Local music scene will soon start to heat up | AspenTimes.com

Local music scene will soon start to heat up

Stewart OksenhornAspen Times Staff Writer

Given the state of the music scene in the valley these days, a lot of musicians have had to downgrade their ambitions. But though smaller shows are the trend in the valley these days, those looking for more recognizable names have much to feast upon in the days, weeks and months ahead.Steve Earle, the country renegade who follows in the footsteps of Willie Nelson, Merl Haggard and the late pair of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, plays a solo show at the Wheeler Opera House on Saturday, Jan. 17. Earle has been earning almost as much notoriety lately for his politics as for his music. Last year saw the release of the documentary film Just an American Boy, which combined concert footage with an examination of Earles activism, especially his work and words against the death penalty. A companion recording, a live, two-CD set of the same name, includes commentary about American democracy and speaking out against the establishment, as well as the death penalty.In a display of venue creativity, Iguanas will host hard-core ska band Fishbone on Jan. 26. A stop on the bands Yellow Snow tour, the concert will also include sets by OPM and Bargain Music.The Aspen Skiing Co. is celebrating the X Games with a concert by California punk band the Offspring on Jan. 27 in downtown Aspen, with a location yet to be determined. The band, formed in Orange County in the mid-80s, has a new album, their seventh, Splinter.Corey Harris, whose sound combines the roots of African and American styles, brings his 5 x 5 Band to the Wheeler. Harris has a new CD, Mississippi to Mali, on the Rounder label.Bering Strait, a country-bluegrass band based in Nashville but founded in Russia, where its members hail from, makes its Aspen debut Feb. 9 at the Wheeler. Emmylou Harris, whose latest album Stumble Into Grace has earned a spot on many best of 2003 lists, plays the Wheeler Feb. 14-15, backed only by a guitarist. The shows, like the Bering Strait concert, are presented by the Wheeler Associates, whose recent revival has been a boon for the local music scene. The Wheeler Associates, an independent organization dedicated to bringing shows and providing support to the Opera House, has been behind the appearances in the last year by Mose Allison, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis and Peter Cincotti.The Wheelers own Beyond Bluegrass Festival of Acoustic Music returns for a fourth edition March 24-28. Among the acts scheduled are Phillips, Grier & Flinner (March 24), Rhonda Vincent & the Rage (March 25) and the Seldom Scene (March 27).And looking way ahead into the distant summer, Al Green will be the Saturday night headliner, June 26, at the Jazz Aspen June Festival. And among the acts for the JASummerNights Gala is retro-swing band Big Bad Voodoo. The Gala, set for July 24, has been expanded into a multi-venue event, and relocated to Aspen Highlands.