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Hometown and high-profile

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspenite Barry Smith presents the world premiere of his one-person show, "American Squatter," at Steve's Guitars in May. (Paul Conrad/Aspen Times Weekly)
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It’s (almost) all about the hometown artists this spring. And that means some surprisingly high-profile entertainment on local stages and screens. Humorist Barry Smith and musician John Oates test out their latest projects at Steve’s Guitars; writer Clifford Irving and snowboarder Chris Klug see their stories on the big screen. And, of course, the resident singers, painters and musicians get their turn to shine as the herds leave town.Here’s what’s going on until the summer opens. (That would be June 8-10, with the Chili Pepper & Brew Fest in Snowmass Village).Asylum Street Spankers; Sunday, April 15; Thunder River Theatre, CarbondaleThe latest album by the Asylum Street Spankers is a children’s album. But don’t expect pandering singalongs in this show. “Mommy Says No!” featuring such songs as “Boogers” and “You Only Love Me for My Lunchbox,” is not too far removed from the Austin group’s usual crazed swing. And the show features only a few songs from the kids’ CD; concertgoers can count on more typical Spankers’ fare like “Insane Asylum” and “D.R.I.N.K.”For more on Asylum Street Spankers, see the Friday, April 13 edition of The Aspen Times, or go to http://www.aspentimes.com/section/ae.Wheeler FilmsWith the Isis grounded for a good chunk of the spring, and the Wheeler short on live events, look for the Wheeler Film Series to step up with lots of dates and some atypically high-profile titles.The calendar is set through April, with the English coming-of-age comedy “Starter For 10” (Sunday and Tuesday, April 15 and 17); a program of the 2006 Oscar-nominated, live-action short films (April 28); and “Miss Potter,” a fanciful portrait of Beatrix Potter, starring Renée Zellweger as the children’s book author (April 29-30).John Prine; Monday, April 16; Wheeler Opera HouseJohn Prine, the distinguished 60-year-old singer-songwriter, had his last valley appearance at the Snowmass Conference Center. This time through, he gets the more appropriate setting of the Wheeler Opera House. Singer-songwriter Mindy Smith, whose new CD, “Long Island Shores,” reflects on her family and heritage in suburban New York, opens.

For more on Prine, see Current Events in this edition of The Aspen Times Weekly.In Search of Duende; opening Tuesday, April 17; Anderson Ranch Arts CenterThirty-four visual artists – all locals – explore “duende,” what Federico Garcia Lorca described as “an inexplicable power of attraction” that fuels creativity. The exhibit runs through May 18.”The Hoax”In the early ’70s, Clifford Irving hatched a most implausible scheme – to write a bogus “authorized” biography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. Irving, who now lives in Aspen, and his co-conspirator Dick Suskind pushed their plot to the absolute limit before being busted. In the screen version, Richard Gere stars as Irving, and director Lasse Hallström goes easy on the moralizing to focus on Irving’s brazenness, and the improbable near-success of his antic. “The Hoax” is based on Irving’s own memoir of the exploit, which landed him a year-plus in jail.Several other films with Aspen ties are set for release this spring. “September Dawn” (May 4), by valley resident Christopher Cain, stars Jon Voight in the true story of a religion-fueled massacre in 1857 Utah. Director Garry Marshall’s “Georgia Rule” (May 11) features Aspen product Felicity Huffman – as well as Lindsay Lohan and Jane Fonda – in a drama of mother-and-daughter issues. “Away From Her” (May 11), the directorial debut of actress Sarah Polley, was to have had a sneak preview last week at Aspen Shortsfest, until Polley pulled out of her scheduled appearance. The film is adapted from an Alice Munro short story about an enduring marriage. Part-time Aspenite Kevin Costner plays a family man/business tycoon/serial killer in the thriller “Mr. Brooks” (June 1).Other films with potential: “Year of the Dog” (currently in limited national release), an offbeat comedy and the directorial debut of writer Mike White (“The Good Girl,” “School of Rock”); “Lonely Hearts” (currently released), starring Jared Leto and Salma Hayek as homicidal lovers; “Snow Cake” (April 25), about the friendship between an autistic woman (Sigourney Weaver) and a traumatized man (Alan Rickman); and “Boss Of It All” (May 25), a comedy by Danish director Lars von Trier, whose past output includes the very uncomedic “Breaking the Waves” and “Dogville.”

Belly Up, various dates through offseasonFor those who lament the vanishing offseason, Belly Up is the devil, intent on obliterating the concept of offseason altogether. For the music fan stuck in Aspen this spring, Belly Up is the holy savior; as the final days of ski season melt away, the club acts as if it’s gearing up for Christmas-New Year’s week.The spring highlight at Belly Up looks to be the Aspen debut of Drive-By Truckers (May 11). The Southern-rock quintet has been known for combining shot-and-a-beer guitar rock with high-minded ideas; their breakthrough CD was 2004’s “Southern Rock Opera,” a concept album of Southern culture and history revolving around Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Truckers’ current acoustic tour, dubbed The Dirt Underneath, is a tribute to a whiskey-soaked, four-hour set played on a North Carolina farm in 2001.Other dates of note at Belly Up: Slightly Stoopid, headlining a triple-shot from Los Angeles, with Outlaw Nation and Wylde Bunch (Thursday, April 19); New York downtown club band Brazilian Girls, whose smart, sexy, dangerous album “Talk to La Bomb” was a high point of 2006 (Friday, April 20); reggae icon Toots & the Maytals (April 25); reggae singer Gregory Isaacs (May 27); 29-year-old bluesman Joe Bonamassa (May 28); and the return of gypsy punkers Gogol Bordello (June 9).

“The Broadway Players Go Hollywood”; Thursday and Friday, April 19-20; WheelerThe Broadway Players, a troupe of Aspen’s finest song-and-dance people, abandon the Big Apple and the stage in favor of Tinseltown and the big screen for this year’s production. The scope is broader than ever, with the songlist ranging from a medley from the 1952 musical “Singin’ In the Rain”; to “Everybody’s Talking at Me,” the theme from the seamy 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy”; to “My Heart Will Go On,” Celine Dion’s syrupy contribution to the 1997 romantic tragedy “Titanic.”Two things haven’t changed: The performances are free. And the talent merits charging a lot more than that.”Ride of Your Life”; Saturday, April 21; WheelerThe story of Aspen snowboarder Chris Klug – who won an Olympic medal after having a liver transplant – made for an excellent autobiography, “To the Edge and Back.” Now the story is on the big screen; “Ride of Your Life” documents Klug’s competitive side on the Snowboard World Cup Tour, while also offering a look at the other momentous reality of his life – what it’s like to wait for the donated organ that will save a life. The film earned Best Extreme Sports Film honors at the Delray Beach Film Festival.The screening will be followed by a set from local acoustic group the Coyote Gospel.Koo Jeong-A, Distinguished Artist in Residence; beginning April 23; Aspen Art MuseumKoo Jeong-A is well traveled; a South Korean native, the artist is now based in London and Berlin. She will bring a sense of that geographical diversity to the installation she creates as the Aspen Art Museum’s Distinguished Artist in Residence. On her visit last month to Aspen, Koo Jeong-A visited Marble and the Krabloonik kennels in Snowmass; the exhibit is expected to include a snowman made of marble, and a sound recording of the Krabloonik dogs. She will also recreate an installation she did previously at the Venice Biennale, made of glass pebbles and stadium lights. “She wants to see how a work translates in different environments, how it looks and feels different in Aspen than it did in Venice,” said Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director of the Aspen Art Museum.The residency begins April 23, and the public is invited to observe Koo Jeong-A’s process. The exhibition opens May 29; a reception, with a conversation between the artist and Jacobson, is set for June 29.John Oates, April 25, Steve’s GuitarsWoody Creeker – and half of the soul duo Hall & Oates – John Oates makes a rare appearance on his own with the debut of his new show, “The Stories Behind the Songs.” With just a guitar and his voice (and the occasional assistance of keyboardist Jed Lieber), Oates will play stripped-down versions of the songs, and take listeners inside the music, revealing the inspirations behind such songs as “She’s Gone,” “Italian Girls” and “Little Angel.”Oates also takes the show on the road for one night, April 27 at the Oriental Theater in Denver.

Four Thursday Nights: Minus; beginning April 26; Aspen Art MuseumFour Thursday Nights, the Art Museum’s spring film and video series, is tagged with the theme of “Minus.” “One of the things that bonds these four artists is reductiveness,” said museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson. “They’re always taking things away.”In Kota Ezawa’s “The Simpson Verdict,” which opens the series, what’s taken away is a sense of reality. Ozawa’s film is an animated take on the last moments of O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. “His reductive technique emphasizes the supreme moment, when O.J. smiles ever so slightly,” said Jacobson. Ezawa will be in attendance to present the film.David Hammon’s “Phat Free” is seemingly devoid of movement. The opening moments seem like a still image, with sound substituted for action. Only at the end is the source of the sound revealed.The films will be presented on consecutive Thursday evenings, beginning April 26. Each piece will run for one week following the opening. Barry Smith’s “American Squatter”; May 5-6; Steve’s Guitars, CarbondaleAspen humorist (and Aspen Times columnist) Barry Smith continues to bask in the glory of his first one-man show, “Jesus in Montana”; this summer, Smith and his 1992 Dodge Ram 250 will spend four months touring Canada with the multimedia performance about his search for Jesus. In Montana.Before he departs, Smith will kick off the next phase of his life. “American Squatter” has its world premiere with two shows at Steve’s Guitars. The format is the same as “Jesus in Montana,” with Smith’s commentary accompanied by an audiovisual presentation. And Smith once again reaches into an adventure from his free-wheeling past; this time, his experience squatting in a decrepit London building.”And everything leading up to it: the relationship between my father, who really liked cleaning things, and me, who didn’t, and punk rock, skateboarding and hallucinogenic drugs,” he said. “Next thing you know, you’re living in abandoned flats in London.”Symphony in the Valley, May 12, at 7 p.m., Harris Hall; and May 13, at 2:30 p.m., Glenwood Springs High SchoolSymphony in the Valley concludes a big season in a big way. This year’s annual Mother’s Day concerts has the local orchestra making its Harris Hall debut. And its season of collaboration with other arts groups closes with a performance of Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” an oratorio that will feature school, church and community choirs from throughout the valley. Soloists for the piece are Scott MacCracken, Paul Dankers and Heidi Paul.The concerts also feature performances by the winners of the symphony’s Young Artists Concerto Competition. Vocalist Katrina Klawiter, a sixth-grader at Aspen Middle School, will sing Franck’s “Panis Angelicus.” Violist Stephanie Mientka, a senior from Grand Junction, will be the soloist in a Karl Stamitz concerto. And Marybeth Riskey, a senior from Eagle, will be featured in a Mendelssohn piano concerto.Diana Jones, June 7, Steve’s Guitars, CarbondaleCarbondale’s little listening room has become established enough to attract genuine name acts. Among those in Steve’s Guitars’ packed spring schedule are singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa (May 3), a hero in America’s Hispanic culture, and blueswoman Rory Block (May 22-23), who has twice earned the W.C. Handy Awards for best acoustic blues album.But Steve’s remains a place to discover little-known musicians on the way up, like Diana Jones. A Nashville singer-songwriter, Jones first recorded a decade ago. After an 8-year break between albums, she re-emerged with last year’s spellbinding “My Remembrance of You.” From the low-key acoustic sounds to the somber emotional tones to the peasant dress she wears in the cover photo, Jones is strongly reminiscent of Gillian Welch. Not a bad thing at all; wouldn’t you like to say you saw “the next Gillian Welch” in a 70-seat venue?Other dates of note at Steve’s: Local blues boys Big Daddy Lee & the King Bees (Thursday, April 19 and 26); and Paonia bluegrass group Sweet Sunny South (May 4).Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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