Wow. Talk about starting things off with a bang.

A lot of events that come to Aspen, in their first go-round, keep things small to minimize costs and gauge the audience’s reaction before expanding. Not Earth’s Call, which makes its grand debut in the West End this weekend. Not by a long shot.

In fact, as of Thursday, the event was sold out, according to Earth’s Call head of marketing, Mitch Salzstein. Tickets were free as long as people registered ahead of time.

The new nonprofit organization – which bears the slogan “Funding innovative solutions to fight the climate crisis” – will launch today and kick off its first-ever event this Saturday from 7-9:30 p.m. with a live concert at the Benedict Music Tent featuring Patti LaBelle, Colbie Caillat, Anthony Hamilton, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mickey Hart and others, with a score by the Earth’s Symphony Orchestra, led by Grammy-winning conductor Cheche Alara.

Billed as “an immersive experience of sight and sound” and featuring visual effects from New York production heavyweights Batwin + Robin, the performance will be live-streamed to a global audience.

Then, on Sunday, Earth’s Call’s 1,000-1,200 invited guests will retreat to the Aspen Meadows Resort for a full-day conference of environmentally focused events including breakout sessions, panel discussions, nature activities, short film screenings and more. The list of speakers includes corporate CEOs, heads of major nonprofits and a number of local experts from organizations like the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Aspen Institute (which is not affiliated with the concert or conference).

It’s an impressive way to announce Earth’s Call with authority, but it’s no less impressive than the organization’s stated goal: Earth’s Call is committed to contributing $50 million “to fund bold proposals to combat climate change” through Lever for Change, an affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Despite getting a late start, the nonprofit’s goal for 2019 is $20 million in grants.

Earth’s Call is the brainchild of John “Spike” Buckley, a Denver-based commercial real estate developer who “was extremely worried that, despite so many emerging news reports on the growing climate crisis, the majority of people seemed to truly not understand the severity of the problem, nor the urgency of taking immediate action,” according to statements from the organization.

Buckley thought it was critical to empower people, especially kids, to “answer the call” to restore the planet’s ecosystems to healthy levels, so he founded Earth’s Call as “a global megaphone to solidify strategic partnerships and collaborations that drive awareness, engagement and action; to help mobilize and catalyze a global community of first responders to take action in their own communities and help answer Earth's Call.”

Having founded the organization, Buckley and his partners chose Aspen for their grand premiere because it’s “home to unparalleled natural beauty, a symbol of the pristine wonders we endeavor to restore, protect and preserve across the earth. For about 70 years, Aspen has been the site of innumerable convenings of global leaders tasked with solving the world's most complex problems. Launching Earth's Call in this special and natural place solidifies EC’s mission of healing the planet in the face of the greatest threat ever known to mankind through solutions to the climate crisis, like soil regeneration and carbon drawdown.”

That accounts for Sunday’s conference, but it hardly begins to explain the megawattage of the concert on Saturday, the details of which have been somewhat enigmatic as the event has come together. Part of that puzzle is: Who, exactly is paying for all those big names and all the hotel rooms for the invited guests?

Earth’s Call’s website says only that it “is being subsidized by an anonymous benefactor who recognizes the critical vision and expertise you would provide by attending this event experience.”

It’s a big deal, with a bit of a mystery involved, which makes it even more intriguing, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Other events that have burst onto the Aspen scene with much to-do have disappeared just as quickly. This one, ambitious as it is, doesn’t feel like it will.

Todd Hartley writes for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at