Honorable Mention: Michael Goldberg | AspenTimes.com

Honorable Mention: Michael Goldberg

(Mark Fox/Aspen Times Weekly)

Michael Goldberg missed the music as much as anybody. When the Double Diamond announced its closing, in the fall of 2003, the Aspenite waved goodbye to the space where he had memories of seeing live performances by Jimmy Buffett and Warren Zevon, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and G. Love & Special Sauce. But while some local concertgoers contemplated relocating to more music-filled locales, or stayed and bemoaned Aspen’s empty status as the country’s hardest-partying ski town, Goldberg took action and announced the coming of the Belly Up nightclub.

Goldberg’s ambition was evident before the club even opened. In a push for a high-profile opening that coincided with the rocking X Games weekend, crews worked around the clock in the final days of January. The Belly Up, a sister club to the Belly Up in Solana Beach, Calif., owned by Goldberg’s brother Steve, made a splash with an opening week lineup that featured hip-hop stars the Roots and Aspen favorite G. Love.Located underground in the old Double Diamond space, the Belly Up hasn’t stopped splashing since. And while Goldberg himself hasn’t appeared regularly in the headlines, his phenomenal club has been the talk of the town.

Goldberg, a Red Mountain resident who is the president of two Florida-based airline companies, promised big names, diverse sounds and a space that would appeal to the broadest possible audience. He has delivered on all counts, raising the bar significantly from the days of the Double Diamond. Fans of the old Double D who feared the club would lose its funk in an extreme makeover have been happily surprised by the casual vibe of the Belly Up (which permits all ages at its shows). Those who never set foot in the former club are enticed by the upgrades to the interior, the no-smoking policy, and the custom of closing ticket sales before the dance floor resembles a sardine can. No one is happier with the results than Goldberg himself, who can count on one hand the number of nights he’s missed. And he can prove his attendance record; his photographs of the bands fill the walls.

Already, the Belly Up has had its share of buzz-worthy performances, including those by Lucinda Williams, Dickey Betts and, making a rare club appearance, Chris Isaak. The club kicked it up another notch recently when it was announced that soul singer Seal would cap the Belly Up’s first Christmas/New Year’s week. The ticket prices for Seal – topping out at $350 – raised eyebrows. But Goldberg shrugged off any worries. Seal’s show is sold out.

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