Sean Beckwith: Tale of two JAS Experiences

I, and this probably goes for most employees at The Aspen Times, wouldn’t be able to attend Aspen’s premiere events like the JAS Labor Day Experience and Food & Wine if not for perks through work. (To be fair, a lot people can’t splurge for that always-exorbitant F&W lanyard.) Better yet, every once in a while — once every seven years for myself — you get lucky and score a VIP pass.

That’s what happened this past weekend when a lottery winner/fellow coworker opted for GA tickets to Jimmy Buffett over VIP tickets to Gary Clark Jr. (Technically, Kings of Leon headlined, but they do not light afire my sex.) And, I have to tell you as someone long mired in the slog of GA, the VIP experience was … meh.

I like a glass of bubbly handed out like a party favor as soon as I arrive as much as the next person, but it’s a little strange at a music festival, especially when you’re not sure where to leave your empty. Theoretically, it could have been recycled, though I didn’t see a picture of Champagne flutes on any of the three refuse receptacles, so I just set it down on one of the 45 empty reserved tables.

A quick note on the confusing trash cans before I get back to the show: Offering bins for specific types of garbage — trash, recycling, compost — without a person using the F&W paddles to direct you where to throw what, you’re going to end up with a bunch of drunk people arbitrarily throwing plates, forks, Champagne flutes, etc. into each and every bin.

My main issue with the VIP section from a GA concertgoer’s perspective is why aren’t more people front and (left of) center when the acts are playing? I quickly realized, after spending the majority of Gary Clark’s set 30 to 40 feet away from the musicians, that sitting back at the boujee Compass patio allows you to more easily access the free food and drink.

My main issue with the VIP section from a VIP concertgoer’s standpoint is even when you’re VIP, there’s still a higher level of VIP. I should’ve known, this being Aspen and all, that when you think you’ve reached the peak of privilege, there’s always another tent your pass doesn’t get you into.

You can’t really sit back and do that in GA. You have to walk over to the rec center field where they house the vendors, so timing it perfect while still avoiding the rush at intermission is a little trickier than monitoring the line for scallops from the patio bar. However, I never got a scallop because, unsurprisingly, the line for seared-to-order scallops was consistently populated.

It was akin to the line for Port-o-potties in the GA section, a normally time-honored tradition alongside the beer tent line at music festivals, but one that didn’t manifest in VIP, which offered toilet trailers as opposed to Port-o-potties.

The same was the case for the beer tent line. There was such a plethora of options to get a beverage that the only time I had to wait in line was when homie in front of me tied up the bartender with a seven-drink order. Hell, at one point a couple guys with mustaches and a tray of tequila brought us shots.

The only way someone is bringing you a drink in GA is if you get hit by an errant water bottle, or if it’s your friend’s turn to make a beer run. The only reason I’m not lamenting the lack of jostling for a good view more (another staple of the GA section) is because I wasn’t really trying to shove my way through COVID patients. That didn’t stop a couple way too enthusiastic Legions on Leon fans from encroaching upon our personal space, though.

If you were to ask me what I objectively thought about each individual aspect of the show — and why wouldn’t you want my opinion — I would say Gary Clark Jr. not only slayed his set but was the only one actually pulling off that $250 fancy hat. The food, which I’m not even sure why I’m “reviewing” it because it was a concert, was great. It was good to see my guy Chuck Abella from Mix 6 and squad dialing up a spread of everything from papusas to pasta to sausages.

The reason why it was meh, just ahead of “whatever” and right behind “average,” was because I thought I was going to a concert, not a preview of this weekend’s Food & Wine. You should be covered in a combination of sweat and dust when you leave a music festival. The only reason I left feeling dirty is because appeared to be “optional” on the shuttle back to the car.

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Email at