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Big Stars, Bright Nights will again light up Deer Valley stage

MATT JAMES, Of the Record staff
Willie Nelson will be one of the headliners for the Big Stars, Bright Nights Series when he plays Deer Valley on Sept. 4. Image courtesy of Elaine Shock Inc.
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In any given summer, Park City will host its share of musicians. From transient mandolin players strumming a shows at local bars, to Mountain Town Stages regular free shows, large and small, and the regular free Wednesday night concerts at Deer Valley Resort, the town has no shortage of live music.

But this summer will also include some bigger names, courtesy of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation and Idea Sphere Inc. On Monday, the organization formally announced the first portion of the lineup for the IdeaSphere Big Stars, Bright Nights Series.

Willie Nelson will play Deer Valley Resort’s Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheatre on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 4, preceded by a show from Bonnie Raitt and Keb’ Mo’ on Wednesday, Aug. 30 and another from Etta James on Friday, July 21.

The Big Stars, Bright Nights Series will also include two other shows at Deer Valley’s approximately 5,000-seat venue, with performers to be announced as they are confirmed.

According to Performing Arts Foundation executive director Teri Orr, the concerts should run much like last year’s. The only major change will be a new sponsor. Idea Sphere Inc., a Michigan-based maker of vitamins and other nutritional supplements will take over the sponsorship of the series.

Speaking about the four already-announced performers, Orr said she was excited to bring the performers to the Snow Park stage.

"It’s surreal," she said. "These are acts we’ve looked at for years. They’re all American icons."

Longtime blues singer and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee James will give the Big Stars, Bright Nights Series its soul with her show, bringing her Gospel-influenced style and more than 60 years of performing experience.

Nelson, meanwhile, can offer his distinctive voice, acoustic style and outlaw spirit with his classic country songs, and Raitt can provide roots rock hits and an impressive resume including nine Grammy Awards, backed by opener Keb’ Mo’s guitar-driven folk-blues tunes.

Orr also said that Raitt’s show would mark a milestone, of sorts.

"For me and for lots of people who lived in Park City in the late eighties, it’s great to have Bonnie Raitt coming back," she said.

Raitt, she noted, had performed in the past at the old ParkWest Ski Resort, and in the late 1980s, played the World Cup Opener at The Racquet Club, giving Park City an up-close look at Raitt, just as she was growing in fame. But, Orr said, all of the artists would offer something special.

"We’ve been working very hard," said Orr.

The organization has expanded it summer program again and continues to draw big names. For 2006, the Big Stars, Bright Nights Series includes five shows, one more than last year’s series and two more than the original series in the summer of 2004, and while the organization offers more shows, it also aims to continue to draw bigger crowds. Last year, the Performing Arts Foundation sold out the Snow Park amphitheatre with its Allison Krauss show and nearly did so again when B.B. King came to town. This year, Orr and the Performing Arts Foundation hope to have similar results with their big-name shows.

Orr said the big summer concerts are possible, in part, because of the Performing Arts Foundation’s growing stature as a concert promoter.

"We have a very solid reputation with performers," she said.

If an artists like Kevin Bacon recommends a city or a venue, continued Orr, well-known artists are much more likely to come.

Aside from that, programming the big names for the summer concert series is a matter of timing, scheduling, negotiating and a bit of luck.

"It’s a great big jigsaw puzzle, combined with a craps game, on top of a chess match," said Orr.

The payoff comes with the performances and the groups’ other efforts, which provide an added benefit.

"At least two of these three acts are interested in working with students," said Orr,

So some young musicians might get to learn lessons from some very well-known performers before seeing them on the stage.

Orr said the Performing Arts Foundation is proud to return the series to Park City and Deer Valley.

"I can’t imagine a more magical venue for a summer concert," said Orr.

Tickets for the Big Stars, Bright Nights Series will go on sale May 1.

For more information about the Park City Performing Arts Foundation, visit http://www.ecclescenter.org. Tickets for the 2006 Idea Sphere Big Stars, Bright Nights Series will be available, starting May 1, at the Performing Arts Foundation Web site or by calling the Eccles Center box office at 655-3114.


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