Belly Up Aspen’s offseason menu
ASPEN – Belly Up Aspen owner Michael Goldberg is trying to pull a little spring offseason trick on local music fans, with a cagey booking move. For May 5, Belly Up will present singer-guitarist Federico Aubele in an effort to attract those with Mexican heritage, looking for somewhere to celebrate El Cinco de Mayo.In truth, Goldberg doesn’t expect to fool anyone; he expects that most people will know that Aubele is, in fact, from Argentina.But Goldberg does recognize that the offseason calendar requires some real thought to get people into the club. At the heights of the season, the formula seems to be relatively simple: Sign on whichever A-list acts are willing to leave the usual touring routes to come to Aspen and play the 450-capacity Belly Up. That straightforward approach sure seemed to work in the holiday weeks this past December, as the club sold out shows by the Flaming Lips, G. Love & Special Sauce, STS9 and two nights by Jane’s Addiction.That won’t work in the offseason, when the town is short on people, the people who are here are short on cash, and the idea of having the same small set of music fans come out night after night to pay big bucks for big names won’t fly. But Goldberg, who studies his calendar the way a chess master eyes the board, sees the offseason as something of an opportunity – you’ve just got to play it right.One thing the offseason allows is a proper spotlight for up-and-coming acts who might get overlooked in the bustle of mid-winter or mid-summer. Consider Aubele again. The 36-year-old Buenos Aires native was given a headlining Belly Up date a few days before Christmas, but sandwiched between sold-out shows by the hot dubstep act Skrillex and the rock band Third Eye Blind, the concert didn’t sell well. “We tried him Christmas time. And bluntly, he got lost,” Goldberg said.But an early May date could work better. Aubele has a new album out – “Berlin 13,” which mixes pan-Latin styles with hip-hop, electronica and more – and he’ll have less competition for the attention of an audience. Tickets are $15, a decent discount from his December show, priced at $22.A similar case is Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. The group, which formed in a refugee camp in Guinea in the early ’00s, hasn’t gained a toehold at Belly Up, despite several appearances there. But Goldberg, believing in their talent and seeing that they have been a good draw elsewhere, is giving them a chance to draw a crowd in offseason. The band is set to perform April 26, with a $15 ticket.”That time of year, they may just get enough people, because there’s no other stuff loaded around it,” Goldberg said. “Offseason gives them a chance.”For proof that some acts simply need the right opportunity to build an audience, one need look no further than last week’s appearance by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Despite being led by the 23-year-old son of Willie Nelson, the act first came to town with little hype, and not even a full-length album to their credit. Their first shows were offered for no admission price, and word spread quickly that the younger Nelson was a fire-spitting guitarist with a warm personality. Their show last week, with a $12 ticket, sold out, and drew raves.Goldberg hopes that some other acts catch on in a similar way, and he sees an offseason headlining slot as the ideal spotlight. Among these is Joe Purdy, a singer-songwriter who plays Belly Up on May 11, for an $8 ticket. (Purdy’s headlining show at the Bluebird in Denver the following night is $15.) “It seems to us, he’s not going to get lost that week,” Goldberg said. “Where it seems he’d get lost in a big summer.”In a similar category is Matt Wertz, who performs Monday, April 11, with a ticket price of $10. The Nashville singer-songwriter comes armed with a new album, “Weights & Wings,” which was released last month and made the Billboard charts.In addition to the acts that would fall into the lesser-known category, there are artists coming this spring who are making it outside of Aspen, but haven’t played here yet. If such a band got lost in a more crowded week, they might write off Aspen entirely. But a band like Yeasayer, which gets prominent billing at major festivals, should attract attention when it makes its Belly Up debut, May 31.”They’re a great band; they play festivals as an early evening act,” Goldberg noted of Yeasayer, a psychedelic rock band based in Brooklyn that released its second album, “Odd Blood,” last year. “But it’s got to fall at a time where it doesn’t get lost, when people can focus on it.”In the same vein is Fitz & the Tantrums, a Los Angeles-based indie-soul band that has toured as an opening act for Maroon 5. When the group plays Belly Up on June 5, for a $15 ticket, it will be their debut, but they already seem to have something of a local buzz – they are scheduled to return in September, as part of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival.”That’s a band with tremendous buzz. They’ve done the late-night shows; they’re doing the festivals,” Goldberg said. “That’s someone people need to pay attention to.”Goldberg said that keeping the club hopping, and doing inexpensive shows (even a free show, with Colorado bluegrass band Oakhurst on Sunday, April 17) is a way of taking care of local listeners. Goldberg also sees it as his responsibility to the agencies he works with, and the community of artists. And for the music fanatic that he is, Goldberg sees it as a more interesting strategy than being super-picky about what he books during the offseason, and waiting for the summer crowds to arrive.”These cheaper bands, that are not just cheap, but interesting, indie-rock types – if we can do them cheap, we will,” he said. “It seems like a natural – if we can throw more things out there, we will.”There are a few prominent names on Belly Up’s spring schedule, most notably reggae singer Stephen Marley (April 24, leading the Revelation Part I: The Root of Life Tour); Australian singer Xavier Rudd (April 28); and singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams (May 14). But Goldberg notes that he passed on several other bigger-tickets acts, including Lauren Hill, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and the Moody Blues, believing those needed a big tourist crowd to be successful.”Some big things will work here in offseason. Every once in a while, you hit it right,” he said. “But generally, it’s a time where we have to be careful about what we bring in.”And Goldberg knows that the big names are just a few months away. The Belly Up summer calendar already includes Robert Randolph & the Family Band, an acoustic evening with Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt, Blues Traveler, Ted Nugent and the Go-Gos.firstname.lastname@example.org
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.