Aspen council ponders concert funding |

Aspen council ponders concert funding

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Bluesman Taj Mahal performs at a free ARE Day concert in Aspen's Wagner Park in 2012.
The Aspen Times File |

The Aspen City Council wants to wait a week before deciding whether to provide money for a free concert in August that would feature renowned blues artist Taj Mahal.

The delay in dealing with Monday’s request from American Renewable Energy Day organizers for $15,000 to help defray the $49,000 cost of the show came about when Councilman Torre said he might be able to find sponsors willing to put up some money for the proposed Aug. 18 event at Paepcke Park, reducing the city’s financial participation.

Last year, ARE Day officials put on the free concert, securing Mahal and New Orleans keyboard player Jon Cleary with the help of a generous but anonymous donation. The show drew hundreds of local residents and summer visitors on a picture-perfect evening.

Chip Comins, chairman and CEO of the ARE Institute, said he’s almost certain he can book Mahal and his Phantom Blues Band, with Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell as special guest. Comins has a personal friendship with Mahal, a 71-year-old Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and instrumentalist.

“I’ve known (Mahal) since I was 5 years old,” Comins said. “He started his career in my parents’ coffeehouse in Boston back in the 1960s. We’re old friends.”

In asking for money from the council, Comins spoke of how the concert might provide a “green bridge” between the ARE Day Summit on the Aspen Meadows campus, set for Aug. 15 to 18, and the USA Pro Challenge cycling race, which kicks off in the Aspen-Snowmass area on Aug. 19 and leaves Aspen on the morning of Aug. 20 for Breckenridge.

Bike-race organizers have indicated that they would allow ARE Day officials to use their stage at Paepcke Park for the event, Comins said. The city’s assistance would serve to highlight Aspen’s commitment to renewable energy, he said.

“I’ve always had this idea that we could bridge ARE Day, with the city’s support, with the bike race,” Comins said. “It makes a lot of sense. Bicycles don’t emit carbon. … If we can put the cherry on top of that cake in any way possible, we want to do it.”