Veteran singers take stage to kick off free concerts
One of the best parts of the concert series that premieres at Harry O’s Thursday is that it’s free. Tim Wray and Fat Paw play at 8 p.m. and Junior & Transportation follow with a celebration concert for the lead singer’s birthday. Patrons will pay no cover charges or membership fees for the entire night.
The good cheer doesn’t stop there. Free concerts will run every Thursday through March from 8 until 10 p.m. with a two-week break for the Sundance Film Festival. The Canyons Resort and the Park City Concerts Foundation are co-sponsors of the series along with Harry O’s.
Nonprofits stage a total of about 70 nights of music during the summer, but after Labor Day the free concerts usually stop. "I realized that Labor Day didn’t have to be the day the music died," said organizer Toby Martin. "There’s a lot of excitement and anticipation for the series. We’re bringing some of the best and most popular bands in Park City."
The series has a flair for regional and national bands, but opening night is essentially for locals, by locals and puts Summit County rockers in the spotlight.
Members of Junior & Transportation have played local circuits for more than 20 years, but they agree that Harry O’s is one of the most exciting venues in the county. "So many people have played on that stage," Junior said, who goes only by his first name. "It’s kind of surreal to play where Metallica, Velvet Revolver and 50 Cent have played, like they leave something there."
Junior, originally from Kamas, said organizers are trying to keep momentum rolling from multiple summer concert series. "Right now, we’re trying to get energy around and embrace a more diverse music scene," he said. "We have a lot of great musicians out there. We do a good job having a variety. Everyone in town tries to keep it fresh and we’re offering people a taste of local bands."
From a musician’s perspective, the appeal of winter venues is pretty simple. "In the summer, it is more locals who come to shows," said Tim Wray of Fat Paw. "But in the winter we get thousands of tourists. It becomes a showcase of Utah talent."
As the audience becomes more eclectic during the ski season, so does the music. National acts such as the Wailers, Pepper and Galactic are all scheduled to play at Harry O’s in the winter months, but the key to good music is not just the prerogative of onstage talent. "If people come out and buy tickets to national acts we could do more locally," Junior said. "We want people to get a taste for live music with free concerts and get them stoked for other acts."
Wray knows the paradox of playing music in paradise: While the number of bands in Summit County has tripled since the late 1980s, audiences have not. "Interest in live music isn’t what it used to be, to actually see people play instruments," he said.
Blame the deejay. When Wray arrived in town, digital music hadn’t happened yet. Turntables were too boutique for a ski town and Guitar Hero was not even a spec on the horizon. But the free concert series could help reverse the trend and revive interest in seeing bands sweat it out on stage. "I think Harry O’s is opening the door to local musicians and more live bands," he said. "A lot of good touring bands will come to the sate once we bring more music to Main Street."
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A longtime Park City activist expressed worries that another Winter Olympics could exacerbate some of the issues the community as of today struggles to address. Rich Wyman’s comments were some of the only public statements in recent months addressing concerns about the efforts to stage a second Games.