Keepin’ It Real | AspenTimes.com

Keepin’ It Real

Paul E. Anna

Living in Aspen is like living inside an iPod.With the Music Festival, the free summer concerts at Snowmass, Belly Up, Jazz Fest and … There is more music in this town than there are hours in a day. If you love the sound of strings this is the place to be.But for those folks who congregated under the shade of a tree in front of the Woody Creek Store to listen to a gathering of local musicians playing Celtic and old-time fiddle music last Monday, the evening offered up what may have been the musical highlight of the season. No, it wasn’t the dexterity of the pickers that made it great, though there was some fine playing going on. And it wasn’t the tightness of the performance; in fact there may have been more jawing than actual playing.The reason the show (if one could call it that) was such pleasure was because, as one tourist who happened by aptly pointed out, “It’s nice to finally see something real.””Especially in Aspen,” another responded, generating both chuckles and nods.Indeed, the dozen or so players who gathered in a circle (an unbroken circle, if you will) were real folks who came to play simply because it brought them joy. It was a “real” example of just how intoxicating music and the people who play it can be.The musicians are a diverse lot of pickers from around the valley who share a love for the same kind music. A banjo player is a hockey-loving newspaper editor who plays with a sweetness that defies his bear-like persona. The quasi-leader of the band (again, if you could call him that) is a former Officer and current Gentleman by way of Annapolis who has probably influenced more musicians in this town than anyone, including the esteemed summer professors at the Aspen Music School. One fiddler is a prematurely retired insurance executive who, though a Connecticut Yankee, revels in his recent Texas heritage. (No we were not talking about another presidential visit here.) These people get together for no other reason than to have fun. Word between the bumps is that the little store in front of the rumble strip will again host the Celtic crowd on Aug. 8. And there are rumors that that fine journalist Jimmy Ibbotson will play a few tunes solo this Monday. Listeners will have as much fun as the players. Well, almost.A photo of the festivities would be fine. A recording may even be nice. But that’s not really necessary. The beauty of the impromptu gathering in the shade under the tree in front of the store lies in its spontaneity. It’s one of those things that is better seen and heard with a live eye and tuned-in ear.And that beats an iPod full of tunes any day.