Britta Gustafson: ‘Let’s get together and feel good’
Do you already hum it? “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you don’t feel any pain.”
Bob Marley’s sentiment is universal. A musical experience can transcend life’s hassles and hassles, tragedies and trials. When those opening chords of a favorite song fill a room, it’s time; collective effervescence, a place where we are one.
Here, music is our common denominator. And sitting on a grassy hill, surrounded by friends and neighbors, against the backdrop of a mountain sunset amplifying the glowing scene, our pulse beats to the beat as one. It’s summer in Snowmass.
If the station founded our economy in Snowmass Village, then maybe the music helped found our culture.
And our soundtrack, including that of “Rocky Mountain High”, has become part of the musical vernacular enhancing this visionary lifestyle. We live for our live music.
From the early years, when big names graced our small stages at the Dining Hall and Leather Jug, Snowmass has made a name for itself on the music map. It has been a destination for spectators ever since.
Perhaps the precursor to our free concert series, the hugely popular Woodstock-esque Deaf Camp Picnic Concerts of the 1970s, further enhanced this mountain setting as an idyllic location. Over the years, artists like the Eagles and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have joined the lineup for this fundraising event. Crowds as large as 5,000 poured into town, filling the grassy hill near the campground chairlift for the annual event.
Our primarily winter-focused resort began pivoting to a summer scene when live music became a focal point and the Snowmass Resort Association decided to build a 1,200-seat clubhouse at the end of the Snowmass Mall in 1972. This venue grew in popularity, and by the late ’70s, a weekly music series was attracting names like Jimmy Buffet, Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris.
Another tent was erected at the foot of Fanny Hill and soon hosted concerts featuring Ray Charles and The Temptations. Later artists like Tom Petty and Widespread Panic were among the many headliners that graced his stage. And we couldn’t get enough.
The Snowmass Conference Center began hosting world-renowned artists like BB King and Herbie Hancock during the 80s. Soon after, the Aspen Snowmass Jazz Festival came to town, bringing with it three decades of headliners. major posters like Bob Dylan, the Black-Eyed Peas, Neil Young, Al Green, John Legend, No Doubt, The Black Crowes, LeAnn Rimes, Ziggy Marley, Santana, David Byrne, Weezer, Maroon 5 and Sting (to name a few). to name a few) in our small mountain town.
The free concerts that Snowmass Villagers attend on Thursday nights now took shape in the early 90s, when Mountain Dragon bar manager Terry Long collaborated with Bill Getz, who provided the initial financial backing for a summer series. And Mountain Dragon owner and future mayor, Doug “Merc” Mercatoris, who did some fundraising afterward, brought us the hugely popular free Thursday night summer concert series.
Since then, our community has bonded around a common musical passion.
And now, celebrating 30 years, these free concerts are a community staple. They are an important part of our core. It’s so cathartic for a community in need of a reboot, to have this opportunity to celebrate three decades of shared mountain music at a time of global division and tension. If we’ve done anything right, it continues to come together, right now, around the music.
Hot Buttered Rum (who will perform next Thursday to kick off our summer) sums it up so well, singing, “I just want something beautiful in this life, I don’t want to wait til the other side,” in “Something beautiful thing”.
Our love for live music and our city’s efforts to continue providing this amazing amenity has become a rich part of our community culture, and it’s truly what makes it a great place to live.
Concerts offer us a space in which our sense of self can slip away, and where even if for a moment we can become one with the crowd for all the right reasons. This energy, shared with those we know as well as complete strangers, is contagious. This euphoric connection impacts how we choose to live our lives together, hopefully with a connection that can ease the strains of everyday life in a society that depends on a sense of community.
We all need more beautiful reminders that there are great things to unite us in this life. This shared moment where the crowd, the music and the energy are in harmony is Snowmass. See you soon on the hill!
Let’s trade a piece of my mind for some peace of mind; after all, if we still agree, what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates open-mindedness; share yours and email her at [email protected].