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Entertainment abounds at Vail Summer Sports Fest

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyHazel Miller and the subdudes perform a free concert in the village.
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In keeping with the “celebrate summertime Colorado” aura that surrounds this weekend’s Vail Summer Sport’s Fest, there’s Rocky Mountain-friendly entertainment. In addition to the Frisbee dog hullabaloo, CuervoNation giveaways and expos out the wazoo, a free concert at Checkpoint Charlie in Vail Village gets going at 5 p.m.Event organizers at Highline Sports and Entertainment wanted to bring in bands much loved by Vail folks, so after a special – secret – opening act, Denver-based Hazel Miller will take the stage, followed by New Orleans boys the subdudes.Miller has been in Vail several times, and is well supported by all of Colorado.”If you’ve seen my new band, you’ll know it’s funkier with a heavier dance beat,” Miller said. “We’re more soulful, and I think more danceable. That’s our goal, to get everybody up and moving. After all, it’s the cheap woman’s exercise.”Miller is often branded a blues singer, but she describes her shows as R&B, danceable jazz-infusion with one or two blues songs thrown into the mix.”I think because people see a full-figured black woman, they automatically think I sing the blues,” she said, laughing. “But I do a little bit of everything. I’ve had people write me and request information on which shows will be blues only. I just tell them, “I play whatever the spirit moves me to play. You’ll have to take your chances like everyone else.'”Miller has played all over the world, from Central America to the Middle East. Though Vail may be the coldest place she’s ever performed outdoors, it didn’t stop her from commanding folks to “Shake your thing.” Of course they did.She cites Germany as the most explosive country she’s traveled to -literally. She and her band were there as the Berlin Wall came down, and her skin color made her suspect in the eyes of the military. A group of German bikers fell in love with her music, though, and offered her friendship and protection.”They explained to me that the civil rights movement wasn’t just in America, but was a world-wide, ongoing concern,” she explained.Though she enjoys her international travel, she lists Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver as her favorite venue. The first time she performed there was eight years ago with Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Since then, she’s returned several times.”There’s something about Red Rocks,” she said. “You get the feeling that there’s a whole different dimension of existence there. It makes you want to find the portal and walk on through, but you can’t.”Miller will kick up her heels and let loose at 6:30 p.m.subdudesThe subdudes are the real deal. Skyrocketing to attention after a one-time gig in 1987 at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, the public entreated them to keep on keeping on. The highly harmonic music struck a chord with the Crescent City crowd.Cities like Denver embraced them, too, and supported the group through a decade of touring and five albums. Naturally, things fell apart internally, and the group broke up, each pursuing separate spin-off projects.Last year, three of the four originals decided to get back together, and the rest, as they say, is history.Despite the albums they produced in the past, they’ve always been a band best heard live. Their on-stage antics, not to mention their affinity for kazoos, keep the energy popping. The subdudes include Tommy Malone, John Magnie, Steve Amede, Tim Cook and Jimmy Messa. As Adele Sulcas of Rolling Stone put it:”If the subdudes’ music were a fruit, it would be a bunch of red grapes eaten out of season: robustly flavored, composed of taut clusters of sound loosely arranged that – left to mull a bit – induce a mild intoxication.”In plain English, that means they dish out a winging mix of New Orleans R&B, old school blues, Gospel and rock, with a twist of country. They hit the stage at 8 p.m.CuervoNationFor those with dreams of lazing about on a tropical island, Jose Cuervo is giving away a trip to the British Virgin Islands on CuervoNation, the capitol of “good times.”The CuervoNation tent will be set up at the base of the Vistabahn, and every hour on the hour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., one man and one woman will have their names entered into the hat. At the end of the day, one winner will be drawn.To qualify, six men and six women will be playing the hot-seat game, a grown-up version of musical chairs. The grand winner will get to take a guest to CuervoNation for a four-day, three-night stay, entirely for free. They’ll be flown out of Eagle into Tortola, where a ferry ride will take them to the island.”You get a private bungalow, and all the Cuervo cocktails and meals are complimentary,” said Meg Bruno, of Alloy Marketing and Promotions. “You can snorkel, kayak, swim – there are beautiful reefs there. Every night at sunset the sunset bar opens at the top of the island, there’s live music and sing alongs. It’s a constant party on CuervoNation.”And with the free entertainment and expos surrounding the Vail Summer Sports Fest, Vail will be a constant party – at least for the weekend.The event runs in Lionshead and Vail Village today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the concert from 5-10 p.m. Sunday, the festival continues 11 a.m.- 3 p.m.


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