Why the JAS Labor Day Experience Isn't Like Other Music Festivals

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Jazz Aspen Snowmass: Labor Day Experience celebrates its 25th year this weekend. The music event, organized by the non-profit of the same name, takes place in Snowmass Village. As the event has evolved and streamlined over the years, the Labor Day Experience features two main acts each night, with a local act playing an outside music lounge each evening.

Friday, September 4 has Fitz and the Tantrums playing from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., followed by Hozier from 8 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., while Denver's Dragondeer plays two sets from 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday, September 5 features Grupo Fantasma from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., Jimmy Cliff from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and No Doubt from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. In the outdoor lounge, the Drunken Hearts perform at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m..

Sunday night closes out the event with Conrad Sewell from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., the Fray from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Lenny Kravitz between 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. The outside lounge will feature A. Tom Collins at 4 and again at 6:30 p.m..

CEO and founder of Aspen Jazz Jim Horowitz says that the organization has moved away from the referring to JAS as a festival because it is two headline acts and a single venue. Horowitz's model was the prestigious and long-running Jazz in Marciac and the European model of music festivals.

“They might include free music in a park,” says Horowitz of those Europen music festivals. “They mix genres and it's all very high end, good sound, good marketing. Food was a big part of it and the best European festivals I saw did a good job of integrating the ambiance of that place into the experience of the festival. Marciac buried them all. It has become the most celebrated [festival in Europe].”

“There is one gigantic tent with six thousand chairs set up in rows, but it's temporary,” continues Horowitz. “It's erected for the festival. The format is unique with a headliner and a very strong pre-act but everyone comes. It's like an opening act and nobody shows up and routinely the artists give the performances of their lives for an audience that is one of the most knowledgeable audiences you've ever seen.”

In emulating this model, JAS has been able to attract some of the top acts in jazz and popular music to its pair of signature events (the other, which focuses more heavily on jazz, is held in June). Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis and Black Eyed Peas to name but a few have all performed at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass events.

The money raised at the concerts — beyond the compensation paid to artists and the housekeeping bills — goes to music education in the region, through music classes and instrument donation. So if you go, you'll be helping underprivileged students as well as getting to see some big names at a venue far smaller than they would otherwise be playing in a big city, all in an absolutely beautiful setting.

To purchase tickets or to find out other information you can call 866-JAS-TIXX (527-8499) or visit the organization's website at Jazzaspensnowmass.org. VIP tickets are available through the website or you can call 970-920-4996. Ticket and lodging packages are also available for one or up to all three nights by calling 1-800-SNOWMASS.

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