The reunion of most bands that were big in the ’80s is barely worth a shrug. But the word that the English Beat was coming to the Belly Up has caused a stir in Aspen. The band’s original run was hardly a blink: three studio albums, one each year from 1980-82. But what those three discs left in their wake! Led by singer-guitarist Dave Wakeling, the Birmingham-based Beat – as they were known in England – created British ska, a takeoff on Jamaican ska that upped the pulse and the attitude. The band’s debut, “I Just Can’t Stop It,” with a cover of the Motown classic “Tears of a Clown,” helped launch a movement that included the Specials and Madness. The reverberation is still heard today in countless SoCal hard-core bands that fuse punk with ska. And the influence wasn’t just musical, but social: the Beat’s integrated lineup featured black vocalist Ranking Roger, giving rise to the “2-Tone” movement. Wakeling and Roger would go on to form another hit-making band, General Public. The English Beat has been back in business since a well-received reunion tour in 2003; the band, still led by Wakeling, plays the Belly Up Thursday, Jan. 19.
The Aspen Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, which brought to town such standout movies as “The Crying Game” (which had its Colorado premiere at the festival) and last year’s Thai film “Beautiful Boxer,” seems to have run its course. Which doesn’t mean that those attending Gay Ski Week, Sunday, Jan. 15, through Sunday, Jan. 22, won’t have good reason to go to the cinema. At least two films in the Wheeler Film Series seem calculated to draw the GLBT crowd. “Breakfast on Pluto,” by “The Crying Game’s” Neil Jordan, revisits cross-gender themes. The film, showing Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 17-18, stars Cillian Murphy as an abandoned Irish child who grows up to be the lighthearted, love-crazed, transvestite Patrick “Kitten” Braden. The film delicately balances humor and tenderness against a backdrop of terrorism and hostility. “Loggerheads” wraps together three stories – one involving a gay couple, another homophobia and rejection – set in North Carolina. And “Brokeback Mountain,” Ang Lee’s masterful romance over the decades between two Wyoming ranch hands, continues at the Isis Theatre. Too bad, however, that “Transamerica” doesn’t seem likely to show in Aspen during Gay Ski Week. The film, featuring a stunning performance by Aspen product Felicity Huffman as preoperative transsexual Bree, would be a natural for the crowd.
Wintersköl, Aspen’s annual celebration of midwinter that has gotten a dose of revitalization in recent years, closes Sunday, Jan. 15, with Snowmass/Buttermilk Day. A highlight of the new-school Wintersköl is the Snowmass Swissbob, a series of high-speed races down Fanny Hill on fanny sleds. The events include downhill, GS and, new this year, the Uphill Swissbob Challenge, which includes hauling up and zooming down. Also on the Snowmass schedule: the Bud Light Big Air event, music on the mall by funketeers Little Hercules, and the mall draped in an Emerald City theme from the “Wizard of Oz.” At Buttermilk, it’s the Hike for Hope Uphill, followed by a pancake breakfast at the Cliff House atop the mountain.
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A driver looking to squeeze one last four-wheel drive up Aspen Mountain discovered that it’s not the ascent but the descent that poses a challenge.