The skinny on Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day festival |

The skinny on Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day festival

Compiled by Jill Beathard
The crowd at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival in 2008. The annual event cancelled one of its acts, but the show will go on with Grace Potter & the Nocturnals joining the lineup.
Jeremy Swanson/Courtesy photo |

Well, it’s that time of year again, when the Snowmass Village softball and soccer fields are transformed into a concert venue for one of the signature events of the summer in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience, as it is now called, is back, this year with a new name and a new family-friendly Friday offering on the first night.

The lineup this year includes an eclectic mix of acts such as Earth, Wind and Fire, OneRepublic and Carrie Underwood. On Aug. 26, Jazz Aspen Snowmass announced that Fun., the headliner of the first night, was canceling its performance due to a personal family issue.

However, the show will go on, as Jazz Aspen veterans Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will return to the festival and perform in Fun.’s place.

Here’s a look inside some of the other acts, as well as some info to know before you go.

All for one (republic)

Fans who see OneRepublic this summer — including a stop at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day concerts — can expect a concert experience that’s considerably bigger and bolder than the group’s earlier shows.

With its 2013 release “Native” (the group’s third studio album) having given the group a multi-format number one pop single in “Counting Stars” and a second single, “Feel Again,” which went top 10 on “Billboard” magazine’s Adult Top 40 chart, OneRepublic was ready to bring a show that matched the large venues it can now headline.

“The show has definitely changed quite a bit since we released ‘Native,’” guitarist Zach Filkins said. “We’ve played so many shows where it was just us on stage and a few lights and maybe a backdrop. We got really tired of that…We decided to spend all of our money and then some to bring out lights and video screens, different things like that to kind of introduce while the show progresses. We loved it. And I think the crowds really loved it and the whole experience was definitely eye opening for us.”

Another thing that figures to be different about OneRepublic’s concerts is the energy level of the music.

The first two OneRepublic albums, “Dreaming Out Loud” (2007) and “Waking Up” (2009), were weighted toward ballads and mid-tempo material. “Native” includes a few such songs (“What You Wanted” and “Au Revoir”), but it’s more defined by its peppier tunes like “Counting Stars,” “Feel Again” and “Light It Up,” which have given the group’s concerts a more upbeat dimension.

The more uptempo character of “Native,” which was recently re-released in a deluxe “repack” edition that includes the group’s latest single, “Love Runs Out” (currently top 5 on “Billboard’s” Adult Pop chart), didn’t happen by accident.

“We do a certain thing, and then inevitably, we kind of get a little bit bored with it or we think ‘Well, now we need this’ or ‘Now we need the opposite of that’ or ‘We need a little more of what we don’t have,’” Filkins said. “I think looking back on the songs that we had and how our live shows were, I think we were kind of struck by the fact that we were lacking in a little bit more uptempo (material). I think it’s also just kind of the musical climate right now. I don’t think people want to hear slow, brooding songs that much.”

— by Alan Sculley

Up on Nickel Creek

When Nickel Creek went on hiatus seven years ago, mandolin player Chris Thile said the decision was simply a product of feeling they couldn’t make a better album than “Why Should the Fire Die?,” the 2005 album that marked the third and final release by the trio during their initial time together.

“With ‘Fire,’ I do think it was the best record we had made, and I also really did feel like there wasn’t a way to beat it at that point,” Thile said in an early April phone interview. “It felt like we had drained the well dry.”

Now that Thile and his Nickel Creek bandmates, siblings Sean (guitar) and Sara Watkins (violin), have reunited after doing other musical projects, released a new Nickel Creek album, “A Dotted Line,” and started an extensive tour, the trio has also learned another important lesson about themselves.

They know there is life after Nickel Creek — and this is giving them a new perspective on the group.

“We don’t need Nickel Creek to be everything,” Thile said. “Before basically it was like a well that we would, we were draining it because we had to get everything that we wanted out of music from Nickel Creek.”

Thile and the Watkins siblings began to consider a Nickel Creek reunion last year. They realized 2014 would mark the 25th anniversary of the group, which played its first show at a San Diego pizza parlor when Thile and Sara Watkins were eight and Sean Watkins was 12. Initially, the threesome thought it might record an EP and play a few shows, but things progressed from there.

“As we started working on new music, it just started coming,” Thile said. “So that was very encouraging. We were like wow, we might be able to get a whole record together. We’re all sitting there going I really like this. So we just got more and more ambitious with it.”

“A Dotted Line” feels like it picks up where “Why Should the Fire Die?” left off.

Like that previous album, new songs like “Christmas Eve,” 21st of May” and “Where is Love Now” have rich melodies and blur the lines between bluegrass, folk, country and pop. But the three musicians sound more assured – with Sara Watkins especially displaying new confidence as a vocalist – while the playing is tight and assertive.

Thile is eager to see how the public responds to “A Dotted Line” and to Nickel Creek’s live shows — one on Aug. 31 in Snowmass Village. If the response is positive, he feels he and the Watkins siblings can reconvene periodically as Nickel Creek alongside their other projects.

“If we can get people to come with us, then I think it would be great to keep making music,” he said. “The only thing that could make it tricky to do that is if people only want to hear the old (songs). We’ll do it. We’re happy to go look at the baby photos, and it can be fun, but we don’t want to have to actually live there.

“I’m just nothing but honored that our music made as much of an impression on people as it did,” he said. “But at the same time, we all grow, and I don’t think anyone wants to be around people who are putting on an act, who are faking anything. So that would be the only tricky part. But like I said, hopefully it won’t be like that.”

— by Alan Sculley


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