José González might have started his musical journey playing in hard-core rock bands, but that particular bend in the road is just a long-passed spot. Now, the internationally praised artist is better known for his acoustic music with folk influences that range from Simon and Garfunkel to Nick Drake. On Saturday, Aug 24, González will perform at the Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC), showcasing an acoustic sound that’s anything but simple.
González started playing music at 14, learning guitar on his own, then moving to classical guitar; he also played bass with punk and hard-core bands “when I was younger,” he says. But he found that as he had less and less time to play music, “the style that I got stuck with was the singer-songwriter and that was what the audience connected to.”
The connection is strong—in 2003, González switched from studying biochemistry to playing music full time. He released his debut album, Veneer, in 2003 (it hit the US in 2005) and Our Nature in 2007. Eight years passed until he released his third solo album, Vestiges and Claws in 2015, but González wasn’t sitting around. He released two albums with his band project Junip and was also heavily featured on the soundtrack for the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
“We’re excited to bring José González for the first time to the Vilar Performing Arts Center stage,” says Kim Hannold, programming director for VPAC. “His striking songwriting and intimate vocals and harmonies perfectly complement the incredibly nuanced music. It draws the listener in and demands their attention. Our intimate room is the perfect setting for this gifted artist.”
González’s music has been called “subtle and carefully crafted” by Rolling Stone, and his songs have been described as “slight little creations, with minimal words encapsulating big ideas and breezy pop melodies disguising weighty notions about life’s endlessly refracting illusions” by NPR. Without an overload of instruments to muddy the message, González can connect with the audience intimately, often belying the size of the venue.
“I think I’ve always had an audience in mind when I’ve been writing,” González says. “And I think there’s been a shifting from album to album. The first album was more introspective. And since then I’ve been sort of shifting away from introspection and sort of an ‘inner struggle’ type of lyrics to more lyrics where I feel like I’m talking to humanity as a whole—or the narrative voice is speaking to humanity.”
González’s performance on Saturday will be a return to his roots: He’ll be on stage with his Spanish guitar. He’s planning on playing songs from his first three albums in addition to a few new covers. It’ll be a performance that Hannold calls the “perfect end-of-summer soundtrack.”
Along with González, Denver-based indie artist Covenhoven will open the concert at VPAC. Covenhoven is musician Joel Van Horne, whose music the Denver Post described as “rich harmonies, imagery-filled storytelling, lush strings, and an ear for a pop hook underneath all those acoustic instruments.”
José González performs at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on Saturday, Aug 24, at 8 p.m., with Covenhoven opening. Tickets start at $48 and are available now at the VPAC box office. 970-845-8497, vilarpac.org