When Vishwa Srinivasan was 15, he thought it would be cool to put on concerts in alleyways.
“I’ve always really liked how bigger cities are able to use their alleyways,” he said.
There are a lot of alleys in Salt Lake City — in total, about 50 miles of them, according to Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.
The city, Srinivasan said, is pretty good at using alleyway space to display commissioned artwork. But, he added, “there’s no reason we shouldn’t be using all of that space.”
So he put his teenage dream to work. Last fall, Srinivasan pitched Mendenhall’s office on the idea. He received money from the city’s Arts, Culture, and Events (ACE) Fund to organize a pilot concert this spring.
The show is set for May 21, in the Edison Street alleyway, which runs a half-block east of State Street between 200 South and 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City. Edison Street boasts restaurants (including Roctaco and Brick & Mortar), Diabolical Records, and a wealth of street murals.
The concert will be an experiment, Srinivasan said, a demonstration of what he hopes he can arrange every summer: Four concerts in four different alleyways, between May and August — each with a number of local artists, specializing in different music genres.
“Salt Lake has a pretty vibrant music scene and it goes a lot deeper than just indie music,” he said.
“Indie music” — alternative pop and rock, essentially — has something of a monopoly on bookings in Salt Lake City’s smaller concert venues, Srinivasan said. Artists who don’t fit that mold tend to perform in warehouse shows instead.
“Artists that aren’t doing indie music in Salt Lake can still blow up on social media, without having any sort of access to venues,” Srinivasan said.
For the pilot concert, Srinivasan has booked two Utah-based rappers, Snicks and Peech, and an afrobeat/R&B performer, Gavanni, who’s originally from Nigeria and splits his time between Utah and Los Angeles. Combined, the three have more than 32,000 Instagram followers.
Snicks, who is from Salt Lake City’s Rose Park neighborhood, said the concert represents a big opportunity — both personally and for Utah’s hip-hop scene.
“This is one of the first legitimate projects showcasing the actual sound in the city,” Snicks said, adding, “I feel like the music we make is kind of overlooked.”
Gavanni said he’s excited to bring his music to a wider audience. “My personal objective as an artist is to add some flavor to the Utah music scene,” he said. “I’ve always infused my ethnicity and culture in some way into my music to give it some sort of personality.”
Peech, who’s from Park City, said he “loves” Srinivasan’s idea of highlighting “upcoming artists in the city who have the talent and just need some of that exposure to really be recognized.” The concert, he said, is a way for musicians like himself to connect with others — and signals that the Utah music scene is continually thriving.
Srinivasan is working out the details of holding a concert in an alleyway — like how many people can comfortably fill the space.
“The capacity at a venue is dictated by the fire code, and how many people you can safely put in a building in the case of a fire,” he said. That essentially works out to be one person for every 10 square feet of space.
Srinivasan measured the dimension of the Edison Street alleyway, using Google Earth, subtracted the stage area, and calculated the square footage. With help from Ryen Schegal, the city’s special events manager, Srinivasan estimated the capacity of the alleyway at 2,000 people. For the pilot show, though, he’s shooting for 400 attendees. (Tickets, at $10 in advance and $15 on the day of the show, are available at 24Tix.)
Srinivasan said he hopes the May 21 concert — and, if all goes well, the shows that follow — will “encourage people to go deeper in terms of their understanding of local music.”
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