Halloween with Opiuo: The Australian DJ returns for Aspen locals’ favorite holiday
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, Oct. 31, 9 p.m.
How much: $35-$55
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
More info: Haasy opens, 21 and older only; proof of COVID-19 vaccination required
The electronic musician Opiuo has orchestrated some of the biggest and buzziest productions at Red Rocks Ampitheatre in recent years, establishing himself as a leading electro-funk maestro of Colorado’s iconic venue.
For Halloween, and the exuberant post-vaccine return of Aspen’s locals-centric celebrations, the New Zealand-born Australia-based DJ is bringing his epic-scaled production here to Belly Up Aspen.
After his now nearly legendary 2018 Red Rocks collaboration with the Syzygy Orchestra, Opiuo — birth name Oscar Davey-Wright — has been a high country DJ royalty. He has been in Colorado this month staging his first big shows since the coronavirus pandemic shut down live music. On Oct. 10, he headline Red Rocks again and put together another one-of-a-kind experience in collaboration with Denver’s Elus Vocal Ensemble and the Spirit of Grace Gospel Singers.
“It was a six-month journey to get to that point,” he recalled in a phone interview two days later. “And an amazing feeling afterward.”
It was a cathartic experience for the fans — a sold-out Red Rocks crowd — and for Davey-Wright himself, who returned to the U.S. for the first time in a long time and braved the uncertainty of COVID cancellations and travel restrictions to put on the show.
“I worked for 6 months on something I only dreamt possible,” he posted on social media after the show. “Without even knowing if I would be able to fly across the globe to even perform. Sleepless weeks leading up to the show. I poured my soul into this one. I did it for all of you, all over the globe, to remember we have the power to shape the life & experiences we want.”
He prepped the 2021 show remotely with his collaborators, keeping faith that his travel visa would be cleared.
“Two weeks before I had no idea without even be able to get to America,” he said. “And it was like this massive relief. I honestly believe [Red Rocks is] s the best place on the planet to play.”
He paired the Red Rocks show with his first at Denver’s Mission Ballroom and a run of shows around the U.S. that continues into mid-November. Opiuo first brought his upbeat, danceable productions to Belly Up Aspen in early 2019, bringing two distinct sets — a quieter one showcasing some rarities and remixes, followed by the multimedia extravaganza and dance party he’s built his reputation upon.
Davey-Wright spent most of the pandemic at home in Australia, trading in the globe-trotting glamour of DJ life for stay-at-home dad time, playing with his kids.
“I had a daughter just before the pandemic hit,” he explained. “So I was able to have a good year-and-a-half really grounding myself, seeing my child growing up. I learned how to build things, build structures around the property, a playground for the kids. I just kind of did all the things that I never, ever get a chance to do.”
When the time came this summer to return to live performance, he found himself recharged. Coming back to the U.S. for the epic Red Rocks return and the fall tour, he’s tested out some “throwback” sets where he remixed and revisited some of his earliest material from his breakout years of 2009 to 2014, balanced with sets full of all the new tracks he’s written during the pandemic. The first of these throwback sets he performed at Mission Ballroom.
“I don’t know if I’ve had more fun just playing the tunes in a long time,” he said. “It was free, it was exciting. And from what I’ve read and heard from people, they were stoked to hear that music that had been part of their life.”
And, like just about everyone impacted by the pandemic, it changed his perspective on work and family.
“It kind of reset me,” he said. “I really grew even more passionate and more committed to music and everything else that goes with it, and having a really healthy balance, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on [the children’s] life and also don’t feel like they’re taking away from the creative life I had.”
This weekend he’s headlining Belly Up on Halloween, the centerpiece of what looks to be sort-of return to pre-pandemic partying for Aspen locals’ favorite holiday, when bars and streets — in pre-COVID days — overflowed with costumed patrons into the early morning hours. For a decade-and-a-half before the pandemic, Belly Up was ground zero for Aspen’s grown-up Halloween celebrations. With Opiuo headlining the biggest dance party in town on Halloween night, it’s likely the place to be once again, or at least a home-base for bar- and party-hopping.
But for Davey-Wright himself, a Halloween show remains a foreign oddity.
“Where I live, it’s not really a thing — I didn’t know what it was until I was a teenager and it was in movies,” he recalled.
But, of course, he knows how to handle a hyped-up holiday crowd like the extravagantly and cleverly costumed and one that’s expected for his Halloween show here.
“No matter if I’ve got five people in a room in the middle of the Central American jungle or I’ve got thousands of people in front of me, I just want to make the best show I can,” he explained.
He said his recent shows, the throwback archive dives and the major production at Red Rocks, have helped him prepare for the big night in Aspen.
“That gave me insight into what my new music is and what it feels like with crowds,” he said. “So I’m going to keep working the next few days to make the best thing I can.”
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