Is it sick … or is it ‘sick’ | VailDaily.com
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Is it sick … or is it ‘sick’

Staff Reports

There are few environments in the world where getting slapped across the face with a set of sweaty dreadlocks might actually seem like a good thing. But amid the body heat and relentless enthusiasm of a live music show, you tend to cut a bit of slack for those engaged in less-than-socially acceptable hair mopping.Spend an evening on the jam-packed floor at Vail’s 8150 during a show like this past weekend’s Leftover Salmon and you might find yourself transported to another place –not metaphorically, literally as the crowd threatens to hit the rafters with each sonic surge. Fans who’ve spent the winter shivering in their caves come alive to Leftover’s polyphonic musical casserole, squirming and swaying in an explosion of human energy.Even if the mere description of a hippie-fied mosh pit leaves some out there experiencing a terrifying flashback to their early days on tour with the Grateful Dead, there’s something to be said for the pure power and festivarian fun to be found out there on a surging dance floor.Vail’s long been recognized as a hotbed for music fans, a great spot to catch live acts despite the relatively small size of the community and our location on the lost reaches of the I-70 corridor. But recent years have seen a once unstoppable flow of music begin to dry up, as mountain shows become a more hit-or-miss proposition.Given the tight nature of the national music business and the recent closure of a number of clubs in neighboring resorts, it’s up to fans to help keep the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll alive in Vail and across the country. Certainly, those fans are willing to go to great lengths to catch their favorites in action — but they may be sacrificing the local scene by doing so.Vail’s Andrew Zweigbaum is pretty typical of the enthusiastic faithful who flock to local shows. After wading through one very busy night checking out Leftover Salmon, Zweigbaum is preparing for a summer doing what he loves the most — catching another favorite of the jam-cum-hippie band world, Upstate New York’s Donna the Buffalo.”I remember seeing them for the first time about five or six years ago at the Jackalope — I poked my head in and I thought they sounded kinda all right,” he says. “But I had a really good time and now I’ve probably seen them 80 to 100 times. I’ve already got tickets to go catch them at (California’s) High Sierra Music Festival this year.”Zweigbaum, who’s lived in Vail for the past eight years, even went so far as to spend a week on a Donna-the-Buffalo-powered Caribbean cruise last winter. Catching his favorite band jamming on the streets of Mexican villages and seeing them play on deck with bluegrass favorite Del McCoury was a dream come true.Recently, he’s tried to share some of that enthusiasm with the younger members of his family.”We took the 11-year-old and the 4-year-old to Donna’s Grassroots Fest, which they hold in New York and the Carolinas, and I think they came back better people. They got to see comedy and were able to see a lot of different people — and they were talking a lot more about peace and love afterwards. That’s what I like about Donna — their music is catchy, they’ve got smart lyrics and there’s a big message. It’s totally different than what you’d find at a String Cheese or Phish show. That seems to have become a scene where you just find a lot of kids selling drugs in the parking lot.”Zweigbaum’s friend Gary Pudvan, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., has an even deeper enthusiasm for the band — and equally ambiguous feelings about the younger followers of current jam band stars.”It all started for me in 1970 after a Dead show,” Pudvan says. “I remember lying in bed and thinking about how much fun that show was and how long I could make it last. Now, 30 years later, I’ve found bands like Donna the Buffalo and SCI and I’ve kept on going. Music still remains a very powerful force in my life.”Still reeling from the death of the Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Pudvan started attending festivals featuring like-minded post-Dead acts and soon became an avid fan. He’s caught the band more than 50 times (contrast that with his tally of 350 Grateful Dead shows) and is now actively involved in tape trading.”I’ve got more than 300 sets of music and we do it like we did it in the old days people send me blank CDs and postage and I’ll send them the shows they want,” he says. “I like the fact that a band like that is very open to people. I’ve just seen groups like String Cheese start to attract that jam band tour-rat kind of following. I tried to see them in Chicago a year and half ago and 2,000 people rushed the floor the minute the doors open, so I changed my mind. I used to be able to go down close to the taper section, but that’s a lot harder with String Cheese nowadays.”Changing demographics and concertgoer culture are just part of the problem, especially here in the mountains. Across ski resort land, the ongoing revenue problems in the national music business have filtered down to the local level and live music venues have been dropping like flies.As a result, whatever bands remain on the road seem to find less incentive to make the trip to Colorado. In Aspen, for instance, there’s no longer a live music club to speak of — the Double Diamond, long a partner to Vail’s 8150, closed its doors last summer and never reopened, leaving bands scrambling for a place to play. Or, more often than not, bands skip Glitter Gulch (and often sister resorts like Vail, Steamboat and Summit County) entirely.Clearing Dobson’s channelsThe monsters of the music business have also attempted to get a toehold in the mountain scene, creating some of the same problems experienced in major cities across the nation. In a sweeping measure, entertainment megalith Clear Channel virtually cornered the market on promotions at Dobson Arena, the Central Rockies’ largest indoor music venue. And just as soon as people began to adapt to shelling out Denver-style service charges to see acts like Sound Tribe Sector Nine and Johnny Lang, Dobson has already become a moot issue — smoke mitigation issues inside the venue have allegedly limited concertgoer capacities to the point where Clear Channel is no longer booking the ice rink for shows.The tough times have actually been somewhat helpful for 8150. Through a mixture of sheer tenacity and what often seems like inexplicably deep pockets, 8150 has weathered another season at the someday-to-be-leveled Crossroads Shopping Center and is absorbing a few of the shows spun off from Dobson.And while live music in Vail has sometimes seemed like an oxymoron to 8150 owner Pat Devlin, his club now serves as a rock ‘n’ roll anchor to not only Vail, but the entire mountain music scene. Devlin says he just wishes that more of those fans who live for the jam band scene would expand their horizons and check out some of the other groups he brings in between the big names.”It’s always hit and miss for us,” Devlin says. “Leftover Salmon sold out both nights and the bands that are big names to Vail crowds do well, but after that it’s very inconsistent. We’ll sell out for shows like the Rev. Horton Heat and we did well with Michael Travis from String Cheese, but I bring a band like the Kottonmouth Kings and 96 people show up — and we take a beating. At the same time, we’ve got some people who are amazingly loyal and will come out to see everything, from punk to bluegrass. But usually, it seems like unless they know the name and they grooved to it at JazzFest, people aren’t willing to take a chance.”Devlin’s hopes are high for the next month, which features loads of sure-to-be-busy nights, including a set from new school Southern groove-rockers North Mississippi All-Stars, a show which was initially supposed to have hit Dobson. But he feels Vail may be at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to the future of live music.”I kind of feel like Vail overall is lacking vision and obviously it’s hurting as a result,” he says. “Look at Copper — they arrange a music event like Sunsation and they get 8,500 people on a Sunday going to a free show. Sometimes it really seems like Vail doesn’t want to attract that kind of crowd.”By Andy StonehouseComing upThose of you who haven’t already made plans to hit the road to follow your favorite acts are in luck — the next month and a half promises enough live music to make up for any shortfalls in the early part of the season. Just be sure to save your energy between performances.Dilated Peoples, Friday and Saturday, 8150Phix, Saturday, Half Moon SaloonPapa Grows Funk, March 11, 8150David Lindley and Wally Ingram, March 11, 8150North Mississippi All-Stars, March 12, 8150Long Beach Short Bus, March 13, 8150The Motet, March 18, Half Moon SaloonBo Diddley with Little Hercules, March 19, 8150The Pharcyde, March 20, 8150Giant People Sonic Circus, March 21, Half Moon SaloonParticle, March 27, 8150Yonder Mountain String Band, April 2, 8150Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, April 15, 8150


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