Labor Day concert crowds set a record for three-day format

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Despite rainfall over the weekend, Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival crowds set a new attendance record since the event went down to three days in 2009.
Total festival attendance over three days was about 25,700, around 15 percent higher than last year, according to JAS CEO Jim Horowitz. The festival sold out on Saturday night as country-rock headliner Keith Urban played through an intense downpour to 11,000 gathered at Snowmass Town Park.
“It’s certainly a record for the three-day festival,” Horowitz said, noting that for a long time, the festival ran four days, through Monday on Labor Day weekend.
Sunday’s show, featuring Journey and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, drew around 8,700, Horowitz said.
About 6,000 turned out for Friday night’s show featuring Jason Mraz and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, despite rain that “came hard” right before Potter’s 6 p.m. appearance, Horowitz said. If not for that, there easily would have been another thousand spectators, he said.
The last festival sellout occurred on Sunday night of the 2011 event, when the headliner was the Zac Brown Band, another country act with mainstream appeal. Horowitz noted that while country music is gaining a larger audience, Urban and Brown are not “traditional country acts.”
The Jazz Fest lineup changes every year and is “not cookie cutter,” Horowitz said. Still, in terms of the growing popularity of country music at the summer-closing event, “I can’t say it’s a trend, and I can’t say it isn’t.”
Horowitz also said 2013 drew more destination visitors than any previous three-day JAS Labor Day festival, and more people bought three-day “blind faith” passes than ever before. The blind faith pass goes on sale at a discount before the performers are announced.
Horowitz said organizers strive to put together a “somewhat cohesive” set of artists, so locals and visitors have a reason to attend all three days.
He was effusive in his praise for Urban’s performance, and Saturday’s “epic day” of music.
The rain was coming down so hard at one point on Saturday night, that organizers asked Urban if he wished to continue his set.
“The answer was emphatically yes,” Horowitz said.