Aspen Times Weekly cover story: Don’t let the quiet fool you; Merle is coming |

Aspen Times Weekly cover story: Don’t let the quiet fool you; Merle is coming

Stewart OksenhornAspen Times WeeklyAspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photoCover by Afton Groepper

ASPEN -Quiet times in the valley? Hard to argue otherwise. Have we got a way for you to fill your time and start imagining the busier – make that louder – months just ahead? Absolutely. The schedule of warm-weather music events is coming in, not in a trickle, but a flood. Red Rocks gets cranking up this week. Jazz Aspen has most of its summer set. The acts coming to play for free on Fanny Hill in Snowmass Village and in Carbondale’s Sopris Park have been announced. Festivals are finalizing their lineups. Even unlikely presenters like the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and Aspen Renewable Energy Day are getting into the act with big-name acts.Almost by the day, Belly Up adds another legendary artist to its summer schedule. We’ve got a blues legend (Buddy Guy), a soul legend (Al Green) and a country legend (Merle Haggard) all playing the club in the months ahead. Crank up the stereo, take up a pen, and start marking these dates. Things are going to get a lot less quiet.

Belly Up has a run of shows geared toward the kids: Sunspot Jonz and Aceyalone, both rappers who got their start in the California of the ’90s, come together for the JonzAlone Tour. Deertick is a Rhode Island roots-rock band centered around charismatic singer John McCauley. Mason Jennings is a thoughtful folk-rocker who had two songs land in “I’m Not There,” the movie about fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan.And Belly Up has plenty more nights of fresh sounds that should bring in the young listeners. Indie rockers Grouplove (May 20); Here We Go Magic (May 22); a Brooklyn electro-folk band whose album “A Different Ship” is set for release this week; Lo-Fi band Best Coast, led by vocalist Bethany Cosentino (May 25); and the Dutch dance-music trio Nobody Beats the Drum (May 29) all make their local debuts in the weeks ahead.But the biggest news at Belly Up seems to be the well-worn legends. Read on …

Colorado groove-jazz band The Motet, with Dave Watts calling the shots behind the drum kit, helps PAC3 cap an eventful first year with this birthday bash.More reasons to celebrate the addition of this fine venue to the valley: long-running reggae band the Itals (June 1); guitar wizard David Bromberg (June 2); and Hot Tuna (July 21), whose core – guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady – has been playing together for longer than 50 years.

Punk meets Eastern Europe as Gogol Bordello, a Lower East Side of Manhattan group led by Ukrainian-born singer-kook Eugene Htz, adds international spice to the Chili Pepper & Brew Fest. Opening is Galactic, which will bring its forward-looking take on New Orleans flavor.Africa’s Sierra Leone Allstars headline on June 8, with Colorado jam band the Congress opening.

This three-day festival in picturesque Riverbend Park features top acts including the Carolina Chocolate Drops, 18 South, Joe Pug, Pete Wernick & Flexigrass, and the Alison Brown Quartet.

– Free –

Look beyond the question of “Why Elvis Costello for Food & Wine’s 30th-anniversary benefit concert?” (because he wrote the song “Fish ‘n’ Chip Paper?” Probably not) and let’s assume that Food & Wine was showing good taste, realizing that Costello is worth serving up at any event.

Jazz Aspen’s June Fest goes for the timeless sounds: The Dukes of September, the trio of old-school singers Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs; rock belter Joe Cocker; and the countryish k.d. lang, backed by her Siss Boom Bang.The festival tacks on another date, July 7, when trumpeter Chris Botti returns to Jazz Aspen.And where’s the jazz at Jazz Aspen? It’s over at The Little Nell. The JAS Caf Downstairs@the Nell series opens with return appearances by the vocal-and-guitar duo of Cyrille Aimee & Diego Figueiredo (June 29) and the flamethrowing Hot Club of Detroit (June 30). The following week, it’s a pair of newcomers: Cuban singer Wil Campa y Su Gran Union (July 5) and Lucien Barbarin & the New Orleans Rhythm Revue (July 6 and 7), led by Barbarin, the trombonist last seen here as a member of Harry Connick Jr.’s band.

Glenwood’s Summer of Music opens with jazz – appropriate given that the series replaced the Summer of Jazz series. Kicking off the Wednesday-night parties is the duo of French singer Cyrille Aimee and Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo. The series marches on with the circuslike March Fourth Marching Band (July 4), R&B singer Hazel Miller (July 11), bluegrass quartet the Greencards (July 18), ’70s hitmakers Firefall (July 25) and electro-funk trio Juno What! (Aug. 1).

As always, concertgoers who make Thursday evenings on Fanny Hill a weekly destination will be rewarded with a tour through American music styles. This year’s series runs through soft rock and hip-hop, stomping country blues and funky jams.The series opens June 28 with Firefall, the Boulder band best known for the 1976 hit “You Are the Woman.” Other familiar acts hiking up Fanny Hill include the punk-fueled rural-blues group The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (July 5), country-rock survivors The Pure Prairie League (July 26) and California rapper Chali2Na (Aug. 16). Newcomers to the area include San Francisco’s old-soul outfit Monophonics (July 12); the Quick & Easy Boys, an R&B group from Brooklyn (July 19); New Orleans roots rockers Honey Island Swamp Band (Aug. 2); and Van Ghost (Aug. 9), a Chicago jam band that features singer-trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick.

Loggins, half of the soft-rock duo Loggins & Messina and creator of an unusual number of hits from movies (“I’m Alright” from “Caddyshack”; “Footloose”; and “Danger Zone” from “Top Gun”), performs in his new acoustic trio, Blue Sky Riders, which made its Aspen debut in March at the Wheeler. The appearance kicks off a run of legendary acts making their Belly Up debuts this summer. Following Loggins are soul great Al Green (July 24); Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh (Aug. 18); 75-year-old country icon Merle Haggard (Aug. 28), whose latest album, “Working in Tennessee,” was released in October; and another 75-year-old, bluesman Buddy Guy (Sept. 2), whose 2010 album, “Living Proof,” earned the Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy.

Carbondale’s Summer of Music series opens with the vastly undervalued California singer-guitarist Chuck Prophet.Also in the series: vintage-sounding Colorado string band the Haunted Windchimes (July 8); Western swingers Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys (July 15); and nine-piece Brooklyn soul powerhouse Sister Sparrow (July 22), led by singer Arleigh Kincheloe.

The JAS Academy, Jazz Aspen’s high-level educational program, is on hiatus. But the band plays on as bassist Christian McBride, the program’s music director, jams with a handful of former JAS Academy students.

Dashboard Confessional began attracting devoted fans – and gave the emo genre a focal point – with its mid-’00s albums “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most” and “A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar.” This local debut is actually a solo acoustic appearance by frontman Chris Carrabba – which won’t disappoint the followers.

Ryan Raddon, whose previous positions include Mormon missionary and Utah record-shop owner, emerged a decade ago under the name Kaskade, a producer of electronic dance music. Seems to be a good career move. Kaskade, who has worked with the likes of EDM big-wigs deadmau5 and Tisto, was voted America’s Best DJ in a DJ Times poll last year.

Discussing the environment and energy can give a person the blues. So American Renewable Energy Day breaks up the talks with a free concert in Wagner Park featuring Taj Mahal, whose take on the blues should be a little more fun.

The Labor Day Festival is off to a most eclectic start. Acts announced to date are country-pop stars Sugarland, New Orleans jazz/R&B group Trombone Shorty, classic rockers the Steve Miller Band, and Kid Rock, whose sounds range from rap to metal to country. Now round out the lineup with an African electronica group, a funk-jam band and a bluegrass-blues combo, and all the bases are covered.

Jazz guitar great Pat Metheny returns to the Wheeler. His last performance there, in 2007, was one for the ages. This time around he won’t have pianist Brad Mehldau in his quartet, but he will have saxophonist Chris Potter.

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