Despite death of 8150 in Vail, valley music scene is still vibrant
Special to the Daily
Resurrecting ‘The Last Waltz’
“The Last Waltz,” the 1976 Thanksgiving Day final concert of The Band and the subsequent film directed by Martin Scorsese, has mesmerized multiple generations and this weekend will again cast its spell on the 10th anniversary of the closing of the former Vail nightclub 8150.
Under Avon musician Jake Wolf’s capable auspices, the Vail Ale House will host a valleywide celebration of family, community and music, as nearly three-dozen Colorado musicians will share a stage to re-create The Last Waltz on Saturday, April 22.
Wolf is putting on this once-in-a-decade production for a number of reasons. For one, it is to the day the anniversary of the closing of the famed 8150 Club in Vail, where Wolf and 35 musicians tore up the apres club literally hours before it was torn down by bulldozers. It’s also the 40th anniversary of the release of the movie, which has served as a standard for future concert films while connecting Bob Dylan’s former backup band to fans of all ages.
“The valley has such a tight-knit musical community; however, there are so few times that we all can gather to celebrate the connection we all share,” Wolf said. “The Last Waltz provides that link we all share, and the mountain staying open longer was kismet to making this all happen again as we close out another season of snow and song.”
The cavalcade of musicians includes Scott Rednor, Robby Peoples, Michael Jude, Johnny Schleper, Rob Eaton Jr., Jena Skinner, Terry McCune, Joe Hanley, Dewey Paul Moffitt, Spanky McCluer, Tori Pater, Bill McKay, Steven J Corr, Camille Sawtelle, Jude Wargo, Cristian Basso and Tommy Anderson, amongst others. Celebrate the local music community with The Last Waltz of the ski season.
The Last Waltz, a 10-year anniversary party remembering 8105 nightclub in Vail, begins at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Vail Ale House, located at 2161 North Frontage Road W. in Vail. Tickets are $10 at the door. Visit vailalehouse.com for more information.
— Tom Genes
VAIL — In a Vail Daily article written 10 years ago, local musicians Jake Wolf and Dan Renner speculated on what Vail would do without a space such as 8150 — a music venue with the ambition to bring big acts to town to pack its famous bouncing floor.
“As a band, we’re concerned about having a local venue; I’m just hoping another club opens up,” said Renner, a guitarist for Defying Gravity who played alongside Short Bus and other national acts. “Short Bus had the guys from Sublime. We get to see legends like HR from Bad Brains or Suicidal Tendencies. … I am going to miss acts like those.”
While another club hasn’t opened up since 8150 was demolished along with the rest of the Crossroads building in mid-2007, other venues around town are stepping up — to the best of their ability — to land that niche of acts too big for a corner show or too rambunctious for the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.
Agave’s labor of love
Agave in Avon has been hosting live music for about eight years but in the past four years has stepped up its commitment to being a venue lively enough for national touring acts such as 40oz to Freedom, Mickey Avalon, Hieroglyphics, Odessa, Citizen Cope, The Wailers or The Floozies to take an Eagle County exit on their way from Denver to Aspen.
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“We love to do it and we’re proud to do it,” said Richard Wheelock, owner of Agave. “It’s exciting when people come in and shake my hand and say, ‘thanks for keeping up with the music.’ That’s what keeps me going.”
It takes that encouragement because, well, the thing about bringing in these big bands is there isn’t a lot of money in it. Often a band takes a flat guarantee plus as much as 85 percent of ticket sales above that guarantee. The bar is where other expenses have to be recouped. As such, Wheelock spends even more on shuttles to make sure people can come out, have the fun they want to and still get home safely.
“We’re happy to spend the money and put on a great show,” Wheelock said. “But we have to tread lightly. 8150 was successful to some degree. Samana did alright but not well enough to keep their doors open in the valley.”
Finding the formula
Other venues around town are trying to figure out the right formula. While 8150 was always the top “A” venue, there are plenty of “B” and “C”-type places that subsist on house bands, a schedule of local bands and, occasionally, something bigger.
Take, for instance, Shakedown Bar. The underground bar off Seibert’s Circle at the top of Bridge Street calls itself a “live music joint” — even its answering machine proclaims it’s “Vail’s premiere live music venue” — and it just might be, as tourists and locals blend into one crowd of sweaty dancing bodies Monday to Sunday.
The Red Lion, upstairs from Shakedown, is much the same, with music seven nights a week — Brendan McKinney from Wednesday through Saturday and Texas Brandon, aka Brandon Gardner, from Sunday to Tuesday.
There is also the Vail Ale House, formerly known in the hearts of music lovers across town as the Sandbar. The Ale House, under new management as of January, dips a toe into the scene the Sandbar used to inhabit.
“We are evaluating what does and doesn’t work and trying to figure out what is the best way to go,” said Rob Page, one of the new owners and managing partners. “We have a great mix of the local scene and could steer toward more nationally known bands, maybe three or four times a month.”
Holding up consistent music mid-valley is Main St. Grill in the Riverwalk at Edwards. The bar has a reputation as a good place to be on Friday nights after dinner for tapping your toes to a solo act or nodding your head to a five-piece band.
“I try to mix it up between local groups, Denver bands and national bands, when we can get them,” said Lynne Krnacik, who books the music for Main St. Grill. “It’s a good place for the late-night bar crowd.”
Loaded Joe’s in Avon and local breweries such as Bonfire Brewing in Eagle and Vail Brewing Co. in Eagle-Vail can get hopping with music from time to time, as well.
A performer’s perspective
The demise of 8150 had the obvious consequence of losing many nationally touring acts in Vail. A somewhat forgotten side effect of that is local musicians who once had exposure to play before or alongside such big acts locally now have to seek those opportunities elsewhere.
Cristian Basso, of The Sessh, a local electro-funk band, has been playing music in the valley since 1997. He remembers looking out at crowds of 700 or 800 people at 8150, but he also remembers the opportunities that came from playing alongside groups such as the Greyboy Allstars, Papa Grows Funk, G. Love and even rock legend Bo Diddley.
Basso, then in a band called Little Hercules, got to play with Diddley in 2004 at 8150. He was quoted in a Vail Daily then saying, “What’s really cool, in our minds at least, is back in the day, all these blues musicians going from city to city, they just used a local band. It’s really special to be a part of this local tradition. It’s great we got to work with him.”
That opportunity doesn’t really exist now outside of Wheelock’s efforts to incorporate local groups into big shows at Agave.
“As an artist, I feel fortunate to have been able to share the stage in support of these national artists,” Basso said. “As a result of that, the artists would take us under their wing, invite us to different parts of the country, offer touring advice or even touring opportunities. It was something that was vital in the development of myself and the bands that I’ve played in.”
Locally, it can be hard to break out of the apres ski lineup that so many venue operators have found to be a formula for easy money. But Basso is optimistic with the efforts of Agave, Main St. Grill, the Ale House and whoever else is willing to turn their space over to music.
“When I came here, Vail was on its way as a music town,” Basso said. “Now there has to be a will for there to be a way. It’s not what it used to be, but it’s not really over with, either.”