Vail Daily column: Discover a new favorite at Vilar’s Underground series in Beaver Creek
Editor’s note: Director’s Chair is a column where Kris Sabel, who is in charge of cultural programming for the Vail Valley Foundation, gives his expert take on shows at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
If you have ever attended a performance at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, then you certainly know what I mean when I talk about experiencing a degree of buzz in the air and an undeniable energy in the venue on show night. That excitement is what makes attending live performances at the Vilar so special.
When we started this series, I realized there was a lull of great entertainment opportunities in the offseason. We saw this as an opportunity for the Vilar Center to give back to the community and bring incredible but perhaps lesser-recognized artists into our amazing venue at a very affordable price.
Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:
We open with world-renowned Dobro master and 13-time Grammy Award winner Jerry Douglas on Sunday. You might have seen him on the Vilar stage in past summers performing with Alison Krauss and Union Station. I always try to program the series to open with an artist that is at the pinnacle of their career, someone who has come from being an unknown, has been supported by audiences all over the world and, after a lot of hard work, is finally a household name. Jerry was with us this summer, and I enjoyed spending some time talking with him about the series and how I felt he fit in as a perfect opener. The magical sound of the Dobro is going to fill the hall, and for anyone that might not yet be a fan, I can promise that you will be by the time the show is over.
Up next are the cutting-edge creative masters of Cirque Mechanics: Pedal Punk (Oct. 5). And did I mention it’s a world premiere? If you’ve ever seen or wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil performance but you just haven’t been able to make the trek to Vegas, then this is the show for you. Plus, you’ll never see a show like this for just a $14 ticket! We started a relationship with Cirque Mechanics a few years ago and I was intrigued by the creative process, starting with the idea of a mechanical theme and then building the show around that one element. This is a bit different from the process of other artists. When they asked to spend a week with us to mount their new production of Pedal Punk, we jumped at the opportunity to host them for the world premiere.
Jazz fans in the valley will want to take note of the sultry, sizzling band The Hot Sardines performing their all-new show “Speakeasy Nights” (Oct. 12). This band is young and hip but focuses on filling the stage with their own style of history-defining jazz of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Oh, and they have a tap dancer, too! If you are a fan of Etta James and Louis Armstrong, you’ll love The Hot Sardines.
Are you a fan of Mumford and Sons or The Avett Brothers? Then you shouldn’t miss honeyhoney (Oct. 19). This up-and-coming duo may be the surprise favorite of the series. Suzanne Santo (vocals/banjo/violin) and Ben Jaffe (vocals/guitar) were on their own individual paths when they met in the mayhem of Los Angeles and found that they had the perfect chemistry to make a fusion of music that sounds vintage American.
Continuing with the neo-folk trend, we feature ’80s icon singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega (Oct. 26). She’s a Greenwich Village native best known for her chart-topping hits “Tom’s Diner” and “Luka,” but I booked her because she is an artist that is on top of her game right now. Don’t worry, her show will feature these fan favorite songs, but I’m excited for everyone to hear her new songs as well — they are the makings of instant classics. Other than my living room, I can’t think of a better place to hear her playing these new tunes.
Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line performs Nov. 2. Nora was scheduled to be with us during the series last year but had to cancel due to a death in the family. Their music is full of rich storytelling melodies that you will keep humming for the rest of the week, and Nora Jane has an honesty as a performer that will shine true on our intimate stage. Fans of Barefoot Bluegrass will remember Nora Jane as their lead singer, a band from earlier in her career who frequented the Vilar stage.
The series will come to an end with the smoldering vocals of Storm Large & Le Bonheur (Nov. 9) performing selections from their newly released self-titled album. This is the perfect close of the series for us, and you can expect a white-hot, cabaret-like sound from Storm, an artist who is ever changing and evolving. For many years she was solely a rock artist; she gained national attention on CBS’ “Rock Star: Supernova,” and then recently decided to branch out to discover her artistry in the theater and cabaret world, all while moonlighting as the lead singer of the very popular band Pink Martini. This artist has it all.
As you can tell, we are all abuzz about this fall’s Underground Sound lineup. I hope you will purchase an Underground Sound pass and see all seven shows for only $100 (a $166 savings if you come to every show). If you can find a better deal in town, call me and let me know! Plus, it’s transferable, so share it with a friend if you can’t make it to all of the shows. For more information, visit http://www.vilarpac.org or call 970-845-8497.