Stewy says: Don’t miss these Labor Day shows
It’s going to be the biggest weekend of popular music in the Roaring Fork Valley ever. Neil Young, Tom Petty, Bo Diddley, Sam Bush, Clint Black and many more are coming to town. You can feel the rush of adrenaline pulsing through the valley. And I know exactly what’s on everyone’s mind:What does Stewy think about all this? Who does Stewy want to see? I’m so glad you asked. Because for several months, I’ve been listening to CDs, reading press releases and checking out Web sites, all in an attempt to decide who’s going to rock this Labor Day weekend, and who might be best to skip, so that your energy can be conserved. Four days of festivating is hard work, as we well know.Jazz Aspen has tried to make things easier on us this year by eliminating the noon slot for opening acts. Or so they would have you think. But instead of the noon slot, they have turned the JAS After Dark program into an impossible-to-resist Block Party on the Snowmass Village Mall, starting at 10 p.m., going till who knows when, and featuring multiple acts at various venues. That’s supposed to make my weekend easier?So here’s the lowdown, the Labor Day acts listed in order of importance, from one (run over your grandmother to get there) to 11 (if you happen to be in the neighborhood). In lieu of verbal thanks, please buy me a beer.1. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Sunday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m.Neil Young may be the biggest figure in rock history (despite what Lynyrd Skynyrd has to say on the subject). Young has been a major influence on country rock, grunge, the jam bands and even punk. He came to prominence just after the Beatles, and outlasted them by 33 years and counting. Unlike the Rolling Stones, whose last two decades have been one big rehash, Young is still evolving. He has been more prolific, more stylistically diverse and more popular than Bob Dylan.Now, about this “Greendale” thing. “Greendale” is Young’s new theatrical stage show, complete with actors, sets and 10 new songs. But before this scares you away, consider: a) the “Greendale” shows have gotten excellent reviews; b) Young is slated to play a set of older material after the “Greendale” set; and c) the “Greendale” CD and DVD are now available, so the songs and concept don’t have to be completely unfamiliar.2. Greyboy Allstars, Friday, Aug. 29, 5 p.m.The Greyboy Allstars, formed in San Diego in the early ’90s, set off an explosion of bands playing the groove-jazz style. After the quintet broke up in the late ’90s, two members of the band – saxophonist Karl Denson and keyboardist Robert Walter – went on to significant solo careers. There was no question the Greyboys would regroup; the music was just too good not to, and they still seemed to have ground to cover. In a recent interview, Walter was extremely up on the reunion. The Labor Day Fest is one of just a small handful of reunion dates, and who knows what happens after this run. And most important, the Greyboys are a phenomenal band.So not only should this show not be missed, but it’s probably a good idea to see the band’s late-night gig at the Snowmass Conference Center Friday night.3. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Saturday, Aug. 30, 7 p.m.I saw Tom Petty perform once, opening for Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden, in Dylan’s comatose mid-’80s period. Dylan was such a drag it was hard to remember anything about the show in a positive light.Petty’s latest CD, last year’s “The Last DJ,” showed him in a feisty spirit, holding back nothing in his criticism of the current state of the music industry. And not only did he have balls, but the songs were on a par with anything Petty has done. Lastly, the interview Petty did with Rolling Stone about the album was everything I’d want to hear someone say about America Inc. and the record business in particular.4. North Mississippi Allstars, Sunday, 2 p.m.With their first album, the North Mississippi Allstars instantly became the next great blues-rock outfit. But their follow-up showed little ambition beyond doing what they had already done.Early next month, the Allstars release “Polaris,” and it is a stunner. The band stretches in every which direction – harmony vocals, songwriting, a string section, if you can believe it – and it all works beautifully. Whether this has any impact on their already smoking live shows, I don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out.5. Sam Bush, Monday, Sept. 1, 4:15 p.m.Sam Bush is already an unsung hero of the Labor Day Festival. In 2000, he played back-to-back sets with Bla Fleck & the Flecktones and Lyle Lovett, which made for one of the two best festival days yet (along with last year’s Gov’t Mule/Phil Lesh & Friends day). Bush returns, this time with his band, and while bluegrass doesn’t always go over great on the huge Labor Day stage – remember Nickel Creek at last year’s fest – Bush has more than a little experience rocking the bigger crowds.6. Susan Tedeschi, Sunday, 4:30 p.m.Blueswoman Susan Tedeschi is not only a ripping guitarist and mighty singer, but she now comes touched with the Grateful Dead curse. Tedeschi toured as a vocalist with the Other Ones last year, helping pave the way for the rebirth of the Dead. She seems to have a greater interest in her own career, though, and yielded her spot in the Dead to Joan Osborne. It’s a good move: her CD from last year, “Wait for Me,” is a winner.Tedeschi also shows good taste in men. She is married to guitarist Derek Trucks, a fine gentleman and amazing musician.7. Alpha Blondy, Friday, 7:30 p.m.Prior to his appearance at the 2001 Labor Day Festival, African reggae singer Alpha Blondy was best known locally for not showing up. Twice he was booked to play in Aspen, and twice he canceled.After his majestic, festival-closing set in 2001, it is safe to call Alpha Blondy one of the most potent reggae singers today. His recent CDs – last year’s “Merci,” and the live “Paris Bercy” – are grand, all-encompassing statements on politics, morality and the spirit.8. Leftover Salmon, Saturday, 2 p.m.Put Leftover Salmon in a festival setting, and watch the sparks fly. This date should make up for last winter’s Wheeler gig, when the band got caught in a snowstorm, showed up just before curtain time, with frontman Vince Herman nursing a serious sickness – and still put on an acceptable show.Leftover has a new CD, “Everything Is Round,” produced by Little Feat’s Billy Payne, in the can and looking for a business deal. It is their first CD of original material with new banjoist Noam Pickelny, and their first of new, original material since 1997.9. Asleep at the Wheel, Monday, 2 p.m.Asleep at the Wheel is the second-greatest Texas swing band, after Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. And while it is well on the fringe, Texas swing, which combines country and jazz, is one of the more intriguing hybrids of American music. Asleep at the Wheel’s 1999 tribute to Bob Wills, “Ride with Bob,” which featured Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, the Dixie Chicks and a lot more, earned four Grammy Awards and is a classic of the genre.At 6-foot-7, singer-guitarist and Asleep at the Wheel founder Ray Benson will likely be the tallest performer at the festival.10. Clint Black, Monday, 6:30 p.m.About all I know about Clint Black, apart from the fact that he is a superstar of country music and that he played on Asleep at the Wheel’s “Ride with Bob,” is that he’s married to Lisa Hartman. And I have no idea who she is.Black’s latest song is the flag-waving “I Raq and Roll.” I have the feeling that Black is not right in the mold of the Jazz Aspen performer. 11. Bo Diddley, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.In favor of seeing Bo Diddley: I’ve never seen him. He’s opened a lot of dates recently for Tom Petty, meaning Petty probably finds him a good performer. He’s the only musician to have a guitar lick named for him.Against: Bo played at the Double Diamond some years ago, and while I missed it, my sources universally thought it dreadful.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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