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Prepare to be entertained this off-season

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Larry CraggThe concert documentary "Neil Young Trunk Show" is at Aspen's Wheeler Opera House on Saturday, April 17.
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ASPEN – We’ve got Neil Young (not in the flesh). We’ve got “Avatar” (not in 3-D). We’ve got the Doors, Tool, the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd (actually, their tribute band avatars, also not in 3-D). We’ve got a batch of Academy Award-nominated films (not in English). We’ve got an award-winning monologuist (not Spalding Gray; he’s dead).Yep, that’s off-season for you.But before we bemoan the ersatz quality of this spring’s cultural offerings in the valley, let’s consider how much we have. We’ve got Heartless Bastards and Restless Empathy. We’ve got Fishbone, Redbone, Lipbone, a new album by Trombone Shorty, and concerts, films and more in ‘Bonedale. We’ve got the Belly Up – and at least one night of top-rate, kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll there. We’ve got festivals, a packed May movie calendar at the Wheeler.And lest we forget, we’ve got another over-stuffed summer barreling down at us, set to intrude on our quietude just seven weeks hence. So between now and June 4, when the Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brewfest kicks off the busy season, let’s bask in the fact that we can train proper attention on the following spring events.• Daniel Sprick showing through April 29, CMC Gallery, Glenwood Springs – Yes, the realism in the work of Glenwood Springs painter Daniel Sprick is astonishing. But Sprick is not only technically gifted; he has an ability to bring objects to emotional life. And human subjects, too; this exhibition marks a full-force return to human faces and figures. It is a measure of Sprick’s talent for getting under the surface that some of his models are apparently unhappy with the results.• “Romance/Romance” through April 24, Snowmass Chapel – The 1988 musical “Romance/Romance” was a small-scale production, launched Off-Off Broadway. But it proved big, earning several Tony nominations. The Snowmass Chapel goes big, too: Actors John Goss, who also directs, and Peggy Mundinger are supported by a three-piece band, and the chapel itself gets a sophisticated transformation into a theater. It shows tonight and Saturday, and again next weekend.• “White Ribbon” Friday, April 16, Wheeler Opera House – German director Michael Haneke’s film uses the strange happenings in a small German village just before World War I to hint at the horrors to come. “The White Ribbon” earned not only an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film, but also one for cinematography; its textured black-and-white tone, and the visual treatment of the characters is striking.Also, consider this a hint of things to come in the Wheeler Film Series. The May calendar should be filled with more Oscar-nominated foreign fare. • Aspen Choral Society. Friday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m., United Methodist Church, Glenwood Springs, and Saturday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m., Aspen Chapel – The Aspen Choral Society’s spring concert is capped by the premiere of “The Poets Landscape,” poetry set to string quartet music composed by Choral Society director, composer and conductor Ray V. Adams. For a complete story, see page B8 in this section.• “Neil Young Trunk Show” Saturday, April 17, Wheeler – Why another Neil Young concert documentary from director Jonathan Demme, after Demme’s 2006 film, “Heart of Gold?” If you’ve seen “Heart of Gold,” or are a Neil fan, or know what Demme can do with a concert film (he also made the Talking Heads movie “Stop Making Sense,” probably the best concert doc ever), you wouldn’t ask this question. “Trunk Show,” filmed in 2007 – two years after “Heart of Gold” – features a new batch of songs, and another close look at perhaps the greatest rocker ever.• Dr. Dog Monday, April 19, Belly Up – Dr. Dog makes contemporary music that doesn’t shy away from connections to ’60s psychedelic rock. Wilco and the Flaming Lips are worthwhile points of comparison. The Philadelphia quintet’s new album “Shame, Shame,” released last week, shows flashes of punk, pop and country. Opening is the reggae-splashed New York rock band Sean Bones.• Other nights of note at Belly Up: the deepest voice in rap, Chali2Na (Tuesday, April 20); neo-Vaudevillian Leon Redbone in his Belly Up debut (May 6); Minnesota string band Trampled by Turtles, with their brand-new album, “Palomino” (May 13); Ohio garage-rock quartet the Heartless Bastards (May 14); Southern-rock group Drive-By Truckers with Arizona trio Meat Puppets (May 15; see below for more); and modern ska band Fishbone (May 30).And tribute bands, of course: the Spazmatics provide the soundtrack – Duran Duran, Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper – for an ’80s prom party (May 28); Colorado’s Dead Floyd pays simultaneous tribute to the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd (May 20); and Wild Child opens the Doors catalog (May 29).Belly Up also has movies. Free movies. Often with free popcorn. The spring features kicks off on a musical note with “Crazy Heart” (Wednesday, April 21), starring Oscar winner Jeff Bridges as a clichd country singer, and there’s also the musical “Nine” (May 11) and the Doors documentary “When You’re Strange” (May 18). But not all the films are music-oriented. There’s “Avatar” (April 27), “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” (May 3) and “The Road” (May 25).• Aspen Country Day School, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” April 23-24, Wheeler – Stephen Sondheim’s musical, a farce set in ancient Rome, earned the 1962 Tony Award for best musical. It has lived on in countless high school auditoriums; Aspen Country Day School gives it a go at the Wheeler.• Aspen Eco-Fest April 24-25, Inn at Aspen – This new event features the Eco Swap Meet and the Green Tie Ball at the Inn at Aspen, a Clunker Bike Criterium through downtown, an Environmental Art Show at the Red Brick Center for the Arts – and such informal activities as the competition to see who uses the word “sustainable” most over two days, and debates over whether the “organic” label has lost all meaning.• 5Point Film Festival April 29-May 2, Carbondale – The 5Point Film Festival isn’t just films; there are book signing, art exhibitions and, sure to be a hit in this, its third year, an ice cream social dedicated to the memory of Art Cerre, the late father of 5Point founder Julie Kennedy. But yes, they have films – more than 25 of them, all aimed at the soul of adventure, exploration and environmentalism. Among the coolest: “Border Country,” a dynamic animated film about death, perseverance and establishing a new climbing route in Yosemite; “Tibet: Murder in the Snow,” a documentary about young Tibetans crossing the Himalayas to see the Dalai Lama; and “As It Happens,” a mountaineering film created in real time – and at 21,000 feet – using digital cameras, solar energy, a satellite modem and two laptops.• Symphony in the Valley Mother’s Day Concerts May 8, Rifle High School and May 9, Glenwood Springs High School – Symphony in the Valley’s Young Artists Concerto Competition has attracted musicians near and far. This year’s winners, spotlighted in the Mother’s Day Concerts, are soprano Nelly Weiser, a junior at Aspen High, and pianist Ko-Nung Huang, a graduate student at New Jersey’s Rutgers University. Weiser will sing “O mio babbino caro,” from the Puccini opera “Gianni Schicchi” (a familiar tune, but a curious choice for a Mother’s Day Concert – the title translates as “Oh my dear papa”); and Huang will play Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor.Also on the program: excerpts from Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, Holsinger’s Prelude and Rondo, and Britten’s arrangements of Rossini’s Soires Musicales.• Jessica Fichot May 9, Steve’s Guitars, Carbondale – Little Steve’s gets an international flavor as Paris-bred, L.A-based singer-accordionist Jessica Fichot brings her French chansons to ‘Bonedale.Also at Steve’s: Virginia bluegrass-gospel girl group, Gold Heart (April 16); master of the lip trombone, Lipbone Redding (May 7); Delta County pickers Sweet Sunny South, introducing their new album, “Carried Off By a Twister” (May 22); and bluegrass girl Martha Scanlan (May 28). And on May 14, Steve himself turns 60. Expect an appropriately musical and celebratory night.• Restless Empathy opening May 20, Aspen Art Museum – For the group exhibition Restless Empathy, eight artists will create works, in the museum and around Aspen, that reach out to viewers, inviting them into moments of connection and intimacy. Among the featured items: a hippo sculpture, quotes from Albert Schweitzer and Hunter S. Thompson; a performance of the musical “I’ve Had It!” which premiered in Aspen, in 1951; and, in the museum’s lower gallery, a canvas-covered merry-go-round. A public reception is set for June 24.Currently showing, and running through May 9: works by Dave McKenzie, a New Yorker who uses a variety of mediums and methods to explore the gaps, in communication and time, that exist between people. Opening Friday, April 23 is Person, an exhibition by the Young Curators of the Roaring Fork.• Drive-By Truckers, with Meat Puppets opening, May 15, Belly Up – A full night of full-on rock ‘n’ roll. The Alabama-born, Georgia-based Drive-By Truckers have reinvigorated Southern rock through a series of highly praised, high-minded albums, including this year’s “The Big To-Do.” The Southern element is absent from Meat Puppets – they have called Arizona home since the early ’80s – but they bring a similar punch-to-the-gut to their music.• “Every Job I’ve Ever Had” May 29, Steve’s Guitars – Sewage-system cleaner (using a broom handle as his tool). Security guard (for one night). Bartender (at the age of 13). A/V guy. Juggler. Aspenite Barry Smith has held plenty of work experience (let’s not forget Aspen Times columnist), but the one he seems best at is taking his experiences and turning them into unique, multi-media stage performances. This appearance is billed as a final script reading before he hits the Canadian fringe-festival circuit for the summer, but there is a visual element as well – including the card, issued by the state of California, certifying Smith as a professional photocopier.• Films various dates – Yes, we’ll get “Iron Man 2” and “Shrek Infinity.” Here are the films we only hope will get here – if not this spring, then sometime.”After.Life,” a creepy drama about a girl, still sentient, about to be buried, with a cast led by Liam Neeson and Christina Ricci; “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a mouse-chases-cat documentary by the shadowy graffiti artist Banksy; “Handsome Harry,” a drama of an ex-Navy man digging up a long-ago crime, featuring indie icons Steve Buscemi and Campbell Scott; “Agora,” a historical drama set in ancient Egypt, by Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenbar (“The Sea Inside”) and starring Rachel Weisz; “Holy Rollers,” about a Hasidic Jew smuggling ecstasy into the U.S., starring the appealing Jesse Eisenberg.Also: “The Oath,” a documentary that uses the stories of two men to explore Al-Qaeda, Sept. 11 and the American legal system; Colombian-born filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia’s “Mother and Child,” the intersecting stories of three women (Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington) whose lives are affected by adoption; “Please Give,” by Nicole Holofcener (“Friends with Money,” “Lovely and Amazing”), about New Yorkers (Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt) waiting for a neighbor to die so they can expand their own apartment; “Don McKay,” a comedic thriller about a rekindled romance; “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” an award-winner at Cannes set in Iran’s underground music scene; the Argentinean crime saga “The Secret in Their Eyes,” winner of the Oscar for best foreign language film; and “Accidents Happen,” a dark suburban family drama set in 1980s New England.stewart@aspentimes.com


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