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Monday
Mar072016

Drunk Fest in Aspen: Apres Ski Cocktail Classic

The Ninja.Aspen was recently named the drunkest city in Colorado by a website called Roadsnacks.  Fat City lived up to that moniker this past weekend during the Apres Ski Cocktail Classic.

I really like the local people who produce the Apres Ski Cocktail Classic (ASCC).  They are hard working professional event producers.  I've witnessed the impressive growth of ASCC over the past 3 years. Click ASCC for all the info.   It's a fun event.  I do not mean to disprespect their efforts, but I was astonished by the level of inebreation at their event. It seemed unhealthy.

Click 4 Pix:   DRUNK FEST in ASPEN

I get it...people love to drink. They love to party.  Aspen is a party town.  In fact some would say AspenSpin has glorified that image. Well then...now I feel guilty. I don't drink anymore.  It's been about 15 months since any alcohol has passed my lips.  I never drank much to begin with...but now I've completely cut out booze. No beer, no wine, nothing.   

I've been in Aspen a while.  I've seen plenty of fresh-faced young adults, the freshman class,  come to Aspen and drink their heads off...and eventualy drink themselves right out of town.  Some people can't handle it. I know plenty of guys...my age... who drank themselves out of their career...or their marriage.  I know a few people in town who drink heavily almost every night.  Some are still ripping skiers...even after a massive bender...but they are rarely on the first gondola.  Their faces often as red as beets under their goggles.  I lived on the Aspen Mall for 5 years and saw the aftermath of many a "big night".  My beloved dog Carmelo used to sniff out piles of vomit in the snow almost every morning.  Broken bottles and glasses, cigarettes butts, gloves, pieces of clothing, underwear, i-phones, car keys...you name it we've found it on the Mall after a huge night.

Call me skeptical...but skiing while drunk is not a good situation.  From what I recall, alcohol consumption can have a negative effect on your balance, your reflexes and your reaction time.  All three are critical when skiing.   On Saturday...Hendrick's was passing out free gin drinks at the top of Aspen Mountain. Patron Tequila was passing out free shots at Buckhorn Cabin and the ubiqutious Oasis, a mobile on-mountain champagne bar was open for business (not free). Beer and wine and hard liquor are offered for purchase at the on-mountain restaurants.  

Yeah...it was fun. ASCC.It was a sunny bluebird Colorado day.  The Ajax Tavern at the base was going off. It was not part of the ASCC.   100's of white people with very little rhythm dancing in ski boots to black music that came out 20 years ago.  O.P.P.--- yeah you know me.  Spraying bottles of bubbly is now de rigueur in Aspen.  Everyone does it.  It used to be just for when you won the World Series. The ASCC set up tents on either side of Ajax Tavern with about 30 big-time liquor brands offering samples and some sweet swag.   If was a fun scene...no dobut.  Super-star bartenders (a.k.a. life-style ambassadors) from across the country were pouring craft cocktails.   Craft distilleries were sharing their award winning products via unlimited tastings. I got word that in the private tasting room at the Little Nell, a $5000 bottle of scotch was downed by the always thirsty VIP guests.

Yeah...it was fun. Everybody had fun. There were a lot of extremely drunk people cruising Aspen this weekend.  Both on-mountain and off.  They were not just buzzed, bro... these folks were wasted.  Over served?  Maybe so. I can only hope and pray that none of them were driving.  Sunday brought out the official ASCC pub crawl.  From 2pm to 6pm, 14 stops in the Aspen core.  Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Vodka, Gin, Tequilla, Brandy...all your best friends were invited.  After 3 days of boozing...several pub crawlers were literally drooling and stumbling their way through the streets of Aspen to the next cocktail venue.

My conclusion:  Everyone loves to have fun.  ASCC is fun.  It's good for some of the local businesses. The big liquor brands need to spend their marketing dollars some where, it might as well be in Aspen.  But there is nothing glorious about over-drinking.  The "cocktail life-style" is not that cool, despite it's glorification by Ski Co. and The Aspen Times. Next year I'll be ready with a man-bun and a waxed mustache.  How do the ASCC guests feel after 3 days of heavy imbibing?  Not good...I assume.  Do they make it to work on Monday?  Aspen Mountain was like a ghost town on Monday morning despite 5 inches of fresh Pow Pow. Personally I do not enjoy watching people drink so much that they can't function. Especially in a town known to have a wee bit of a substance abuse problem.   One local...wet his khakis, right in front of me... because he was too drunk to get to the men's bathroom.  His face revealed a devilish grin as he tied his hoodie around his waste to hide the wet spot and he laughed as he sloshed off for another hand-crafted cocktail.  

So what's my point?  Don't ski drunk. Another suggestion, don't day drink and night drink three days in a row.   Also, if your partying takes you to a level where you cannot control your body and it's functions...take a break.  Have a water.

Hey...it's Aspen.  People are going to party...and in many cases over-party. We're used to it.  

Click 4 Pix:   DRUNK FEST in ASPEN

Free gin drinks at the top of Aspen Mountain.Drink gangstas.Stoli Super HerosA good time for all at ASCC.

 

 

Sunday
Mar062016

Almost Famous (almost) in Aspen with THE REVIVALISTS.

The Revivalists in AspenEverybody wants to be a rockstar...right? Last night in Aspen, I almost got my chance. Almost.

The Revivalists, a very popular roots-based rock band from New Orleans were in Aspen for a sold out show at the Belly Up.   The buzz on the gondola was that The Revivalists is a "do not miss" show. I've conquered FOMO, but I still like to rock....so I set out to find a ticket, but there were no extras floating around.  The show was SOLD OUT.

 

The Revivalists are hot. Click their site. 

 

Click 4 Pix:  ALMOST FAMOUS in ASPEN

 

As it turns out my new Aspen friend, the super-hot Elexa Ruth had a connection to the band.  She invited me to a private meet and greet before the show with The Revivalists to benefit The Roots of Music, a non-profit in New Orleans. The Roots of Music in an organization that offers music education to students in the Crescent City and fills a void in music education for 100's of aspiring young musicians every year. As I learned, Elexa and The Revivalists are big, big supporters of The Roots Of Music. (Click to learn more).  The small group raised more than $10,000 last night.

Meet and greets are my specialty.  I made the scene, met the band, had some cheese and crackers, took a few pix. Then I set out in earnest to score a ticket to the sold out show. No luck.  When lead guitarist Zack Feinberg learned that I was a "big-time" blogger...he offered to put me on The Revivalist's guest list.  "Really??" I exclaimed.  Zack said "no problem" and introduced me to the band's tour manager and told him to "put this guy on the list".  The manager explained that they were already 13 people over their guest list capacity and "there's nothing I can do".   I was bummed.   Zack said "don't worry...I'll walk you in". Wow !!  Not only was Zack rumored to be a great guitarist, he is a very nice guy...and he was going out of his way to accommodate me.  I immediately liked him..a lot.

As the meet and greet wound down, Zack signaled me to follow him and we walked over to The Belly Up together. Keep in mind,  I've been to over 100 shows at Belly Up...so I knew that they can be kind of uptight in many ways. Belly Up makes the rules...and the everybody is required to follow them...or else.  Running a small venue like Belly Up is very difficult and I respect the fact that they run a tight ship.  While I've never really had any problems at Belly Up in the past...I've never felt completely welcomed there either.  Some local businesses embrace AspenSpin, Belly Up has never really been one of them.  Over the years,  I've manged to get on the artist's guest list a few times, I even had all access passes a couple times, and even medicated in the green room on one occasion.  But I know Belly Up is very tough...so I figured "walking in" with Zack (no ticket, no sticker, no wrist band) was a tenuous situation at best.

As we approached the door Zack said "act like you've been there before". I nodded. Zack did not realize, I have been there before.  It was go time.  Zack flashed his all access laminate and said "he's with me". I smiled and purpose-walked past the entry and security.  Poof...just like that...I was in the door. I was "with the band".  As we strolled through venue towards the stage, Zack and I shared a self congratulatory hand slap and he said "see, you're with the band."  For about 30 seconds I had my "almost famous" moment. There was a brief sense of relief.  I was in...niiiiice. That was until a giant bouncer with a walkie-talkie ear piece tapped me on the shoulder and said "you can't just walk in like that".  I looked at him in silence.  Zach attempted to defend me by pleading "he's with the band, he's press".  The security guy asked "is his name was on the list?"  I remained silent.  Zach looked at him and bro-ed him out and said " c'mon?, he's with me".  The Belly Up guy said firmly..."if he's not on the list, he's out" and he officiously walked me toward the door.  Zack shrugged his shoulders and said, "sorry, dude...I tried".

Meet and Greet for The Roots of Music in New Orleans.I was was out on the street with no ticket. Luckily with a little hustle and a few extra bucks I managed to scalp a ticket out front.   Boom!!!  Yah, dude...I'm legit...a full-on ticket holder.  

As is my custom...I set up shop in the front row in order to snap a few  sick pix.  Zack was tuning up on-stage, he seemed glad to see me and gave me a high five.   The show started and I began doing my thing...making magic happen with my lens.  I've shot pix at every single show I've ever attended at Belly Up...over 100.  All of a sudden a different giant Belly Up guy tapped me on the shoulder and ordered "no cameras".  I replied "I'm not using a flash".  He stated firmly...."no cameras...only phones".    I have a very powerful camera...but its not a phone.  Its small, smaller than a phone.  We walked off to the side and I politely shared that I had been shooting pix in Belly Up for 10 years with a camera, without inccident and I never had an issue before.  "Is it a new policy?" I asked.  He called his manager over...who happened to be the same guy who had kicked me out before.  I explained to him who I was and shared with him the viral power that is AspenSpin. He was very polite and said I needed clearance before I could shoot. At this point I was grasping for straws. I shouted "Goldberg knows me!!!".  He said "I'll check". I'm not sure how, but  within a couple minutes...I was good to go. "Go ahead, take some pictures" laughed  my new bouncer friend and we shared a fist bump.

The show was awesome.  The band was tight.  Zach is a virtuoso guitar player.  Lead singer David Shaw led the crowd into a frenzy with his soulful voice. The horns, the keys, the steel guitar all join together in a beautful, Revivalist-style symphony.  The Revivalists are hot.   The southern-style rock and funk fusion was a total jam.   It's always great to go into a show with zero knowledge of a band's work...and leave that show as a true fan.  I highly reccomend seeing The Revivalists if they come to your town.  You can also listen to their new album Men Amongst Moutains on spotify or pandora or I-tunes...but take if from me seeing them live is truly the way to go.  I reccomend the front row.  Turn dat sh*t up to 11.

It was a good night, a tremendous rock show from The Revivalists.  Thanks to The Roots of Music, Elexa, Zack and even to the guys at Belly Up...who only kicked me out once.  

It was my almost famous moment...almost.  

Click 4 Pix:  ALMOST FAMOUS in ASPEN

David Shaw , lead singer of The Revivalists with Anne and Elexa.

Zack Feinberg lead guitarist for The Revivalists.Full-on Jam sesh in Aspen with Revivalists.

Saturday
Mar052016

Clueless Adult Skiing. A guest post by Garine Isassi

Clueless Adult Skiing

By Garinè Isassi

People who ski are really addicted. They love the thrill of speeding downhill with the risk of splattering their limbs on a tree as they accelerate. I’ve always found it be a bit nuts, like bungee jumping and skydiving.  I love a good hike, but I was never what you’d call an athletic person. I am the first to admit it – lounging is my sport of choice. I am really great at lounging with a book and a glass of wine. If they ever put that in the Olympics, I am on the team, for sure.

When I moved to the northeast as an adult, I thought I should join the goggled throng and see what all the fuss was about. Some of my neighbors had been skiing since they could walk. They were on ski teams in high school. It was a way of life and totally alien to me. So, I took up the gauntlet when I had the opportunity to spend the weekend at a relative's mountain house.

Since I didn't own any skis, I needed to rent. I walked around the wooden-floored shop of the lodge, trustingly following the teenage ski bunny in charge. The lithe, young woman piled up my open arms with a jacket, skis, poles, goggles, and boots. Struggling under the weight, I thanked her and headed to the staging area where I started the process of gearing up.

Nobody warned me that getting dressed for skiing is like a Geisha Kimono wrapping ceremony. Layers of silk long johns, then jeans and shirts, and then snow pants and jackets, gloves, hat, and eye cover. The boots, with their velcro and buckles, took me 10 minutes to figure out. Then I hobbled out into the snow, working the boots into the clicking noise that said they were attached into the skis. I was sweating, looked like short, bulging astronaut exploring the moon, and I immediately fell over.

While others sped off in all directions, I lay there like a beetle on its back, flailing my arms around until a set of boys took pity on me and helped me to an upright position. I'm sure that I was supposed to be impressed when the boys said they were heading for the black diamond trail, but ignorance lends itself to cluelessness, which leads to being unimpressed by the impressive.

I groped my way to the adult beginner skiing class. Once lined up in the class, it was striking that all of us came here with someone who grew up on skis, while we all grew up in some hot locale. I was raised in Texas. The guy to my right was from Mumbai, India. He was here with his fiancé - a Jersey girl. To my left was a woman from the Philippines. Beyond her was a guy from Arizona.

Todd, our ski instructor, taught us the squat, the slide, and the butt wiggle. Then up we went to the top of the baby slope.  Within 30 seconds I was on my back again. During the few moments when I was not face-planted in the snow, it was fun. Although I was the best at the butt wiggle, crashing every few minutes did not bode well with me. I was a bad skier. I had to admit it. You have to be strong and agile to be great skier and I think you have to a great skier to love it.

I stuck to the bunny slope that day and eventually managed to get all the way from the top to the bottom without falling. Maybe I'll work myself up to actually going to the top of the mountain . . . or I could perfect my lounging technique by the fire in the lodge while everyone else is dangling from the ski lift.

In the end, I am a beach person versus a mountain type. Hanging out under an umbrella and building sandcastles is definitely more my speed than throwing myself down a mountain. I choose grabbing a towel, sunscreen and bathing suit over the pile of equipment heaped upon me for skiing.

The main thing I learned is to appreciate how hard it is to ski well. Go ahead and call me a wuss. I can take it. Pass me the hot chocolate on your way out to the black diamond.

 

Author Garine B. Isassi is a wife and mother to three children. She is debuting her first fiction novel Start with the Back Beat (She Writes Press, April 2016) and you can connect with her at http://garinethewriter.com

Monday
Feb222016

Aspen Laff Fest 2016: Full Disclosure

Local Comic Glenn Smith with Headliner Heather McDonald and a black guy (Tigey Eads) at the 2016 Aspen Laff Fest.I'm a simple man.  I like comedy.  In particular I like comedy that makes me laugh.  

The 2016 Aspen Laff Festival presented by The Wheeler Opera House provided some very funny moments this year. The highlights for me were Steve Byrne's set on Saturday night and The Second City comedy troupe's opening night show.  Many of us in Aspen fondly remember the days of yore when the HBO Comedy Festival was based in Aspen.  Those days are gone, but  The Aspen Laff Fest is here to fill in the laugh gaps at The historic Wheeler Opera House, a fantastic venue for stand up.   

The festival started on Tuesday night with a free Local's "open mic."   Many of the same funny local faces we've seen over the years participated, and there were a couple of new jokers too.  It's always fun to see every day people get out of their comfort zone, get on stage and lay down some jokes.  I can only speculate, but for some of the amateur comedians...10 minutes probably seems like an eternity.   It was a full house at Justice Snow's and the audience seemed to enjoy the neophyte comics.   Glenn Smith, Jonny Israel and Beth Brandon led the way.

THE SECOND CITY:   Since 1959, The Second City comedy troupe has been making the world laugh. Second City may be the most influential and prolific comedy theatre in history. At Aspen Laff Fest, 6 young, energetic Second City performers lit up the Wheeler stage.   Their sketch comedy and improvisational style was topical, timely, fast paced and very funny.  It was a great way to kick off the festival.  The comics riffed on everything from Donald Trump's hair to on-line dating in 2016.  Their "yes and" style provided an unscripted and unpredictable show.  I loved it and the audience seemed to also.

The Second City performers also provided Aspen with a series of free improv workshops.  AspenSpin's A. Party participated and may have found his life's calling.  Party's natural sense of humor, quick wit and gift of gab allowed him to shine in the workshops, according to him.   "A. Party is a funny guy" shared a second city under-study.

The Second City comedy troupe opened the 2016 Aspen Laff Fest.

HEATHER McDONALD with Will Weldon:  

You know Heather McDonald from Chelsea Lately and her highly rated podcast Juicy Scoop.  Her amusing observations on being a mommy and living with her frugal husband and cruising to Target scored her a headliner spot in Aspen.  In all farness...the audience seemed to like her show a lot.  I asked around after her set...a lot of people really enjoyed the Heather's comedy stylings.  I...the founder and editor of AspenSpin, on the other hand did not.   Yeah...I laughed a little.  I caught myself smiling. It was mildly amusing.  But I also kept looking at my watch...and I dont wear a watch.  Heather took all the mundane, day-to-day musings of a modern day mommy and turned them into a few laughs.  It's clear that I'm not her audience...but the Aspen crowd seemed to dig her.  Her warm up act Will Weldon is from Canada...nuff said.  Just kidding he did a nice job of warming up the crowd.

Heather McDonald pleased the crowd in Aspen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GILBERT GOTTFRIED w/ Jerry Rocha:

Full disclosure...I was not a Gilbert Gottfried fan going in.  After seeing him in person I can honestly say...he's not very funny.  Maybe in short spurts or in his former incarnation as the voice of the Aflac duck he can get me to laugh...but not last night.  I don't relate to his whiny, squinty-eyed, sand-paper voiced delivery.   His act seemed stale.  Even if his material was new...it felt like we had a flash back to 1985. He's been at it for a long time... so apparently some people enjoy GG's stuff...other people (like me) walked out.   I made it 3/4's of the way through his hour before I bolted.  When he announced that he was about to get raunchy...I hit the stairs.   Warm-up Jerry Rocha made 10 minutes feel like 40 minutes in an unremarkable performance. 

Gilbert Gottfried... meh.

 

STEVE BYRNE w/ Gareth Reynolds:

To me...this show was the highlight of the festival.  Byrne is edgy, young, hip, timely and very quick on his feet.   He's obviously a trained professional and his set was tight. It was Saturday night, and the crowd loved Byrne's irreverent commentary.  I remember laughing a lot...that is...until he called me out of the audience to join Aspen's boy band..."Sausage Party".  Yes---right there on the Wheeler stage I had my comedy debut and I actually got a few laughs.  I can't really remember any of Byrne's jokes...all I know is...it was funny as sh*t.   Warm up Gareth Reynolds (also a member of Sausage Party) was funny too.

Steve Byrne blew the roof off the Wheeler Opera House at Aspen Laff Fest 2016.

PETE HOLMES w/ Brett Sullivan:

Pete Holmes closed out the Laff Fest with a great set.  He's happy, he's funny and he's kind of funny looking too.  He is perhaps the tallest stand-up working today.  His rasor sharp humor had a positive effect on the crowd.   Lots of laughs.  Brett Sullivan, the warm up...yeah he was funny too.

In summation Aspen Laff Festival 2016 was a rousing success.  The Wheeler was rocking and the people were laughing.  Aspen Laff Fest 2017 is already on the calender for next year...so get ready to laugh.

Pete Holmes...that guy is funny.

 

 

Tuesday
Feb162016

Aspen Laugh Fest 2016 will crack you up 4 FREE. Tonight.

The Aspen Laff Festival kicks off tonight (Tues Feb 16) with FREE Open Mic Night at Justice Snow's at 6 pm.   The Laff Fest then rolls into high gear Feb. 18-20 at the all new WHEELER OPERA HOUSE.

"It's always the wackiest weekend of the year"  A. Party

Click for info, line-up and tix:

 ASPEN LAFF FEST 2016.

 

 

 

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