Letter: No need for another Wheeler stage

Well done Gram. We at Belly Up have enjoyed our relationship, whether presenting an artist at the Wheeler, co-promoting shows or the occasional head-to-head battle for the same artist.

Since we sometimes agreed to disagree, let me take the opportunity to comment on some things you said in your recent Aspen Times interview.

We love the Wheeler. But, we don’t think there is a need for another stage. We each know how hard it is to fill our respective venues with enough compelling programing to fill the house nightly.

Justifying the need for another Wheeler stage by characterizing the Belly Up as an expensive alternative (“if you don’t want to spend a lot of money to go the Belly Up”) makes no sense when you look at the specifics of our shows. Of the 300-plus live shows this year, 77 were free. No doubt we have many expensive shows but lets look at October of this year. We had 21 shows with an average price of $16, including national touring acts Airborne Toxic Event, The Green, Jamestown Revival, Caspa and Johnny Marr. We also had five free shows.

How can your season be only 14 weeks long when the following is directly from a request for applicants for your successor: “The 500 seats of the Opera House are filled 350 plus days a year with world-famous performers, film and television legends and local performance experiences.”

Finally, it is simply false to say that “Michael Goldberg and I have long agreed that you go to the Belly Up for the party and you come to the Wheeler for the concert.” The Belly Up is first and foremost a music venue. Concerts are what we do. And while we think of acts such as John Prine, Ani DiFranco, Lovett, Al Green, Sam Bush, Warren Haynes, Cowboy Junkies, Aimee Mann, BB King, Youssou N’Dour, Bela Fleck, Indigo Girls, Leo Kottke, Chris Botti, Ottmar Liebert, Femi Kutti, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alejandro Escovedo, Ruffus Wainwright as concerts worthy of any stage, we’re lucky to have had them on ours.

By all means, there is great music all over this town, and certainly no place is as stately or historic as the Wheeler. There are plenty of acts that could play either location ­— certainly some that would be more at home in the Wheeler than the Belly Up and vice versa. We’re lucky to have multiple venues so that true choices exist (including free outdoor shows from Aspen Skiing Co. during the winter, free shows at Snowmass on Thursdays in the summer, Jazz Aspen’s June and Labor Day Festivals and Jazz series and, of course, The Aspen Music Festival and School). As music presenters, we’re lucky there are so many great music lovers who live in or visit Aspen.

So Gram, we will miss you. You have been a great friend to the arts in Aspen — a worthy adversary, at times, but mostly a friend, collaborator and lover of great music.

Michael A. Goldberg