Aspen’s Most-Anticipated Arts Events, Winter 2019-20 |

Aspen’s Most-Anticipated Arts Events, Winter 2019-20

"Just Mercy"
Courtesy photo

Anybody who hangs around in Aspen long enough will grow weary of tourism boosters talking incessantly about how exceptional this place is. All the superlatives and all that “my life is better than your vacation” bull is tiresome and indecent.

But then you look at the arts and culture lineup for the winter ahead and, yeah, you realize how spoiled we are here — how, yes, exceptional it is to have access to this caliber of exhibitions and performance and events in a remote mountain town so isolated from the cosmopolitan centers where you’d expect, say, a Kusama “Infinity Room” and a Trevor Noah show. For most winter destinations, the skiing is enough.

Looking ahead at 2019-20 on the culture beat in Aspen, there are tentpole events you can count on, like splashy art openings over Presidents’ Day weekend for the jet-set and huge New Year’s Eve concerts at Belly Up, those few days over X Games when Aspen is the center of youth culture and pop music. There are series that have gotten hotter in recent years and have the town abuzz, like the Aspen Laugh Fest and the JAS Café.

And there are always some new wrinkles, like Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings this year moving from its Christmas-to-New Year’s slot to early January, changing the long-established rhythm of entertainment during Aspen’s freakiest week.

As always, there will be surprises to come, like last year’s late addition of an on-mountain springtime music festival with String Cheese Incident and Umphrey’s McGee headlining.

So keep your edges sharp and mark your calendars. This is the Aspen Times Weekly’s Most Anticipated list for 2019-20.

–Andrew Travers


Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Where the Lights in My Heart Go’

Aspen Art Museum, Dec. 20 through May 10

You’ve probably seen your friends’ Instagram posts from inside Kusama’s “Infinity Room” installations around the world, for which people wait for hours in line and on which museums and galleries have had to implement strict time limits for visitors. Kusama, a 90-year-old titan of contemporary art and recent viral fame, brings this mirrored room to the rooftop sculpture garden at the Aspen Art Museum in time for Christmas and everybody in Aspen is going to want to step inside.

AND DON’T FORGET: Oscar Murillo’s “Social Altitude” at Aspen Art Museum (through May 17) … “bayer & bauhaus: how design shaped aspen” at Aspen Historical Society (through April) … Anderson Ranch Arts Center Holiday Open House (Dec. 17) … Mickalene Thomas at Baldwin Gallery (opening late December) … Emma Senft’s “Dappling” at Anderson Ranch Arts Center (Feb. 3-28) … Lisa Yuskavage’s “Wilderness” at Aspen Art Museum (Feb. 16-May 31) … “Our Planet: Exploring Our Changing Environment” at Anderson Ranch (March 9-April 8).


Christopher McDougall

Aspen Winter Words at Paepcke Auditorium, Tuesday, Feb. 18

Few books in recent years have been as ubiquitous on Aspen bookshelves as McDougall’s 2009 narrative nonfiction blockbuster “Born to Run.” It sparked the barefoot running craze and shined a fascinating light on Mexico’s Tarahumara tribe. McDougall’s latest, “Running with Sherman,” is about a donkey jogging partner and animal-human partnerships.

AND DON’T FORGET: “Wild Game” memoirist Adrienne Brodeur at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 6) … “Three Women” author Lisa Taddeo at Winter Words (Jan. 7) … Poets Jericho Brown and Ada Limon at Aspen Winter Words (Jan. 28) … Naomi McDougall Jones’ “The Wrong Kind of Women” (published Feb. 4) … “Shutter Island” author Dennis Lehane at Winter Words (March 10) … “Dopesick” author Beth Macy at Aspen Winter Words (March 31).


David Finckel and Wu Han
Courtesy photo

David Finckel and Wu Han

Harris Concert Hall, Thursday, Feb. 20

If our summers are overstuffed with classical offerings, winter is starvation season. But the Aspen Music Festival’s three-part winter series dependably brings summertime favorites back to satiate year-round local listeners. This beloved husband-and-wife pair has long been synonymous with Aspen’s music scene, giving rapturously received recitals and running influential chamber music workshops at the festival. They’ll perform cello sonatas by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Chopin.

AND DON’T FORGET: Aspen Choral Society’s “Messiah” (Dec. 13, 14 & 15) … “A Celtic Family Christmas” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 19) … William Hagen and Albert Cano Smit at Harris Concert Hall (Feb. 6) … Joyce Yang at Harris Concert Hall (Feb. 13).


Trevor Noah
Courtesy photo

Trevor Noah

Aspen Laugh Festival at the Wheeler Opera House, Saturday, Feb. 22, 7 & 9:30 p.m.

The Wheeler has raised expectations sky-high for Laugh Fest, as it’s booked the biggest names in comedy for several years in a row. But, man, landing the “Daily Show” host and stand-up comic for two shows in the middle of presidential primary season? This is already the most talked-about event of the season.

AND DON’T FORGET: Best of “SNL” with Alex Moffat and Mikey Day at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 27) … David Spade at Belly Up (Jan. 2) … Fortune Feimster at Wheeler Opera House (Jan. 11) … Brian Regan at Belly Up (Feb. 10) … Second City at Aspen Laugh Festival (Feb. 19) … Norm Macdonald at Aspen Laugh Festival (Feb. 20) … Taylor Tomlinson at Aspen Laugh Festival (Feb. 21) … Paula Poundstone at Wheeler Opera House (March 12) … Piff the Magic Dragon at Wheeler Opera House (March 13).


Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s “Beautiful Decay”
Aspen Times file

‘Beautiful Decay’ by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Aspen District Theatre, Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, 7:30 p.m.

This piece by Nicolo Fonte, staged for three performances last summer, was the first evening-length contemporary ballet ever produced by Aspen Santa Fe. A touching meditation on mortality, featuring a multi-generational cast, if you missed the first round of shows you must see it this winter.

AND DON’T FORGET: “The Nutcracker” by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (Dec. 21 & 22) … “Shimmer” by Acrobats of Cirque-Tacular at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 26) … Cirque Zuma Zuma at Wheeler Opera House (Feb. 16) … Diavolo at Aspen District Theatre (March 27).


“Just Mercy”

Aspen Film Academy Screenings, Jan. 7

Director Destin Daniel Cretton brings the work and life of death row activist attorney Bryan Stevenson to the screen, with Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx starring. You may remember Cretton from his presentation at Aspen Shortsfest last spring and you may have caught one of Stevenson’s many talks at the Aspen Institute over the years. So you’ve got to see this during Aspen Film’s annual festival of Oscar hopefuls.

AND DON’T FORGET: “Pain and Glory,” presented by Aspen Film at Isis Theatre (Dec. 4) … Warren Miller’s “Timeless” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 4 & 5) … “Heavy Water” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 15) … ‘Polar Express” at Wheeler Opera House, Dec. 20 … “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” at Isis Theatre (Dec. 20) … X Games film series, Diamond Club at Buttermilk (Jan. 23-26) … “The Longest Wave” at Wheeler Opera House (March 20) … Aspen Film’s Aspen Shortsfest at Wheeler Opera House (March 31-April 5).


Rae Sremmurd
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Rae Sremmurd

X Games & Belly Up, Jan. 24 & 25

If you have ears, you’ve heard “Black Beatles” a lot in the last three years. And if you’re a hip-hop head, you probably know the album “SR3MM.” The duo’s fourth full-length album, “SremmLife 4,” is rumored for a winter release. So expect Rae Sremmurd to make their big X Games show and ESPN tie-ins a key part of their album launch with all eyes on Aspen, these concerts and these new tracks.

AND DON’T FORGET: Gregory Alan Isakov at Belly Up (Dec. 6) … Robert Glasper at Belly Up (Dec. 9) … The Wood Brothers at Belly Up (Dec. 11) … Bone Thugs-N-Harmony at Belly Up (Dec. 13) … Modest Mouse at Belly Up (Dec. 14) … The Head and the Heart at Belly Up (Dec. 16) … Thievery Corporation at Belly Up (Dec. 18 & 19) … Big Gigantic at Belly Up (Dec. 22) … Cedric Gervais at Belly Up (Dec. 23) … ABBA Mania at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 25) … Zhu at Belly Up (Dec. 26) … Third Eye Blind at Belly Up (Dec. 27 & 28) … Bob Moses and Nora En Pure at Belly Up (Dec. 29) … Flume at Belly Up (Dec. 30-31) … Yonder Mountain String Band at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 31) … Dillon Francis at Belly Up (Jan. 4) … Pat Green at Belly Up (Jan. 10) … Alphonso Horne & the Gotham City Kings at JAS Café (Jan. 10 & 11) … Illenium (Belly Up Jan 22 & X Games Jan. 25) … Alesso (Belly Up Jan. 24 & X Games Jan. 25) … Bazzi at Belly Up & X Games (Jan. 26) … Railroad Earth at Belly Up (Jan. 28 & 29) … The Doo Wop Project at Wheeler Opera House (Feb. 8) … Lupe Fiasco at Belly Up (Feb. 9) … Martin Sexton at Belly Up (Feb. 11) … Curtis Stigers at JAS Café (Feb. 13 & 14) … North Mississippi Allstars at Belly Up (Feb. 19) … Duchess at JAS Café (Feb. 20 & 21) … Donavon Frankenreiter at Belly Up (Feb. 21) … O.A.R. at Belly Up (Feb. 27) … Lyle Lovett at Belly Up (March 3) … Guster at Wheeler Opera House (March 4) … Poncho Sanchez at JAS Café (March 7) … Keller Williams at Belly Up (March 8) … Spafford at Belly Up (March 13) … Carolyn Leonhart at JAS Café (March 13 & 14) … Classic Albums Live: “Abbey Road” at Wheeler Opera House (March 25) … Grace Potter at Belly Up (March 26 & 27) … Killer Queen at Wheeler Opera House (March 27) … Jamison Ross at JAS Café at the Collective (March 27 & 28) … Steel Betty at Wheeler Opera House (March 29).


Mead Metcalf
Aspen Times file

Crystal Palace “Review”

Wheeler Opera House, Jan. 31 & Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.

Mead Metcalf and the Crystal Palace players made a nostalgia-fueled, still-funny and politically incorrect return to Aspen last winter at the Wheeler and it appears this may be turning into an annual tradition. Metcalf’s old dinner theater was reduced to rubble this fall, but the Palace lives on in this most local of local’s nights at the Wheeler.

AND DON’T FORGET: “The Doyle and Debbie Show” at Thunder River Theatre (Dec. 5-21) … “A Very Electric Christmas” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 8) … Theatre Aspen Holiday Cabaret (Dec. 15-19) … Ken Ludwig’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 22) … Adam Trent’s “Holiday Magic” at Wheeler Opera House (Dec. 28) …‘The Great Dubois” at Wheeler Opera House (Jan. 10) …“A View From the Bridge” at Thunder River Theatre (Feb. 20-March 7) … “Million Dollar Quartet” at Wheeler Opera House (March 6) … “Wild Creatures” at Wheeler Opera House (March 7) … “Peter Rabbit Tales” at Wheeler Opera House (March 19) … Justin Willman’s “Magic for Humans” at Wheeler Opera House (March 21).