SALT LAKE CITY — It all started 34 years ago with a handful of free performances for workers at lunchtime. The Brown Bag Concert Series — along with its evening spin-off, the Twilight Concert Series — has since changed a "huge amount," Casey Jarman said.
Jarman, the Salt Lake City Arts Council member over both concert series and the Living Traditions Festival, used the words "innovative" and "progressive" repeatedly as he described the concerts as they are today.
When the council received a grant to expand the Brown Bag series, Jarman proposed the idea of evening concerts for those who could not make it to the daytime concerts. Ten years into the Brown Bag series, the Twilight Concert Series was born.
Now in its 24th year, however, the evening series is not at all what it used to be.
"It's mostly an indie, hip-hop progressive series," Jarman said. The series started out featuring local artists from dance groups to orchestras. But, as Jarman said, a combination of budget and his ideas ended up making the Twilight series an opportunity to bring national names to Salt Lake City.
Some local fans may wonder why they haven't seen any news about the Brown Bag series. In years past, it ran from June through August. This year, the concerts will run in August only.
"We're very proud to keep that going," Jarman said of the series, noting that it's what started everything in the first place. But with a small staff and three different summer programs to run, it's easy to get spread thin. The Living Traditions Festival runs in June, and the Twilight series kicks off in July. There are time and money to consider.
"Sometimes we just have to flex and change these concerts to accommodate," he said.
The Brown Bag series will stick to some of its normal locations, including the Exchange Place Plaza, the Salt Lake County Building steps and City Creek Park. Jarman said they hope to keep the tradition of showcasing local artists through the daytime concerts. Acts will include The Hot Club of Zion, John Flanders and Double Helix, and returning favorite Kate MacLeod. The council hopes to have the schedule posted in the next couple of weeks.
As for the Twilight Concert Series, acts will include Bright Eyes, Typhoon, The Decemberists, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Lupe Fiasco, and more artists, bringing the total number to 14. It will run every Thursday at 7 p.m. from July 14 to Aug. 25.
Jarman discussed the series' many moves beginning in the Salt Lake Art Council's amphitheater, moving to the Gallivan Center and finally to Pioneer Park last year. The turnout just keeps growing. Some said they had already outgrown the park after the Modest Mouse concert brought in 40,000 last year.
Some fans also expressed on the series' Facebook page they think there should be a small admission fee, perhaps to even work as crowd control.
Jarman said the Modest Mouse concert was out of the ordinary for turnout. He intentionally booked a well-known band for the first night in order to attract more people to the new location. He believes they'll be sticking with that location for at least a few more years, despite the expense.
"There's no question that it's more expensive to be at Pioneer Park … so we have to make this work somehow," Jarman said.
But he doesn't think an admission fee will be coming around any time soon.
This year, fans and supporters have the opportunity to donate $5 via text message. Jarman called it "a progressive way of having people give back."
The staff already gets plenty of calls for support, donations and volunteers every year.
No matter what varying opinions there are regarding the admission, scheduled bands, crowds or venue, Jarman is happy with how things have turned out.
"I think we're staying right where we want to be, and I'm very excited about it."