Ushering in the New Year in Aspen means a plethora of venues, activities and parties to choose from when it comes to the decision of where to be when the clock strikes midnight.
One of Aspen’s most historic sites, the Wheeler Opera House, is not to be overlooked when deciding on New Year’s plans, thanks to its always reliable entertainment schedule which caps off the year with a Colorado favorite, Yonder Mountain String Band.
“Yonder reached out to us about the opportunity to play the Wheeler during their New Year’s Eve run of shows,” says Gena Buhler, Wheeler Opera House executive and artistic director. “We partner with Belly Up Aspen annually for our NYE programming, and because [Yonder] has a great history playing Aspen, the chance to have a Colorado band play the historic Wheeler Opera House on the last concert of the decade seemed like a great fit.”
Originally from Nederland, the five-piece modern-bluegrass ensemble comes to Aspen after a two-night run at Boulder’s Fox Theatre and a performance in Breckenridge, making its way through the mountains on the way to the big show here in Aspen.
“It means so much to play for the Colorado crowds,” says banjo player Dave Johnston. “It all began here for us, and that wonderful sense of community and excitement works wonders for us.”
Buhler seconds that notion: “Yonder’s style of contemporary, bluegrass-fueled Americana music is perfect for an all-night long New Year’s celebration concert. I’m sure the band will have something special in store for the fans for their last concert of the decade.”
Ticket holders for the evening will experience more than music. At 7:45 p.m., doors open to the second-floor event space (aka the Vault), which offers a perfect perspective for watching the fireworks over Aspen Mountain. European Catering will be providing food, and there will be a cash bar as well as festive décor throughout the historic opera house.
The band takes the stage at 9:30 p.m. and will play through midnight with an intermission.
“We’ve never been up there for New Year’s, and we’re excited to take it all in,” says Johnston. “We normally have a great time in Aspen, so it feels like a great opportunity to create the perfect storm.”
With the help of its partnership with Belly Up, the Wheeler is able to consistently bring great bands to town, providing one more incredible venue in which major live acts can perform in Aspen.
“We love our partnership with Belly Up, and our annual New Year’s Eve concert is just one of the reasons it’s such a benefit to the community when two organizations work together to bring fantastic music to town,” says Buhler.
When collaborating, the local businesses make sure to complement one another, rather than compete, as was the case with New Year’s Eve.
“Endurance, creativity and excitement are important elements in the artists we welcome to the Wheeler on NYE each year,” Buhler says. “We also look at the landscape of offerings in town and try to bring something different to the community. Because the Belly Up knew they had electronic music programmed, we worked together to find live music to fill the Wheeler.”
The opportunity to play the historic venue is not lost on the band members, either.
“The Wheeler is a really special place,” says Johnston. “Walking into places like that and getting to play there are some of the best aspects of being a musician.”
The Wheeler’s strong lineup doesn’t conclude with 2019. The first few months of the year continue to offer a wide array of programming, from Aspen Film Academy Screenings to Aspen Laugh Fest performances by The Second City, Norm Macdonald and Trevor Noah, to music acts such as Guster and Robert Earl Keen all taking the iconic stage. For more, go to Wheeleroperahouse.com.