Harmony Fest may return with new venue, name | AspenTimes.com

Harmony Fest may return with new venue, name

Sarah S. Chung

Though Buttermilk Mountain has been ruled out as a venue for the Harmony Festival, a smaller summer festival is still a possibility.

But the scaled-back rock concert may not be called the Harmony Festival and last year’s headliner, Widespread Panic, will definitely not be on the bill.

Local restaurateur Eric Casper, the festival’s new financial backer, is still negotiating the buyout of the name “Harmony Festival.” Organizers are also looking for a new site to hold the event, after Pitkin County commissioners on Tuesday ruled out the festival’s return to Buttermilk.

Commissioners cited problems with last year’s crowds and Highway 82 construction that will be in full swing this summer near Buttermilk in rejecting the festival’s return to the ski area.

Casper is looking into the possible use of smaller venues near Aspen – like the Woody Creek racetrack, W/J Ranch and the Snowmass Village rodeo grounds, said Fred Dewey, who has been hired as a promoter for Casper Productions.

Before commissioners nixed the use of Buttermilk, Widespread Panic was tentatively lined up for the Harmony Festival this summer. But Dewey confirmed that only Buttermilk could have accommodated a concert by the popular band.

Since alternative venues in the county would only be able to hold 3,000 to 5,000 people, as opposed to the 5,000 to 8,000 concertgoers that can be accommodated at the base of Buttermilk, Dewey is scaling back possible acts to fill the bill this summer to groups like The String Cheese Incident, Ben Harper or Galactic.

But Casper Productions hasn’t given up on bringning the festival back to Buttermilk in the summer of 2001, he said.

“After Red Rocks, Buttermilk is my favorite place to put on a show. It’s aesthetically pleasing, the perfect natural setting, perfect slope, perfect facilities. And bands love coming here,” said Dewey, who has promoted concerts across Colorado and nationwide for Bill Bass Concerts and the House of Blues.

As for the “Harmony Festival,” last summer’s edition might have been the last to use that name. That is, unless the festival’s new financial backers are willing to pay off the outstanding debts from last year’s event in exchange for continued use of the name.

“Festivals, by nature, are one-time deals, with one-time contracts. The next year, everything’s new,” said Neil Karbank, Casper’s attorney. “It’s a name associated with unpaid debts and we’re still discussing whether or not we want to be associated with that name.”

But the benefit of keeping the Harmony Festival name, said Dewey, is the “continuity” – the familiarity to fans. A familiar name seems to go a long way with regular festival attendees, he said.

The Harmony Festival was founded three years ago by local nightclub manager Paul Levine. Neither Levine nor his financial backers, Rob and Steve Murdoch, will be involved with whatever festival takes place this summer.

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