Aspen plays host to many happy returning musicians | AspenTimes.com

Aspen plays host to many happy returning musicians

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesHip-hop artist Mos Def performs Monday, Dec. 26 at Belly Up Aspen, in the duo Black Star, with fellow rapper Talib Kweli.

ASPEN – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Belly Up Aspen – Christmas 2010, that is.The Belly Up lineup for the holiday season is heavy on acts returning from last year’s Christmas/New Year’s schedule: the Flaming Lips, G. Love & Special Sauce, Jane’s Addiction, Rose Hill Drive and Rufus Wainwright, who performed Thursday night at the club.Belly Up owner Michael Goldberg, who is always on the lookout for new artists to put on his stage is, in this case, fine with repeating himself. The final weeks of the year are notoriously difficult to book – many musicians give themselves a holiday; others are looking to play big venues; some don’t relish the idea of heading into the mountains in late December – and Goldberg points out that the Belly Up lineup delivers big names who have proved themselves to be solid draws for the holiday crowds. The Flaming Lips, G. Love and Jane’s Addiction all sold out their shows last holiday season.In addition, all the acts were eager to return, and were willing to commit early on to the dates. While Goldberg said that locking in the acts early is not his paramount concern – his first priority is to bring in great acts – it was a comfort to him, and also an expression of appreciation to the artists, to say, Yes, we’d love to have you back.”As much as you might want something fresh – and we did look at other options – they jumped on it early,” Goldberg said, adding that for each show booked over the holiday weeks, offers were put out to three other acts. “When they call and say they want to do something, it’s hard to say no – I consider some of these guys family in a way.”That said, Belly Up did manage to book several acts who will make their local debuts in the days ahead. The hip-hop duo Black Star is set for Monday, Dec. 26, and the British dubstep artist Flux Pavilion will play a late show on Sunday, Jan. 1. In addition, Texas singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett – who played Belly Up as recently as this past June, but not done a Christmastime appearance – will settle in for a two-night stand, Jan. 1-2.Goldberg referred to the Black Star booking, announced on Monday, as a coup. The two Black Star rappers, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, have each appeared individually at the club. But as a duo, they released the 1998 album “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star,” which stands as a hip-hop masterpiece. Coming soon after the killings of rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, “Black Star” attempted to bring peace to hip-hop. Rumors have occasionally surfaced that Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, and Kweli would reunite as a duo, and they have done some small-scale projects, including contributing a new song to the soundtrack of the 2006 film “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.” In October, Black Star performed a new song, “Fix Up,” on “The Colbert Report.” The song, with the lyrics “Black Star/ The wait is over,” was later released on iTunes, along with another new track, “You Already Knew.” There have been reports that a new album – possibly inspired by Aretha Franklin, and to be titled “Black Star Aretha” – will be released in 2012.”Black Star – that’s a really special deal for us,” Goldberg said. “We’ve tried to do it before, but the timing didn’t work.”Goldberg said that Jane’s Addiction has something special planned for its New Year’s Eve show, but would not reveal details. The group, which played Belly Up last New Year’s Eve, also performs on Friday, Dec. 30. The group, led by singer Perry Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro, released “The Great Escape Artist” in October, their first studio album in eight years.The Flaming Lips, an Oklahoma psychedelic rock band noted for its theatrical performances, returns on Tuesday, Dec. 27. G. Love & Special Sauce, a quartet led by singer-guitarist G. Love that mixes hip-hop with roots blues and funk, plays a two-night stand Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 28-29.Lovett, who has played Aspen venues ranging from the Wheeler Opera House to the Benedict Music Tent, arrives for his two-night stand presumably armed with fresh material. His new album, “Release Me,” is set for release Feb. 28. Lovett also has some holiday songs to pull out; he released a digital EP, “Songs for the Season,” earlier this month, featuring the original “The Girl With the Holiday Smile” and covers of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “Christmastime Is Here.”The Colorado hard rock quartet Rose Hill Drive returns to Belly Up on Tuesday, Jan. 3.Goldberg said that it wasn’t just the artists who wanted return dates this holiday season. So did plenty of fans.”There were a lot of people who heard about the Flaming Lips, and didn’t see the show,” he said. “A two-night stand by Jane’s Addiction – that’s only 900 people in the audience out of 30,000 in town. So that leaves a lot of people who didn’t get to see them.”••••The Wheeler Opera House, too, plays host to some familiar faces during the holidays.Theatre Aspen’s “Annie,” a restaging of this past summer’s hit musical, closes a week-long run today, with performances at 2 and 7 p.m. The show features a handful of local performers, including Julia Foran as Annie, Nina Gabianelli as Miss Hannigan, and Franz Alderfer as Drake.The Crystal Palace Revue, an offshoot of Aspen’s defunct Crystal Palace dinner theater, returns to the Wheeler for two shows on Monday, Dec. 26. They are joined by the Glenwood Springs-based Glenwood Vaudeville Revue for performances of musical satire.Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, which spices up the New Orleans brass band tradition with funk, rock and hip-hop, is set for Tuesday, Dec. 27. Bandleader Troy Andrews last appeared at the Wheeler on New Year’s Eve of 2005, as part of a New Orleans package show.The trio of singers Kim Carnes, Jeff Hanna and Matraca Berg is set for Wednesday, Dec. 28. Carnes returns following an appearance this past spring at the Wheeler’s 7908 Songwriters Festival; Hanna has played the Wheeler as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.Best of the Fest, on Friday, Dec. 30, brings four comedians who appeared at the Wheeler’s Aspen Laff Festival last February. On New Year’s Eve, picker David Bromberg, a hit at the 2009 7908 Songwriters Festival, returns for an evening of acoustic music, fireworks, champagne and more.••••PAC3 hasn’t been around long enough to build a roster of familiar artists; the Carbondale venue opened in May. But they contribute a pair of shows by acts known to local audiences for the holidays.The Colorado groove-jazz band the Motet, led by drummer Dave Watts, is set for Thursday, Dec. 29, with the Irish-oriented, L.A.-based rock band the Young Dubliners on Friday, Dec. 30.stewart@aspentimes.com