Jam-band crowds ready for Labor Day Fest
SNOWMASS VILLAGE Put the main-stage lineups for last years and this years Labor Day Festivals side by side, and its easy to believe youre looking at two drastically different events. Last years headliners were a hugely diverse lot, including a country singer, a hip-hop artist, a classic rocker and a reggae singer. At the top of the bill this year are three acts aimed roughly at the same jam-band crowd. So, if its not a different event, it at least reflects a change in philosophy for Jazz Aspen Snowmass, which presents the Labor Day Festival, yes?Not really, says Jim Horowitz, Jazz Aspens founder and executive producer.Last year wasnt about a philosophy, Horowitz said. Theres no philosophical change. We just put together a program that was very eclectic, based on who was available.But Horowitz does consider last year a lesson learned. Ticket sales for the extremely eclectic festival were down approximately one-third from the previous few years. That doesnt necessarily mean hip-hop and country and certainly not classic rock have been kicked out of the mix. But moving from country one day to hip-hop to classic rock to reggae might not be an experiment worth repeating.We certainly recognize, coming off last year, that wed reached the boundary of what our market could absorb, in how much different kinds of music we could present, Horowitz said.This years festival, which opens Friday and runs through Monday in Snowmass Town Park, is about as cohesive a lineup as Jazz Aspen has presented in 12 years of Labor Day bashes. Horowitz chalks that up to the presence of the Allman Brothers Band, the first act to commit to this years festival. On the tail of that booking came two additional acts led by members of the Allman Brothers: Govt Mule, led by Allmans singer-guitarist Warren Haynes, is another headliner. Derek Trucks, the other guitarist in the Allmans, leads, along with his wife Susan Tedeschi, the Soul Stew Revival, which plays an opening set.Ben Harper, said Horowitz, is not only a good stylistic fit with the Allmans axis of bands. He also happened to be available to headline the Friday night slot, which Jazz Aspen typically tries to fill with an artist who draws a younger audience. Horowitz added that he has been trying to book the soul-rock singer-guitarist for several years.The slate of opening acts fit comfortably with the overall theme set by the headliners. Socially conscious rockers Michael Franti & Spearhead, New Orleans groove band Galactic, acoustic combo Nickel Creek, and Colorados Leftover Salmon all fall somewhere on the spectrum of positive-vibe jam bands. Singer-songwriter Jackie Greene might have seemed an odd fit if he hadnt recently joined Phil & Friends, led by former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh.The lone wild card day is Saturday, which features two Grammy-winning soul singers, headliner John Legend and, in her local debut, 20-year-old Brit Joss Stone. And if they dont fit so squarely with the rest of the festival, it at least makes for a day of music that has strong internal logic.Labor Day weekend, we walk a fine line between diversity, and trying to make the music relate across the board, summed up Horowitz. Labor Day is a microcosm of what we try to be as an organization. We really try to program from 25 to 65 and that goes against the grain of how music is typically presented. The aim is usually for a niche. It would be easier to program for one audience. But thats not what we are.