Twilight Concert Series continues to grow

By Joe Schmidt, Staff Writer

For music lovers in Salt Lake City, there’s no better time than the summer to experience some great performances. For the low price of absolutely nothing, the Twilight Concert Series continues to remain one of the season’s main attractions.

“The level of artistry is really high,” said Casey Jarman, director of the series. “The fact that it’s free is incredibly unique. For the level of artists that are there, to have a free concert series like this is really different from anything I’ve ever seen.”

Starting July 9 and running through Aug. 27, each Thursday evening the Gallivan Center hosts an eclectic mix of musicians for the increasingly popular summer festival.

This year’s lineup continues to maintain the standard of eclectic and highly influential artists, ranging from blues, soul and electronic to grunge-rock and reggae.

“One of the things that I’ve always tried to do with the Twilight Concert Series is to keep it really diverse,” Jarman said. “ ”You can’t please everybody all of the time’ obviously is an old saying, but if you’ve got eight concerts, you should be able to reach somebody.”

He said he’s always tried to maintain the progressive feel of the acts he books, and that as long as he’s organizing the concerts, that standard of quality will persist.

Dating back to its humble beginnings at the Arts Center more than 20 years ago, the Twilight Series started a tradition of showcasing jazz and folk-rock sets. Although there are many notable folk-rock musicians sharing the stage this summer (Bon Iver, Jenny Lewis, Iron & Wine and M. Ward) the jazz genre is barely represented on the lineup. Robert Randolph & the Family Band play with Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears on the closing night, making this the only offering of rhythm and blues for the entire series.
This change is because of the series’ evolution, and its attempt to remain relevant in the always-changing musical landscape.

“I think you kind of go where the music is relative,” Jarman said. “There’s a lot of good music out8212;it’s a little bit younger audience listening to it.”

For years, he has made an effort to branch out from the series’ main genres in order to present an eclectic array of artists.

“I try to put together a series that’s not just about me,” he said. “It’s not just my musical favorites. I do like them all, though. And so I have to stretch myself to say, “OK, this band is doing some really interesting things.’ ”

Alternative and indie rock have been given a larger presence this year, with Sonic Youth, The Black Keys, Human Highway and Awesome Color scheduled to perform.

One of the more significant changes in recent history was last year’s addition of hip-hop to the lineup. Renowned rap groups The Roots and De La Soul made appearances last summer, the former drawing 15,000 people, the largest crowd since the annual series of concerts began in 1987.

“The Roots was probably the biggest show we’ve ever done,” Jarman said. “In terms of audience and sales and all that stuff, it was our biggest concert. So that’s a big statement.”

How did Jarman plan to follow that up this year? By pairing another critically acclaimed MC and Q-Tip, the front man for A Tribe Called Quest, with a relative newcomer to the rap scene, Atlanta native B.o.B.

Last year’s series was highly successful, averaging about 10,000 people per show. Although the move to the Gallivan Center provided a bigger space for the concerts, they have become increasingly popular in recent years, meaning that the crowd gets bigger and bigger. Longtime attendees long for the older days when the crowds were smaller, but Jarman remains optimistic.

“Every year it’s grown a little bit more,” he said. “We’re running out of space at Gallivan, but we’re trying to make it work.” Despite the consistent growth of attendees, they have yet to turn people away.

If the increasing turnout is any indication, it’s that Jarman is doing something right.
“I think we’ve demonstrated that quality will always be the priority of the concert series,” he said. “It’s always going to be artist-driven, and the artists that are there are going to be of high quality.”

For more information about the 2009 Twilight Concert Series including band lineups and times, go to www.slcgov.com/arts/twilight.

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