jas labor day

About half of the members of a work crew don masks on Tuesday afternoon as they assemble the stage that will host a star-studded lineup for the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience.

David Goldberg, co-owner and operating manager of Aspen’s iconic Belly Up, describes this summer’s music scene as “electric.” And, with Labor Day weekend around the corner, the music scene is amplifying. 

“Labor Day weekend is always an end-of-summer celebration. It feels like peak season all over again, and the more music, the better Aspen gets,” Goldberg said. “We’re fortunate to have diverse shows this week and weekend, going from one night, to a complete 180 the next night in terms of sounds and the artists and the music.”

Belly Up coordinates its Labor Day weekend shows around the Jazz Aspen Snowmass (JAS) 2021 Labor Day Experience, a three-day, annual music festival at Snowmass Town Park that features artists and musicians across genres and generations. 

As two very prominent music venues in the valley, Belly Up and JAS are bringing in a broad range of eminent artists and performances to wrap up Aspen’s electric summer season of music. 

Jim Horowitz, JAS founder, president and CEO, said this year’s Labor Day Experience will differ from previous festivals, anticipating a surreal weekend as many people experience a concert of this scale for the first time since March 2020. 

“I expect it will be very emotional for a lot of people in a positive way,” Horowitz said. “I’m expecting something that none of us will ever forget — that first big concert.” 

JAS festival will kick off the music-packed weekend on Friday, Sept. 3, with performances by Gary Clark, Jr. and Kings of Leon. The authentic sister-duo rock band Larkin Poe will open at 3 p.m. on Saturday, followed by Sheryl Crow and Eric Church. Sunday’s lineup includes Yola, Maren Morris and Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band to close out the 2021 JAS Labor Day Experience. 

When discussing the weekend, Horowitz is of the opinion that this year’s 3 o’clock shows on Saturday and Sunday are going to be big topics of conversation, emphasizing how the performers, Larkin Poe and Yola, will “blow your mind.” 

“This is a tip: don’t be late for those shows,” Horowitz said. “The Larkin Poe sisters and Yola are both emerging artists who are making noise in a big way.” 

Although the JAS Labor Day concerts typically end around 9 p.m. each night, the show goes on down in Belly Up with Zedd, the multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning DJ and producer, performing at 10 p.m. on Friday, and American indie rock band Spoon taking the stage on Saturday and Sunday — a band that “pours it out every single show,” according to Goldberg.  

Goldberg explained how they try to work in unison with the JAS festival programming and showtimes, serving as a “secondary late-night option” for people to experience as much music as they wish throughout the weekend.  

“We buffer time and start shows later because we want to give everyone the opportunity to go to both,” Goldberg said. “This weekend is about offering a bunch of different options of high-quality music and a mixture of genres for people.” 

Goldberg spoke highly of these upcoming shows, including Gary Clark, Jr., who will play at Belly Up on Thursday night. While they’ve had the talented Clark and Spoon each perform down in the intimate music venue before, this will be Zedd’s first time at Belly Up, and Goldberg looks forward to the artist’s electronic, dance-party performance, stating it was the “missing ingredient” to the weekend. 

Horowitz said he’s thrilled Belly Up is doing what it's doing, mentioning how their late-night shows and performers round out the weekend and add even more energy and diversity to the town’s Labor Day weekend music experience.  

“They’re the after-hour scene,” Horowitz said. “Not everybody is ready to go to sleep after six hours at a festival, and Belly Up attracts the hardcore music fans, as well as those who can’t or choose not to go out to Labor Day festival.”  

Last year’s JAS festival was canceled in response to the pandemic and, following a tough year for the music industry at-large, both venues have decided to return to full capacity, implementing safety protocols and entry requirements. 

Belly Up recently changed its policy from including a 20% ticket pool of negative COVID-19 tests, to requiring all attendees to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to the show date. The new policy will be implemented for every show going forward, according to Goldberg. 

JAS festival, which holds a capacity of 10,000 people, will require all attendees, staff and volunteers ages 12 and older to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result up to 72 hours in advance, and children ages 11 and under will be required to provide a negative test result for admission, as stated on the JAS website.  

In order to alleviate long entry lines, JAS is offering multiple locations for vaccination card verification and COVID-19 testing prior to the event. Checkpoints will open as early as Thursday, Sept. 2, at the Red Brick Center for the Arts lawn and continue throughout the weekend.

 Horowitz explained how their COVID-19 protocols are consistent with other, “much bigger” music festivals coming up the same weekend, such as Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, and Bottlerock Napa Valley.

While most major music festivals across the country have multiple stages, JAS festival has only ever had one stage — a format Horowitz describes as “boutique and unique,” creating a more intimate setting in which everyone is on the same program. 

 From the first JAS Labor Day Experience in 1995 up on Coney Glade with headliners Willie Nelson, The Neville Brothers and Buddy Guy, to Stevie Wonder, Sting and John Mayer putting on “game-changing” performances in the last five years, JAS festival has welcomed a wide range of major artists to its single stage. 

“It’s become a powerful annual gathering for a diverse audience, an audience of multiple generations and multiple musical tastes,” Horowitz said. “The experience as a whole is so profound because of the setting and the tradition and the number of people who return every year for the music and this shared experience with others.” 

As of Tuesday, tickets are still available for all of the upcoming Belly Up concerts, as well as for JAS festival. Yet, according to Horowitz, all three days have limited availability. 

The Labor Day weekend music experience this year marks more than just the grand finale to another summer season of music. It marks a milestone for our musically rich community, celebrating the energetic, electric return to live music throughout the entire valley — something people and performers have been craving for more than a year.  

“When I think of the 30-year arc of JAS, we’ve had a lot of memories, a lot of ups and downs and highs and lows, but this year will stand on its own,” Horowitz said. “We managed to have a successful June festival and a pretty-full Jazz Café summer season, so to get through Labor Day, to reach Sept. 6, it’ll just be a relief — like, wow, we did it.” 

“Last Labor Day, it felt like there was a hole, like something was missing in Aspen,” Goldberg said. “This year will have a new specialness to it, a new energy.”