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‘An Evening with Ailsa Chang’ comes to the Wheeler Thursday

In her early 30s, Ailsa Chang had graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School, clerked at the U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals Court, and landed a coveted position with a prestigious law firm. She also found herself unfulfilled and unhappy.

So she quit without a backup plan and wound up applying for an internship at KQED public radio in San Francisco.

Now a host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Chang will be appearing at the Wheeler Opera House at 6 p.m. Thursday in conversation with Aspen Public Radio Executive Director Breeze Richardson. They’ll discuss her career path from lawyer to investigative journalist, representation in media, and the importance of public radio.

Chang’s path to “All Things Considered” was unconventional, considering the foundation she had built for her law career, including clerking for the legendary 9th Circuit Appellate Judge John T. Noonan in San Francisco.

But she never looked back once she embarked on her new career as a journalist.

“I was really attracted to her career change and the way she speaks so eloquently about it,” said Richardson. “With the influx of pandemic refugees, there is an opportunity for us to talk about making that change, and what the challenges and opportunities are to think, ‘Maybe the thing I thought I was going to do for the last decade I don’t want to do anymore.’”

Chang’s leap of faith paid off.

After receiving her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, Chang started out as an investigative reporter at NPR member station WNYC from 2009 to 2012 and has since earned a string of national awards for her work.

In 2012, she was honored with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her investigation into the New York City Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy and allegations of unlawful marijuana arrests by officers and was a former “Planet Money” correspondent and a congressional correspondent with NPR’s Washington Desk.

“I love the medium of radio,” Chang said. “The sandbox I play in is human conversations, and I most gravitate to those that make me rethink about how I live my own life, reflect on my own life lessons, and show me how to love better or revisit childhood traumas in a different way. I get to do that almost every day on this job.”

Breeze Richardson, executive director of Aspen Public Radio, will lead conversation with Ailsa Chang on Thursday.
Photo Credit /Rachel Marie Bock

She and Richardson agree that the power of public radio lies in it being an aural medium, which one, makes it easier to access no matter where you are or what you are doing, “from driving to walking the dog”; and two, allows the audience to use their imagination when listening to a story or an interview without the visual interpretation of what a person or place should look like as you would find in television or film.

“Radio allows you to hear human stories from the humans that are affected by them,” said Richardson. “And whether that’s sharing your story or reacting to the news of the day, hearing authentic voices is so important to you building an understanding of that issue and the people it’s affecting and the people that are affected by it.”

Chang, who is of Taiwanese-Chinese heritage, said that while there are many opportunities for women in public radio, the medium doesn’t exclude her from sexist-based criticism from the public, noting that she has gotten “plenty of negative feedback on the pitch of my voice.” That’s something her male counterparts encounter infrequently or “not at all.”

“Unlike television, in radio we have a different relationship with diversity,” Richardson said. “And even though NPR has this wonderful 50-year-old history of bringing women into the prime-time kind of at an accelerated pace compared to television news, there’s still challenges in being female in that voice of authority.”

It’s an auspicious time for Chang to be here speaking about topics of representation. Over the past two weeks, she has reported on two very different stories that have had a big impact on her and will be top of mind when appearing at The Wheeler.

The first was the deadly mass shooting that claimed the lives of 11 people inside a Monterey Park, Calif., dance studio during Lunar New Year celebrations. Chang, who is originally from the Bay Area and only recently relocated to Los Angeles, was unsurprisingly asked to cover the tragedy.

“It’s (Monterey Park) a safe space for so many Asian immigrants in Southern California,” she said. “There is a lot that I’m still processing. What am I allowed to feel? What am I supposed to feel? What am I not allowed to feel?”

“My mom and dad used to shush me if I ever mentioned death around the time of Lunar New Year. They said it was bad luck, inviting misfortune. I wonder how many Asians are feeling that as we all talk about what’s happened in Monterey Park,” Chang posted on Twitter, Jan. 23, two days after the shooting.

The same week, she interviewed actress, model and media personality Pamela Anderson about her upcoming memoir and documentary about her life, in which Anderson spoke about finally demanding and taking full control over her own story and how she is represented, something she has publicly struggled with her entire career. 

“I was so blown away by her. How voraciously curious and how intelligent she is. It was a delight to talk with her,” Chang said.

This week will be Chang’s first trip to Aspen, and while she doesn’t ski, she is looking forward to visiting for a few days and finally meeting the Aspen team in person.

“Aspen Public Radio has been so gracious about making sure I have a great time while I am there,” she said. “I feel like I am going to Aspen to visit friends.”

If you go…

What: Aspen Public Radio and Wheeler Opera House present “An Evening with Ailsa Chang
Where: The Wheeler Opera House, Aspen
When: Thursday at 6 p.m.

Tickets are available now on aspenshowtix.com. They are $35 per person and support Aspen Public Radio’s non-profit journalism service for the Roaring Fork Valley. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

Yung Gravy makes most of X Games experience

Multi-platinum Minnesota-born MC Yung Gravy was welcomed to the X Games X Fest Snow stage for the first-time last night to a throng of eager fans chanting “Gravy Train.” 

He quickly greeted the crowd, noting that, though he grew up skiing in Colorado, this was his first time in Aspen and the first time performing at X Games — an event he said he had been “watching since he was 12 years old.” 

Yung Gravy performs on Saturday as part of X Games Aspen at Buttermilk Ski Area. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

He quickly shook off the relentless cold, snowy weather, declaring, “I’m from Minnesota, this ain’t s*** to me,” before jumping into his first track, which got the crowd hyped up and warmed up.

Yung Gravy started rapping in 2016 while he was still a college student at University of Wisconsin-Madison, self-recording and uploading his music to Soundcloud, inspired by the success of the Soundcloud-era rappers like Lil Peep and Lil Yachty, who made an immense impact on the rap and music game between 2015 and 2019.

He first gained recognition in 2017, when his song “Mr. Clean” gained traction on Soundcloud, which eventually went platinum. Since then, he has earned a second platinum record alongside five gold records, has been on 10 international tours, and has released one mixtape, four albums, and seven EPs.

In 2022, he earned his first spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the hit “Betty (Get Money).”

His style can be described as modern trap music that incorporates vintage soul and funk. His lyrics are energetic, cheeky, irreverent, and humorous — notoriously warning his fans that he’s “the kind of guy you keep away from your mom (if you don’t want a new stepdad).”

Yung Gravy performs in his first X Games during his first time in Aspen. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

And, though he was obviously excited to perform at X Games, there were other highlights for him, as well.

“I got to ski with some of my favorite skiers of all time. I never thought that would happen in a million years; so, other than getting to actually perform at the X Games, that was the most exciting thing,” he said.

Even more significantly, between enjoying the slopes with some world-class athletes and performing, he also managed to make some time to participate in the Special Olympics Unified Skiing competition.

“I’ve been skiing my whole life, so I knew I could at least do decent without bringing down my partner too much,” he said. “Not to mention, I got to race against my favorite skier Tom Wallisch. We all killed it, very fun experience. I learned how slalom skiing works finally. I wasn’t as rusty as I was expecting. Shout out to the Special Olympiads, baby — love y’all.”

Yung Gravy, performing Saturday, also got in some slalom racing in the Special Olympics team competition. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Kaskade gets ‘beautiful town a little bit dirty’ as X Games Aspen music returns

Multi-Grammy nominee, DJ, record producer, and household name in electronic music Kaskade set the tone for the 22nd consecutive X Games in Aspen with two local musical performances, igniting the weekend of festivities with a sold-out show at the intimate Belly Up on Friday night.

It was an experience he acknowledged was not what some might expect.

“The vibe of Aspen at Belly Up during the X Games is different than the Aspen you see on TV,” he said. “There are definitely the people who want to be seen, but it’s so much cooler than that. It becomes a house party, but we don’t have to worry about the neighbors being angry. I love getting this beautiful town a little bit dirty.”

Kaskade has been a fixture on the electronic dance music scene since the release of his first top 10 single, “Steppin Out,” in 2001. He has released 10 studio albums, three compilation albums, 54 singles, seven mix albums, and has been credited for many firsts in his career.

Kaskade grew up with the X Games and is a snowboarder himself. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

He was the first electronic music artist to secure a Las Vegas residency, which changed the entertainment landscape of the city; the first to sell out both Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Staples Center in Los Angeles; and the first to headline the Coachella Music Festival.

A pioneer of genres like house music, progressive house, electro house, and deep house in the early 2000s, his style is hypnotic, addictive, and encourages his audience to be positive and just dance, which has garnered him a dedicated and passionate fan base.

From “I Remember” to “Move for Me” and “Beneath with Me,” Kaskade’s collaborations with fellow electronic musician deadmau5 since 2006 have created some of dance music’s most memorable and impactful tracks. Their long-term creative relationship has recently led them to form a supergroup under the moniker Kx5, releasing their first single “Escape” (with HAYLA) in March 2022.

He announced their next single with fellow dance music duo SOFI TUKKER before his Friday night performance at the X Games.

Kaskade performs during X Games Aspen on Friday at Buttermilk Ski Area. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

As someone who grew up on X Games and is a recreational snowboarder, headlining opening night was a no-brainer for him.

“I remember when the X Games began in the ’90s, and, as a dedicated skate rat, I was stoked that there was an organized competition for extreme sports,” he said. “I never dreamed I’d be able to participate, so any time I’m invited to play at the X Games, it’s an easy ‘Yes.’ I love how inclusive it’s become and true to the origins of these sports.”

And the fans were stoked to have him. The nearly hour-long set drew a celebratory crowd that swayed and danced unfazed by the heavily falling snow. A memorable start to what is promising to be a dynamic X Games.

This week in Aspen history

“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899. “Friday morning’s Midland train from Denver, west bound, with Conductor McPherson in charge, was blocked by an immense slide above Busk Friday night and before the hopelessness of the situation ahead became apparent the line down to Arkansas Junction became blocked, the snowfall being computed- not in inches or even feet, but in yards. The train at last reports was still hung upon the mountain side with its passengers. One hundred and seventy-five men were immediately put at work to dig out the covered tracks and yesterday an additional hundred were set to bucking the snow. Of course, the line between Leadville and Basalt is abandoned entirely, but through passenger traffic is taken care of over the Rio Grande tracks, while Aspen travel is accommodated by the stub, which goes to New Castle, instead of Basalt as formerly, to make connections. It takes about ten cars of coal daily to supply all the needs of Aspen and most of that amount is hauled by the Midland. As yet the coal traffic is not interfered with. Thus far the Rio Grande has kept its trains running practically on time, but it is only by straining every nerve and using every facility at command that the road has been kept open over Tennessee Pass. All the available snow fighting equipment of the road is mustered at that point and unless the heavy blizzard which prevailed all day yesterday on the range proved too much for them, the road will probably escape without a blockade. However, the wind-driven snow was so fine and penetrating yesterday that it was impossible for the Midland men at Busk to withstand it for more than an hour at a time. Indications last night were that the storm had broken and the barometer indicates fair weather. With a let-up in the snowfall for a few days railroad traffic will again be going forward without interruption.”

Mountain Mayhem: Aspen Gay Ski Week 2023

The largest, non-profit gay ski week in the world took over town and the slopes from Jan. 15 to 22, bringing “that big, big energy,” as Latto would say.

Aspen Gay Ski Week, or simply “Ski Week,” as its called by those in the know, is a week of inclusivity, ski adventures, après-ski events, theme parties, Friendship Dinners, Drag Queen Bingo Brunches, wine tastings, and more.  

Still, my all-time favorite event is the Downhill Costume Contest that takes place on Little Nell run on the Friday of Ski Week. This year’s temps weren’t nearly as frigid as they typically have been in the past — usually posing a major challenge to contestants wearing next to nothing for their routines.

While there weren’t all that many teams registered for the contest, there were standouts like Chase Bank’s brigade re-enacting a Top Gun scene, replete with red and blue smoke and matching jumpsuits. Snowmass Tourism took the top spot for the fourth year in a row for a Lady Gaga through the ages segment: skiing down with rainbow umbrellas and taking to the stage for an energetic set, all remixed by DJ Dylan on the decks.

Afterward, a dance party erupted on the stage, and all were welcome to get down in the name of giving back. Aspen Gay Ski Week benefits AspenOUT, whose mission is to provides support and services to the diverse LGBTQ+ population of the Roaring Fork Valley. Learn more at aspenout.com.

Team Snowmass Tourism sets the bar high every year, winning first place for four years running, each time donating the $1,000 prize back to AspenOUT.
May Selby/Photo
Andreas Jungwirth, Corey Reardon, and Greg Rose leaving a hoppin’ apres party at Limelight Hotel Aspen.
May Selby/Photo
Two Maxes, one Keith, and one Doreen, front-and-center for the costume contest.
May Selby/Photo
The closing segment to the downhill costume contest — skiing the flag down the slopes.
May Selby/Photo
JW Barger, who was a judge in the costume contest, with his fiancé, Jay.
May Selby/Photo
Kim Kuliga, executive director of Aspen Gay Ski Week, with Virginia McNellis, whose Lady Gaga-themed team from Snowmass Tourism won the costume contest.
May Selby/photo
One of my favorite routines in the costume contest — this brave new skier who took inspo from Selena.
May Selby / Photo
Emcee Miriam T. with AspenOUT Executive Director Kevin Mcmanamon.
May Selby/Photo
Little Nell General Manager Henning Rahm with a great group of gents at an apres-ski party in the Wine Bar.
May Selby/Photo

WineInk : Post-Pinot Posse

If you were at Free Range Kitchen in Basalt for the Pinot Posse dinner earlier this month, then you had your fair share of Pinot Noir from a host of outstanding producers. I made a point of asking many in attendance the obvious question, “Why Pinot?” and I got a lot of obvious answers. Most said simply that they love the flavors and the aromas that a good glass of Pinot Noir has to offer. Fair enough.

While according to the statistics the most favored red-wine grape in America is Cabernet Sauvignon, my anecdotal evidence in a thousand conversations and more with wine drinkers says that the most popular red variety is surely Pinot Noir. It’s another reason I subscribe to that old refrain “lies, damn lies, and statistics,” as uttered first by Mark Twain.

Winemakers Adam Lee and Dan Kosta convene at the Pinot Posse gathering at Basalt’s Free Range Kitchen.
Kelly J. hayes / Photo

But, seriously, when you ask someone what their favorite wine is these days, it is the rare bird who doesn’t answer, “Pinot.” And, virtually every wine list, especially in this town, has a Pinot offering or two that top their sales. Over the past decade, due precisely to that anecdotal evidence, planting of the Pinot Noir grape has exploded, and many more American wine regions are fast becoming Pinot hot spots. Just ask those who were at the Pinot Posse tasting.

No other grape is as versatile, as difficult, as transitory, and as loved as Pinot Noir by wine connoisseurs and winemakers. Long deemed to be fussy, Pinot Noir is nonetheless grown around the world in some of the most unlikely places one might expect. Originally prized by Cistercian Monks in 1330, who cultivated the grape in the Burgundy region of France, it now thrives in places as diverse as California, Oregon, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, and Australia.

From Central Otago, on the southernmost flanks of New Zealand’s South Island, which lies 45 degrees below the equator, to Ahr in Germany, which, at 50 degrees north is the northernmost, red-wine growing region on the planet, over 300,000 acres of vineyards are planted to the grape globally. France and the United States lead the way in production, as you might expect, but countries like Austria, Moldavia, and, yes, even Great Britain, host Pinot vines. By the way, in Germany, Pinot Noir goes by the moniker of Spätburgunder. Typical of the Germans.

One could say that Pinot Noir is the global grape.

So, what’s the attraction? Well, for starters, elegance, and flavor. Pinot Noir can be produced in a number of different styles, and each can be, and should be, reflective of its place of origin. But, it is the flavor profiles of the wine that makes Pinot Noir so popular. Usually light to medium in body and weight, it is a dry wine with gentle tannins, acidity that zings, and medium-to-moderate alcohol levels that range between 12%-15%. Cherries and berries, raspberries in particular, converage with other flavors ranging from hints of a forest floor to salt from the sea.

Burgundy wines from the source are a revelation, and the wines of the region — particularly from the 24 Grand Cru vineyards of the Côte de Nuits — command some of the highest prices of any wines in the world. A trip to Burgundy to see the patchwork, postage-stamp-sized vineyards, many of which to this day are farmed by horse and hand, is like a trip to Mecca for those who are passionate about Pinot.

Wines from Burgundy tend to be light in style, translucent, and elegant. The takeaway taste from the best of these wines exudes the flavor of the terroir — that would be the aroma of the earth and flowers and mushrooms and soils and, well, everything, including the manure that is found in the fields where the grapes are grown. Once you taste it, you never forget it.

Tasting Pinot Noir wines from the global vineyards — those produced in other regions of the world — still shows the influence of the motherland. Many winemakers craft their wines to reflect the original concepts of ancient Burgundian winemakers who explored the subtle variations found — not just in a region, but also in single vineyards, individual blocks, or even single rows of vines.

At the Pinot Posse dinner, one could see this influence from Burgundy in the wines made in the Willamette Valley of Oregon by Jim Prosser for his J.K. Carriere wines and from David O’Reilly — both of whom poured products from individual vineyard lots. The Owen Roe 2019 Clonmacnoise Pinot Noir was sourced from the Durant Vineyard in Oregon’s Dundee Hills, which sits cheek to jowl to vines owned and farmed by the Drouhin family of Burgundy at their estate Domaine Drouhin in the Dundee Hills. For his part, Prosser’s wine — the J.K. Carierre 2021 Vespidae Pinot Noir from his estate vineyard — reflected the acidity that is so often found in the best wines of Burgundy. Prosser once apprenticed in Burgundy with legendary Pinot producer Christophe Roumier in Chambolle-Musigny, and, to this day, that experience shows in his wines.

The Willamette Valley is the “Burgundy of the Northwest.” Here producers and consumers celebrate the beauty of the Pinot Noir grape with near religious fervor. They also tout the ability of the region, with its varied soils and cooling climate, to be the perfect place to grow the grape. The region is, in wine terms, still in its infancy, with the first grapes having been planted in just the late 1960s, but there are now close to 600 bonded wineries in the region.  

But, it is California that is home to perhaps the greatest number of diverse regions where Pinot thrives, and there are a plethora of different styles of the wine that are being produced. At the Posse dinner, guests were able to get a taste of some of these wines.

While traditionally many of California’s Pinot Noir producers favored bigger more intense expressions of the varietal, there is, today, an established movement of winemakers who are inclined to pick their grapes a little earlier and to keep the alcohol levels a little lower and produce wine that reflect their place of origin.

Adam Lee founded Siduri and was a pioneer in producing wines in small lots that were unfiltered and unrefined in order to best emphasize the character of the grapes. He poured his new wine under the moniker Clarice (an homage to his grandmother) that carries on the tradition of respecting the nuances of the Pinot Noir grape.

And, winemaker Ed Kurtzman contributed a Sonoma County wine from his August West collection sourced from the Graham Family Vineyard in the Green Valley appellation in the heart of the Russian River Valley AVA.  

The beauty of a line of Pinot Noir vines at the Graham Family Vineyard.
Photo: by Alan Campbell

For me, the vast coastal regions of California and the variety of places where Pinot Noir thrives marks the future of the grape. In this space in the past, we have explored the Carneros AVA of Sonoma and the Napa Valley, the Sta. Rita Hills not far from Santa Barbara, and the Anderson Valley to the North, just inland from the Mendocino Coast. Christopher Streiter poured wine produced from a single vineyard less than 10 miles from the Pacific in the West Sonoma Coast AVA, a Senses Wines 2021 Sonoma Coast Kanzler Pinot Noir. It was sublime.

So, why Pinot Noir? I go back to the answers I got from the diners at Free Range whom I posed the question to: “Because I like the way it tastes.”

Sometimes, the simplest answer is the best.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Convene 2019 Campbell Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

This was the first time I have had a chance to taste through Dan Kosta’s newest wines under the Convene label, and it is clear that the former founder of Kosta-Browne wines has a new hit on his hands. He says the Convene wines will give him an opportunity to work with winemaker Shane Finley on producing blended Pinot Noir wines that mix and marry different lots or blocks of the grapes. This single vineyard wine from Campbell Ranch — a remote Sonoma Coast locale — is rich, deep garnet in color and opulent with a basket of fruits for your tongue to choose from. It was pleasure to pursue.

Convene Pinot Noir.
Kelly J. Hayes / Photo Credit

A&E Agenda: Coming up

Aspen Historical Society, Time Travel Tuesdays, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 5:30 p.m., Wheeler Opera House
Aspen Historical Society will present members of the legendary ski gangs of Aspen. Panelists will share stories from the early days of ski gangs and insight into today’s ski-gang scene. The socities hopes attendees come dressed in favorite retro-ski outfits and show off collections of ski passes at this celebratory community program.

The cost is $15 or free for Lixiviator members. Ticket required: aspenshowtix.com or call the Wheeler Box Office at 970.920.5770.

Authors speak at Explore Booksellers, Saturday, Jan. 28, 4 p.m.

Roaring Fork Valley authors Brownell Landrum, Rebecca Stirling and Margo A. Calvetti ask, “Have you ever wanted to know what makes writers tick?”

They will lead an informal talk discussing their motivations for writing, whom they write for, what kinds of things they write (and why), and ways they’ve impacted the lives of their readers/fans.

Perspectives from the Trail,” Tuesday, Jan. 31, 7-8 p.m., The Collective Hall, Snowmass Base Village

Since 2003, the Sole Mates Marathon Team has brought together a diverse group of individuals to run long-distance races around the world. Over 20 years, this team has competed in events in 12 countries across four continents and raised more than $1 million to support Challenge Aspen, a non-profit dedicated to creating possibilities for people with disabilities through year-round adaptive recreational programs and activities.

Challenge Aspen’s programming encourages participation in activities that redefine limits, recognize abilities, and transfer newfound courage to everyday life.

The speakers are Katie Grange, Cara Haugan, Olivia Niosi, and Jason Hodge.

CHICA Aspen debuts The CHICA Collective Pop-Up Shop

CHICA Aspen has partnered with several retail brands to debut a rotating pop-up shop, The CHICA Collective, this ski season. From now until March, every two weeks, the restaurant will debut a new retail brand with apparel available for sale to guests. Kicking off in The CHICA Collective is Woodpecker Coats, offering a limited collection of their 2022-23 Canadian designed vegan ultra warm winter jackets for women, men, and kids.

The Eternal Daughter, Pitkin County Library Cinema, Friday and Saturday, Jan 27-28, 7:30-9:25 p.m.

An artist and her elderly mother confront long-buried secrets when they return to a former family home, now a hotel haunted by its mysterious past. Featuring Tilda Swinton, filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s film is an exploration of parental relationships and the things we leave behind. A 2022 Denver Film held over selection. Ends at 9:25, PG-13.

Carbondale Arts, The 44th Annual Valley Visual Art Show, Friday, Jan. 20 – Thursday, Feb. 23

Kicking off the 2023 exhibition schedule, the Valley Visual Art Show is the longest-standing community art show committed to showing the work of local artists, which began in 1980. The Valley Visual Art Show provides an opportunity for artists new to the area — budding and established artists — to professionally display their art while bringing the creative community together. This show also serves as a salute to the wide variety of artistic talent in the Roaring Fork Valley.

DJ NGHTMRE excited to return to Belly Up Aspen during X Games

Performing at Belly Up Aspen during X Games weekend is about as good as it gets for Los Angeles-based DJ and TV personality Tyler Marenyi — better known by his stage name NGHTMARE.

“I love it here,” Marenyi said, an avid snowboarder. “I’ve always wanted to come here and see the X Games, and I feel so blessed to be able to be playing this weekend. And, I love all the competition, huge mega halfpipe stuff — it’s a whole other level when you’re here.”

NGHTMRE enjoying the best of Aspen Mountain.

Raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Marenyi relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a music career around 2014. He got his start by creating trap and house remixes of songs by Tiësto, Rae Strummond, and Skrillex, as well as producing his own songs. He gained recognition when Skrillex played one of his songs during a set at Ultra Music Festival, eventually signing with Diplo’s label Mad Decent.

NGHTMRE will perform at The Belly Up on Saturday.
Courtesy

After releasing an EP and collaborating on several high-profile tracks, he released his debut album Drmvrse in September 2022, for which he is touring to support.

The Hero’s Journey, by Joseph Campbell, was just a story that I really identified with,” he said. “In my case, it was like, living in North Carolina and wanting to go live in LA and make music for a living just seemed very unattainable. You kind of have this denial of the call, and then, eventually, you accept it, go off into the unknown world, and you have your series of trials and tribulations and conquer your biggest fear at the end, returning home a stronger, better person.”

Indeed, that impetus to take the jump is paying off — not only with a new record, but also with the release of a new, recently-released travel documentary series, SAMPLED, on Paramount +, which he helped create with his brother and appears in.

The series, which he describes as “less formal than Anthony Bourdain’s show, but more formal then F*** That’s Delicious with Action Bronson, was inspired by his global travels and the experiences he had outside the club in Valparaiso, Chile.  

“The show is different artists in a different city internationally that they’ve never been to,” he said. “They do their show and then you kind of document these three days around their show where they’re getting to experience the city curated by someone who’s very local.”

Even with all the projects he has going on and all his exciting future plans, for this weekend, he is most excited to be in here for his “fourth or fifth appearance” at Belly Up.

NHGTMRE is currently on the road supporting his debut record DRMVRSE.
Courtesy

“I don’t get to do too many venues that are below 500 people or so,” he said. “So, having people literally like an arm’s length away, the energy is just really high. When I’m really close to people, the crowd always echoes the energy back, you know, times 100. I feel like the fan base grows a little stronger every time that I come back now, which is cool to see; I’m excited.”

For more information and tickets: bellyupaspen.com/events/nghtmre-2/

Carbondale Salon showcases six artists Saturday at The Launchpad

Founded in Philadelphia by composer Andrea Clearfield in 1986 and in Aspen by Andrea and Michele Kiley, the Salon performance series features contemporary, classical, jazz, folk, world, spoken word, multimedia, dance, and performance arts and aims to encourage diversity through art, culture, and connecting audiences to the artist and art in an intimate and personal setting.

Local co-curator and host Alya Howe will be presenting this year’s offering, Optimism and Activism, on Saturday at The Launchpad in Carbondale, featuring six new and returning performance artists from Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, and the United States. They will perform poetry, music, dance, film, comedy, and opera.

The artists include: comedian A.J. Finney, songwriter Brad Smith, dancers Claudia and Erik Peña, author José Alcántara, composer and pianist Niloufar Nourbakhsh, and poet/spoken word performer Uche Ogbuji.

A longtime performance artist and valley resident, Howe credited former Aspen business Justice Snow’s owner, Michele Kylie, as “particularly persistent” about finding ways to create programs that support local performing artists. Howe noted that most of the performing arts happening in town prior to that were mostly imported or local bands having to play cover songs.

According to her, the purpose of the Salon is to give artists an outlet to present finished works they have been performing or present works in progress and get immediate feedback from a live audience.

“I do this at least once a year because it’s Important to have people from many different cultures and art forms who are present and talking about the politics of the moment, especially relevant to their country, here in the valley. It’s just magical,” she said.

To that end, she has curated a timely and dynamic group of artists who will be showcasing their work at the upcoming Salon, including Iranian American composer Niloufar Nourbakhsh, who will be performing an opera inspired by Iran’s 2009 Green movement.

Niloufar Nourbaksh brings her opera inspired by the 2009 Iranian Green Movement to the Carbondale Salon.
Courtesy

The Iranian Green Movement, also called the Persian Awakening or Persian Spring by the Western media, was a political movement that demanded the removal of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The protests were the largest in Iran’s history since the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79. Though they started as peaceful and non-violent, many citizens were arrested and died as they progressed and turned more violent.

Nourbakhsh said performing this opera now is timely due to the recent protests in Iran sparked by Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, being killed by the “morality police” in Tehran in September 2022.

“It’s similar to what’s going on in Iran right now but a slightly different context,” Nourbakhsh said. “I think it’s very shocking to see young women in Iran unveil and protest. And, a big part of that is because, in many ways, it was branded as part of the culture, that veiling is part of the culture. And, it very much is not. I really hope that, through the experience of art, people can understand on a different level, what’s happening in Iran in a way that’s different from reading the news cycle.”

The 2009 Green Movement was always something she wanted to address in her music and specifically chose opera as the vehicle because it was “big enough and grand enough a form” to dive into all the complexities and nuances of the story, she said. 

She said she’s looking forward to her first trip to the Roaring Fork Valley and sharing her story with the community for the first time.

Uche Ogbuji will perform spoken word at the Carbondale Salon on Saturday.
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Boulder-based Nigerian American poet, spoken-word performer and DJ, Uche Ogbuji (more properly Úchèńnà Ogbújí), has never participated in the Salon before but has known Howe for a while and previously performed at Mountain Fair. 

Born in Calabar, Nigeria, Ogbújí’s work fuses Igbo culture, European classicism, American Mountain West setting, hip-hop, and afrofuturism. He is a 2022 Boulder County Arts Fellow for Literature and Music.

He always loved music and poetry and always wanted to be a writer but pursued an engineering career because, like many children of immigrants, that’s what was expected of him, he said.  

He credited his time at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, in the northernmost part of the Biafran region of the country, for exposing him to a variety of creative outlets from music to dance to literature and instilling a love of art and performance.

“I always felt like a complete outsider, but I would write, and I would always write with music in my head. I would write with dance, with drama, with all the craziness of Nigeria everywhere,” he said. “It’s been all strung together and mixed in, and that was always my poetry. And, recently, I started to find ways of bringing it to an audience.”

Brad Smith will perform his music at the Carbondale Salon on Saturday.
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Bachata dancers Claudia and Erik Peña will appear at the Carbondale Salon.
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Poet José A. Alcántara will be appearing at the Carbondale Salon on Saturday.
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Denver based comedian will add levity and laughs to the Carbondale Salon.
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If you go…

What: Carbondale Salon: Optimism and Activism
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: The Launchpad,76 South 4th St., Carbondale
More info and tickets: carbondalearts.com

Compangie Hervé Koubi returns to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet with message of hope through dance

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet welcomes back Compangie Hervé Koubi to Aspen for the first time since 2019. The 13-member ensemble will perform choreographer Hervé Koubi’s Ce Que Le Jour Doit a la Nuit (What the Day Owes the Night) at Aspen District Theater on Sunday.

“Hervé Koubi is a French choreographer who takes these incredible street dancers from Algeria and uses them his dynamic choreographic creations. They are just unbelievable,” said Tom Mossbrucker, the artistic director of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

The show is known for the highly-physical, gravity-defying works combining capoeira, martial arts, gymnastics, as well as urban and contemporary dance while evoking Orientalist paintings and the stone filigree of Islamic architecture.

Ce que le jour doit à la nuit.
Photo Credit Nathalie Sternalski

Ce Que Le Jour Doit a la Nuit is based on a novel by Yasmine Khadra, director of the Algerian Cultural Center in Paris. Koubi said the novel took place at the exact place and time where his parents had “left everything” back in their homeland.

Koubi was born and raised in France and only learned of his Algerian roots as an adult. He was shocked that his family would have hidden such a secret from him. But, given the complicated historical, political, and cultural relationship between France and Algeria, he understood the family wanted to assimilate fully into French society.

He decided he needed to know more and went on a quest in 2010 to educate himself about his Algerian heritage through local dance traditions.

Ce que le jour doit à la nuit.
Cie Koubi – Ce que le jour doit à la nuit – Argentat 31 mai 2018

“Hervé only learned about his roots at age 25, when his father showed him a picture of his great-great grandfather in Arabic-style dress back in Algeria,” said dance company co-founder Guillaume Gabriel. “He decided to go to Algeria — not just to see the landscapes and smell the perfumes, but also to meet the dancers. So, we did a casting there, and that’s when everything changed.”

The first audition/casting in Algeria was a challenge. They contacted all the French institutions and schools in Algeria, asking them where they might find dance schools with a high density of dancers and were told none existed. They did manage to wrangle five email addresses of ballet dancers in the country.

“We sent emails to those five dancers that we were told that we could meet, and I think the communication went well because, on the day of the casting, there was 250 dancers that showed up on the street. There were 249 boys and one girl,” said Gabriel.

They found that most of the people who showed up on the first call were street dancers specializing in hip-hop, capoeira, and parkour. Until then, the style of the company was firmly grounded in contemporary dance, but, with the arrival of these new dancers, they found they could mix these new styles with Koubi’s more traditional style.

Ce que le jour doit à la nuit.
Photo Credit Nathalie Sternalski

“It was really a way to integrate those dancers in a more global reflection of dance as an overall theme,” said Gabriel. “The theme is really about Hervé’s journey from a French raised boy to finding these dancers. It’s an Orientalist dream paying tribute to all the brothers that he found again.”

For the upcoming show in Aspen, he explained that they have spent the last couple of years expanding the troupe beyond Algeria, casting dancers from all around the Mediterranean basin.

“We now have dancers from all over the Mediterranean, with new techniques and new skills,” he said. “The global overview of the show is the same, but the global meaning is not the same. The original was about Herve’s history, and now it’s about how to make peace between the people around the region  because, if you come from Bulgaria or Slovenia or Italy or Algeria, France, Morocco, maybe, if we can dance together, we can live together also.”

Ce que le jour doit à la nuit.
Photo Credit Nathalie Sternalski
If you go…

What: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Presents Compangie Hervé Koubi, Ce Que Le Jour Doit a la Nuit
When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Aspen District Theater 199 High School Road, Aspen
More info and tickets: Prices start at $36 on the main floor. Tickets available online: aspensantafeballet.com By phone: (970) 920-5770
In person: Wheeler Box Office