Opening acts: Not-to-miss gigs in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Opening acts: Not-to-miss gigs in Aspen

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesThe Travelin McCourys Robbie McCoury, Jason Carter, Alan Bartram and Ronnie McCoury, left to right perform at Belly Up Aspen in April, opening for Hot Buttered Rum.

ASPEN I mentioned to a local concert presenter recently the subject of opening acts. The cringing of his face was audible, even over the phone. No one wants to see an opening act. They can barely stay awake through the headliner as it is, he told me. Thus bringing the conversation to an abrupt halt.I understand the sentiment well. Shows start late enough for those of us who are not childless, bar-and-restaurant, substance-fortified night crawlers. I see a 10 p.m. showtime at Belly Up Aspen, opening act included, and I know, if I want to see good portion of the main event, I wont be in bed till 1 a.m. And my daughters alarm clock makes no allowances for how late I stay out. Possibly my favorite Belly Up moment was catching the entirety of Bla Fleck & the Flecktones 7 p.m. gig (hurray for bands that warrant two shows in a night, making possible an early show), getting home, and looking at the clock: 8:50 p.m. Man, could I use more of those.But I have seen opening acts that opened my eyes. The Felice Brothers made it onto my radar with an excellent set at Belly Up last winter, warming up for Drive-By Truckers. Brett Dennens Belly Up show last May introduced two separate singer-songwriters Mason Jennings and Missy Higgins both of whom would now probably draw well as headliners. Last weeks show by Socialibrium was opened by a unique and talented Denver trio, Meniskus.And way, way back when, I went to see Ted Nugent. The opening act that night in Binghamton, N.Y. didnt exactly win over the audience; they actually got booed offstage. But that wasnt the last that people heard from the Van Halen brothers. Several opening acts coming to Belly Up in the weeks ahead warrant special attention. The Hill Country Revue, playing Jan. 28, is actually a side project of two-thirds of that nights headliner, the North Mississippi Allstars. Drummer Cody Dickinson and bassist Chris Chew launched Hill Country Revue several years ago with a multi-generational theme; it originally featured Codys dad Jim Dickinson, as well as RL Burnside, father of former Allstar Duwayne Burnside. It has since morphed into a younger quintet that bills itself as the modern blues band for a new generation.New Yorker Jesse Harris, best known for helping Norah Jones into the spotlight by writing her first hit, Dont Know Why, opens for fellow singer-songwriter Joshua Radin on Feb. 23. Harris latest CD, Watching the Sky, is set for release the following week.Probably the most intriguing opening act is also the furthest off: the Travelin McCourys, who open for Hot Buttered Rum on April 8. The McCourys are bluegrass monsters the Del McCoury Band minus Del, the father of band members Ronnie and Robbie McCoury. At their Wheeler Opera House gig last March, the elder McCoury was a little winded and forgot a few lyrics. It will be quite interesting to see what the younger foursome, who have been following Dels lead for years, will do once unchained from the patriarch. Do they remain traditionalists, appearing in their familiar suits? Does Ronnies love for the Grateful Dead take over, with the band sporting tie-dyes and jamming Dead tunes? Cant wait to find out.Some other opening acts not to whine and moan about: New York City jammers Turbine (Feb. 16, with Galactic); Australian sibling act Angus & Julia Stone (April 1, with Brett Dennen); 24-year-old California singer-songwriter Jesse Baylin (Jan. 31, with Marc Broussard). Finally, Gary Jules (March 11, opening for Donavon Frankenreiter). In addition to being huge in Britain (seriously) and contributing a cover of Tears for Fears Mad World to the Donnie Darko soundtrack, Jules is a thoughtful soul. He once sent me a bag of Hawaiis best coffee, that is in appreciation for writing a story on him.stewart@aspentimes.com