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Shows are worth the drive

SNOWMASS – Jack Johnson, champion surfer turned songwriter, made some waves at Friday’s opening night of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival. Thousands of fans flooded the field in Snowmass Village, drawing larger crowds than headliner Sheryl Crow did Saturday night.A few years ago, Johnson performed in Breckenridge as an unknown, but his debut album, “Brushfire Fairytales,” kindled his musical career. A native of the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, he originally planned to make surf films, but his soundtracks accompanying footage of big waves took on a life of their own.Garrett Dutton, aka G. Love, founder of the hip-hop and blues trio G. Love & Special Sauce, visited Johnson after Johnson used some of G. Love’s music in his first surf film. After a day of surfing, the two jammed, which led Love to record Johnson’s hip-hoppy “Rodeo Clowns.” It became a radio single, and Johnson began touring.Friday night, the pair reunited after G. Love & Special Sauce’s solo gig at 7 p.m., adding a little hip-hop to Johnson’s signature low-key voice and simple acoustic guitar licks – not that Johnson needed help keeping the crowd interested. People crammed into the field, which accommodates up to 10,000 and stands at the base of the Elk Mountain Range. Fortunately, Johnson’s groove doesn’t spur people into a dance frenzy because space only allowed for mellow sways or bounces. He performed favorites from “Brushfire Fairytales” and tunes from his latest disc, “On and On.”Maybe it had something to do with the more-than-hourlong lines to shuttle back to parking lots Friday night or with the higher ticket price, but Crow didn’t draw as large of a crowd with her only gig this year in Colorado Saturday night. But she still filled the field – there was just more room to “have some fun” to her pop-laden tunes.Though she said she was a little under the weather and occasionally her voice sounded weak, she still put on a good show, highlighting any and all lyrics having to do with partying and thanking the valley for supporting her when she started her solo career. She made up for any vocal flaws by giving the crowd a full booty shake and inviting her partner, Lance Armstrong, and his son onto stage to switch out guitars.Sunday night, headliner Steve Miller started out with a slow mix of blues and jazz but ended up rocking the crowd with a new twist on the classic hit “Fly Like an Eagle” and straightforward renditions of “The Joker,” “Take the Money & Run” and “Jungle Love.”Shows began at 2 p.m. Saturday through Monday and included Texas titan Lyle Lovett, soulful singer and songwriter Lucinda Williams, David Byrne, BR549, Cake and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. The music continued late into the night at clubs throughout Snowmass with jas after dark, featuring subdudes, Animal Liberation Orchestra and Soulive, among others.Though the outdoor, flat-field venue doesn’t lend itself to seeing the stage easily and shuttling to parking lots can be a bit tiresome, the music at the 10th annual Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival – which is a misnomer, since it brings in anything from rock, funk, blues and soul to hip-hop, world and reggae – is well worth the two-and-a-half hour drive.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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