Yacht Rock Revue brings its easy, breezy sound back to Belly Up

Katherine Roberts
Special to The Aspen Times
Yacht Rock Revue is all about the good times.
Zach Wetzel and Mike Mulholland

Local favorite Yacht Rock Revue returns to the Belly Up tonight for another sold-out show. The songs remain the same as they have since approximately 1979, but the performances always vary.

“You’re not going to hear the same songs in the same order every time. There are no songs that we absolutely have to play every time. Both sides have to stay engaged, the audience and the band. We try to keep it fresh for ourselves, in that we’re always adding new songs,” said singer Nick Niespodziani, the hot dad in tight jeans who helms this ship and the motley crew onstage.

“A lot of guys in the band want to add really obscure, deep cuts to the set list,” he said, but audiences are always guaranteed a singalong of their favorite AM Gold songs, no matter what unique material the band decides to perform each night, which is what Niespodziani thinks sets Yacht Rock Revue apart from other cover bands.

And speaking of “Hot Dads in Tight Jeans,” that’s the name of the band’s album of original material. The musicians completed the project a few years ago; then, in February of 2020, while the band was playing a show in Denver, having just left a performance in Aspen, “the whole tour that was supposed to support it didn’t happen,” Niespodziani said, so they’re always trying to incorporate material of their own into their sets during their current slate of shows.

“We wanted to meld the yacht rock sound with something more modern. Some combination of us as real people and us as the characters in Yacht Rock Revue. The process of making the album was so satisfying and so fun,” he said.

Frontman and lead singer of Yacht Rock Revue, Nicholas Niespodziani.
Zach Wetzel and Mike Mulholland

As for how that original material, such as an upbeat tune entitled “Step” is received by fans, Niespodziani said, “They’re some of the best received songs of the entire night. That our audience is willing to take in a few new songs every show helps keep our energy up as artists. The whole idea felt very risky when we decided to make our own album. It’s an interesting challenge, writing-wise. You want to be true to yourself and write songs that are in your voice but that also fit this genre, but that we can perform in a bombastic enough way that they can stand up with some of the best songs from an entire era. Trying to write a song that can go head-to-head with the greatest songs of the ’70s and ’80s, trying to satisfy all of these competing agendas — it’s a fun challenge to prove we’re not just ShowBiz Pizza animatronic performers,” he added, jokingly.

All that said, audiences can still count on the same nostalgic fun they’ve come to expect from this lively, upbeat show. The development of the band over the years has been very organic, from its early performances (which started as kind of a joke years ago) to now, with attention paid to musical details. The musicians research each performance, so their sounds and moves are always an homage. Even their choreography is a tribute to Niespodziani’s mother, who used to sidestep dance in the kitchen during his childhood. These details are consistent with the band’s ethos, which is that all of this is in service of fun.

“The goal this whole time is that we’ve always wanted to be really keyed into what the audience reacts to, and which songs connect, which stage moves connect,” he said. Their goals “developed slowly over a period of a few years and are still developing, as we’ve started playing bigger and bigger venues. Live music is supposed to be fun. That’s really what we do, make people happy.”

And even as they continue to play bigger and bigger venues, they are happy to return to places with a “sweaty club vibe” like Belly Up.

“It’s very visceral, and the energy is being transferred at a very close range in there,” Niespodziani said. “We love Colorado in general; we love the people, the environment and the weather. There are some places where you go, and your band just connects. This is a place where people love our band.”

To that end, tickets for the show are currently sold out, but if you’re lucky enough to steal away into the night to see Yacht Rock Revue, I’ll see you there in my captain’s hat.

Yacht Rock Revue plays a sold-out show tonight at Belly Up.
Zach Wetzel and Mike Mulholland
Keyboardist Mark Bencuya.
Zach Wetzel and Mike Mulholland
Sax player David Freeman.
Zach Wetzel and Mike Mulholland