Jay Meehan: The sound of music
It’s all hidden from view. One would never guess what went into the setup. The multifaceted venue load-ins and load-outs transpire like a flyover from one of the Pentagon’s new “invisible” fighter jets. To the casual observer, there are no telltale signs. It’s been there when needed and absent when not.
Take the Wallflowers show the other night. To the concert attendee, nothing had changed at City Park from the moment Bruce Hornsby left to cheers and adulation the week before. Everything from the stage and speaker columns to the fencing and cordoning-off paraphernalia were, seemingly, exactly where they had been.
Not! We had been hoodwinked, misled, and duped. A bit of sleight-of-hand and a ton of legal tender had been involved to pull the wool, or at least the latest in recycled microfibers, over our eyes. They don’t call them “pop-up” venues for nothing. And all it took was a bunch of loot the Park City Institute didn’t have.
This scrambling process goes back, of course, to last December when PCI learned that Deer Valley wouldn’t be renewing their lease at the Snow Park Amphitheater for their 15th season of outdoor concerts. Since that word came down, a lot of rabbits have been pulled out of a lot of hats.
Not that they needed their overhead to grow or anything. Nonprofits, which shore up much of what goes on in this community, almost always operate on the razor’s edge of possibility with surprise additions to operating costs seldom welcome.
The Institute, along with maintaining their stiff upper lip and “the show must go on” mantra, have also took to taking their previously well-trod battle cry “failure is not an option” out for a stroll. If anything else goes south, I hope they don’t fire until they see the whites of their eyes. This is one tough bunch.
During the shows I’ve caught at their City Park venue this summer (Grace Potter, Lucia Micarelli, Corrine Bailey Rae, Bruce Hornsby, and the Wallflowers), the setting has proved to be nothing short of rapturous. Wandering the outfield grass and the rugby pitch with the ski-hill backdrop and that Park City vibe is pretty darn cool.
I’m not an insider by any stretch, but from here it appears the search is on for a more permanent outdoor summer venue location. Something pretty cool might be configured up at Park City Mountain, an arrangement that could also serve to reinvigorate any outreach Vail might have in the works community-wide. Plus, it’s been done thereabouts previous.
The early ‘70s John Vrable produced Gordon Lightfoot concert with Leo Kottke opening fit perfectly in those same hills on a makeshift venue stage facing uphill from where the base terminal of the Payday Lift would later arrive. The now-highly-prized poster by the late David Chaplin continues to adorn walls in the old mining camp.
Vrable’s ensuing John Stewart show would utilize the new Plaza area with the stage looking out from its location backed up against the also new Ticket Office. Quite possibly, the sound continues still to reverberate off those very same brick walls.
Those would be followed by a summer season of shows with the stage further down the ski-way and with security mostly on horseback. I don’t believe they went beyond their first year but memory doesn’t always serve in these parts and it’s quite possible.
However, I recall vividly handling the emcee chores for a two-day Bluegrass Festival sometime during the mid-to-late ‘70s up near where the base terminal for the Ski Team chairlift would later be installed in the lower Hollow.
We faced the stage uphill with the crowd above it looking down. Not that it made any big bucks for the promoters, but it ran again the following year to similar success.
Patricia Smith did a now also quite collectible woodcut poster that featured both that year’s Arts Festival and the Bluegrass Festival that ran concurrently and had now-lost-to-time organizational ties. Posssibly, if the powers-that-be see fit, it could somehow work again.
As I’ve mentioned before in this space, Park City Institute has long served as a cultural grad school to my under-educated self. There are reasons aplenty why I view myself as your “humble scribe” and my minutes spent in higher education are only fifteen of them.
Admittedly, my overwhelming desire for PCI to locate a workable solution to their post-Deer Valley years possesses a prism of selfishness. My education remains gap-filled. Voids abound. Get together community and fix this. It’s getting more and more difficult to look in a mirror.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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