Michael Franti headlines music at 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships
Special to the Weekly
As the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships descend on our tiny mountain town for the next two weeks, we’re all wondering how bad the parking will be, if Lindsey Vonn will get another record-breaking win and which skiing celebrities we’ll get to see from the stands or hopefully dine next to at dinner. Let’s be honest, hosting the Alpine World Ski Championships is a chance for us to show off a little and prove that this is the place to be not just for skiing, but it’s also a mecca for great shopping, fantastic food and first-rate entertainment. Not only will the biggest names in skiing be coming to town to strut their stuff, but the bands and musicians playing during the Championships are no strangers to filling arenas and rocking out in front of big crowds.
Feeling the vibe with Michael Franti & Spearhead
It’s hard to imagine a better band to get the party started than Michael Franti & Spearhead, who will perform Tuesday, Feb. 3. Known for both his activist anthems and uplifting love songs, Franti’s live shows are always a fun, family-friendly affair. While not the main reason one should come out to see Franti play fan favorites like “Say Hey (I Love You),” their upcoming Vail show is one of the few places you’ll see the musician donning something unusual: shoes. Technically, Franti has been living life barefoot for 14 years, as a way to raise awareness about places in the world where people can’t afford shoes. However, like the rest of us, sometimes the weather wins out over one’s strident principles. Franti said a few years ago during a show in Park City, the heaters on stage couldn’t combat the strong winds coming in the other direction. Franti first opted for socks, but then the heaters kept melting the falling snow, resulting in cold, soaked feet.
“I decided from that point forward if there was a time (where I needed) to wear shoes in the winter, I would,” Franti said.
Franti’s need for sneakers doesn’t mean he hasn’t stopped taking a stance on political issues and writing songs that call for change. Last month, Franti released the song and video “Same As It Ever Was (Start Today),” in response to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Eric Garner verdict in New York City. Franti, whose own brother is a police officer, said in troubling times, it’s important to keep striving for peace and remain optimistic.
“My main intention is to always highlight the positive,” Franti said. “That’s how I go through life when there are difficult challenges that we face. I feel like (this) is the way to best rally people around them.”
A diverse listening playlist
The next big act on deck for the Championships may not be as familiar to American audiences as Franti & Spearhead, but in Austria, trust us, he’s a pretty big deal. Andreas Gabalier, who performs Feb. 4, is an Austrian folk singer who sang the 2013 World Championships’ Official Song (which took place in Schladming) and is known for his hit songs sung in “schlager,” a style of German pop music. Gabalier’s concert will be in line with the spirit of the Championships, which are an international event bringing both athletes and spectators from around the world.
The radio dial spins again the next day, with Mix Master Mike on the turntables Feb. 5. Most are familiar with the DJ from his work with the Beastie Boys, so expect to bounce around and nod your head frantically for Master Mike’s set in Solaris.
You may not know the next band in the lineup by their name, but there’s no doubt you’ve heard their mandolin-tinged hit “Best Day of My Life,” which took the struggling Brooklyn band from playing in basements to the top of the Billboard charts. Zac Barnett, lead singer of American Authors, said writing feel-good music with his bandmates was a way to keep going despite fearing failure.
“There were definitely moments where we thought about giving up,” Barnett said. “Maybe this isn’t the path we should be on, sharing a small apartment in Brooklyn. We were broke, I lost my job due to the hurricane, it was pretty hard. One of the big things that bound us together was the fact that we did have one another to keep us inspired during the hard times, to work harder, keep writing and keep trying.”
After getting some attention with their first single “Believer,” the song American Authors wrote as more of a wish than reality at the time, became inescapable this summer. While Barnett is now a little sick of people asking him what the “best day” of his life is, he’s looking forward to coming back to Vail as a performer and also hitting the hill, which he described as “the best snowboarding that I’ve ever done in my life.” It’s safe to say that many in the crowd during American Authors’ show will share this sentiment with him.
Closing out the first week of free shows in Vail at Solaris is O.A.R. on Feb. 7, a band that always seems to garner a large audience when they perform in Vail. In their hit song “Shattered (Turn The Car Around),” the pop-rock outfit sings, “How many times can I break till I shatter?” That could well be on the playlist for many of the racers on the alpine skiing circuit.
Music’s winners and chart-toppers
As if a week of kick-butt concerts weren’t enough, there will be even more the second week, so maybe it’s time to start treating this music marathon as its own challenge by doing squats before each show and guzzling the Gatorade. Performing Feb. 8, Craig Wayne Boyd knows a thing or two about competing, having just been crowned the winner of this past season’s “The Voice.”
After wowing the judges during the blind auditions, this old-fashioned crooner has already made history when his single “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” debuted at No. 1 on the country charts in December.
Recently announced, Canadian alt-rock band the Barenaked Ladies will be performing on Feb. 9. The Grammy-nominated veterans of the music world have sold more than 14 million albums and are behind hits including “One Week,” “The Old Apartment,” “Pinch Me,” “If I Had $1000000” and “Brian Wilson.”
On Feb. 10, the music gets a bit funkier, with KC and the Sunshine Band bringing us back to the days of disco, getting everyone to boogie down again to classics like “That’s The Way (I Like It).”
Although not from Colorado, Phillip Phillips’ mix of Americana and soulful rock does tend to remind us of our “Home” in the mountains. The Georgia native first hit may have encapsulated the cultural zeitgeist at the time, but Phillips’ focus on the music, not his fame brought on from winning “American Idol,” has kept the musician from becoming a reality-TV has-been.
“(During ‘American Idol’), I was 21 and definitely young, but musically and as an artist I knew who I was,” Phillips said. “A lot of ‘American Idol’ was (about) always constantly learning something new about myself.”
For someone who won a singing competition, Phillips has always seen himself as more of a guitarist than a vocalist. But if he had focused on strumming instead of humming, he may not be where he is today, and he remains humble about his success.
“I’m not that great (on guitar),” Phillips said. “I don’t think I could be playing for other bands. … Writing music and singing it, I’m definitely not the greatest singer in the world, but when I do it, it’s a release for sure.”
Valentine’s Day is all about the love, but on Feb. 14, the artist taking the stage at Solaris is someone who wrote one of the best breakup songs in the last decade. CeeLo Green is not just the guy who had a hit with “Forget You,” he’s also known for his epic style, his ability to create the ultimate jam session and for never taking off his sunglasses.
Up-and-coming acts in Avon
But wait — there’s one more encore. There can’t be all this music in Vail without Avon getting in on the action as well. Held every day from 2 to 5:30 p.m. from Feb. 3 through Feb. 14, Apres Avon will feature its own free concert and street fair at Avon’s Main Street Mall. This lineup will not be the usual apres favorites. Instead, organizer Scott Stoughton wanted to bring in fresh, upcoming acts that many haven’t seen locally before. Highlights during the happenings in Avon include The Mother Hips with special guest Nicki Bluhm, Euforquestra playing a special set with Kevin Kinsella of John Brown’s Body, The Motet and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.
Don’t discount the acts at Apres Avon just because they may not yet have a hit single or be a household name. Take an afternoon to check out someone new, like Nicki Bluhm, and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. Reggae band Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad has converted more than one reluctant fan with their jammin’ live sets.
“Reggae, like any genre of music, has a lot of good and a lot of bad,” said James Searl, vocalist and bassist for Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. “Until you really dive deep into the history of it and all that it has to offer, sometimes it’s difficult to find what you like. (Many people have said) ‘You know what, I’m not a fan of reggae, but I’ve really enjoyed your band for some reason.’
“We always look at Colorado as this unique moment for us to sound different, even to ourselves,” he said. “In your head, you’re in a different mental state. … People there are really responding to the climate, especially winter sport people. It’s a great vibe. You get on stage and everybody is ready to go.”
As a longtime local, Stoughton sees the world championships as a chance for valley residents to “show the soul of the community,” he said.
When looking at February’s lineup of performers, it’s clear that this is a place that’s all about celebrating the sunshine, spreading the love, cheering up the losers and dancing one’s cares away. If, like Michael Franti, your feet get cold during any one of these outdoor concerts, remember that the only way to get them warm again is to move them to the beat of the music.
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