Silver Star Cafe’s Park City Limits concert series is up and running
May 13, 2016
Two years ago, Silver Star Cafe owners Lisa and Jeff Ward started a summer music series, a scaled-down version of what was known as Plazapalooza that began in 2010.
"Plazapalooza was this giant concert we did for the community once a week," Lisa Ward told The Park Record. "It go so big that it became cumbersome for the local neighborhood because of the traffic. We would get 300 to 400 people out here on the plaza and we had to hire extra staff to handle parking issues and things like that."
contrast, the summer’s Park City Limits is a series of manageable, all-acoustic dinner shows presented solely for Silver Star Cafe patrons on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through October. (See story titled "Park City Limits performance schedule").
"There is no charge for the music, but people do need to dine with us to attend the shows," Ward said. "Because we’re such a small restaurant, in order for us remain viable, we have to make sure the audience dines with us in order to enjoy the show."
The reason is because the Silver Star Cafe pays the artists to play.
"We spend between $35,000 to $40,000 a year on these artists because they deserve it," Ward said. "They work hard to develop their craft. They are artists and very talented and they are here sharing their talent and time with us."
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The Wards are different from many other venue owners in that they pay all the artists, whether local or touring, the same fee.
Even so, the touring artists don’t mind, according to Ward.
"We’ve been fortunate to have been able to build up a reputation with touring artists who tell other touring artists about us," she said. "We now hear from people from all over the country who come through on tour and are interested in stopping by to play."
During early spring and stormy weather, the concerts are held inside the restaurant.
"That creates an intimate vibe, almost like a house concert, where you are sitting literally five feet away from some incredible artist while enjoying a meal," Ward said. "During the summer, we set up the stage outside under the patio, and that creates a feeling like being in the round, so people on both sides of the stage can enjoy the show. We also put speakers inside the restaurant so the people who are dining inside can hear the music as well."
A majority of the artists who perform are local artists from Park City and Summit County.
"We are committed to local artists and they are our first priority," Ward said. "This is their home turf and community, and we are fortunate that there are so many talented people in this community."
One of those local talents is singer and songwriter Elizabeth Hareza.
"When she first moved to Park City, she came in and said she was interested in playing here," Ward said. "So, I did what I usually do and did some research and looked for audience and video clips. She really had nothing but a YouTube video that showed her playing solo in a mall."
However, Ward was taken by Hareza’s personality.
"She is such as sweet person, so we had her come in and play one night, and she owned the room," Ward said. "She has such as big presence in how she interacts with the guests between songs, not to mention the soulful way she sings.
The Wards knew immediately that Hareza was someone they wanted to support.
"So, we brought her in once or twice a month," Ward said. "Now, she’s got a local songwriter’s circle and she’s touring. It’s great to be part of that and see a developing artist go from point A to wherever they choose to go."
Some of the musicians and groups such as the gypsy jazz ensemble, St. Boheme, who is scheduled to perform four times this season are regional artists from Salt Lake and around the state, Ward said.
"Sometimes I reach out to other venues to see what types of artists are performing," she said. "Sometimes I’ll attend a performance and like someone and I’ll reach out to them and send them clips of other performers to let them know what we do here."
Then there are the touring artists who stop in to play.
"With the exception of Billy Shaddox, Coles Whalen and Roma Ransom, the touring artists who are playing here this summer have reached out to us," Ward said.
While the Silver Star Cafe doesn’t pay as much as other venues, the Wards will find other ways to compensate the artists.
"If somebody is coming through on their way to a festival, they can make a little bit of money because they can sell CDs and other merchandise," Ward said. "We’ll feed them and if they are on tour, I try to see if we can find someone who has a room available. It’s budget relieving for them, but also a way for them to build an audience in a new place."
One of the touring bands that will make their Park City Limits debut on June 3 is the Way Down Wanderers.
"They are represented by the Americana Agency on the East Coast, and this is the same agency that represents another group called the Stray Birds, whom I have been trying to get," Ward said. "I love them, but they rarely tour in the West."
Ward reached out to the Americana Agency and asked the representative to let her know if the Stray Birds would ever tour out West.
"The gentleman at the agency contacted me and said the Stray Birds aren’t coming to the West, but the Way Down Wanderers were and asked if I’d be interested in booking them, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect," she said. "They are young guys and all dreaded out. They play funky Americana bluegrass, and I’m very grateful that this guy felt comfortable sending the band our way."
Another touring group, We Dream Dawn, that will play June 10, is a band fronted by Sage Cook, one of the founders of Elephant Revival.
"Sage contacted a dear friend of mine, Karri Hays Walzer (of Lash LaRue), who often performs here and is a DJ on KPCW, and asked if there was any place she would recommend to play and Karri gave them our number," Ward said. "So, the referral from artists we respect means a lot to us. We’re getting musicians and artists that we would otherwise not know about."
While the Silver Star Cafe now has more artists interested in playing there than it has openings available, Ward said the music needs to fit strict criteria.
"First off, the artist has to be a good fit for us because we’re such a small space," she said. "It has to be all acoustic and a style of music that is appropriate for a dining atmosphere. We won’t have loud drums or electric guitars or certain types of music that we may love but won’t work when people are dining."
Although Ward confessed that she never thought running a restaurant would turn into a multi-level project that included music, she feels the Silver Star Cafe, which was dubbed "Park City’s Best Kept Dining Secret" by USA Today, and Park City Limits has become a true reflection of who she and her husband are as people.
"When we were first dating, we would spend our time preparing a great meal, enjoying a good bottle of wine, listening to great music while doing something outside," she said. "We call it the four legs of the table — it’s the food, the service, the ambiance and the music.
"We give equal attention to the music as a core value as we do to everything else," Ward said. "It tells the story of who we are. Those values are genuine, authentic, artist supporting and community based."
For more information about the Silver Star Cafe and Park City Limits, visit http://www.thesilverstarcafe.com .