Utah Arts Festival: Music Highlights 

From headliners Cowboy Junkies to the mini-fests to the locals.

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click to enlarge Cowboy Junkies
  • Cowboy Junkies
Sure, the Utah Arts Festival offers up all manner of visual arts, food, poetry and dance. But for the musically inclined, it is also arguably the most concentrated collection of worthy tune talent in the state each year, offering one-stop shopping for the curious in genres ranging from traditional bluegrass to techno and noiserock. But how to choose what day to visit, or which band to seek out? Check out some of what we think are the best of the fest, running Thursday, June 24 through Sunday, June 27. Visit UAF.org for a full lineup and more information.

The Headliners
The festival is well known for bringing big-time talent to town during its run, and this year is no different. It starts with a bang (actually, more like a delicate swoon) on opening night with Canadian folk-rockers Cowboy Junkies (right; Thursday, 9:45 p.m., Amphitheater Stage), led by extraordinary vocalist Margo Timmins. Consider the rootsy bluegrass/folk band Cadillac Sky a must-see (Friday, 9:45 p.m., Festival Stage); the band’s stellar new album, Letters In The Deep, was produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. And the RonKat Freekbass Connect (Sunday, 9:45 p.m. Amphitheater Stage), led by P-Funk member RonKat Spearman, is likely to make for a memorable Sabbath session.

The Mini-Music Festivals
If you know you want a big dose of a particular kind of music, the festival has you covered by clustering like-minded acts together on the same day. You’ll have to bounce between stages a bit, but that’s no problem with a beer in hand and plenty to see. So, bluegrass folks will want to aim for Friday night, blues fans for Saturday, and funk, jazz and worldbeat fans for Sunday.

Catch Up With The Locals
The late-night shows by artists populating Utah’s bar scene might not be feasible for you to check out most of the year, but the festival crams a ton of local music talent into its four days. They play any time from noon to 11 p.m., making this a perfect chance to catch up on what’s happening in your own backyard. Among the shows marked on my calendar: jangle-folkies Bramble (Friday, 1:15 p.m., Plaza Stage), pop-rockers Cavedoll (Saturday, 10:15 p.m., Amphitheater Stage), Hawaiian tunesmiths The Haole Boys (Saturday, noon, Plaza Stage), traditional bluegrass dudes Ridin’ The Faultline (Friday, 9 p.m., Earth Garden Cafe), electro-rock duo Palace of Buddies (Thursday, 10:15 p.m., Plaza Stage) and CWMA 2010 winners Spell Talk (formerly The Naked Eyes) (Sunday, 3:45 p.m., Plaza Stage).

Dan Nailen:

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