If you ever yearned to hear concerts by your favorite artists one night and listen to their TED talks the next, then Park City Song Summit may be your kind of music festival. That’s even though the Utah gathering is avoiding that particular F-word, “festival,” in emphasizing that its inaugural edition — set for Sept. 8-12 will consist not only of intimate concerts but conversational labs about a variety of topics related to music and creativity.
The lineup being announced today for the first Park City Song Summit covers a broad and eclectic array of performers from the rock, indie-pop, Americana, folk, jazz and blues worlds, including Gary Clark Jr., Father John Misty, Andrew Bird, Iron and Wine, Mavis Staples, Kamasi Washington, Tank and the Bangas, Lucius, John Doe, Josh Ritter, Fruit Bats, Amanda Shires, Langhorne Slim, Alison Mosshart, Ryan Bingham, Lori McKenna, Anders Osborne, Kalie Shorr, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the teaming of Charlie Musselwhite with Elvis Bishop.
Two levels of passes will be available that cover both the concerts and conversations along with additional attendant parties and events. Individual tickets will also be put on sale for the nightly shows, with everything going on sale June 15 at the PCSS website.
Says Andrew Bird, “I’m looking forward to Park City Song Summit because I like to mix things up with performance formats and consider dialogue with an audience to be part of my songwriting process to begin with. Also, spending time in a great mountain town is an easy sell.“
The founder is Ben Anderson, a former trial lawyer now retired to Park City, with a long side career as a member of the jam band Aiko. “Park City is a true music city with an independent spirit and legacy of craft and storytelling,” says Anderson. “This collection of artists is going to rock our mountain town and connect with audiences in a new and deeply engaging way.”
Material being released about Park City Song Summit describes it as “a sideways move away from mass music festivals and the dilution of intimate connections where scale numbs engagement between artists and fans. Organizers are asking attendees to think outside the traditional event format.” The Sundance Film Festival and “early” South By Southwest are cited as inspirations for the new undertaking, “a retreat for artists where they play their songs and create conversations with audiences around both proven and inspired practices for bolstering creativity and success in both music and beyond.”
Topics for the panels or speeches are already online, virtually all with intriguing titles. Among those whose subjects can be sussed from the names is “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven,” which can be counted on to focus on the writer of the song by that same title, John Prine, with panelists including Newport Folk Festival director Jay Sweet and singer-songwriters Natalie Hemby, Tre Burt, Shires and an unnamed “special guest.”
Jay Blakesberg, a photographer and filmmaker long associated with the Grateful Dead along with dozens of other credits, is set for two presentations. Hemby and McKenna will be joined by other panelists for both “Lyric Alchemy” and “All is Fair in Love and Songwriting.” “Sound and Vision” will bring together Bird, Fred Armisen and John Doe with Sam Beam and Morgan Kibby. Armisen will do a solo presentation on “Comedy for Musicians, but Everyone is Welcome.” John Doe will speak to a for-now mysterious topic known only as “The Hungry Wolf,” named after an X song. Two topics of longtime concern to founder Anderson, mental health and substance dependency, will also be addressed.
Locations will be spread across Park City, but the larger nighttime concerts will take place concurrently at the Deer Valley resort and the Eccles Center, the latter also known as a screening venue for the Sundance Film Festival.