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Staff Reports

On Saturday, Little Hercules has the great pleasure of serving as official opening act to renowned sax man Clarence Clemons, longtime central figure of no less than Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Hercules and company will be playing at Vail Village’s Checkpoint Charlie from 4:30-5:30 p.m., with the Big Man himself stepping up to the plate from 6-8 p.m.Little Hercules is also just part of the two-day extravaganza known as Sunsation 2004, neighboring Copper Mountain’s newly expanded end-of-season throwdown. Conceived as a larger and slightly more law-abiding blend of now defunct events such as Vail’s BB&B, last year’s Sunsation drew nearly 9,000 fans.This year’s event has run over the course of the past two weekends, featuring hip-hop (a wonderfully MTV-styled show featuring Wu-Tang Clan members GZA the Genius and Killah Priest) and gospel. Saturday and Sunday’s Jam Band weekend provides not only an up-close party opportunity with Vail’s local funk heroes but a variety of players who’ve all appeared at Vail stages in past years. Better yet, for two of the bands — the Funky Meters and the Greyboy Allstars — the weekend is a sign that the groups have returned to life after a long break from the action.Concerts are free and will be held outdoors at Copper’s Burning Stones Plaza. In addition to the music, you can enjoy beer gardens, barbecues and even the sexy and potentially skin-abrading Eenie Weenie Bikini Contest.The action kicks off on Saturday at noon with Front Range hip-hop crew Yo, Flaco!, noted for their big band blend of rap, funk and rock. At 1:45 p.m., Denver jazz/blues regulars Buckner Funken Jazz bring their own rock-steady crew for a noisy session of funky-ass blues. Then,2:45 p.m. brings the high-flying, inverted and chaotic altitude of the Copper Freeride Team and its Big Air Show.Finally, at 3:30 p.m., New Orleans’ legendary Funky Meters will roll out for one of their first performances in years. Leader Art Neville has been out of commission with health problems since October 2001; now feeling much better, he and his Meters team (George Porter Jr., Brian Stoltz and Russell Batiste) have reassembled for a mixture of voodoo beats and thick-as-gumbo N’awlins funk and blues.On Sunday, Little Hercules hits the stage again with an early set from 11 a.m. to noon; at 2:30 p.m., the crowds will be teeming as the long-defunct Greyboy Allstars come back together for a much anticipated reunion gig. The San Diego-based Allstars were once a regular on mountain stages, with a cunning, ass-shaking sound that bridged the worlds of acid jazz and boogaloo funk; since their breakup in 1999, the bands’ members have achieved even more visibility in the musical world. Sax master Karl Denson and his band Tiny Universe have earned tour spots with acts such as Dave Matthews and Widespread Panic, not to mention heavy mainstream radio play for the single “For Her Beauty;” Hammond B-3 man Robert Walter has also received good response for his post-Allstars CDs, resplendent with experimental jazz and funk.After crossing paths at a Denson show in 2002, the group agreed to work together again and celebrated with two sold-out nights at San Francisco’s Fillmore. Earlier this winter, they teamed together and played a series of shows in Boulder and Denver; Sunday afternoon will indeed bring out the boogie in all of us.Following the show, cast your eyes uphill as Copper’s notorious Eenie Weenie Bikini Contest comes to the slopes above the East Village — if you’ve been missing BB&B’s occasionally clothing-optional brand of end-of-season revelry, Copper’s contest, full of barely clad riders, freeheelers and plain old skiers, might be the next best thing.For more information on Sunsation, call (800) 458-8386; Vail Valley residents are encouraged to carpool and, especially, to designate a driver for that not-so-long ride home.

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