Snow Daze kicks off Saturday in Vail
If you go ...
What: Vail Snow Daze concerts
Saturday: The Wallflowers and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Dec. 20: Rusted Root and 10,000 Maniacs
Doors open at 5 p.m. for both shows
Where: Solaris in Vail Village.
More info: Visit www.vail.com/events.
In the first few weeks of the ski season, many of us simply hope for snow and pray for powder, asking Santa to bring us what we really want well before Christmas. With all this talk of inches and snowpack, it’s easy to forget about one of the other delights of the early winter season — Vail’s annual Snow Daze concerts.
“Traditionally Vail’s Snow Daze event has been held during early season to provide added value to our guests during a time of year when the weather and terrain are often less predictable,” said Sara Lococo, communications specialist for Vail Mountain. “(This year), guests will not only have two weekends of fantastic free concerts to enjoy, but also incredible snow conditions and a massive amount of open terrain on the mountain.”
EXPECT SOMETHING ‘EPIC’
Instead of one weekend packed with concerts, Snow Daze is switching things up a bit with concerts on two Saturday’s in a row, beginning this weekend, and continuing Dec. 20. Coming to town to rock out the first weekend will be Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, who have played here before and are excited to take the stage at Solaris in Vail Village for the first time at the new venue. Lukas Nelson is the son of Willie Nelson, but growing up, he didn’t necessarily see himself fronting a band like his old man. Nelson dreamed of being a professional athlete, not a rock star.
“I was actually on the swim team when I was younger and dreamed of going to the Olympics,” Nelson said. “Then I found skateboarding and started skating and got good at that. When I picked up the guitar, I figured it was the healthiest option because it was the most well-rounded thing. I could always be an athlete, and I could do these sports during the day and play music at night.”
Eventually those athletic aspirations were trumped by Nelson’s natural musical talent, and now he and his band Promise of the Real have played with everyone from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Neil Young. In addition to hanging out with rock royalty on the road, Nelson now lives in a historic Victorian mansion in San Francisco that has quite a bit of rock ‘n’ roll history itself. Nelson’s house was once an old haunt for psychedelic groups like Big Brother and the Holding Company and the legendary Janis Joplin. With a recording studio in the house, Nelson and his band can write new music and be influenced by the mansion’s “cool vibes,” he said.
“You have to find (something) that you can receive inspiration from,” Nelson said. “Sometimes that can be the place where you’re recording.”
During their live shows, Nelson & Promise of the Real are known for treating every song like it’s the band’s last stand, jamming and getting the crowd amped.
“The last time we played at Vail there were (about) 4,000 to 5,000 people there, it was epic,” Nelson said. “I’m looking forward to something like that again. I remember having a blast at that show. It felt like an arena rock show.”
‘YOU GOTTA LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE’
After Nelson & Promise of the Real, playing the second set on that first Saturday night will be The Wallflowers, fronted by Jakob Dylan, who also comes from a well-known rock ‘n’ roll family. The Wallflowers are best remembered for their ’90s radio hit “One Headlight,” but all of the band’s songs have a classic rock feel that are fun to listen to even if you don’t know all the lyrics. You might think Jakob learned much of his musical skills from his father, Bob Dylan, but in an August interview with the Connecticut Post, the frontman revealed that in his mind, his dad is just one of many great musicians he’s influenced by.
“(His influence is) no more than it would be on anybody else,” Dylan said. “He certainly is unlimited in his musical choices. But anybody who’s writing songs, whether they acknowledge it or not, he’s usually influenced what they do.”
If one night of rockin’ out at Snow Daze isn’t enough, the cool outdoor concerts continue on Dec. 20 with 10,000 Maniacs and Rusted Root. 10,000 Maniacs have been together for 33 years, but founding member and bass guitarist Steven Gustafson still comes across people who don’t realize they’ve got a new lead singer since Natalie Merchant left the group more than 20 years ago to pursue a solo career.
“We’re fighting that still and it’s difficult,” Gustafson said. “Mary (Ramsey, our vocalist) is so kind about it. People will scream, ‘I love you, Natalie!’ and she will scream, ‘I love you, too!’ We try to make fun out of it and keep working.”
Gustafson said the band has toured more this year than in decades, choosing smaller venues over big arenas. However, for its Snow Daze show, the band plans to “bring out a horn section at the end and blow the roof off the place,” he said.
“That’s the goal, to win them over,” Gustafson said. “To get them on their feet and get an encore. Make them scream for more and not give it to them, because you gotta leave them wanting more.”
NOT AFRAID TO PLAY CROWD FAVORITES
After 10,000 Maniacs leave the stage, the crowd will certainly get more when Rusted Root closes out Snow Daze with their show on the second Saturday night. Rusted Root recently played in Vail this summer as part of the Bud Light Hot Summer Nights series. Lead singer Michael Glabicki said the band is happy to be back this winter playing for an even larger audience.
Rusted Root is best known for their hit “Send Me On My Way,” a song that has traveled much farther than the band ever planned on, still being featured on TV in commercials and shows like “New Girl” and heard in the movie “Ice Age.”
Because of the song’s place in pop culture, Glabicki said when he steps out to sing in front of the fans, he never quite knows what to expect.
“In the 1990s, we were playing music that connected to the ’60s, and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page asked us to tour with them,” Glabicki said. “So you have people from the ’60s coming out to our shows and these young kids coming out (too) … But it’s cool because everybody kind of slowly gets it, and everybody kind of melts into this one group of people. I know there are still people who aren’t going to get it and just wait to hear ‘Send Me On My Way’ and then go home.”
While some bands may shy away from such a ubiquitous song, Glabicki said even after almost 20 years, he still doesn’t get sick of singing it.
“It sort of has a life of its own,” Glabicki said. “It’s become a ritual. It’s fun to open up to it and see people connect to it and open up to it also. At this point they’re singing as loud as I’m singing through the PA (public address).”
The Snow Daze concerts are the perfect playlist to celebrate the start of the ski season in true mountain style — by grooving to your favorite tunes outdoors with family and friends while clad in all your cold-weather garb. With all shows being free and open to the public, consider Snow Daze as Vail’s gift to both locals and out-of-towners. Just don’t tell Santa you got some of your presents early this year.
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.