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The mighty Twilight Concert Series prepares for its best season ever

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Absolute power corrupts absolutely, they say, but so far Casey Jarman remains blessedly altruistic. The creator and director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council’s Twilight Concert Series for the last 22 years who (almost) single-handedly shapes each of the summer celebration’s music lineups. When it comes to band selection he says, “I’m the ultimate decider.” But Jarman is no fool—he checks in with the Arts Council’s increasingly hip, young staff before closing each deal.

His council crew is relatively huge—from servers to production staff it numbers 40-50 people—a far cry from the festival’s humble beginnings.

“The first years I ran sound, I set up the stage, I ran lights, picked up the artists at the airport, dropped them off at their hotel,” he says. “It was me and one other person, and we did everything.”

Jarman is still doing more than his fair share for the event, some might say, considering his other obligations to the city. He adds researching and booking bands to his council duties, including running the Living Traditions Festival and the Brown Bag Concert series. If it’s art and/or music in Salt Lake City and a large number of people are crowded around enjoying themselves, chances are Jarman had something to do with it.

Jarman must sit in his office listening to music, one imagines, almost 24/7, given how many consistently amazing bands have appeared as Twilight performers. Past years’ bills read like a who’s who of musicians from artists on the rise (Andrew Bird, Peter, Bjorn & John) to seasoned stunners and fan-favorites (Michael Franti, The Roots, Calexico). The 2009 lineup is arguably the most impressive one to date with the type of bands many will camp out at the Gallivan to be able to see up close, personal and free.

Rumors started flying earlier this year as to whether or not the series would even take place. Twilight’s home, the Gallivan Center, is slated for reconstruction—major renovations that, if launched before summer, might have displaced or canceled the outdoor shows. In the process of cutting short rumors of Twilight’s imminent demise, Jarman inadvertently sparked a crazy amount of buzz that put music lovers on the edge of their seats.

“It looked like Gallivan was waffling as a venue,and [many wondered] whether it was going to be available. I wanted to make sure that Gallivan and the public knew that we were booking artists,” Jarman says, explaining why he disclosed a handful of dates to one daily newspaper before issuing a comprehensive press release. “It was a good way to get things going, though. Some of the earlier shows I booked were really exciting.

Twilight Summer Lineup
July 9 Bon Iver / Jenny Lewis
July 16 Black Keys / Human Highway
July 23 M . Ward / Land of Talk
July 30 Sonic Youth / Awesome Color
Aug. 6 Q-Tip / B.o.B.
Aug. 13 Toots and the Maytals / N.A.S.A
Aug. 20 Iron and Wine / Okkervil River
Aug. 27 Robert Randolph and the Family Band / Black Joe Lewis

Plans for Gallivan’s remodel have been delayed, possibly due to Jarman’s “early-leak” strategy. It’s just not right to dangle a carrot like Sonic Youth in front of serious fans and then snatch it away without warning. Soak up the fun while you can, folks.

“It will be under construction next year one way or the other,” Jarman says. As for what will happen to the series next year, he says, “There is no obvious answer to that. If there was a facility, a park, a lot, or a location, we would be there. Twilight will happen next year, but it will be in a different form than it has been in past years. We’ll see,” Jarman says.

Until that dark day, take comfort in this summer’s highlights including a little something for the 21-and-over set who complain about long beer and wine—or should we say, whine—lines.

“We’re always trying to accommodate that,” Jarman says with a smile. “There’s only so much beer you can sell in a certain amount of time but we’re adding cash registers. It will be better than last year. There really should be minimal amounts of lines. It’s kind of a party.”

Some of those people probably don’t realize how lucky Salt Lake City, and Utah, is to have such a great series of free music. The thanks for that should go to Casey Jarman and his tireless staff at the Salt Lake City Arts Council.

The Twilight Concert Series begins at the Gallivan Center (239 S. Main ) on July 9 at 7 p.m.with Jenny Lewis and Bon Iver and runs every Thursday through August 27.

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Jon Paxton

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