at 923-3500.Stewart Oksenhorns e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org