Angels heard on high: Like the leaves on aspen trees and fields of wildflowers, music in the mountains seems to spring up overnight, along with the temperate weather. The melodies will be flying this weekend as a number of festivals get under way.
The Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Colorado's premier high-country hoedown, might seem like it's getting too sophisticated for its britches, with headliners such as Johnny Cash, Lyle Lovett, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin continually changing the festival's face. But the four-day favorite in trendy Telluride, snug against the fabulous backdrop of the rugged San Juans, hasn't abandoned its first love: There'll be plenty of bluegrass from Telluride repeaters, including Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Tim O'Brien and Peter Rowan. Relative newcomers on the folk circuit--notably, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Keb' Mo' and Ashley MacIsaac--will also be there, and maybe you will be, too. Area campgrounds fill up fast, as do other forms of lodging, and attendance is limited by the stretched accommodations of Mother Nature herself, so give Planet Bluegrass a call at 449-6007 or 1-800-624-2422 for information. The show begins today and continues through Sunday; admission is $120 for a four-day pass.
A funkier, ethnic lineup that includes Wilson Pickett, Gladys Knight, Tito Puente, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Santana tunes up tonight in the 2,500-seat Snowmass tent for Jazz Aspen at Snowmass, continuing through Sunday. Various weekend packages, starting at $141, are available, as are individual concert tickets; for information call 830-TIXS or 1-800-SNOWMASS.
And a short piece down the road in Aspen, the annual Aspen Music Festival, a time-honored, summer-long classical showcase featuring resident and visiting artists, gets going tonight at 8 with a piano recital by the 1997 Van Cliburn gold medalist at Aspen's Harris Concert Hall. Concerts are held at both indoor and outdoor venues; the graceful Bayer-Benedict Tent, which houses most shows, is surrounded by an inviting lawn perfect for freeloading listeners and sometimes features the sound of gently falling rain to accompany musicians. This year's festival, centered around a Love and Death theme, will include some opera, rock/pop performances and children's events, along with the usual orchestral and chamber concerts; for ticket information call 1-970-925-9042.
Well-rooted: A concert with Taj Mahal is like a fascinating lesson about indigenous folk music--he's been conjuring up an enlightening gumbo of country blues, Caribbean rhythms, New Orleans jazz and even a Hawaiian twang for years, leaving some 35 albums in his wake. His latest endeavor, with something called the Phantom Blues Band, picks up on an R&B drift, mixing up the countrified soul of Ray Charles with the Crescent City pop syncopations of Fats Domino and easygoing Chuck Willis. But no matter what genre Taj Mahal takes on, he ends up teaching you something about it. Classes begin tonight at 7:30 and 10:30 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. Tickets are $21; call 443-3399 or 830-TIXS to reserve yours.
Seeking Solas: No one who hears Seamus Egan play believes he was born in the good old U.S. of A. By the age of fifteen, the Irish-American multi-instrumentalist was, after all, an All-Ireland Championship winner on flute. And tin whistle. And banjo. And, oh yeah, mandolin. But Egan isn't the only talent in his band, Solas, a sort of Celtic version of American new-grass. Fiddler Winifred Horan, button accordionist John Williams, guitarist John Doyle and haunting vocalist Karan Casey all add something unique to the mix, making Solas a major Celtic contender alongside top dogs Altan and Clannad. The group kicks off the Denver Botanic Gardens' summer concert series tonight at 7:15 with a lilting open-air show; for tickets, $19 ($16 DBG members), call 777-3836. The Gardens are located at 1005 York St.
Moptop memories: Don't look now, you rapidly ripening baby boomers, but your age is showing. Not only do you own the entire Beatles anthology, but you even remember that first awesome night when the Fab Four stormed American television on Ed Sullivan's really big shew. Demographically, you know you're the prime target audience for Yesterday: A Tribute to the Beatles, so just do it. Give in and go see for yourself: The impersonating foursome, decked out with authentic Beatle costumes, hairdos and musical gear, looks and sounds pretty much like the real thing, as long as you remove your specs. Next stop, Las Vegas? Nah--that's still Elvis country. Tickets to the show, tonight at 7:30 at the Arvada Center's outdoor amphitheater, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., are $17 for reserved seating or $10 for lawn seating; call 433-3939.