Summer concerts and Ogden aren't historically synonymous. Thanks to Jared Allen and Christy McBride, that's about to change. The pair have worked for years to organize an event that could help raise Ogden's profile as a cultural hub. The first annual Ogden Twilight Series will feature bands with huge followings. Allen, who owns and books shows for a local bar, Alleged, says the headliners are "almost like bait" to draw local audiences and those fom nearby Salt Lake City, proving to naysayers that Ogden can attract big-name bands and their fans.
The series, which kicks off June 4 with Built to Spill and Lo-Fang, includes several popular acts including Purity Ring, Owen Pallet, Other Lives, Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen), and experimental pop-rock artists Blonde Redhead.
It's the first year that the Ogden Amphitheater has been back in the hands and care of the city; it has been licensed out for the last 10 years.
"That's one of the reasons we wanted to do the series, too: to show off the Ogden Amphitheater. It's so underutilized," says Allen. "It's like a Red Butte Garden or Gallivan Center; it's big, it holds 8,000 people, and it's such a beautiful venue. There are trellises and vines, and it's a beautiful spot to see shows."
The intention is to grow the audience and book more shows, in addition to now-regular events including Monday Night at the Movies, Tunes at Noon, Talent in the Park and a farmers market. Allen hopes the series will help the amphitheater gain favorable attention among booking agents and become a regular venue for bigger-name bands through spring and summer.
Local restaurants from the restored Historic 25th Street will be on site, serving small bites so concertgoers can get a taste of local mom & pop fare. Alleged and other bars at Union Station will also stay open after the shows.
Raven and the Writing Desk, an indie band with a dark edge and dream-pop undercurrent, is the only opener that doesn't have direct ties to Utah. When Allen booked Blonde Redhead, he reached out to Denver band Raven and the Writing Desk. The band had played a few times at Alleged, and played a Blonde Redhead cover during one of the shows. "We got to talking one night after the show, and they mentioned they were their favorite," says Allen.
Allen made a point to add local groups in the mix, including Provo band The Brocks, a quintet with a slightly hazy, electronic-indie groove. Two other Utah bands on the lineup—The Moth and the Flame (who play alternative rock) and Sego (who have more of a grungy, experimental rock sound)—have also been getting traction; both bands performed at SXSW this year.
Purity Ring was the first band to be booked and the last to be announced because of a previously booked show at The Depot on May 18 (Purity Ring wasn't announced until the show was sold out, so as to not step on the heels of and siphon attendance from The Depot). Since the group has a complex set and light show—which features orbs dangling from the ceiling—the band requested they appear later in the month, so the venue could get the full effect out of the light kit.
McBride also had a relationship with UTA and helped set up the partnership between UTA and the concert series so that a ticket to the show covers a ticket on FrontRunner (the station is a 15-minute walk from the amphitheater). Doors open at 5 p.m., the music starts at 7 p.m., and the last southbound FrontRunner leaves to go south just after 11 p.m.
The series will run every Thursday in June, to fill the gap before the Salt Lake City Twilight Concert Series, which begins in July. The two series aren't affiliated; in fact, Twilight series are held in municipalities across the country. Twilight series, which originated in Santa Monica, Calif., are a category of generic concert series (like "farmers" refer to specific types of community markets), ones that are subsidized by the local government, community driven and generally held in the evening.
In addition to hoping the venue books shows more consistently, Allen says he is planning on making this series an annual event, if they don't lose money.
"I definitely want to do it again next year. We have rolled the dice and spent some serious money on these bands. I imagine it will all pencil out, and I've got to make sure we get the city on board to do it again, but if it breaks even, we're able to keep doing it," says Allen. "If it makes some profit, we can look again at investing in other shows throughout the summer."