Silver Star Cafe continues to offer intimate musical experiences |

Silver Star Cafe continues to offer intimate musical experiences

Lisa and Jeff Ward, owners of the Silver Star Cafe, enjoy offering intimate concert experiences that feature local, national and international touring artists, to their patrons every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Park City Limits Concert Series
7:30 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays
The Silver Star Cafe, 1825 Three Kings Drive

The Silver Star Cafe’s Park City Limits concert series is well underway.

The free dinner shows, which are intimate, in-restaurant performances that are held at around 7:30 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, are performed for Silver Star Cafe patrons.

The current season, which started at the beginning of May and will run to the first weekend of November, features 81 concerts.

Sometimes in the spring, some start times are moved up to 7 p.m. to accomodate patrons who make early reservations, according to the restaurant’s owners, Jeff and Lisa Ward.

“There are all kinds of artists who play everything from jazz, blues and bluegrass, to European folk and gypsy jazz,” Lisa said.

Many of the scheduled artists, such as folk blues artist Michelle Moonshine, acoustic duo Small House Strings and folkies Mister Sister Trio, are from Utah, but others, like singer-songwriter Hannah Jane Kile and Bradford Loomis, are touring artists. One group, The Sweet Sorrows, is from Ireland.

The band was referred to the Wards by longtime Park City Limits performers Oskar and Julia, a flamenco-pop duo from Salt Lake City.

“Oskar and Julia toured Europe last year, and they met The Sweet Sorrows,” Lisa said. “They learned they were coming to the U.S. in July. It’s great to have local bands turn us onto artists that we may never have the chance to hear or find.”

Lisa is the one who books the concerts, Jeff said.

“It can be tricky to communicate with these artists because of schedules and things, but Lisa is very good at navigating all of that,” he said.

The couple confessed that they were being selfish when they first started booking live music in 2009.

“We just wanted to hear the music we wanted to hear,” Lisa said. “I mean, Jeff and I don’t have time to go to bars, but we wanted to hear some great music and share it with our diners.”

Initially the free concerts, dubbed Plaza Palooza, were held on Thursdays at the Silver Star Plaza at Park City Mountain Resort.

“It all started as a singer-songwriter series, with one or two acoustic guitarists on stage at a time,” Lisa said.

The performances drew a lot of people, and after five years, the growing crowds became too big to control, according to Jeff.

“We had to change the format and start doing dinner shows,” he said.

Lisa said she has to be selective when booking artists for Park City Limits.

“We look for mature artists who are confident in their crafts, and the first thing we tell them is we aren’t looking for background music,” she said. “We want them to be who they are and have fun.”

Over the past few years, especially since its 2014 appearance on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives,” more musicians have contacted the Wards to schedule performances.

“I always ask them to send audio and video clips, because I want to get a sense of whether or not they would fit in with what we do,’ Lisa said.

All the music needs to be acoustic, and any percussion needs to be performed on hand drums, she said.

“During the summer, the artists perform outside, or inside with the all the windows open, and we are located in a residential area,” Lisa said. “We have residents below us and neighbors who live in the Silver Star Village, so we need to be respectful to them.”

Once the artists are booked, Lisa says she makes sure they feel welcome.

“Not only are we giving them a chance to play for the guests, we want to treat the artists like family,” she said. “We’re grateful they want to spend their time with us.”

Sometimes, the intimate performances are a change of pace for some of the artists.

“One of the artists who we have play every year is Pixie and the Partygrass Boys, and they play big venues and festivals all over the country,” Lisa said. “But when they play at our place, they can really interact with our guests in a low-key way.”

Still, performing a more personal concert doesn’t mean that night’s band can’t let loose, she said.

“One group, the Take Five Jazz Trio, have a fun thing they do if someone is celebrating a birthday, graduation or anniversary,” Lisa said. “They will do a fun New Orleans-style interactive segment where you get all of our guests waving napkins in the air and participating in the song.”

Sometimes a band will surprise the Wards. One that has done so is King Strang and the Stranglers, who performed Park City Limits a few years ago.

“The lead singer (Michael Sinner) had this really gravelly, powerful voice and from the moment he opened his mouth, everyone in the restaurant stopped what they were doing and turned to watch him for the rest of the night,” Lisa said.

Even though the group disbanded shortly afterwards, it recently announced its decision to release an album, called “King Strang and the Stranglers LIVE.”

“I found out it was recorded at The Silver Star Cafe,” Lisa said. “So that one show they played with us has been turned into an album.”

Sometimes a longtime Park City Limits artist will have to take a break from playing the Silver Star Cafe because of bigger touring opportunities, Lisa said.

Oskar and Julia aren’t on the schedule this year because they are on tour, and another duo—– Jake and Rebekah Workman, — who play bluegrass –, have not been on the schedule for a couple of years.

Jake is currently touring in Ricky Skaggs’ band, Lisa said.

“We’ve been lucky to have been able to share these talented artists with our guests,” she said. “Supporting artists has become one of the four legs of The Silver Star Cafe’s mission — music, food, service and ambiance. And it’s important to us to provide support and share these musicians and their art.”

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