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Park City Song Summit focuses on local artists, and on promoting mental health awareness.

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ANGELA HOWARD PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Angela Howard Photography

Park City Song Summit aims not only to be Park City's first large-scale, multi-day festival in the city proper, but also to side-step the typical music festival in favor of a more holistic approach that benefits artists, their fans and industry folk alike. And founder Ben Anderson has all the right reasons for kicking it off now.

"The idea was definitely to not do the 'f' word, the festival," Anderson tells City Weekly. "We are very serious about the fact that we are not a festival. I've been seeing live music since the early '70s—I'm a huge fan of live music, of festivals, but I wanted to do something different because arguably, the world does not need another festival."

Besides this, inspiration for the Park City Song Summit also came from his own history as a musician, as one of the founding members of the jam band-inspired group Aiko of Nashville, which formed in 1984. However, Anderson also became acquainted with a heel of the music world that many in it come to know well—that of mental health struggles and addiction.

"I'm almost 14 years in recovery, and mental health and addiction recovery are things that have affected me in my life, and they're things that have affected a lot of my friends. Certainly in the music industry we've lost a lot of friends—especially during COVID—to either suicide or overdose," he explains.

Even before the pandemic, though, Anderson was spending the last several years working on the issues of sobriety and mental health in the music world, and Park City Song Summit is just his latest attempt to give back to the community that "stood in the gap" for him when he needed help. "Because there was no multi-day music event in Park City, I just felt like it was something that we could do something about—but to also use it as a platform for bringing some discussion around mental illness and thus mental health, and addiction, addiction recovery and suicide prevention," he says.

The Summit also jams a wedge of much-needed respite into the tour frenzy that artists face down every year to make their living. "How about instead of having artists come and play for 75, 90 minutes, then leave and go to the next town and do the same thing—with Park City and Salt Lake City just stops along the way—we did something that was more like inviting every one of our artists to come for a week and just stay in beautiful Park City? Just enjoy our mountains, streams, historic main streets and bring their families and friends," Anderson says. "What if we created an event where instead of just having an artist perform, we talked about what interests, inspires, challenges them?"

And while it may seem like a musical answer to Sundance, Anderson says he sees it as being closer to a Western version of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, historic fests that have long centered social change. For the many big artists the Summit has snagged, it's a chance for hopeful run-ins with industry friends who they may not see often on account of busy tour schedules, and in addition to more typical spaces, chances to hang in sober green rooms and at shows with actually appetizing non-alcoholic drink options.

Taking place at venues around Park City, like OP Rockwell, Eccles Center Theater, The Spur and The Cabin, the Summit will include many performances from artists, some of whom will also participate in songwriters-in-the-round-type shows that emphasize what Anderson calls the spiritual journey of the Summit, of "conversation, connection and community." These "labs," as they've been dubbed, are intended to connect audiences with artists, artists with artists and to expose the mechanisms of writing the kind of song that's so impactful that it holds transportive properties for listeners. Names like Adia Victoria, Andrew Bird & Jimbo Mathus, Iron & Wine, Bonny Light Horseman, Father John Misty, Fruits Bats, Gary Clark Jr., Kamasi Washington, Mavis Staples, Rising Appalachia, Alison Mosshart and dozens more can be seen in day-long chunks for as little as $25 to $150, and $150 for three-day lawn passes. Passes for the entire Summit—all labs and performances included—are also available, and more single-day passes and packages are to come.

After a jarring year, Park City Song Summit seems a gentle response to the sudden back-to-business position many now find themselves facing—and a way for big-time artists to get back to the small-time business of intimacy with their fans. Anderson hopes it can become an annual retreat for those artists after this first go-round.

"Isolation has been very difficult for those that are affected by mental illness and addiction. Now they've got to somehow just flip a switch and get thrown back out there into the deep end and be performing," he observes. "We lost a number of artists, and a number of people who none of us have ever heard of who supported those artists in the last 18 months, and we don't need to lose any more. If we can inspire just one person to get the help they need, then I consider all the time, money, resources that we've put in a success."

The Summit runs Sept. 8 - 12, and tickets are on sale now at parkcitysongsummit.com.

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About The Author

Erin Moore

Erin Moore

Bio:
Erin Moore is City Weekly's music editor. Email tips to: music@cityweekly.net.

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