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X Games equal extra raucous weekend

Stewart Oksenhorn
Los Angeles funk-rap band Ozomatli performs at Wagner Park in the Aprs-X concert series this week. Aspen Times photo/Stewart Oksenhorn.
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For those who have gotten accustomed to the quiet Aspen of the early ’00s, here’s a piece of news for you: the first half of the decade is over, and a new era seems ready to dawn.Prepare for the loud and rowdy version of Aspen, to be launched emphatically this week with the convergence of X Games and the grand opening of the Belly Up music club.The biggest, loudest and rowdiest events should be the pair of Après-X concerts presented at Wagner Park on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28-29. Friday’s concert features Los Angeles band Ozomatli, which puts a Latin spin on modern funk-rock. The band’s 2004 album “Street Signs” features appearances by David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Chali 2Na of Jurassic 5, jazz pianist Eddie Palmieri and DJ Cut Chemist.Opening for Ozomatli will be Ohio-born John Legend, an r & b singer, songwriter and pianist who performed on Alicia Keys’ recent album “The Diary of Alicia Keys.” Legend’s own release, the best-selling “Get Lifted,” has earned him the best new artist title from the NAACP Image Awards, to be presented in March.No announcement has been made yet who will be performing on Saturday, Jan. 29.

And if those aren’t quite enough, the latest entry in the Aspen Skiing Company’s Hi-Fi Concert Series gets tacked onto the end of the weekend. Unwritten Law, a power-pop band that also fits comfortably into Southern California’s skate-punk scene, will perform at the base of Aspen Mountain on Sunday, Jan. 30.Though thrown in with the rest of SoCal’s punk outfits, Unwritten Law has some unique twists on its résumé. The band – singer Scott Russo, guitarists Rob Brewer and Steve Morris, bassist Pat Kim and drummer Tony Palermo released a series of albums on a string of major labels into the ’00s. “Seein’ Red,” the single from their 2002 album “Elva,” was a hit on radio and on MTV’s “TRL.”The following year, Unwritten Law made an unexpected move for a band of their ilk. Their album “Music in High Places” was largely acoustic, and recorded on location in the peaceful splendor of Yellowstone National Park to boot.For those worried about a less-than-brain-rattling concert experience from Unwritten Law, you can probably relax. The new release “Here’s to the Mourning,” set for release Feb. 1 and with the catchy single “Save Me” and the thrashing “Lost Control,” has Unwritten Law back in fully plugged-in mode.***

With the X Games comes Boarders For Breast Cancer, a youth-focused awareness organization founded by professional snowboarders Tina Basich and Shannon Dunn. B4BC, as it’s known, has raised more than $600,000 for breast cancer research and women’s health-care services since 1996.B4BC aims to add to that total with a series of events around the X Games. The group will kick off the weekend with an opening party, hosted by local retailer Polar Revolution and Burton Snowboards, at the Belly Up on Thursday, Jan. 27. The bash also marks the first event at the Belly Up. Providing the tunes will be cover band Danger Kitty. There’s a suggested donation of $10 – how’s that for the Belly Up starting on an accessible note? – and guests will have a chance to win a Fender guitar.B4BC moves into the Wheeler for an event on Sunday, Jan. 30. The night will include a screening of “A Brokedown Melody,” the latest surf film by the Malloy Brothers. The film features music, including the title track, by singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, a partner of the Malloys in the Moonshine Conspiracy filmmaking collective. As a bonus, songs from Johnson’s forthcoming album, “In Between Dreams,” set for release on March 1, will be played at the reception preceding the screening. And as a double secret bonus, the new video for G. Love & Special Sauce’s “Booty Call” will be shown before the film. Several surfboards will be raffled off during the event.X Games closes on Monday, Jan. 31, with another B4BC fund-raiser at the Belly Up. The night features the kind of act Aspenites can, hopefully, count on hearing at the new club: G. Love & Special Sauce, a Philadelphia-based trio whose cross of folk blues and hip-hop has become a local favorite. Love, the singer, guitarist and harmonica player – and surfer, skier and snowboarder – born Garrett Dutton III, was already scheduled to be in town as a special guest commentator for ESPN. The group, which has played numerous times at the Double Diamond and at Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day Festival, is also a favorite of Belly Up owner Michael Goldberg. So a deal to have G. Love & Special Sauce as the first major act to play an open-to-the-public show at the new venue made a lot of sense.***

In all the hullabaloo over X Games and the Belly Up, it might have escaped notice that several other music venues have been heating up of late. Club Chelsea and Snowmass Village’s Blue Door, both booked by former Grottos’ manager Tim Lucca, are bringing a steady stream of regional and even national acts to their moderately heralded stages.Upcoming highlights at the Blue Door include Georgia jam-funk band Perpetual Groove (Feb. 3); New York roots-rock band the Zen Tricksters, celebrating their 25th anniversary (Feb. 4); Honkytonk Homeslice, featuring individual sets by String Cheese Incident guitarist Billy Nershi and Hot Buttered Rum String Band, followed by a set featuring both acts (Feb. 16-17). St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, promises to be memorable, with a return to the Blue Door by Colorado groove band the Motet.Prominent gigs at Club Chelsea include Arizona’s Warsaw Poland Brothers, joined by guest DJ Motion Potion (Jan. 30); Lubraphonic, featuring an all-star cast of Chicago funk players (Feb. 20); and Georgia rock band Tishamingo, led by former Aspenite Cameron Williams (March 13).

While we’re at it, Main Street Bakery, in addition to its menu of fine baked goods and fine baked local musicians, has several touring acts coming through: Mack Bailey, vocalist with the country-rock group the Hard Travelers and a regular performer at the Musical Tribute to John Denver concerts in Aspen (Feb. 9); North Carolina bluegrass quintet Steep Canyon Rangers (Feb. 16); and South Carolina acoustic gospel group Shades of Bluegrass (March 30).Down at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale, future acts include old-timey singer-picker Frank Lee, with Andrea Early Coen (Feb. 4); Mack Bailey (Feb. 11); North Carolina bluegrass band the Biscuit Burners (Feb. 14); Colorado singer-songwriter Chuck Pyle (Feb. 25); and singer-songwriter Caroline Herring (April 16).Jazz fans aren’t left out of the mix. Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Winter Jazz series has three shows on the books. Singer Madeleine Peyroux, whose album “Careless Love” was among the most acclaimed releases of 2004, makes her Aspen debut at the Wheeler on Feb. 3, with the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble opening. Percussionist Poncho Sanchez, the leading name in Latin jazz, plays Harris Hall on Feb. 27. San Francisco’s Insight Latin Jazz, a hit at last summer’s JASummerNights event, opens. The series closes with a tribute to late bassist Ray Brown, a frequent participant in Jazz Aspen’s education programs, on March 23 at Harris Hall. Leading the band will be bassist Christian McBride, artistic director of Jazz Aspen’s JAS Summer Sessions; also on board are bassist John Clayton, pianists Geoff Keezer and Benny Green, vocalist Marlena Shaw, and the Gerald Clayton Trio.And one more thing: The Snowmass Conference Center has a double bill of Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Blackalicious on Feb. 3. Sound Tribe Sector 9, a California band which plays an organic, improvised variation on electronic trance, will be celebrating the Feb. 9 release of their CD, “ARTiFACT.”That’s most everything I know. Gotta hoard some information, don’tcha know.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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