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A World Cup weekend of rock ‘n’ roll at Wagner Park

It was a quintessential Aspen weekend complete with exceptional ski racing and action-packed après celebrations.

In case you missed it, it was the FIS Audi World Cup men’s ski racing competition held on Aspen Mountain. The weekend of other worldly ski racing was met with epic musical performances by Black Pistol Fire, Mt. Joy and the Robert Randolph Band as part the Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series at Wagner Park.

The three-day concert series brought a range of sound to Aspen’s downtown core, including — but not limited to — blues, funk and psychedelic rock.

The concert series was free to the public and was meant to be “nothing short of a good ol’ fashion party,” according to Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of communications.

Some highlights:

Black Pistol Fire

Despite the ski races getting canceled Friday due to inclement weather, Black Pistol Fire took the stage, kicking off the first night of the concert series. They heated up the freezing cold evening with their face-melting bluesy performance.

Black Pistol Fire is an Austin-based rock band from Toronto, Canada. The band’s expansive sound is culminated by just two musicians—Kevin McKeown, the lead singer and guitarist, and Eric Owen, the drummer.

Black Pistol Fire performs on Friday as part of the World Cup Aspen festivities at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

They’re known for their fusion of Southern-inspired rock, blues and garage punk and have been compared to rock legends like The White Stripes and The Black Keys.

The band has performed in Aspen a number of times, including live performances at Belly Up and the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience.

They kicked Friday night off with the title track of their 2021 album “Look Alive,” an album produced and engineered by Jacob Sciba, who has worked with rock legend Gary Clark Jr., and mixed by Vance Powell, who has worked with the famed Chris Stapleton and The White Stripes.

The set list included some of their top tracks, “Speak of the Devil,” “Hope in Hell,” and “Level.”

Throughout their set, they included interludes of well-known songs, including “Oh Well,” by Fleetwood Mac, and “Redbone,” by Childish Gambino. The set was complete with drum solos, vibrant guitar distortions, and cunning vocals.

Mt. Joy

Mt. Joy, a Los Angeles-based band, took the stage at Wagner Park on Saturday evening to a vast, enthusiastic audience. Looking through the crowd, you’d find swing dancers spinning, women stacked on shoulders, hips swaying and heads bobbing.

Their performance reflected their six-year catalog, kicking off with “Lemon Tree” from their 2022 album “Orange Blood.”

Mt. Joy performs on Saturday,as part of the World Cup Aspen festivities at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Their latest album breaks away from more folk-inspired sounds to encompass alternative psychedelic, jam band-esque reverberations.

Matt Quinn, the band’s lead singer, told The Aspen Times their latest album is inspired by the desert in Joshua Tree, California, and the anxieties of the pandemic.

They blended their new sounds with some of their top tracks, including “Astrovan,” the band’s first single from 2016, “Silver Linings,” and “Strangers.”

The band is comprised of Matt Quinn (lead singer), Sam Cooper (guitarist),  Sotiris Eliopoulos (drummer), Michael Byrnes (bassist) and Jackie Miclau (pianist).

Mt. Joy set fire to the mountain — literally — performing The Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain.” Their set was complete with a fireworks show on Aspen Mountain.

Robert Randolph & The Family Band

The weekend capped off with a full-bodied performance from the Grammy-nominated Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

The band is comprised of Robert Randolph, the lead singer, his cousins Danyell Morgan and Marcus Randolph (bassist and drummer), and John Ginty (organist). Joining them on the Wagner Park stage was group of marching bass drummers who rounded out the sound even further.

The Robert Randolph Band performs on Sunday as part of the World Cup Aspen festivities at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The band hones in sounds blues, funk, soul, and rock and roll. Their performance was animated, tight, and nothing less than spectacular.

Robert Randolph, a virtuoso on the pedal steel guitar, got his start performing at the House of God Church in his hometown of Orange, New Jersey, just outside of Newark. The band’s gospel roots culminated through their Sunday performance, with a cover of The Doobie Brother’s “Jesus is Just Alright.”

They performed some of their top tracks, including “I’m So Glad,” “Nobody,” and “Simple Man.”

Mt. Joy brings the desert sun to concert series at Wagner Park

Mt. Joy, a Los Angeles-based alternative rock band, propelled to success back in 2018 when their track “Silver Linings” — the single from their 2018 self-titled debut album — became a No. 1 hit on adult alternative radio.

The band has been making music since before 2016, blending sounds of psychedelic, folk, alternative, and classic rock. Listening to their music may immediately transport you to summer days, driving through the mountains, with the sun bursting through your windshield.

Mt. Joy will be performing in Aspen on Saturday for the Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series at Wagner Park as part of the FIS Audi World Cup celebration.

While the band doesn’t have roots in Colorado, they hone in somewhat of a quintessential mountain sound — rugged yet smooth, with folky undertones.

Matt Quinn, the band’s lead singer, said they want to offer a space in Aspen this weekend for everyone to come and simply let go.

“That’s the dream of playing music for me: to give people shelter from everything else in the world for a sliver of time,” he said.

Their first single, “Astrovan,” came out in 2016, garnering over 1 million streams on Spotify within the first month of its release, according to the Lancaster Times.

Way before their success, the band got their start from humble beginnings. Quinn met the band’s guitarist Sam Cooper while in high school in southwest Pennsylvania in the early 2000s.

“Sam and I met because his brother was recording some of my first-ever songs at his house in high school,” said Quinn. “Sam was amazing at guitar and didn’t hate the songs, so we started working together probably in 2007.”

The two reconnected nearly a decade later in Los Angeles, setting their eyes on formally starting the band.

“We reconnected in L.A. in 2016 over some songs I was working on,” said Quinn. “He helped finish some of them, and we decided to record what would become Mt. Joy’s first tunes.”

While channeling their sound and honing in the craft of songwriting, they knew they needed to round out the band with a bassist. However, without roots or an abundance of connections in the L.A.-area, they took a risk on Craigslist.

“We needed a bassist, so we went to Craigslist and found Michael Byrnes,” said Quinn. “It sounds crazy, but he’s an incredible bass player. I’m not sure how we got so lucky.

“He tapped us into the L.A. music scene a bit, and that’s how we found Sotiris Eliopoulos (drummer) and Jackie Miclau (pianist). It was all shockingly easy,” he said.

Three years ago, the band went on tour with Colorado’s The Lumineers. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the tour was cancelled in March 2020 following the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns.

From there, Quinn and Cooper hunkered down in Joshua Tree, California, to work on their most recent album “Orange Blood,” which is largely inspired by the desert and the anxieties of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“There’s a lot of that unique anxiety baked in there,” said Quinn. “But beyond that, the desert. Sam and I spent some time in Joshua Tree. I know it’s been a fountain of creativity for a lot of artists. It’s just an inspiring spot, and it definitely was in my consciousness.”

Their third album was released in 2022, which they’ve already performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The album expands the band’s catalog, encompassing more of a psychedelic-inspired sound.

Throughout their career, with stops in Colorado along the way, even they have experienced the perils of driving through I-70 during the winter.

“I’m always in awe of the beauty of the Rockies in the winter,” said Quinn. “We’ve made the treacherous drive through them a few times back when we were touring in a van, some of the best memories of my life.

“I remember getting stuck in construction on I-70, and we were daring each other to jump into the snowbank along the road and put our asses in the snow, probably high, laughing all the way,” he said.

The band has performed hundreds of shows across the country, which has catalyzed musical and personal growth.

“You grow so much from that experience musically and otherwise,” said Quinn. “We are a totally different band, way better.”

If you go…

What: Mt. Joy
Where: Wagner Park
When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m
More information: aspensnowmass.com/visit/events/bud-light-hifi-concert-series/march-4

Opening ceremony hits Snowmass as Aspen World Cup gets underway

While DJ Naka G played music, local ice skaters took to the rink to show off their moves, and — just like that — the Aspen World Cup had kicked off on a sunny, but chilly, Thursday in Snowmass Base Village. There were après drinks, U.S. ski team introductions, and, of course, the bib draw. The evening finished with a torchlight parade down Fanny Hill and fireworks.

Bib draw

Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club kids headed onto the ice rink holding flags representing countries athletes come from. While some carried the flags, others paraded out in cowboy hats and the bibs the athletes were waiting to pick. The cowboy hats were no ordinary hats. Underneath each was a bib number, and athletes took turns picking a kid to take a hat from.

First up to pick a bib number from a cowboy hat was Canadian James Crawford, who chose bib No. 8. American Travis Ganong, who recently announced his retirement from ski racing, was the third to choose and selected bib 14.

As for the rest of the U.S. team, Ryan Cochran-Siegle will race fifth, Jared Goldberg will race 21st, Bryce Bennett will race 29th, Sam Morse will race 38th, Erik Arvidsson will race 43rd, and Kyle Negomir will race 55th.

Other notable draws are Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt in 15 and Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — known today largely for being the boyfriend of Mikaela Shiffrin — in spot 11.

Press conference

At a press conference just before the bib draw, the U.S athletes discussed the upcoming race, their training runs, and offered some words of gratitude to Ganong, whose final U.S. World Cup races will be this weekend in Aspen.

“It’s almost an advantage for us because we’ve all seen this hill a lot more than Europeans,” Ganong said about the first training being canceled on Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Cochran-Siegle seconded the home-field advantage, adding that another benefit of the training run being canceled is that the skiers can maintain their energy after long travel days and altitude changes.

“If we get to do training runs or not, we’re all getting the same opportunities. Every racer gets their one training run, and you’ve got to make the best of it,” he said.

It was easy to see the camaraderie the athletes have with each other, especially when they each took a minute to reflect on their time with Ganong. The team laughed as they shared their ideas of mandatory Aspen tourist things their European counterparts should do before racing. They suggested things such as hiking every mountain and biking to Leadville and back — activities sure to tire out the competition.

The first race of the weekend is the first of two men’s downhills, which begins at 11:30 a.m. on Friday from the base of the Shadow Mountain lift on Aspen Mountain. The U.S. ski team is scheduled to hold an autograph signing at 4 p.m. on Friday from Gondola Plaza.

World Cup winners to take home a piece of Aspen after the weekend’s ski races

This weekend, the world’s top men’s alpine skiers will dash down Aspen Mountain, competing against each other — and the clock — for a chance to take home a golden piece of Aspen.

This year’s World Cup trophies were designed and fabricated by Colorado’s Lisa Issenberg, who has been creating awards for major events for several years, including the Birds of Prey World Cup and the U.S. Grand Prix.

Most recently, she created the X Games Aspen medals and knuckle huck rings, made with locally sourced, upcycled materials.

The World Cup trophies this year represent the Aspen Snowmass brand and the dedication to the sport of ski racing, according to Issenberg. The trophies showcase a clean, bold aspen leaf engraved with the ski discipline.

“It’s this beautiful, organic shape, but it’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s bold,” she said. “These are the words used often when describing something two-dimensional, but they translate through what I wanted to see in the final piece and also the sport in a way.”

“These athletes, their accomplishment — it’s bolded. The run has to be clean and sharp, and so it’s just kind of carried through. That’s part of the whole vision when creating it,” she said.

Issenberg is the owner and founder of a Ridgway-based art studio, Kiitella, named after a Finnish word that translates to “thank, applaud, or praise.” Since 1991, she has been creating art across all metal disciplines — from fabrication of large-scale steel sculptures to small-scale jewelry design.

Part of what makes her unique is her artistic process of blending industrial design and handcrafting. She is largely inspired by the Japanese term “wabi sabi,” which means to find beauty in imperfection. This sentiment ruminated through her design of this year’s trophies.

According to Issenberg, when the pieces underwent the industrial processes at the end, they looked too perfect. To capture the heart of the event and the dedication to speed, she intentionally “roughed up” the pieces.

“It felt a little dangerous, but I did it and it worked out nicely,” she said.

In addition to her one-of-a-kind designs, she is dedicated to creating art that does less harm to the environment. With this, the trophies were made of recycled, locally-sourced steel from Montrose, made with little to no waste.

“Since everything’s custom-designed and fabricated, I use just the amount of material needed,” said Issenberg. “The shapes, which are cut out of a sheet of steel, are nested as tightly as possible, so there’s minimal waste.”

She and Deric Gunshor, managing director of event development for Aspen Skiing Co., worked together to conceptualize the design of the trophies. Their professional relationship goes back to 10 years, when she designed the Power of Four awards.

“He has a really sharp, quick, creative vision,” said Issenberg. “Showing him designs, things that I know are better than others, he’s often right there with me and in agreement.

Colorado’s Lisa Issenberg designed and fabricated the World Cup trophies with Aspen Snowmass branding using locally sourced recycled materials.
Courtesy photo

“I really value his feedback and vision, and plus he knows his Aspen Snowmass brand intimately,” she said.

In addition to representing the Skico brand, she designed the trophies with the intention of capturing a piece of Aspen.

She acknowledges that these athletes dedicate their lives to their sport and, over time, have accumulated many trophies. For her, she wanted these athletes to memorialize their win in Aspen.

“The World Cups are all over the world, so it’s great to represent the memory of their win in Aspen,” said Issenberg.