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Current Events

Scottish comedian Vladimir McTavish appears in the inaugural Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, at the Wheeler Opera House. (Courtesy Wheeler Opera House)

Having helped stage the final two editions of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival here, Gram Slaton, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House, deemed the venue too well-suited for comedy, and Aspen too good a draw, to let comedy die along with the USCAF. So last winter, Slaton and former Aspenite David Brenner produced the Whats So Funny? series, with the idea that big names were not required for big laughs and good-sized crowds. Now the Wheeler, and the San Francisco-based agency Rooftop Comedy, take that idea into the festival realm with the inaugural Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival. Dont expect recognizable names (or the crush for tickets that comes with them); the event is limited to rising comics still building credits in the entertainment world. Most of them are of the young variety; the centerpiece of the festival is the National College Comedy Competition, which will be broadcast live on the Internet. Six shows including Rooftop After Dark and The Big Show are squeezed into two days, Friday and Saturday, May 30-31.

The Rolling Stones havent unveiled a new musical idea in decades (though, to be fair, their last album, 2005s A Bigger Bang, did quite a nice job of recycling the old ones). The shows filmed by Martin Scorsese for a concert documentary of the band were choreographed even more than usual; the dates, from fall 2006 at New York Citys Beacon Theater, were added specifically for Scorsese to shoot, and included guest stars (Buddy Guy, Jack White, Christina Aguilera) and star-studded crowds (the Clintons). Still, Mick & Keith & Co. are big enough to create their own rock n roll weather, so Shine a Light becomes must-see cinema for music lovers of a certain age. Dont expect to hear new songs; the most recent ones in the film date back 25 years. In any event, the sounds figure to take a backseat to close-ups of Keith Richards legendary face in terms of highlights. (If we had IMAX in Aspen.) Shine a Light, which also features bits of historical footage and backstage preparations, shows Sunday and Monday, May 25-26 at the Wheeler Opera House.

Despite coming out of the 80s L.A. punk scene, Social Distortion could never hide their genuine affection for country music. As a solo artist, Social D singer-guitarist Mike Ness broadcasts the influence, covering songs by Hank Williams, Marty Robbins and the Carter Family. Needless to say, Ness tastes run toward the rambunctious and outlaw not to mention fast and loud end of the country spectrum. After several appearances at Belly Up with Social Distortion, Ness returns Sunday, May 25 with his own band, a quintet that includes a pedal steel guitar player. Opening is Jesse Dayton, who comes from a different background Texas, former sideman for Ray Price and Waylon Jennings but arrived at a roughly similar place.

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