It was just exactly what Aspen needs – a good time
Aspen’s Harmony Festival has once again proven that, even in this jaded, over-amped resort, we can still have a plain old kick-out-the-jams good time if we put our minds to it.
Just to be clear about this – the Harmony Festival, in its third year, was deliberately and decidedly not your typical Aspen event.
First, the tickets were well within a price range affordable by a motley assortment of hippies (aging and otherwise), New Agers and counterculture hard cores, locals and visitors alike.
Second, the event was put on by what can only be called Aspen’s cadre of dedicated non-elites, namely Paul Levine and his partners, who have for years been striving to bring Aspen’s generally alienated younger set into the mainstream of city life.
And thirdly, the event overall was a grand example of controlled chaos, from the preparation phase (in which Levine was marvelously spontaneous in the face of every attempt to force him into a mold) to the execution of the weekend itself.
Certainly, there were some problems, as there almost always are in such instances.
Traffic and parking, to mention the most obvious and oft-cited criticism, were an unmitigated nightmare. True – and correctable. And, at worst, over in a weekend.
On a more practical level, the beers sold at the alcohol concession were a little pricey ($4 a cup), a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things and also correctable.
And, predictably, there were a few arrests, seemingly the result of an unsurprising mix of overexuberance on the part of concertgoers and overconsumption of various mood-altering substances. But none of these incidents was a serious breach of the peace, a fact that attests to the promoters’ skills in putting on an entirely satisfying show that left most observers smiling.
But the two-day concert itself was not the only success to be pointed out and celebrated. All over town, every day and night, a lot of local businesses were packed to the gills with every imaginable variety of human. Bars did a booming trade, and local stores likely saw a boost in their sales, though we won’t know that for some time.
Although some were actually complaining that there were too many people flowing along the malls and the sidewalks, and that there was quite a mess to be cleaned up on Monday after the weekend’s festivities ended, it is difficult to give much credence to such complaints. This was “messy vitality” at its finest, and it hearkened back to a time when Aspen was not known so much for its adherence to the conventions of boutique culture, but for its diversity and its hospitality and, above all, its love of a good time.
And then there was the music. Two nationally renowned bands, Widespread Panic and Ratdog, led a lineup that was remarkable in the quality of their music and the professionalism of their presentations. And the sound system was so consistently clear and well managed that even at the top of the concert zone on the lower slopes of Buttermilk, one could hear every note as if standing at the edge of the stage. In fact, at times it even sounded better up on the hill than down below.
All told, the promoters of this event have every right to be proud of what they have conceived and carried through. It is to be hoped – no, expected – that this event will become an annual part of Aspen’s list of attractions, and that it will only get better as the years roll along.
It was a good time. And Aspen needs all the good times it can get.
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