Double-rainbow shines on Michael Franti, lightning cuts short Lionel Richie as weather steals the show Friday at Jazz Aspen Labor Day |

Double-rainbow shines on Michael Franti, lightning cuts short Lionel Richie as weather steals the show Friday at Jazz Aspen Labor Day

A rainbow shines over members in the VIP area at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass concert on Friday evening.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Even Mother Nature was won over by Michael Franti’s opening set at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience on Friday evening.

The singer-songwriter’s buoyant show opened with his optimistic anthems “I’m Alive,” “You’re Number One” and “Sound of Sunshine,” and even though dark storm clouds were gathering overhead, Franti kept repeating “It’s a beautiful day.”

About 20 minutes into this performance in front of a devoted, early-arriving crowd, the sky seemingly decided to agree with him. As Franti ran though the crowd on his bare feet and sang, a gorgeous sun shower dropped a bit of rain. Then a vivid double rainbow opened up just beyond the festival grounds, as he sang “Just to Say I love You.”

“I like to think that double-rainbow was Aretha Franklin and John McCain looking down on us,” Franti told the festival crowd.

On the tail end of his energetic 105 minute performance – heavy on crowd participation, with Franti giving out hugs in the audience and bringing a group of children on stage for “Say Hey I Love You” – he free-styled a rap with a call-back to the glorious high country moment with “a little rain and a couple rainbows.”

SLIDESHOW: Photos from opening night of festival

After sunset, the weather stole the show again during Lionel Richie’s headlining set. Lightning flashed in the distance as the music legend rolled out a slick parade of his countless hits, and after about 45 minutes – during a medley of Commodores songs – he abruptly announced he’d been told he had to halt the performance due to the approaching lightning. Richie and his band fled the stage, the emergency exits were opened and the festival grounds were evacuated.

A freezing rain soon began to fall as lightning flashed overhead. Buses out of Snowmass Town Park were slow to arrive after the evacuation, leaving a crowd of thousands soaking in corrals as school district and RFTA buses staged to shuttle festival-goers to Snowmass Village, Aspen and the Brush Creek Intercept Lot. A reporter was loaded on a bus a little over an hour after the evacuation.

On social media, festival-goers logged complaints about the delays and the reconfigured entrance and exit routes rolled out this year.

“Lionel = Awesome. Your evacuation plan = AWFUL!!!” Front Range resident Tom O’Connor wrote on Facebook. “Whoever put this plan in place put thousands of lives in jeopardy tonight!!!!”

Several concert-goers wrote about the situation on Twitter early Saturday morning, calling the evacuation an “epic FAIL” (@funkydanyo), “shameful” (@christieontech) and “a disaster” (@rbw8694).

The weather forecast for Saturday’s concerts again calls for scattered thunderstorms.

Saturday’s main stage schedule:

3 p.m.: Bahamas

5: Fitz and the Tantrums (read our preview here)

7:30: Jack Johnson

Jazz Aspen has released a limited number of general admission tickets to the previously sold-out concert. They’re available here.


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