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Best Summer Concerts

This Van's A-rockin'

Jordan Floyd, Nick McGregor and Alex Springer Jun 13, 2018 4:00 AM




Ryan Williamson / Enrique Limón

 

Looking ahead at some killer shows, tracing Twilight's origins, waxing poetic on concerts that were and adding some flavor to your favorite musical genres. Get in the van, a jam-packed summer music fest season is here!

By Jordan Floyd

Blues, Brews and BBQ
Sundays through Sept.
30 Snowbasin Mountain Resort
snowbasin.com

How to pregame:
Everything you need in the way of alcohol or food will be available at the venue, so sit back, enjoy the mountain views and try not to hit a moose.

What to wear:
A T-shirt with this line emblazoned across the chest: "Salad? That's what my food eats."

What to drink (or eat) while there:
The joke here is that we would ask this question for a concert series with the answer stated in its name.

What to post:
A photo of you jamming out to Reno-based roots band Jelly Bread while—get this!—eating jelly bread on your Snapchat story.

Twilight Concert Series
Aug. 16-Sept. 13
Gallivan Center

twilightconcerts.com

How to pregame: Sip a bottle of Uinta Cutthroat for about 45 minutes. Then, in frantic succession, take three shots of any liquor you've got because the Uber is two minutes away and you lost track of time.

What to wear:
Sport your favorite band-T from past Twilight lineups as a way to pay homage to one of the better things to ever happen to this state. No, the Wu-Tang Clan shirt you bought at Forever 21 a few years back does not count.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Buy a beer, take a few slugs from a flask when you're surrounded by a crowd, peruse the food truck lineup—it doesn't matter what you do because you and everyone else will end up at The Pie Hole afterward.

What to post:
Throw a black-and-white photo of the crowd and stage on Instagram with the caption: "Do y'all remember when this shit was free?"

Ogden Twilight
Thursdays through Aug. 9
Ogden Amphitheater
ogdentwilight.com

 

How to pregame:
Given the electro-duo-pop-funk-something-made-by-a-computer lineup, it might be fun for attendees to take a few pregaming notes from the Das Energi community.

What to wear:
In a crowd that undoubtedly will pride itself on denim- or leather-clad individuality, the only way to break the mold among a hoard of mold-breakers is to move in the opposite aesthetic direction. That's right—wear cargo shorts.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
What is the Ogden equivalent of going to The Pie Hole after a concert?

What to post:
If The Flaming Lips' performance is anything like it was at the 2013 Twilight Concert Series (or any performance they've ever done, for that matter), chances are you had the opportunity to snap a picture of Wayne Coyne making some Kafkaesque show on stage that only dudes who use the term Kafkaesque will appreciate.

Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series
Now through Sept. 17
Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
redbuttegarden.org/concerts

How to pregame:
Get a little buzzed after chugging a few gallons of Kombucha.

What to wear:
A T-shirt that reads: "I am Sheryl Crow's friend, the communist in the RV."

What to drink (or eat) while there:
All I can say for sure, is that when you hear those guys who did the song for the Wendy's commercial perform (who are they again?), you'll have to fight off fantasies of being strung out on a Dave's juicy double.

What to post:
Hop on Facebook Live when Indigo Girls perform "Closer to Fine" and burn your college diploma. Now you're really free.

Deer Valley Music Festival
June 30-July 11
Deer Valley Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater
deervalleymusicfestival.org

How to pregame:
Choke down a pair of inexplicably-priced $5 pints of Pabst at your local Park City bar.

What to wear:
In anticipation of hearing Broadway hits from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim, it'd be most appropriate to wear your best Phantom costume, or better yet, to saunter about the festival with you and your friends donning cat costumes.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Dig into a meat pie you bought from your barber.

What to post:
A video on your Insta story in which you zoom in on one of the orchestra cellists and poll your followers: "Is this guy's big violin compensating for something—yes or no?"

Cherry Peak Summer Concert Series
June 14-Sept. 1
Cherry Peak Mountain Resort, Richmond

skicherrypeak.com

How to pregame:
Listen to Smash Mouth's "All Star" on repeat the whole way up to Richmond, no matter which of the series' artists are performing.

What to wear:
For $12.35 on Etsy you can buy a handmade, soft-cotton T-shirt with the lyrics to Smash Mouth's "All Star" printed down the front. Wear that.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
The thought of hearing Smash Mouth play "All Star" live will be all that you need to sustain yourself.

What to post:
Put a video of you singing along to all roughly 3½ minutes of Smash Mouth's "All Star" on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, VSCO, YouTube, Vimeo, a blogger site you've just created for this momentous occasion, and your uber-private Finsta with the caption: "The meme has become reality."

USANA Concert Series
Through Oct. 4
USANA Amphitheatre, WVC
usana-amp.com

How to pregame:
From Kesha and Macklemore (June 16) to the inimitable Kenny Chesney (June 28), many jewels adorn Usana's summer crown. But few shine brighter than Vans Warped Tour's last hurrah (June 30). To commemorate the occasion, get a stick-and-poke tattoo of your best friend's name on your thigh and pierce something other than your ears.

What to wear:
Go all out. Grow out your hair (bangs, specifically) in advance. Dye it black, blonde, pink, green, orange or all those colors at once. Cram your legs into skinny jeans you bought from the women's section—just like you had to do before the clothing companies caught on. While Vans footwear might be the obvious standard, breaking out a fat-tongued pair of Osiris or Etnies shoes could be the right step, so to speak, toward encompassing the early-aughts' aesthetic. Lastly, and most importantly, whatever it is you do, wear a studded belt.

What to drink (or eat while there):
For the sake of nostalgia, slam a couple of Boo Koo energy drinks in between bouts of head banging or while standing in an isolated corner of the fairpark, thinking, "What's another night all alone?"

What to post:
A video on your old Tumblr of Utah's own The Used singing "The Taste of Ink." Ask your followers: "What happens when it's been in your hands, when you've savored every moment of it? Where do we go after we stood atop the bright lit city? RIP, the Warped Tour we knew."

Country Fan Fest
July 26-29
Deseret Peak Complex Tooele
countryfanfest.com

How to pregame:
Keystone Light is $16 for a 30 rack. Tell everyone.

What to wear:
A Stetson hat, shit-kickers, Wranglers with a perfect circle worn into one of the back pockets, and stars-and-stripes everything else.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Beer has all the calories you need; chew has the vitamins.

What to post:
Whatever you put on Facebook, make sure that not a single hand is without a beer and that an American flag can be seen somewhere in the photo.

Salt City Sounds
June 20 & 27
Gallivan Center
saltcitysounds.com

How to pregame:
Supposedly, there's free beer in the City Weekly offices right across from the Gallivan Center if you can scale the building and get in through one of the office windows.

What to wear:
Draw a mouth and eyes on a white five-gallon bucket with a Sharpie and wear it on your head. See how many autographs you sign and how many people ask you when you're set starts.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Pour one partly out during Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's "Crossroads" for the loved ones you've lost; but not all the way out because beers are $10 and those who have passed wouldn't want you to waste a beer on a libation anyway.

What to post:
That Boomerang of your drunken attempt at an Aoki jump you took last week.

Crucial Fest 8
Sept. 28-29
Utah State Fairpark
facebook.com/crucialfest

How to pregame:
Reciting the Satanist's creed might be a good way to prepare. It goes as follows: "I believe in the force of Satan, the father of the void, ruler of the Earth, king of the world, and in Lucifer, the guiding light and the morning star above.

And Lilith, who seeded the world with her creation. I believe I am my own church.

I hold the spirit of Satan within my heart; I was born without the stain of sin; my spirit is one with Satan. As it is now and ever will be, so it is done."

What to wear:
Blood and sweat (and some other bodily fluids) don't show as well on black clothing.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
The blood of a virgin sacrifice? It's hard to tell what these bands' lyrics are saying.

What to post:
Proudly show all of your Instagram followers the black eye and split lip you earned in the mosh pit.

Summer Nights with The Stars
Now through Sept. 8
Kenley Amphitheater, Layton
davisarts.org

How to pregame:
You might have to sip down a few Dirty Shirley's at Applebee's. I don't think you can get alcohol anywhere else in Davis County.

What to wear:
To pay homage to ABBA and the cover band performing their music at the series, slip into the whitest, brightest, most sparkling and grandiose-looking outfit you've got and go to town.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Word on the street is that the Kenley Amphitheater serves Philly cheesesteaks that pair excellently with Night Ranger's set.

What to post:
If you aren't posting a way-too-long Snapchat story of yourself absolutely losing it to Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One," then you're doing this entire series wrong.

Bonanza Campout
June 22-24
Rivers Edge, Heber City
bonanzacampout.com

How to pregame:
Find out what tent Wiz is staying at, and see if you're Taylor Gang material.

What to wear:
For all the fashion advice that could be given here, it feels most prudent to say, simply, wear mosquito repellant.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Typical scout camp fare will do: Delicious, all-beef hot-dogs impaled by sticks you found near the campsite and roasted over a scant fire, served on buns that didn't exactly hold their form in your trunk (but are edible no less), with a side of value-brand chips.

What to post:
Upload a video of your friend doing an acoustic cover of "Closer" around the campfire with the caption: "I'm almost drunk enough to think this song is good."

Das Energi
Aug. 17-18
The Great Saltair, Magna
dasenergifestival.com

How to pregame:
Spend the entire night beforehand crafting rave kandi bracelets, one of which features the provocative question: "Do DJs even do anything on stage?"

What to wear:
For more masculine types, anything you could find in Pac-Sun about four years ago when all-over galaxy prints and depictions of animals wearing cheap wayfarers were en vogue will do. For those looking to sport a daring look, it seems the current trend in rave-wear is to appear as if you are a kind of furry, Technicolor space entity that, though you've only just come to Earth to experience what humans call EDM, still somehow adheres (very loosely) to Western standards of modesty (i.e., if anything, your nipples are covered) and is overcome by a superficial understanding of Eastern philosophy and its surrounding lore.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Anything but the Kool-Aid, man.

What to post:
A blurry video of a moment far too long before a "sick drop" on Snapchat with Deadmau5's anthropomorphic, mousy grin lurking in the background (or is that just a fellow festival-goer?)

Reggae Rise Up
Aug. 24-26
Rivers Edge, Heber City
reggaeriseuputah.com

How to pregame:
Let's say you want to do this (almost) completely legally. Find a designated driver, and with at least 10 or so hours before show time, make your way to the The Green Joint dispensary in Parachute, Colo. Once there, buy how ever many edibles you think you can handle and get out quick—you've got a show to catch. An hour away, just before you cross back to Utah, is a town called Mack. Eat your edibles there, leaving no trace that you ever had them. From Mack to Heber City, it is about a four-hour drive. If the edibles take about an hour to hit, then you're sure to enjoy a semi-legal high for the remaining three hours of the drive and about one to three hours of the festival. Who am I kidding? That's a terrible idea.

What to wear:
Is it ever too hot to wear a Baja hoodie?

What to drink (or eat) while there:
I hope to God there's snacks aplenty for this crowd.

What to post:
A photo with you and all your new Earth brothers and sisters on Instagram with the simple-yet-telling caption: "One Love."

Sandy Amphitheater
Now through Sept. 8
Sandy
sandyamp.com/events

How to pregame:
Spend a day binge-watching David Archuleta's rise to American Idol fame.

What to wear:
Wear whatever the Village People are wearing, except the Native American headdress, for God's sake.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Since you can bring your own food and drink into the venue, I cannot think of a better food and music pairing for this series than washing down a Café Rio burrito with a can of Diet Coke while watching Donny & Marie Osmond's "Return Engagement."

What to post:
À la David Archuleta's viral video of him singing every part of his hit-song "Crush" with the help of his bathroom mirror, post a sure-to-be-viral vid of you singing all the parts to Kid 'N Play's "Rollin' With Kid 'N Play." Ho-la, ho-la, hey, baby.

Utah Blues Festival
June 16
Gallivan Center
utahbluesfest.org

How to pregame:
Listen to the Blues Origins, Blues Masters, Blues Roots, Blues Rock, and Blues Classics playlists on Spotify in succession. It'll only take you, like, a full day to do.

What to wear:
A necklace with a totally real Robert Johnson "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" vinyl attached to it.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
The festival will be equipped with food-truck fare. Nothing goes with blues music quite like a sushi burrito, am I right?

What to post:
Inspired by your time at the festival, dust off the ol' six string and put a couple passable covers of blues songs up on your Facebook story.

Stadium of Fire
America's Freedom Festival
July 4
Lavell Edwards Stadium

freedomfestival.org

How to pregame:
Tout hollow platitudes about freedom and equality for all for nearly 250 years and—I don't know—shoot off a firework or two.

What to wear:
Show your respect and love of the nation's flag by wearing any number of flag-featuring outfits, from cut-off shorts with stars-and-stripes material as the back pockets, to a button-down shirt made entirely of an American flag fabric.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Do you think they still sell Cougar Tails when it's not football season?

What to post:
For the love of God and America (which He founded), anything but a video of the fucking fireworks display.

Utah Arts Festival
June 21-24
Library Square
uaf.org

How to pregame:
There is no pregame—the game is happening and has been since the dawn of human life itself. As Oscar Wilde famously stated, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." The art festival, so to speak, has informed our daily mode of living and has for as long as any of us have been alive.

What to wear:
Make a statement by rocking head-to-toe body paint splattered about in a Jackson Pollock style.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Whatever you buy from the food vendors, do so with a nearly-maxed-out credit card like a real artist would.

What to post:
Post a photo on Instagram of you and your two best friends recreating Artemisia Gentileschi's "Judith Slaying Holofernes." For props, all you need is a corn dog and a heaping pile of ketchup packets.

Women's Redrock Music Festival
Aug. 10-11
Robber's Roost, Torrey
womensredrockmusicfest.com

How to pregame:
Empty a cooler of beer in the heart of Utah's red rock country.

What to wear:
Whatever the fuck you want.

What to drink (or eat) while there:
Nothing pairs better with a gathering of badass women than a restaurant that serves a dish with actual rattlesnake meat, which is exactly what Torrey, Utah's Café Diablo serves. Mix rattlesnake cakes and their signature Jalapeño Melon Margarita with this festival's crowd and you've got one helluva gathering.

What to post:
Does anyone have cell service in Torrey, Utah?

Fred Hayes
Twilight 1992

30 and Thriving
After an uncertain year, Twilight returns with a new focus on the future.

By Nick McGregor

Looking back on 30 years of Salt Lake City's Twilight Concert Series is an exercise in wistful remembrance. It started in 1988 on the hill by what is now the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, focusing mostly on folk, Americana and roots music. Anyone around in the '90s will remember blues legends like James Cotton, John Mayall and Junior Brown trading summer slots with bluegrass pioneers like Doc Watson and icons like Arlo Guthrie, all while slowly increasing doses of zydeco, Latin jazz and brass bands added flavor to the Twilight stew.

Lara Jones, longtime reporter and KRCL 90.9 FM radio host, looks back on those days fondly, as many SLC veterans do. "My favorite Twilight period is way back," she says, "when people rolled out their picnics on the hill and artists played on the patio at the bottom of it. Small, intimate—those are my favorite concerts. Like you know a secret no one else does."

As Twilight grew, the series, owned by the non-profit Salt Lake City Arts Council and funded predominantly by the city and county, migrated to downtown's Gallivan Center, its home until 2010. By then, musical programming had taken a decidedly modern turn, attracting a new generation of musical stars like Jake Shimabukuro, MeShell Ndegeocello, Michael Franti, Galactic and Keller Williams.

Two years later, Twilight boasted the expansive setup and far-flung lineup of even the best superfest: Broken Social Scene, Run the Jewels, Neko Case, The Roots, Bon Iver, Pusha-T, Sonic Youth, My Morning Jacket, Wu-Tang Clan, The Black Keys, Lauryn Hill and many more performing on a giant stage at Pioneer Park. The crowds flocking all over Salt Lake Valley this summer to see The Flaming Lips, Belle & Sebastian, Trombone Shorty, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Beach House, and Father John Misty are probably doing so because of their past exposure to those bands at Twilight.

We've all heard the story by now: Less revenue came in while far more money went out in costs during the series' seven-year run at Pioneer Park. The arts council initially announced that due to cost overruns, Twilight would take a hiatus in 2018. Local firm Broadway Media then stepped in to fill the void and bring the series back to its longtime home at Gallivan Center—and back to its original purpose.

Thanking the series for shaping his musical taste and informing his take on the musical world in general, Jake Jensen, vice president of events for Broadway Media, describes the task of taking over Twilight as both daunting and inspiring. "Twilight is one of those foundational pieces of the music scene here in Salt Lake City," he says. "I grew up in Cottonwood Heights and spent my Thursday nights in the summer coming downtown to Gallivan Center. It introduced me to new music and afforded me the opportunity to see legendary acts for very little money."

Fred Hayes
Twilight 1991

Salt Lake City Arts Council Executive Director Karen Krieger says that passion appealed to her and the SLCAC board. "Our vision for Twilight is to provide renowned artists that are very accessible—both in price and in location," she says. "Broadway has resources in areas that we haven't had much depth in, so it's a great opportunity to maximize strengths of both organizations."

Praising the council's commitment to accessibility, Jensen says the new regime shares that focus. "By moving it back to Gallivan Center, we can improve the individual experience of fans," he says. "We've brought Twilight within 20 feet of a TRAX station. We've made it more accessible for bikes. Over 40 percent of the parking spaces in downtown Salt Lake are all directly around the Gallivan Center."

Partnerships with surrounding small businesses further enhance Twilight, Jensen says. He points to what he calls the Gallivan Avenue "food alley," which features five locally owned and operated restaurants, along with plans to create a 21-and-over space for fans to enjoy cocktails in addition to craft beer. Jensen is also quick to sing the praises of long-standing area production companies and sponsors. "Everything on the Gallivan site [will be] a locally owned Salt Lake company," he says. "We've really focused on staying true to that original Twilight purpose."

Although Broadway and the arts council only signed a one-year pilot deal to co-produce the series, both entities anticipate enough success—an estimated 7,000 fans shelling out $10 per concert ticket on Aug. 16, 23, 30 and Sept. 6 and 13—to look ahead to the future. "Our investment in this is for the long term," Jensen says. "There were difficulties with costs at Pioneer Park; it wasn't necessarily a long-term sustainable model. Our goal is to build Twilight into something that can self-fund itself with a financial footprint that will allow it to continue."

The Twilight Concert Series certainly faces much stiffer music festival competition in 2018 than it did in '88. Surprisingly, on this point Jensen sounds the most optimistic. "It's an incredible time to be a music fan in this market," he says. "So many different people have built this scene, but Salt Lake is a big sandbox ... I'm a cheerleader of a successful downtown music scene. That is a healthy thing. If shows do well at The Urban Lounge, at The Complex, at Soundwell or at Red Butte Garden, all it does is create a better culture."

Although as of press time the official lineup for this year's Twilight Concert Series hasn't dropped, Jensen promises it will turn heads and attract those diehard fans that have remained loyal since the series' humble origins. Jones, currently KRCL's manager of community content, has seen her share of stacked lineups and has one piece of advice for Salt Lake music fans: "Don't think about it, just go. [That's] my Twilight philosophy—just go and enjoy the experience."

Enrique Limón

Interpretive Snacks
Local dishes to complement your favorite music genre.

By Alex Springer

The more I learn about chefs and the lives they lead, the more I compare them to rock stars. See, they're defined by their passion and creativity as much as they are by their obsessive perfectionism and self-destructive personalities. If that's the case, then the food that we put into our mouths should have some cosmic connection to the music that we put into our ears. It's the kind of thing I think about late into the night, but the more I explored, the more I realized that music and food aren't that far removed from one another. That being said, here's a culinary interpretation of music genres to get your taste buds to cheer for an encore way past the summer months.

Indie Rock
Indie rock is easy to digest, cruelty-free, 100 percent sustainable existential dread—and it's often found lurking around coffee shops characterized by baristas that prepare their brews with Zen-like concentration and hand cups of hot coffee to customers as if they'd just delivered an infant. Of course, the pinnacle of coffee shop cuisine is the humble and oft-maligned avocado toast. Nothing quite evokes the tattooed philosophical longing exemplified by indie rock than a thick slice of artisan bread, slathered in smashed, ripe avocado flesh, and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. My personal favorite rendition of this classic happens to be found at Publik Coffee Roasters (975 S. West Temple, publikcoffee.com). True masters of their craft, they don't pulverize the avocado into guacamole, and they always sprinkle it with just the right amount of black pepper.

Punk
After thinking long and hard about this one, I have to say that the most punk-rock dish you could eat is probably a hot dog from 7-Eleven (7-eleven.com). These meat sticks are a blatant middle finger to the establishment du jour, which happens to be an expensive, exclusive space where the word "curated" comes to bear. Plus, digging deep into the in-house Petri dish, otherwise known as the condiment station, unlocks a small chance of catching a foodborne illnesses—making the whole process slightly dangerous. Noshing on a salt rocket while potentially getting exposed to hepatitis? What could be more punk rock than that?

Reggae
Reggae music makes me think of the beach, and the beach makes me think of fish tacos. You'd think it's hard to come by really good fish tacos here in our landlocked state—and you'd be wrong. The folks at Lone Star Taquería (2265 E. Fort Union Blvd., lstaq.com) are dedicated to recreating that coastal staple and their fish taco and burrito menu rotates based on what fish is in season, so they're always fresh. I'm not sure whether it's the way they cook their fish or if it's the famous cilantro and jalapeño mayonnaise, but I have yet to be disappointed by their rich menu.

Metal
When I think of metal, I think of that strange, transcendent place where pain and pleasure meet for a brief moment before the scale tips one way or the other. When food is concerned, the best example of this paradoxical moment comes from eating stuff that ranks sufficiently high on the Scoville scale. Something like the Ring of Fire Burger at Lucky 13 (135 W. 1300 South, lucky13slc.com), which is the reigning champion of food that has kicked my ass. It's one of their delectable bacon cheeseburgers decked out with a few huge scoops of grilled jalapeños and habaneros for maximum mayhem. It strikes the exact balance that metal does—it's delicious so you want to keep eating, and eventually the pain of all that heat starts to meld with the pleasure of how good the burger tastes. If metal was a burger, it would live at Lucky 13.

Classical
I dunno. Wine and cheese?

Country
I suppose alt-country might be a more accurate genre for The Hoss at Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade (54 W. 1700 South, sweetlakeslc.com). It's a far cry from the Blake Sheltons and the Brad Paisleys of the country circuit—if you're after a food equivalent of that crap, look no further than your neighborhood KFC. The Hoss, on the other hand, represents something a bit more nuanced, a tad more grounded and possesses a lot more character. It drips farm-fresh country goodness with each bite of its buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy, thick bacon and golden fried chicken. There's something honest and hardworking about The Hoss that represents the roots of country music, and it has yet to sell out.

Garage
As greasy, floppy, reheated pizza is the patron saint of garage rock, the slice of the day at The Pie Hole (344 S. State, pieholeutah.com) is as good as it gets. The classic pizza stalwarts of pepperoni, cheese and vegan are always an option, but sometimes these guys get really weird with their offerings. A post-concert pizza run at 1 a.m. can put you in a mood strange enough to buy what they're selling. Mangos with Thai peanut sauce and sliced potatoes with garlic are just a few of their more accessible pies, and their adherence to New York-style thin-crust pizza adds to its garage rock authenticity.

Rap
I'm a total cultural outsider when it comes to rap music, but I've very much come to appreciate the way listening to it makes me check myself before I wreck myself. That said, I'm going out on a limb and saying that the best culinary manifestation of the rap genre comes from the taco stands on State Street, between 800 and 900 South. Rap music has always been about embracing the roots of where you come from, even if those roots are planted in the asphalt of city streets. It's also about turning the frustrations of being marginalized by the world at large into an art form that can't be culturally appropriated. That said, the men and women behind these taco stands are doing exactly the same thing—they're staying true to their cultural roots, and they're translating their experience into a singular art form that you just can't get anywhere else. Rap music and taco carts have unfairly earned a negative stigma for their presence in American culture, but that stigma can easily be removed with a little understanding (and an adventurous appetite).

Springer Family Archives

Back to the Bash
A personal summer concert retrospective.

By Alex Springer

And now time to wax poetic. While my passionate zeal to attend outdoor, day-long concerts in the scorching heat has long since dissipated, summer always makes me feel nostalgic for outdoor concert season. Back in my snot-nosed preteen years, my snot-nosed friends and I got our moms to take us to the X-96 Big Ass Show from years 1997 to ’99, back when it was at the Utah State Fairpark. It was hot, sticky affair and we all left covered in beer and the sweat of 1,000 screaming fans. But, it also marked my official transition from wayward preteen to punk-ass teenager, so I loved every frenetic minute of it. What follows is a brief anthology.

1997
In all honesty, my first experience with the Big Ass Show wasn't entirely positive. I went with a couple of my older brothers, most likely because I harangued our mom into persuading them to bring me along. The elder Springers were all into cool music, and I was entering the age when I also wanted to be into cool music, so I saw this as an opportunity to do some anthropological research—who did my siblings want to see? What made these acts cool? My enquiring mind wanted to know.

It seemed weird to me that my brothers agreed to bring me along—kid brothers cramp all kinds of style—but the logic of his decision slowly dawned on me when we crossed the threshold into the fairpark. It wasn't long before my brothers met up with friends or assaulted the mosh pit, leaving me to my own devices.

Truth be told, I spent most of the concert people-watching. I vaguely remember seeing The Violent Femmes, and the only reason I remember watching Poe's set was because she brought one of my brothers up onstage for a brief interpretive dance session; evidence of which miraculously found its way onto YouTube.

While I was on the sidelines checking out the subcultures-within-subcultures that populated the nooks and crannies of the fairpark, I learned a bit about the unwritten bylaws of concert-going. Things like the price you have to pay if you want to get close enough for the lead vocalist to spit on you—which consists of completely forgetting your concept of personal space. I learned that crowd surfers will absolutely kick you in the head, and that every time the vocalist said anything at all, we all had to cheer. It was weird at first, but that's the thing about concerts—you can either resist the weird or become part of it, and the latter is always way more fun.

Springer Family Archives

1998
This was the year, man. I still didn't have a driver's license, but I did have a burgeoning posse. Concerts are great when you're there with your crew. Here we were, a bunch of pissant high school freshmen, but damn if we didn't think we owned the place. We stole shoes from crowd surfers, threw each other into mosh pits and ordered our hot dogs with onions thank you very much.

I remember catching a bit of Soul Coughing, because my developing brain thought they were a lot cooler than they actually were. Primus was the headliner, Les Claypool wore one of those German military helmets with a sharp spike sticking out of the top, and they closed out the show during a massive rainstorm that caused evaporated sweat steam to waft upward from the gathered mass. To this day, it's one of the weirdest, most surreal things I've ever seen.

Since the show ended about 5 p.m., my friends and I ended up throwing our sweaty, exhausted bodies down on whatever surface would accommodate us at my mom's place while we spent the rest of the night watching horror movies. Best. Summer. Ever.

1999
Ah, 1999 was a very good year. I had a girlfriend, I could drive—I mean, we were still punk sophomores, but that was a little better than punk freshmen. The lineup that year is much clearer in my memory. We saw some Ben Folds, some Jimmie's Chicken Shack, some Big Bad Voodoo Daddy—a performance during which I was introduced to skanking, which thankfully died in the early 2000s. Primus headlined this year as well, going on right after their protégé Buckethead took the stage.

We kept up our general tradition of acting like morons, but something definitely changed during that show. Our little group of high school buddies was doomed to implode after sophomore year, and things throughout the rest of high school weren't quite the same. The 1999 Big Ass Show rounded out my summer concert experience for the rest of that stint, but it marked an interesting transition as a music fan. Not long after the Big Ass Show, I got a job at the Sam Goody in Fashion Place Mall, back when there was a Sam Goody in Fashion Place Mall—or anywhere, for that matter. The fire that these outdoor concerts lit in my chest helped me build a solid foundation of music geekery, and guided me to bands like Pavement, Sunny Day Real Estate, Ministry, Portishead and The Strokes.

So what's the takeaway here, you might ask, young reader? Well, from a former punk-ass to all of you young punk-asses getting stoked for summer concert season to once again grace us with its ephemeral, slightly icky presence—be it at the Twilights, Red Butte or even SLC Jazz Fest for a classier kind of icky—I implore you to take it all in. I also bid you happy thrashing. Or skanking, if that's more your thing.