Chili , Beer & Tunes = fun
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colorado – The Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest has become known for three things. Two of those should be very easy to guess, and the third should also be fairly obvious.In addition to the holy trinity – chili, beer and music, for those slow on the draw – the festival, which enters its sixth year this weekend, is carving out a less apparent niche on the musical side. Chili Pepper & Brew Fest has consistently brought to the stage acts who have been absent from Aspen for noticeably long periods of time.In 2007, the David Grisman Quintet made its first Aspen appearance in more than a decade, then thrilled the audience with its unique Dawg style – a mix of bluegrass, jazz and South American sounds. Last year, the Neville Brothers – New Orleans icons who had once been nearly a fixture at Jazz Aspen Snowmass – returned for their first local gig in over ten years. The Nevilles, too, showed that age has not hampered their ability to deliver the funk.This year comes another example of ending a drought that has gone on too long. Moe., a quintet from upstate New York, brings its blend of progressive rock and jamming sensibilities to the valley for the first time since 1996, back when the Double Diamond was Aspen’s rock club of choice. The group returns on Saturday, June 6, and will play a 7 p.m. headlining set at the fest. The local contingent of moe.rons, as the band’s fans are known, get an extra treat for their patience: moe. is scheduled to play a three-plus-hour show.It took moe. some five years after forming, in 1990 at the University of Buffalo, to make it to Aspen. That debut gig attracted some 50 people to the Double D. The following year they returned, to play for a crowd of maybe 75, most of whom scratched their heads and wondered why so many were missing out on this obviously talented group.Moe. – guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey, bassist Rob Derhak, drummer Vinnie Amico and percussionist Jim Loughlin – has fared better elsewhere. Career highlights include headlining New Year’s Eve gigs at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall in 2006 and 2007, opening for the Who and the Allman Brothers, slots at Woodstock ’99 and Lollapalooza, and five appearances at the Bonnaroo festival. Their own festival, moe.down, held every Labor Day weekend at a New York ski area since 2000, has attracted the Flaming Lips, Blues Traveler, Perry Farrell and Les Claypool. The band’s latest CD, the rootsy “Stick and Stones,” was released in early 2008; they also have a six-volume series of full-concert live releases, “Warts and All.”Leftover Salmon, on the other hand, has a deep history in the valley. The band, whose blend of bluegrass, zydeco and rock – known as polyethnic Cajun slamgrass – was first stirred up onstage at the 1989 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, played at the 1992 Carbondale Mountain Fair, and has followed with gigs at the Double Diamond, the Snowmass Free Music Series and the Concert for Harmony. Even the band’s breakup a few years ago hasn’t stopped them from appearing here; Leftover’s abbreviated touring schedule has included shows at Jazz Aspen and the first Chili Pepper & Brew Fest. Their summer schedule includes just two appearances: tonight in Snowmass Village, where they will be joined by saxophonist Karl Denson, and next month at California’s High Sierra Music Festival.Particle last appeared in the valley at the 2005 Labor Day Festival. That side-stage show was part of their CaliLicious tour, which had the Los Angeles-based band playing tunes by such California acts as the Doors, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Tupac Shakur and the Grateful Dead. For their Chili Pepper show – Saturday, at 5 p.m. – they will be joined by former String Cheese Incident mandolinist Michael Kang, Tea Leaf Green guitarist Josh Clark, percussionist Ben Baruch and saxophonist Pete Wall.The Boulder Acoustic Society has played at Belly Up and Steve’s Guitars over the last year. Southern California’s emith is making its Aspen debut, but is set to return soon – June 28 in the Bluegrass Sundays series on top of Aspen Mountain.Away from the stage, the festival features International Chili Society competitions and tastings, a competition among brewers of summer ales, and tastings of beer from over 50 breweries.
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Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org