I was sandwiched in with several thousand of my sweatiest friends awaiting Solange’s delayed performance at a recent Twilight Concert and watching the stage crew working for 30 minutes to hang a giant red dot on the stage. So I had some time to contemplate some decisions.
Namely: What the hell am I doing here?
Her abbreviated show, cut short by a delayed flight, was fine. But generally speaking Twilight has become a behemoth.
It’s size may be its demise. Like a brontosaurus, it’s become too big, impossible to keep alive and may be headed for extinction.
The Salt Lake City Arts Council and Salt Lake City Council are grappling with what to do with the 30-year-old concert series, including the possibility, perhaps a likelihood, that it could be scrapped altogether.
This year, as last, Twilight’s red ink — in the neighborhood of $350,000 for the two years — on top of the original taxpayer subsidy, has loomed larger than Solange’s giant red dot.
It is the twilight of Twilight. And at one point, I would've been fine to see it slip away. But letting the concert series die would be a huge mistake.
The concerts bring a vibrancy to the city, they provide an easily accessible cultural touchstone for thousands, and draw hundreds of thousands of dollars in commerce to area businesses. It’s hard to imagine what summers in Salt Lake City would be without the Twilight concerts.
But it needs to return to its roots.
Organizers should move the shows back to the Gallivan Center where they prospered for years before construction forced it to Pioneer Park. Returning to Gallivan would mean crews wouldn’t have to build and take down the massive stage, slashing costs.
The Excellence in the Community concert series, sponsored by the city’s Redevelopment Agency, is losing its funding and won’t be back at the Gallivan next year, creating a space that Twilight could help to fill.
It could mean smaller acts — Gallivan holds just 2,500 people compared to upwards of 30,000 at Pioneer Park — but a more manageable experience focused more on the music than the spectacle. It would draw people into the center of downtown’s new arts corridor, boosting that effort and at the same time benefitting dozens more restaurants and bars surrounding the area.
The public seems amenable to a Gallivan homecoming, at least according to an informal survey that Salt Lake City Councilman Derek Kitchen is conducting. Of the more than 600 responses to Kitchen’s online survey, nearly two-thirds are either extremely likely or very likely to attend the concerts if they are moved to the Gallivan stage.
Nearly 90 percent are at least as likely to attend shows at Gallivan as they are to attend the concerts at Pioneer Park. It’s not a scientific poll, sure, but it’s a strong statement of support.
You still want the giant spectacle with the major national acts? Kitchen is floating an interesting idea for that, as well: A weekend-long music extravaganza, compacting a handful of big headliners into a few days, with the potential of partnering with Sundance Film Festival organizers to incorporate film into the mix.
The benefits of Twilight could also be shared more broadly across the city by spinning off smaller shows — Twilight-Lite concerts in Rose Park, Glendale, Marmalade, Liberty Wells or elsewhere.
Reinventing Twilight by rolling it back to its past not only allows it to survive, it compliments the already robust downtown music scene and, perhaps the best part, it could likely be done for a fraction of the cost, letting the series operate in the black and potentially leaving some money to help bolster other arts programs.
On Saturday, the city’s Arts Council is hosting a photo retrospective of the 30 years of Twilight acts and giving the public a chance to make recommendations on the future of the concert series. So now’s the time to speak out, because letting the 30-year-old Twilight tradition simply die off should not be an option.
Editor’s note: The photo exhibit, “30 Years of Twilight Concerts,” will be held at Clubhouse gallery, 850 E. South Temple in Salt Lake City. It is open to the public Saturday from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.