Before he became regionally famous as the founder and director of the summer-time Twilight Concert Series, Casey Jarman was a working musician, and in 1987, he and his bandmates in the Jarman Kingston Quartet were one of the first four concerts at Red Butte Garden, in 1987.
At that point, Red Butte Garden concerts were held on the second Sunday of each month from June to September, and a season ticket cost $10.
“I don’t think they had a canopy,” Jarman said recently. “It was a much smaller thing.”
Since those inauspicious beginnings, the Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series has become one of the most popular concert series in all of Utah, with the 2013 season no longer featuring local artists but internationally famous musicians such as Tony Bennett, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne and She & Him. Pop-rock quartet Vampire Weekend headlines the amphitheater Tuesday, the first of a series-record 28 concerts to be held at the University of Utah’s botanical garden.
Ticket prices have changed, too. A season-ticket package (with added perks) for two lawn seats on the Eccles Terrace Lawn will set you back $4,500.
“It’s super-gratifying to see it grow,” said Garden concert promoter Chris Mautz, who since 1998 (with some seasons off) has booked all of the acts, along with Derrek Hanson, director of events & visitor services at the Garden. “It’s hard to imagine it from a decade ago.”
The growth of the concert series can be traced back to two individuals (if you don’t take into account donors): Susan Kropf, now public radio station KUER’s Director of Development and Marketing, and Mautz, whom Kropf hired. “He dropped of heaven,” Kropf said of Mautz, Kropf started as the Garden’s development director in 1989 and continued in that role for 17 years, and early on she recognized that a concert series was “really the gateway to Red Butte Garden,” attracting people who otherwise wouldn’t think of visiting a botanical garden, much less buying a membership to secure early concert-buying privileges.
Here are some of the more interesting tidbits of the series at Red Butte Garden:
1983 • Ground was broken for Red Butte Garden.
1985 • Red Butte Garden opened.
1988 • The second season of the concert series consists of six shows, all on Sundays, and season tickets cost $20.
1989 • David Grisman is the first nationally known musician to perform; in addition, one concert features the Texas Songwriters Evening, featuring Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, and the late, great Townes Van Zandt.
1990 – Ground was broken for the first of two amphitheaters at the Garden.
1991 – On June 22, the Utah Symphony is the first performer at the new amphitheater, performing Henry Wolking’s “Forests.” Later the same year, the first sold-out concert ever occurs at the Garden, with headliners Richard Thompson and Shawn Colvin.
1992 • Still six concerts, all on summer Sundays, but up-and-coming bluegrass artists Alison Krauss & Union Station. Season tickets are $60.
1993 • The late Richie Havens headlines.
1996 • The series grows to 7 concerts, and for the first time, a Red Butte Garden show happens on day other than Sunday; Joan Baez performs on a Tuesday.
1997 • John Prine performs for the first, but not last time.
1998 • Chris Mautz books his first season, with 8 concerts, and acts include B.B. King and John Hiatt.
2000 • Seven concerts, with still only one on a day other than Sunday: Marhy Chapin Carpenter headlines on a Thursday.
2001 • Lucinda Williams, Bruce Hornsby and Indigo Girls among highlights of seven-concert season.
2002 • Series grows to 9 concerts, and for first time, the number of weekday concerts outnumber Sunday shows.
2003 • Series grows to 11 concerts, including headliners Norah Jones and Ralph Stanley
2007 • On Aug. 28, ground broken for new Amphitheater. Season consists of 12 concerts.
2008 • In July, new Amphitheater opens (with Wynton Marsalis headlining the first, and season includes Wilco, Al Green and Bonne Raitt, as well as permanent bathrooms for the first time.
2009: • 15 concerts include Diana Krall, Death Cab for Cutie, and David Byrne.
2010 • Series balloons to 21, with Sheryl Crow, Steve Martin and first Garden-headlining show for concert regular Brandi Carlile.
2012 • Series expands to 26 shows, including headliners Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Shins and Bon Iver.
2013 • Series features largest number ever, with 28. New Rose House opens, replacing tents that used to serve as artists’ green rooms.