It’s not as if there was a shortage of summer musical festivals out there, so what exactly was the motivation for Troubadour 77 band members Monty Powell and Anna Wilson to partner with Live Nation SLC to create yet another one in Troubeliever Fest?
For starters, “We’re trying to create a whole culture, a whole tribe, a whole place to gather — we’re trying to create a place for songwriters,” Wilson told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Yes, it’s another music festival, but it’s also an experiential situation. That’s what sets this apart.”
True enough. While the two-day event taking place Friday and Saturday at Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville will feature a traditional performance lineup including the likes of Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Shawn Colvin and a “Legends Live” jam, it’s also intended to provide attendees with the opportunity to do more than listen.
Troubeliever Fest will also feature songwriting workshops and master classes, song evaluations for aspiring musicians by professional ones, even a singer-songwriter competition.
That said, the lineup itself is hardly an afterthought.
Powell and Wilson spent a quarter-century in Nashville as songwriters to some of country music’s modern heavyweights — Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw — before choosing to focus more on their own performing.
That helped set the stage for determining how the festival would be curated and structured.
“We approached it from the artist mindset,” Wilson said. “How would we want it to go? What would be a fun festival for an artist to do?”
First came settling on a format, which proved easy enough. Having both been steeped in the singer-songwriter tradition, Wilson and Powell quickly zeroed in on a program revolving around that genre.
It was something of a curious choice, given that many top artists from that style are frequently relegated to playing house shows and small-capacity clubs.
“We wanted to deconstruct the festival format,” Wilson said. “… We wanted to create a show you can’t get anywhere else in the country.”
Part of that meant that rather than worry about whether performers who usually play before small audiences could hold the attention of a much larger crowd, Wilson and Powell simply turned the situation on its head.
Instead of trying to make the artists adjust to a bigger show, they decided to give the concert a cozier feeling.
“Those shows often have 100 people; we wanted to bring that intimate sort of experience to a lawn in front of 5,000 people,” Wilson said. “In a club, you see the emotion, you can see tears falling down people’s faces. We wanna put that on a video screen and bring it to the people all the way in the back.”
Beyond that, the idea is to keep things simple.
“The format is for the artists to talk about why they did what they did, and not just race through song after song after song,” she said. “… It’s all stripped down, just you talking to the audience. You don’t have that wall of sound behind you, all the smoke and lasers. Sometimes artists get so caught up in the machine; when we invite them here, it’s an opportunity to just be a musician.”
The music, in the end, is what it’s all about.
Wilson said the philosophy behind booking the talent was to get some artists who knew each other and had worked together previously, thereby creating the possibility for “some magical, unscripted moments” and “all these creative touchpoints.”
While Harris and Crowell are the unquestioned headliners, Wilson was particularly excited about the “Legends Live” jam session, which will feature a collection of ’70s singers “performing songs in a supergroup setting.”
It will feature the likes of David Pack (Ambrosia), Richard Page (Mr. Mister, Ringo’s All-Starr Band), John Elefante (Kansas) and Jim Peterik (Ides of March, Survivor).
Wilson knows they are not necessarily “immediately recognizable household names,” but she said any confusion on the audience’s part will be cleared up once the performance starts.
“People are gonna be blown away hearing all these songs they know that these guys wrote,” Wilson said. “At Troubeliever Fest, the songs are the stars.”
Friday-Saturday at Snowbasin Resort, Huntsville
Start time • 7:30 p.m.
Lineup • Local artists: Viviena & Leisina; The Tim Daniels Band; Late Night Acoustic Cafe (feat. Monty Powell & Anna Wilson)
Tickets • Not required
Start time • 9 a.m.
Lineup • Emmylou Harris; Rodney Crowell; Legends Live (feat. David Pack, Richard Page, John Elefante, Jim Peterik); Shawn Colvin; Billy Dean; Troubadour 77; Middlemann Burr; Monty Powell; Anna Wilson; Sammy Brue
Tickets • $50 GA; Smith’s Tix
’Tis the (festival) season
While many of the summer’s music festivals are already in the books, several more remain. Here are a few of the single-weekend festivals taking place throughout Utah in the coming weeks:
Women’s Redrock Music Festival • Aug. 10-11, Robber’s Roost, Torrey. The 12th annual nonprofit event in Wayne County benefits women throughout Utah via donations and scholarships. Friday’s events kick off at 5 p.m. and conclude with a 9:10 performance by Nobody’s Girl. Saturday’s events get underway at 11:30 a.m. and wrap with an 8:05 p.m. set from Sister Wives. Friday-only passes are $45, Saturday-only passes are $75, and two-day passes cost $110. Visit womensredrockmusicfest.com for more information.
Das Energi Festival • Aug. 17-18, The Great Saltair, Magna. The two-day Electronic Dance Music event features headliners Kaskade and Dillon Francis on the first night, and and Deadmau5 and Rezz on the second. Each night runs from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Cost is $80 GA or $130 VIP for a single night; $140 GA or $200 VIP for a two-night pass. Go to dasenergifestival.com for more information.
Reggae Rise-Up • Aug. 24-26, Rivers Edge, Heber. The three-day reggae event features Rebelution and Stephen Marley headlining on Friday (music goes from 2:30-11 p.m.); Atmosphere, Steel Pulse, and Tribal Seeds headlining on Saturday (music from 12:45-11); and SOJA and J Boog headlining on Sunday (music from 12:45-11). GA tickets are $50 for one day, $75 for two, and $95 for all three. VIP tickets are $155 for all three days. Go to reggaeriseuputah.com for more information.