Perfect weather and superior headliners combined to make the three-day Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience a success, JAS president and CEO Jim Horowitz said Sunday night.
JAS has presented the Labor Day weekend festival for the past 25 years. Horowitz said Friday’s show was a near-sellout, drawing 8,500 fans of bands like Portugal. The Man and Weezer. Saturday’s concerts, headlined by John Mayer, and Sunday’s lineup, featuring Sting, sold out, he said, reaching the 10,000-person capacity permitted for Snowmass Town Park.
Speaking just before Sting was slated to perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Horowitz said that over the last few years, the festival has been close to reaching capacity on all three days.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend,” he said. “It’s lived up to the anticipation, which was really high. The biggest headliners, John Mayer and Sting, had never played here before. That always adds a big element of excitement.”
Horowitz said the festival was “blessed this year by hero weather,” which he went on to describe as conditions “that make a hero out of the experience.”
“Good weather always helps the mood, the vibe, but also the music has absolutely delivered. Everyone has been very well received by the crowd,” he said. “We live in Colorado, and when the weather is like this, you know how lucky you are. Everybody gets it and everyone appreciates it. Let’s just call it a ‘legal mood elevator.’”
The 2018 festival didn’t start as well, as lightning and rain cut short Lionel Richie’s headlining set on Friday. An evacuation of the festival grounds sent hordes of people scurrying for buses that were slow to arrive to deal with the onslaught.
Horowitz said there were no public-safety issues associated with the event this year. The fans that regularly attend the Labor Day festival tend to be mellow, he said.
“A lot of the people who come here have come many times, and they understand the venue and the experience. It’s not their first rodeo, so to speak. People know how they like to do this event, they’ve got it dialed in. That collective experience helps to make it better for everybody,” he said.
Horowitz had praise for John Mayer, who by most accounts put on an intensely moving show on Saturday night. Mayer, 41, a diverse artist who has won seven Grammys out of 19 nominations, wowed the audience with his soulful vocals and intricate blues-based guitar leads.
His set, however, seemed unusually short, according to some people who chatted after the show. He didn’t perform much of the pop music that marked the early part of his career and focused on an R&B sound that dominated albums like “Continuum” (2006). Some in the audience expressed a degree of thanks that he passed on performing one of his biggest hits, “Your Body is a Wonderland” (2002), in favor of lesser-known material like “Love on the Weekend” and “Dear Marie.”
Along the way, he covered some highly recognizable tunes: Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” and Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” delighted fans young and old. Even one of his early pop tunes, the ultra-sensitive “Daughters,” scored with disbelievers who dared Mayer to prove that he has substance as well as style.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mayer didn’t turn in any Grateful Dead covers, which he’s been performing for the last three years in his role as lead guitarist and vocalist with Dead & Company.
“John Mayer is very engaging and he has a great songbook. He delivered a great show and I don’t think anybody was disappointed with him,” Horowitz said. “He’s got different genres. He’s been at it for a while and he can play many things and he can sing. He’s the real deal.”