Vaud and the Villains promise a New Year’s Eve spectacle (Podcast)
IF YOU GO …
What: New Year’s Eve Celebration with Vaud and the Villains
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Monday, Dec. 31, 7:45 p.m.
How much: $89-$125
Tickets: Wheeler box office; aspenshowtix.com
More info: Tickets include appetizers and a viewing of the 8 p.m. fireworks from the Wheeler lobby. The show is scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m.
Vaud and the Villains has more members in its ranks than some theater companies. The Los Angeles-based band’s live show is a rock concert with touches of cabaret, vaudeville, church revival, circus and medicine show. It’s a spectacle.
“There’s not a lot of bands going out with 15 people and dancers,” said bandleader Andy Comeau, who performs as Vaud Overstreet. “So we have that either on our side or going against us in some ways. People don’t know what they’re in for. And it’s fun to see people go, ‘Wow!’ It’s just a winning night.”
This diverse crew of musicians and dancers will headline the Wheeler Opera House on New Year’s Eve, returning to the historic theater after playing one of the first concerts at the Wheeler Opera House’s “On the Rise” series in 2016, which blew away an autumn offseason crowd with its all-out assault of sights and sounds. Wheeler executive director Gena Buhler knew she had a winning New Year’s act on her hands.
“Immediately after the show, on the side of the stage, Gena was asking us about playing New Year’s,” Overstreet recalled. “It was in all of our minds that this would be a good fit for that night.”
Founded by the husband-and-wife musical team of Comeau and Dawn Lewis, whose stage name is Peaches Mahoney, the unconventional jazz orchestra has its origins in Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 album “We Shall Overcome,” on which The Boss paid tribute to the American activist folk tradition with his one-off 13-member Seeger Sessions band.
Comeau had been playing in a traditional blues band when he and Lewis got into the record. The Seeger Sessions Band compelled them to try to re-create that wild old-time sound with a massive ensemble of musicians. They put an ad on Craigslist looking for musicians who were into that kind of thing.
“We wanted to emulate the sound of it somehow,” Lewis recalled. “Everyone wants to be near some magic like that. I’m thankful it originated with that idea in mind.”
The dancers and more theatrical elements of the show had a simpler origin.
“We got drunk one night and we said, ‘We’re going to have this band and were going to have dancers!’” Lewis recalled with a laugh.
The band squeezes into the studio to write and record its original music. In May, Vaud and the Villains released the genre-hopping album “Bigger Than It Looks.” It’s filled with intricate danceable compositions that put a contemporary spin on old-time folk and rock traditions.
Vaud and the Villains rehearse in a converted garage in Los Angeles — Lewis described these sessions as “complete and utter chaos” — where they work out the meticulous songs in various combinations of singers, instrumentalists and dancers. They put it all together for stage spectacles like the one coming to Aspen.
Asked if they were working on anything special planned for the New Year’s Eve show, Comeau quipped: “One of the band members is not really a human. They’re stuffed with confetti. At some point we’re going to beat the s— out of them with a bat and throw the confetti out to the people.”
The show won’t get quite that surreal, but it does promises something new.
“What we bring is showmanship — a bunch of hams onstage — and it’s a contagious thing,” Comeau said. “Anybody who comes can see how much fun we’re having.”
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The Aspen Music Festival’s Harris Hall recitals and “Met: Live in HD” broadcasts will run in February and March, with tickets on sale Thursday, Jan. 27.