Bunny Wailers' Aspen Magic
by Roger Steffens

Aspen, Colorado sits 9,000 feet up in the craggy peaks of the
Rocky Mountains. A millionaire's retreat, even the cops drive
Volvos. Its elegant stores, nestled in l9th century brick
structures, display things like a $240 hand-painted Bob Marley T-
shirt. On Labor Day weekend, the One World Music Festival was held,
headlined on Saturday evening by the reclusive legend, Bunny
Wailer. It was one of the most unforgettable performances in his
30-year-long history on stage.

The day dawned, soaked and muddy from an all-night downpour.
Bunny had arrived for the one-off show in a spectacularly good
mood, accompanied by the likes of original Wailer, Vision Walker,
Andrew Tosh, and Dizzy Johnny Moore of the Skatalites. Bunny
remained in his room all day with the thick curtains drawn. Every
half-hour or so, he'd pull back the drapes and observe the weather
outside. Over the jagged mountaintops, the sky was dark and
lowering, all slate-grey and black clouds, sprinking moisture
intermittently throughout the day. "Well," Bunny drawled in his
deep, rich voice, "I know one thing. When I come on, it a-go
extreme! I don't know which extreme, but it definitely extreme."

Bunny's prophetic gifts would prove intact. Shortly after six
p.m. the singer boarded a van to drive the few hundred yards up the
steep mountainside to the stage. Just as he arrived at the site,
the rain stopped. Suddenly, just over the peaks to the west, the
sun burst through the clouds, like a spotlight suddenly
illuminating a darkened sound stage! To the south, sheets of
lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, and rain darkened the horizon.
And then to the east, ending by the stage, an awe-inspiring full
double rainbow appeared. "We get double rainbows up here
regularly," cautioned one 50-year resident, who added, "but I've
never seen one as intense as this in my entire life!" His comments
were echoed by everyone else who witnessed the celestial
phenomenon. "Did you notice," asked one white dread, "that there
were three distinct hues in the purple alone?" The rainbow seemed
palapable, thick, and there were times when the entire audience was
looking to its right instead of at the stage, mouths agape, and
cries of wonder on their lips.

Bunny himself was equally staggered. "You know what that is,
don't you?" he said. "That's Bob and Peter!" A giant roar greeted
his arrival, following a few opening numbers from Psalms, his
backing vocal group. Majestically garbed in flowing white robe
covered with sacred symbols, he strode the stage for his 80-minute
set like some Biblical shaman, mixing classic and new tracks, until
he was finally joined by Peter Tosh's son, Andrew, for a brief,
well-received interlude. The sight of Wailers Vision and Bunny with
the younger Tosh brought a wave of nostalgia trembling through the
old-timers. Ziggy Marley, scheduled to headline the following day,
was staying in an adjacent hotel, and had been invited to join
Bunny on stage for his finale. For some unfathomable reason, he
declined. But the set was nevertheless unforgettable for all those
who attended. "It was the kind of thing that you'll be telling your
grandchildren about years from now," enthused Postman Roger Dread,
a reggae host on Boulder's KGNU radio.

After the concert, Bunny sat alone in his room with this writer
for about fifteen minutes. For the first ten, he perched on the
edge of his bed, not saying a word. Finally he turned and said, "I
want you to know that what happend here today, NEVER happen to no
Wailer EVER. And it deep. And it mystic!" Bunny is making enquiries
now about booking a North American tour soon to keep the vibe
going. "I think," he observed happily, "that I have finally found
the true America."


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