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The day the music died

The recent demise of the Grottos, and the perpetually precarious position of the Double Diamond, raises the question of why some people’s art, culture and recreation qualify for government subsidies, while others’ do not.

These and similar live music venues contribute to art and culture to the same degree as the Wheeler Opera House, and their dance floors contribute to aerobic fitness in much the same way as the trails system. They are also huge contributors to the only category which Aspen consistently wins when compared to other ski resorts – night life.

The expected argument is that since these are private businesses, they shouldn’t qualify for public assistance. However, concert promoters who use the Wheeler make a profit (or intend to), and the facility sells both snacks and alcoholic beverages.

Also, I suspect the owners of some local nightclubs take home profits which don’t come close to matching the salaries of certain executive directors of nonprofit organizations.

The answer to my self-posed question is that there is no rational basis for those things which are publicly funded or assisted and those things which aren’t. We live with a hodgepodge of contradictory and inconsistent political and social accommodations forged over decades without benefit of any unifying principle.

One thing is certain. “Declining sectors turn to politics.” I haven’t been able to find the original source for that quote, but it couldn’t be more apropos.

As the economics of large outdoor concerts began to deteriorate, government and business organizations, as well as private corporations and foundations, stepped in with everything from full support for free individual shows to heavily underwritten festivals.

Not only does this create an unfair competitive environment, it also contributes to an incredibly skewed perception of value. Nobody seems to acknowledge that you can’t book nationally known acts into a small nightclub, and then let everyone in for free.

On the other hand, the long-term impacts on new and developing bands is especially damaging, because smaller venues like Ute City Banque can’t cover the overhead of touring bands.

If the Double Diamond does indeed croak this time, the real fault will lie with the 20- and 30-somethings, who I feel have a moral obligation to keep live music alive. The blame will be placed on greedy landlords, of course, but even they could have been satisfied if the night crowd had recognized the value of shelling out a modest cover charge to occasionally support a totally unknown band.

The best rock music I’ve ever heard has been in the company of 20 or so other audience members at the Double Diamond. Nobody else showed up, in apparent resistance to being seen listening to any act which hadn’t been preapproved by peer-group buzz or mass-media hype.

“And the beat goes on.” – Sonny and Cher, famous American philosophers.

It just won’t go on in Aspen.

Jeffrey Evans

Up the Crystal


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