Awfully full fall
How packed is the so-called “offseason” arts calendar? So packed that I can’t bring myself to waste space on an introduction.Here’s what’s coming between now and the opening of the lifts.Belly UpIt’s no offseason for reggae and hip-hop fans. Belly Up’s schedule is packed with high-profile gigs in both genres.On the reggae side, the club has a smoking good lineup that includes the often perverse dance-haller Yellowman (Thursday, Sept. 20); the long-running harmony trio Mighty Diamonds (Saturday, Sept. 22); the latest rising star from the Marley clan, Stephen Marley (Sunday, Sept. 23); and Midnite, a band from a Caribbean island – St. Croix, not Jamaica (Oct. 2).For the hip-hoppers, there’s the Red Gone Wild Tour (Sept. 28), headed by Redman and Kids in the Hall; the Everybody Loves a Clown Tour (Oct. 13), topped by Minneapolis group Atmosphere; the high-minded, uncompromised KRS-One (Nov. 2); and Hip Hop Live (Nov. 9), a package featuring Ghostface Killah, Rakim and Brother Ali.Outside those realms, there’s cutting-edge vocal pop by British-born Nellie McKay (Oct. 17); contemporary ska from Pepper (Oct. 20), and experimental instrumental rock by the Benevento/Russo Duo (Oct. 28).
Wheeler Film Series, Wheeler Opera HouseAfter having the summer off, the Wheeler Film Series returns in time to fill some offseason evenings.On the schedule: “No End in Sight” (Friday through Sunday, Sept. 21-23), an acclaimed documentary about the occupation of Iraq; “Rocket Science” (Oct. 1-3), a comedy about a stuttering high school debater; “Lady Chatterley” (Oct. 7-9), an award-winning French adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s erotic tale; “My Best Friend” (Oct. 21-23), a French comedy starring Daniel Auteuil; and “Sunshine” (Oct. 24-25), a sci-fi thriller by Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later”). Coming this fall, though not necessarily to the Wheeler: “In the Valley of Elah” (opening nationally Friday, Sept. 21), a military-related thriller by Paul Haggis (“Crash”), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron; Ang Lee’s Chinese-language, World War II-era thriller “Lust, Caution” (Sept. 28); “The Darjeeling Limited” (Sept. 29), by Wes Anderson and starring his usual cohorts, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray; and “Lars and the Real Girl” (Oct. 12), a comedy about a man’s (Ryan Gosling) Internet relationship with a doll.Also, “Rendition” (Oct. 19), a politically charged thriller from Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”); “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (Oct. 26), a thriller from Sidney Lumet; “No Country for Old Men” (Nov. 9), the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of a typically violent Cormac McCarthy novel; and “I’m Not There,” featuring a battalion of actors (Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and others) all portraying the chameleon-like Bob Dylan.
Joni Mitchell, “Shine” Herbie Hancock, “River: The Joni Letters” both released Sept. 25Don’t be fooled by the title; “Shine,” the first album of new material by Joni Mitchell in almost a decade, is no sunny affair. Consumed with the war in Iraq and the state of the environment, Mitchell’s lyrics are laced with cynicism (“Let your little light shine / Shine on Wall Street and Las Vegas”).Sure to be brighter is Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters.” The tribute CD features a roster of vocalists – Leonard Cohen, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae – joining the pianist in reinterpreting the catalog. Sure to give it an authentic touch are the presence of Mitchell’s longtime producer, Larry Klein, and Mitchell herself, who sings a new version of her “Tea Leaf Prophecies.” Other CDs due this fall: the Emmylou Harris box set “Songbird” (Tuesday, Sept. 18); “The Shepherd’s Dog,” by Iron & Wine (also known as singer-songwriter Sam Beam), and “Washington Square Serenade,” Steve Earle’s reflections on New York City (Sept. 25); John Fogerty’s tough but jubilant “Revival,” and “Magic,” the promised return to magical form (finally!) by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (Oct. 2); and “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow,” the latest installment in the multivolume concept album by prog-rockers Coheed & Cambria, and “Raising Sand,” from the unlikely duo of bluegrasser Alison Krauss and former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant (Oct. 23).
Aspen Filmfest 2007, Sept. 25-30Wheeler Opera House and the Crystal Theatre in CarbondaleAspen Filmfest is the one major event that doesn’t push to be in the seasonal spotlight. Filmfest was born to put some cultural life into the offseason, and it has remained a low-key autumn mainstay, separating it from manic film festivals in Telluride and Sun Valley, as well as local extravaganzas like Jazz Aspen Snowmass and the Food & Wine Classic.Which is not to say that Filmfest is short on cinematic happenings. This year’s program includes the buzzing “The Savages,” a comic family drama starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney; “Into the Wild,” Sean Penn’s adaptation of the wilderness tragedy; “Sleuth,” a remake of the 1972 film, starring Michael Caine and Jude Law ; and the presentation of the Independent By Nature Award to Oscar-winner Julie Christie.’Fiddler on the Roof’ Sept. 28; Thunder River Theatre, CarbondaleJazz Aspen Snowmass introduces a new program, the 10-Spot Series, with an event each month for the next 10 months at Carbondale’s Thunder River Theatre.The series opens Sept. 28 with top local jazz players performing a concert version of “Fiddler on the Roof,” as arranged by late jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. Which makes you wonder what will be presented the following nine months.John DenverOn Oct. 12, 1997, John Denver’s plane crashed into California’s Monterey Bay, taking the life of the local icon. Each year since, the singer’s life has been celebrated with musical events coinciding with the anniversary of his death. It is appropriate timing; in mid-October, one can still sense the Aspen of the late ’60s that drew him here.New this year is “John Denver’s Storytellers Unplugged” (Oct. 10, Wheeler Opera House), an evening of remembrances focusing on Denver’s private life. Among the locals sharing their stories are former road manager Barney Wyckoff, author and mediator Tom Crum, and Michael Shore, Denver’s partner in the old Tower Restaurant in Snowmass Village.Back in slightly altered form are the Musical Tribute to John Denver concerts (Oct. 11-13, Wheeler). This year’s concerts don’t feature special guests as in the recent past, but will focus on bandmates and co-writers who were closest to Denver, including two – Denny Brooks, Gary Mule Deer – who haven’t appeared in the tributes in several years. The concerts still benefit Challenge Aspen, as does the “Storytellers” event.Local singer-guitarist John Adams contributes his annual tribute to Denver, “Rocky Mountain High” (Oct. 14, Wheeler).The annual events have competition this year. Windstar, a Voice for the Future (Oct. 13, with a matinee and an evening show, Harris Hall), will feature Denver associates James Burton and Steve Weisberg, as well as Jim Curry, who has portrayed Denver on TV and stage. Given the presumed turnout in this 10th anniversary year, there should be plenty of audience to go around.Thunder River Theatre’s ‘The Fantasticks’Oct. 11-27; Thunder River Theatre, CarbondaleCarbondale’s Thunder River Theatre Company has waited till its 13th season to present a musical, and it’s diving in with a splash. “The Fantasticks” is the longest-running musical in world history, opening in 1960 and not closing till the post-9/11 doldrums rocked New York’s theater world. (It has since reopened.) Lon Winston, Thunder River’s artistic director and director of the production, has a history with “The Fantasticks” almost as long as “The Fantasticks” has a history; he saw it in 1963.Thunder River’s production stars John Goss, Jennica Lundin and Danny Pettit, with Marie Gasau as musical director.Symphony in the Valley, Comedy Tonight: Humor in MusicOct. 13, at Grand Valley High School, ParachuteOct. 14, at Roaring Fork High School, CarbondaleWhen Frank Zappa asked the rhetorical question – Does humor belong in music? – he had pop music in mind. With their latest concert, the Glenwood Springs-based Symphony in the Valley confirms that humor belongs in an even more unlikely place – classical music. Their Comedy Tonight: Humor in Music features David Baker’s Concertino for Cellular Phones and Orchestra; Robert Hirsch’s Concerto Gross, scored for three kazoos; a John Cage piece for radios; and “Symphony Sampler” by local composer James Belling. The program also includes works by Haydn, Mozart and P.D.Q. Bach.
Lyrically Speaking with Michelle Shocked, Oct. 18, Belly UpMichelle Shocked is a singer with a lot to say and the guts to say it; her new album, the gospel-oriented “ToHeavenUride,” chides President Bush and features a long rap chastising a chemical company’s habit of building its plants in poor neighborhoods. The Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Lyrically Speaking series is an ideal platform for Shocked, allowing songwriters to perform their music and talk about the process of writing it.
Barry Smith, ‘American Squatter’Oct 19 at Steve’s Guitars in CarbondaleOct. 20 at the Wheeler Opera HouseHaving spent the last several months touring throughout Canada, Aspenite Barry Smith should be sharp as a tack when he lands back in the valley for a pair of performances of his latest one-man, multimedia show, “American Squatter.” In the alternative, he might be flat as a pancake. In any event, he won’t be doing his show – a true-life tale filled with skateboarding hijinks, a cleaning machine of a father, squatting in squalor in London, and obsessively documenting it all – for a bunch of Canadian hosers, eh?Roaring Fork OpenOct. 25-Nov. 25, with an opening reception Oct. 25Aspen Art MuseumMost of the year, the Aspen Art Museum’s spaces are filled by notables from the international art world. With the Roaring Fork Open, the lower gallery will be filled with work by your friends and neighbors. The biannual exhibit is unjuried, meaning virtually anything, by virtually anyone (as long as they reside in the valley) can turn up in the museum. Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the museum’s executive director, does serve as a guide, meeting with each participant to survey and select a work for presentation.Also opening Oct. 25 at the museum: To the Wall, featuring works by Lily van der Stokker and David Shrigley.
Festival in the Desert, Nov. 1, WheelerFor many African bands, the idea of touring the States, with a stop at the Wheeler Opera House, would be like a dream. For Tinariwen, a group from the Tuareg tribe of West Africa, it is a slight step down from last month’s gig – opening for the Rolling Stones at an Irish castle.Joining Tinariwen on this Festival in the Desert tour is Vieux Farka Touré, son of the late, renowned Malian singer-guitarist Ali Farka Touré.Also at the Wheeler: the new Emmitt Nershi Band (Nov. 2), co-led by Drew Emmitt, formerly of Leftover Salmon, and Billy Nershi, formerly of String Cheese Incident; and singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega (Nov. 17), whose latest album, “Beauty & Crime,” was released in July.Aspen Community Theatre’s ‘She Loves Me’Nov. 8-11 and 14-17, Wheeler Opera HouseThe title “She Loves Me” may not ring theatergoers’ bells like last year’s Aspen Community Theatre production, “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Even though the team of composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harrick was behind both musicals.) But recently, The New York Times included “She Loves Me” as one of the essential Broadway musicals of the ’60s. And “She Loves Me” is spawned from the same source material – the Hungarian play “Parfumerie”- that yielded three movies: “The Shop Around the Corner,” “In the Good Old Summertime” and “You’ve Got Mail.”ACT’s production of the romance, about bickering co-workers who fall in love through personal ads, stars Jonathan Boxer, Nikki Boxer and Jeff Bestic, and is directed by Michael Monroney.
John McEuen, Nov. 17, Hotel Colorado, Glenwood SpringsOne of the musical treats of this past year was the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s John McEuen, bringing his two sons to the Wheeler Opera House. This time, it’s just McEuen – and his banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle and sense of humor – for a solo gig at the other end of the valley.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com