Aspen Times Weekly: Winter arts scene heats up
December 5, 2013
Tired of the quiet of offseason? Basking in the quiet of offseason? Indifferent to the quiet of offseason? No matter what your take on the quiet, things are about to change for the busier and louder. Winter is upon us, and with it various arts organizations are cramming events in virtually everywhere you look (downtown parks, bookstores, churches and community centers, along with clubs, theaters, museums and galleries.
Take a final deep, slow, autumn breath and say goodbye to offseason. The winter culture season is upon us. And it might get loud.
The new stuff
Aspen Choral Society, Handel's Messiah, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6-7, St. Mary Church, and Sunday, Dec. 8, Snowmass Chapel & Community Center
Someone say "hallelujah" — the 35-year-old tradition of a choir singing Handel's beloved Messiah (and its familiar "Hallelujah" chorus) carries on. This was not a given, not after the death in March of Ray Adams, who founded the Aspen Choral Society in the '70s and conducted the concerts ever since. But shortly after Adams' death, an energized Choral Society board announced that they had found a successor in Paul Dankers, the head of the music program at the Snowmass Chapel. The Messiah is, improbably, in expansion mode, with the addition of a performance in Snowmass Village.
Deb Adams-Welles, "The Wall of Sound (Remix)," opening reception on Dec. 17, Anderson Ranch Arts Center
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Longtime valley resident Deb Adams-Welles has her first solo exhibition, and it's a big one. Her "Wall of Sound (Remix)" occupies a 21-by-25-foot space at Anderson Ranch. The ideas are just as sweeping. The installation of visuals and sound explores three walls of sound from the past (the Grateful Dead's mid-'70s concert sound system; producer Phil Spector's recordings approach; and the ideas of '50s electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott), along with enlarged images from modern music software. "It's all recreated, condensed, flipped enlarged — all the things a DJ does to make music more interesting," Adams-Welles said, noting she had help on the sonic elements from her husband, Guy Welles, a musician.
The reception coincides with Anderson Ranch's annual Holiday Open House, when the artists open their studios.
Also at the Ranch: Visiting Artist's Lecture with installation artist Jacques Kaufmann (Feb. 25); and a Visiting Critic's Lecture with Nora Abrams (March 25), curator of contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum.
Wheeler Opera House, various events through winter
Those attending events at the Wheeler will also be singing "hallelujah" — or at least they will be in the balcony, where a renovation adds much-needed legroom. The upgrade also brings a state-of-the-art digital projection system for film screenings.
The Wheeler unveils its new balcony Dec. 21, with a performance by part-time Aspenite Burt Bacharach, who will be at the piano while a corps of singers bring to life the composer's catalogue of distinctive hits: "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "I Say a Little Prayer," "(They Long to Be) Close to You," "That's What Friends Are For." Bacharach is 85, but he often refuses to act his age; his more recent collaborators include Rufus Wainwright, Elvis Costello and Dr. Dre. Going back a way, Bacharach scored a hit with "Baby, It's You," which appeared on the debut album by a British band called the Beatles.
Also new for the Wheeler is a live recording of The Moth (March 13), the New York-based storytelling event. The format is the story and only the story — no notes, no props, no accompaniment. And no word yet on who exactly will be appearing, though past participants have included Salman Rushdie, Ed Koch, Molly Ringwald, Malcolm Gladwell and Sam Shepard.
Wycliffe Gordon, Jan. 10-11, Jazz Aspen Snowmass's JAS Café Downstairs@the Nell
As a member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wycliffe Gordon has made a few spins through Aspen. But these dates mark the trombonist's debut as a leader. Gordon, winner of this year's best trombonist award in Downbeat magazine's critics poll, will lead his band through Hello Pops! a tribute to Louis Armstrong.
Other highlights of the expanded JAS Café series: the Gypsy Allstars — Return to Rajasthan (Dec. 28-30), which traces the roots of gypsy jazz to India; Brazilian-born singer-pianist Eliane Elias (Feb. 14-16); the swing and jump blues of San Francisco's Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (March 21-22); and the return of Cuban-born percussionist Pedrito Martinez (April 3-4).
Aspen Writers' Foundation's Writers in Residence program, including Brad Watson, Jan. 13, Woody Creek Community Center
The Aspen Writers' Foundation's Writers in Residence program got bumped up in significance with the recent announcement that the residencies would become a monthly occurrence. And in the last few months, the appearances by the writers have filled the Woody Creek Community Center with interested readers/listeners. Appearing January 13: Brad Watson, whose 2002 novel "The Heaven of Mercury" was a finalist for the National Book Award, and whose story collections, including 2010's "Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives," have been highly praised.
X Games MUSIC, Jan. 25-26, Wagner Park
There has always been a music component to the Winter X Games in Aspen, and even concerts in Wagner Park. But this is the first try at ticketed, open-air shows in an Aspen park, a concept that has had a few false starts in recent years. Cross your fingers. Show times are set for late afternoon, which might alleviate problems.
Demand from listeners shouldn't be a problem. ESPN, the producer of the X Games, has booked top acts as headliners: the French rock group Phoenix, who earned great attention for the release of their fifth album, "Bankrupt!" earlier this year; and the Dutch DJ/producer Tiësto, one of the biggest draws in electronic dance music. Opening acts are DJ Axwell, and the dance duo of Matt & Kim.
David Burke Kitchen, opening February
New York chef David Burke expands his mini-empire to Aspen with the opening of David Burke Kitchen, a close cousin of his restaurant in the James Hotel in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood. The farm-to-table menu includes peanut butter maple bacon dates with fried grapes, pretzel crusted crab cakes, and potted duck & foie gras with citrus-maple glaze. The Kitchen, in the former Gap building at Hopkins and Galena, will be open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
Amy Sillman: one lump or two, opening reception on Feb. 13, Aspen Art Museum
The first museum survey of New Yorker Sillman features drawings, paintings and her first work in animated film.
Also at the museum: the opening reception (Dec. 19) for the two current exhibitions — the intriguing group show Trapping Lions in the Scottish Highlands, and Holt Quentel — and the Young Curators of the Roaring Fork exhibition, Escape (Jan. 25).
The Pixies, Feb. 14, Belly Up
The Boston-based alternative rock band the Pixies, led by singer-songwriter Black Francis, didn't have a long-lasting prime time; their recording years lasted only from 1987-'91. They weren't exactly huge even back then. But their legacy is strong and isn't fading. As someone noted, the same thing that applied to the Velvet Underground applies to the Pixies: not everyone listened to them, but everyone did went and started a band. Among those was Kurt Cobain, who said that Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was an attempt to rip off the Pixies; Nirvana used Steve Albini, who had produced the Pixies' "Surfer Rosa" album, to produce "In Utero." Other vocal fans have included David Bowe, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, and Bono. The Pixies' upcoming tour has sold out good-sized halls all over Europe, where they always had their biggest following. In the U.S., they are playing theaters, with just one club date, in Aspen, marking their first local appearance.
Two more major acts making their local debuts this season: Los Angeles alternative rock band Weezer (Dec. 26-27), which had its heyday in the '90s with the hit songs "Buddy Holly," "Undone — The Sweater Song" and "Island in the Sun"; and the National (Jan. 2-3), a Brooklyn-based indie rock band that has headlined festivals including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands, and in Europe, the Roskilde Festival.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Feb. 14-15, Aspen District Theatre
The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will dance the world premiere of a new piece by Nicolo Fonte, the eighth dance Fonte has created for the company. Beyond that, there is a new feel to the company overall, as three longtime members — Seth DelGrasso, Sam Chittenden and Katie Dehler, who tallied more than 40 years between them — have all retired in the past 18 months.
The program is rounded out with Cayetano Soto's "Beautiful Mistake" and Norbert de la Cruz's "Fold by Fold," both recent additions to the repertoire. The program gets an encore performance on March 29.
Maria Semple, March 31, Paepcke Auditorium
Semple is no stranger to Aspen; she grew up here in the '70s. This time, she comes as a widely recognized author; her novel "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" a satiric send-up of privileged Seattle leftism, has caught on with readers. In this Aspen Writers' Foundation Winter Words event, perhaps she'll also talk about her current project — a novel set in Aspen.
Also in the series: poet Richard Blanco (Jan. 28), who read at President Obama's second inaugural; Dani Shapiro & Nick Flynn in conversation (Feb. 8); Carole DeSanti and Karen Joy Fowler (Feb. 25); and Tom Reiss (March 19), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for the recent biography "The Black Count."
Not so new, but notable
Light, opening reception Thursday, Dec. 5, Red Brick Center for the Arts
The 14 resident artists of the Red Brick have a group exhibition, under the theme of Light.
Band of Heathens, Dec. 13, PAC3, Carbondale
The rootsy Austin band, returns to Carbondale, which seems to act as a second home base. The group's new album, "Sunday Morning Record," is more polished an easygoing than usual, but that shouldn't prevent their live show from rocking. Especially in Carbondale.
Also at PAC3: the smart, offbeat rock of Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons (Dec. 12); the punky, honky-tonky Reno Divorce (Dec. 21); and a funky New Year's Eve with Euforquestra.
Christopher Burkett, Colorado & Beyond, opening reception Dec. 19, Valley Fine Art
Landscape photographer Burkett shows off not only his for nature, but also the capabilities of cibochrome printing process, his preferred medium and one that is nearly extinct.
Theatre Aspen School's "The Importance of Being Earnest," Dec. 19-22, Aspen District Theatre
Theatre Aspen doesn't go completely dark in the winter. Its school for young actors presents two shows: Oscar Wilde's farcical "The Importance of Being Earnest," and its first-ever cabaret show for teens, "All You Need Is Love" (Jan. 10-12).
Lynn Goldsmith, "Rock and Roll Stories," Dec. 20, Explore Booksellers
Part-time valley resident Lynn Goldsmith introduces her latest book of photographs, and her close encounters with such subjects as the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, Pat Benatar, Bob Dylan and cover boy Bruce Springsteen. Hard to say which are more compelling — Goldsmith's photos, stories or her performance-art presentation.
Aspen Film's Academy Screenings, Dec. 23-Jan. 2, Wheeler
As usual, local moviegoers have been very good this past year. How else to explain the bag of goodies that is the Academy Screenings? This year, the series brings 19 films, all considered contenders come awards season. Among those to keep a close eye on: "Her" (Dec. 26), the latest by offbeat director Spike Jonze, with the offbeat Joaquin Phoenix as a writer in a relationship with his computer's operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson); "All Is Lost" (Dec. 29), starring Robert Redford as a man stranded at sea; and "Nebraska" (Jan. 1), Alexander Payne's black-and-white drama starring Bruce Dern as a quiet man encountering his past and present.
Also in the series: "Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine"; Sundance winner "Fruitvale Station"; the French sensual drama "Blue Is the Warmest Color," which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes; "12 Years a Slave"; and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."
Linda Lafferty, "House of Bathory," Jan. 8, Pitkin County Library
Missouri Heights writer Linda Lafferty introduces her third historical novel, "House of Bathory," set partly in 17th century Slovakia — and partly in modern Aspen.
Savoy, Jan. 24, Aspen Gondola Plaza
The Aspen Skiing Company's Hi-Fi Concert series presents Savoy, a Boulder jam band that has transformed into a Brooklyn electro-rock act. Seems to be a good move; when they return to Colorado these days, it is often for a date at Red Rocks.
Also in the free series: long-running Jamaican reggae band Black Uhuru (Feb. 15, Snowmass Base Village; Johnny Cash tribute act Cash'd Out (March 14, Aspen Gondola Plaza); Core Party, with an act to be announced (March 21, downtown Aspen); and rock band Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real (March 29, Snowmass Base Village).
STS9, Jan. 29-30, Belly Up
Tickets went flying when STS9 announced this two-night stand. STS9 were pioneers of the livetronica genre, back when they were known as Sound Tribe Sector 9, and their mix of live and electronic sounds remains thrilling and cutting-edge.
Other big dates on the Belly Up calendar: DJ/producer Steve Aoki (Dec. 21); a DJ set by Moby (Dec. 29); a two-night stand by the artsy, ambitious Oklahoma rockers Flaming Lips (Dec. 30-31); '90s hitmakers Collective Soul (Jan. 15); Zappa Plays Zappa, Dweezil Zappa's tribute to his late father, Frank (Feb. 13); and a two-night stand by rock-grass quintet the Infamous Stringdusters (Feb. 17-18).
Ralph Stanley, Feb. 1, Wheeler
A "farewell tour" that should probably be taken literally — Stanley is 86. Which means his sound, on banjo and vocals, is rooted in a practically ancient Appalachia, a bygone world.
Also at the Wheeler: the satirical songs of the Crystal Palace Revue (two shows on Dec. 25); a New Year's Eve party with the Delta Saints; a solo acoustic show by folksinger Keb' Mo' (Feb. 28); South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo (March 11); and the unique singer-pianist Randy Newman (March 15).
Aspen Laff Festival, Feb. 20-22, Wheeler
The Wheeler's comedy festival, in its fourth year, mixes a few name headliners with a bunch of rising young talent.
Rob Brinker, opening reception on March 7, Quintenz Gallery
Aspenite Rob Brinker's latest move is turning his cut-paper pieces into paintings. In either medium, Brinker's work is distinctive and eye-catching.
Robert McDuffie, March 15, Harris Hall
A former Aspen Music School student, violinist McDuffie still brings a youthful energy to his frequent Aspen concerts. In this performance in the Aspen Music Festival's Winter Music series, accompanied by pianist Elizabeth Pridgen, he plays sonatas by Brahms and Beethoven.
Also in the Winter Music series: pianist Joyce Yang (Feb. 13), playing a Rachmaninoff-heavy concert; and violinist Jennifer Koh (Feb. 20), playing an eclectic program of Bach, Berio and John Zorn.