Anyone looking for a connective thread in the lineup for Red Butte Garden’s Outdoor Concert Series is chasing a ghost. There’s no overarching theme linking everything together.
In fact, when Chris Mautz is booking a season lineup for Red Butte’s 3,000-seat amphitheater, he really has only one guiding principle:
“The focus is really just about getting a diverse group of artists,” he said. “It’s amazing how similar yet different each year is — at the center of it all, we’re just trying to put together a well-balanced but diverse lineup.”
The 2018 Red Butte lineup was announced Tuesday morning, and it certainly meets that definition.
The 30-show slate kicks off Wednesday, May 23, with a bill featuring The Devil Makes Three, The Wood Brothers and Murder by Death, and will wrap on Monday, Sept. 17, with ’80s rock icon Billy Idol.
A few annual choices are back yet again, with Michael Franti and Spearhead appearing Wednesday, June 27, Sheryl Crow in town Friday, July 13, and Trombone Shorty on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
There will be some first-timers, too. Austin-based alt-country up-and-comer Shakey Graves will be appearing Friday, Aug. 24, while ’90s alt-rock stalwarts Counting Crows will be making their Red Butte debut Monday, July 16, as part of their 25th anniversary tour.
Those two shows represent the low and high ends of the season’s price scale, with Shakey Graves costing Red Butte members $32 and the public $37, while the Crows come in at $90 and $95, respectively.
“Counting Crows, we’ve had a lot of requests for — I think that’s going to be a big one. It’s a soundtrack for a generation,” said Mautz, the booking manager for Red Butte. “As our community continues to grow and get a little older, they appreciate getting a chance to see a group like them in a 3,000-seat place. I think that’s one band where people might forget how many good songs they have in their catalog.”
“From what I’m hearing,” added Bryn Ramjoué, Red Butte Garden’s director of communications, “that’s gonna be the tour of the summer.”
Tickets for the season-opening show are on sale now. All other tickets go on sale Monday, April 23, at 7 p.m. for garden members with a Garden Flex Membership level or above. Concert tickets for the general public go on sale Monday, April 30, at 9 a.m. No tickets are sold or released before the on-sale date.
Meanwhile, there are several nights that will feature multi-act lineups. Monday, June 18, for instance, brings the “Last Summer on Earth Tour,” which will feature Barenaked Ladies, Better Than Ezra and KT Tunstall. The “Retro Futura Tour” on Friday, July 20, will include Belinda Carlisle, ABC, Modern English, The Outfield’s Tony Lewis, Kajagoogoo’s Limahl and Bow Wow Wow’s Annabella. There are also several other such shows on tap, like “Lost ’80s Live” on Thursday, Aug. 9 (A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, among others), and Trombone Shorty’s “Voodoo Threauxdown.”
Ramjoué said that on those nights, the typical plan will be doors at 6, show at 7, and about 3½ hours of music.
While Red Butte has a loyal contingent of longtime supporters, she also encouraged newcomers interested in any of those shows to come up to the venue on the University of Utah campus to experience a concert setting unlike any other in Utah.
“The really great thing about our venue is there’s not a lot of fees, there’s not exorbitant ticket prices, you can pack your own picnic and cooler [including alcohol],” she said. “You’re gonna be in a small, 3,000-seat venue with open seating, surrounded by people who love music like you do. It’s a great way to see bands you know and love, and maybe some you don’t know you’re in love with yet.”
Mautz similarly exposes the notion that there’s something for everyone.
Shows range from bluegrass stars The Avett Brothers to alt-poppers Death Cab for Cutie, from a Utah Symphony concert to singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, from pop duo Indigo Girls to the Grammy-winning, multigenerational blues team-up of Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite.
“I’m glad we’re doing our job and keeping you guessing. We’ve been able to grow the series, and by doing that, we’re able to reach into different types of genres we wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Mautz said. “I mean, really — we’ve got everyone from Billy Idol to Shakey Graves, someone who’s been around forever and a guy who’s pretty new, and very different styles of music. And yet, there are some people who will go to both of those shows. That’s the beauty of this.”