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The choreography of concert production by Scott Iwasaki

Summer arrives in a few weeks and, as Martha and the Vandellas sang back in 1964, “There’ll be dancing in the streets.”

In the Wasatch Back, however, the dancing isn’t just relegated to the streets. Because of the abundance of summer concerts, people will dance on mountainsides, in parks, fields and patios.

In fact, from June to September, residents and visitors will be able to attend live concerts at least five days a week.

While music lovers find themselves grooving to the beats in front of the stage, there will be a different dance going on behind the stage. In most cases, that backstage hustle has started hours before the first chord is struck.

Step One: permits

There are many steps to putting on a concert, and getting a permit is the first for many promoters and production companies, said Jenny Diersen, Park City’s special event and economic development program manager.

“An interested applicant should contact the Park City Special Events Department if they are interested in applying for a permit,” Diersen said in an email interview. “After we understand what they are looking to do, we can help get them directed to the right place if a permit is not required.”

Indoor concerts generally don’t require permits because they are within a structure that has been approved for events, but outdoor concerts usually require a special event permit, due to the impacts of parking, increased transportation needs and noise waivers, according to Diersen.

For events in Park City, there are three levels of special event permits, and the Park City staff determines the level for each request, depending on anticipated crowds and impacts the event may causes.

Promoters and production companies apply for the permits, and the city or governing body will review them for approval, Diersen said. When reviewing applications, city staffers consider an event’s value for the community and weigh it against concerns like public safety and transportation impacts.

“The balance of the special event calendar is complex and delicate (and) we constantly look at our calendar to understand what is and what is likely not possible,” she said. “We work closely with our community partners (Park City School District, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, Summit County, Main Street merchants) to coordinate resources and impacts that an event may cause.”

Israel Nebeker sings on stage at the Deer Valley Amphitheater as he and the rest of the band Blind Pilot perform to open for Brandi Carlile Saturday evening, August 13, 2016. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

Sometimes a permit is not issued.

“Public safety and mitigating impacts is of utmost importance, while balancing the positive community, cultural and economic benefits that an event may bring,” Diersen said. “As per the special events code, we look at a number of items including geographic separation of events, proposed time and duration of events, anticipated attendance, necessity for public personnel, equipment and transportation services, as well as anticipated traffic and parking impacts.”

The applicants vary. Sometimes it’s the venue, and sometimes it’s the promoters or production companies that make the submissions..

Mountain Town Music, the local nonprofit that presents free summer concerts throughout 11 Park City and Summit County venues, splits the permit pulling duties with venues for shows.

“We, ourselves, pull permits for half the stages — usually the ones within Park City, including Deer Valley and City Park,” said Brian Richards, Mountain Town Music’s community conductor of musical affairs. “Park Silly Sunday Market pulls permits for their shows. Vail (Resorts) will pull permits for those shows (at Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Village), and Newpark will pull permits from Summit County for their concerts.”

Sometimes a venue, such as the DeJoria Center in Kamas, will apply for the permits.

“Public safety and mitigating impacts is of utmost importance, while balancing the positive community, cultural and economic benefits that an event may bring...” — Jenny Diersen, Park City’s special event and economic development program manager

The venue is different because it also houses the State Road Tavern restaurant, and has a business license.

“All of our permits go through Kamas City, but because we have a business license, as an event center everything we do by definition is a special event,” said Tracy Mullen, director of sales and marketing for the DeJoria Center. “So there haven’t been too many additional permits we’ve had to pull. There are some big events that we are planning that will require master festival events, but for the most part the others fall under our business license permit.”

The Utah Symphony, which presents the annual Deer Valley Music Festival at the Snow Park Amphitheatre, also pulls permits for its outdoor concerts, according to Chip Dance, Utah Symphony stage and production manager.

“We have to get a permit that is something along the lines of a general assembly or occupancy permit that allows for gathering of people,” Dance said. “Deer Valley needs to get a temporary permit as well.”

Step Two: booking the shows

After permits are approved, venues must go through a dance of their own when booking the summer concerts.

Take the Deer Valley Snow Park Amphitheater, which can seat 5,000, for instance. It is not only home to the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s Deer Valley Music Festival, but also Mountain Town Music’s Grand Valley Bank Community Concerts and the upcoming Deer Valley Concert Series.

Clockwise from the top: Knox Hamilton, an alternative trio from Little Rock, Arkansas, takes to the Canyons Village stage Saturday afternoon, Feb. 18, 2017. Jordyn Jackson and Shawn Fisher of the duo Flagship Romance perform in Miner's Park on Main Street Saturday afternoon, August 19, 2017. Brandi Carlile takes a moment to greet the crowd during one of her songs at Deer Valley Amphitheater Saturday evening, August 13, 2016. Carlisle pulled a young girl and a young boy up on stage during the concert, engaging the fans. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record) The Utah Symphony performs at the Deer Valley Music Festival on June 18, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera).

It is also the former home of the Park City Institute’s St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Summer Concert series, and has served as a venue for past United Concerts performances.

“When we work with our outside promoters such as the Utah Symphony and Mountain Town Music and moving this year with First Tracks Entertainment, who will present the Deer Valley Concert Series, they usually come to us with dates,” said Carrie Westberg, senior event and promotion manager for Deer Valley. “We’ll put those dates on hold until the promoters and production companies can work with bands and their managers to see where they can fit in.”

Since Deer Valley is a resort and hosts other events in addition to concerts, Westberg and the other department leaders look across the board for scheduling conflicts — which may include weddings or big corporate conventions.

“Once a date goes on hold, we need to make sure we don’t have anything else going on, and if so what are our options,” Westberg said. “Typically we look at the Snow Park Lodge Amphitheater as the resort’s concert venue, but again, it’s a case-by-case scenario.”

The team leaders look at what type of concerts and artists have submitted dates and what the resort as a whole needs to do to secure and prep the lodge for the shows, she said.

There are exceptions to that rule.

“Since the Utah Symphony has presented the Deer Valley Music Festival for the past 15 years, their schedule is easy to work with,” Westberg said. “They typically hold Fridays and Saturdays from late June into the first couple of weekends in August. So we don’t really shift off those dates because they have been long standing with the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera.”

Westberg also works with Mountain Town Music, which presents the Grand Valley Bank Community Concert Series every Wednesday night.

“We make sure those dates are reserved as well,” Westberg said.

Mountain Town Music also does a little dance when Richards books the shows. In some cases, he does a few pirouettes and do-si-dos, as well.

“All of the stages we program are various sizes and each has its own unique flavor, and we try and match the band with the stage and book acts appropriately for the audiences that attend each stage,” he said. “We may put a classic-rock or guitar-rock band at Billy Blanco’s because of the vibe out there. We may put a funk band or a family-friendly band at Newpark or Deer Valley because the crowds at those stages like to get down and boogie.”

Since the Miners Park stage is small, Richards generally schedules singer-songwriters or acoustic duos and trios.

“We won’t put drums there because of the size and the fact that it is surrounded by brick walls,” he said. “But when we schedule Deer Valley, we try to find bigger bands that can play comfortably to 3,000 people.”

Although the venues have their own vibes, Richards said he likes to mix things up.

“We don’t want to get into a position where we are featuring the same bands or genres because then the audience gets bored – we like to keep things fresh,” he said. “For example, we typically schedule country or folk music at Wooden Shoe Park, but for our kickoff concert for our Vibe Tribe members on June 8, we will have Jordan Matthew Young, a blues-rock artist.”

Last year Richards booked a band called Gleewood at Woodenshoe Park.

“The songs that we heard made us think of a folk duo, but they ended up being a blues-rock band,” he said. “We probably wouldn’t have normally put that type of show in Peoa, but the audience loved it.”

Step Three: setup

The backstage loading dock at the DeJoria Center features three garage doors and an adjustable platform that makes load in and load out easy for technical crews. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

After a concert is booked and the contracts are signed, crews ready for setup.

In most cases the stage is already in place, but that’s not the situation the Park City Institute’s St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Summer Concerts will encounter this year.

For the past 14 years, the nonprofit has presented its series at the Snow Park Amphitheater, but had to look for different accommodations after Deer Valley decided to instead start up its own series.

After searching for a somewhat comparable venue, the Park City Institute announced the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights performances will be held at Quinn’s Field, at Quinn’s Junction, which is something that hasn’t been done before.

“We’ll have to rent or build (a stage) every time, and that will be expensive,” Executive Director Teri Orr said recently. “We are still exploring how we’ll do that.”

The Utah Symphony also has to build a stage when it presents its intimate chamber music concerts at St. Mary’s Catholic Church during the Deer Valley Music Festival.

“We don’t want to get into a position where we are featuring the same bands or genres because then the audience gets bored — we like to keep things fresh...” — Brian Richards, Mountain Town Music’s community conductor of musical affairs

“St. Mary’s doesn’t really have a stage, but they do have a raised area and every week we have a crew that adds a platform to the raised area that will provide space for our musicians,” said Dance, the Utah Symphony stage and production manager. “Because St. Mary’s is a functioning church, we take those platforms down and put the church back together, and we do this again the next week and the next week.”

Once the stages are ready, production crews prep the platform for the musicians.

Some production companies own their own sound system. Mountain Town Music’s, for instance, can be scaled up or down to fit the venue.

“We bring in large PA (public address) systems for stages like Newpark, Canyons or Deer Valley, and we’re usually on site at noon for a 6 p.m. show,” Richards said. “For a place like Miners Park, Peoa and City Park, we’ll put in a small, portable PA, which will usually take about 45 minutes to set up.”

Miners Park performances usually require one engineer and one stagehand, while the Deer Valley concerts usually need to two engineers — a front-of-house and monitor engineer — and a couple of stagehands, Richards said.

“We work with a lot of high school students who take Dave Hallock’s stage tech class at Park City High School as stagehands so they can learn while being part of our crew,” Richards said.

Utah Symphony’s setup for the Deer Valley Music Festival’s outdoor concerts can take between a couple of hours to a full day to complete, according to Dance.

Large clips hold the music to a music stand to prevent the pages from blowing away during a Deer Valley Music Festival concert. (Photo courtesy of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera)

“If it’s just the orchestra and we either don’t have any guest artists or just have a couple of guest singers, like we do during our Bravo Broadway concerts, the Utah Symphony truck with all the equipment will arrive two-and-a-half hours prior to the gates opening,” Dance said. “That’s because Deer Valley has already put up the tent and the stage. We don’t have to do all that from the ground up every week.”

Sometimes, though, Dance is ready to help a touring artist set up their stage a 7 a.m.

“While many of the artists we present aren’t doing a bus-and-truck tour, some do, and they have everything including the kitchen sink in their trucks,” Dance said. “Consequently, we sometimes can’t accommodate everything they have, because the sound towers and light trusses can hold only so much weight, so during our advance (discussions), we have to explain that they will have to use our lights and sound.”

Some artists are more than happy to use the existing infrastructure.

“That said, there may be certain things they need that are in their trucks, and those things are packed a certain way,” Dance said. “So at times, they have had to empty out their whole truck to get to the instruments or equipment they need. And then they have to pack the truck up exactly the way it was, so they have to wait until the artists and crew are finished with the used equipment and instruments.”

While Mountain Town Music usually sets up its own equipment, Utah Symphony works with local vendors.

“They help us with the bigger setups or if we need follow-spot(light) operators,” Dance said. “Other than that, we have a crew who is mostly made up of our crew colleagues in the Utah Opera who help set up some boardwalks and other infrastructure features in June.”

Some of the equipment includes patio heaters, extra music stands and chairs — anything they need to ensure the show goes off without a hitch, no matter the weather conditions.

“If the temperature get too cold, it can ruin instruments and interfere with the musicians’ dexterity, making it hard for them to play...” — Chip Dance, Utah Symphony stage and production manager

“We have to go in expecting everything from Mother Nature,” Dance said. “We travel with pieces of chain that are 15 to 24 inches long that are inside bicycle tire inner tubes, and we coil those around the base of the music stand to decrease the chances of the music stand blowing over.”

Sometimes the wind is so strong at Deer Valley that Dance and his crew have had to put two or three wraps of chains on the stands that are closer to the front of the stage.

The symphony also carries patio heaters.

“If the temperature get too cold, it can ruin instruments and interfere with the musicians’ dexterity, making it hard for them to play,” Dance said. “Contracts specify if the temperature gets to that point, we have to provide heat. If the temperature gets below that, we have to stop the concert. So you will see us a lot of times at Deer Valley lighting these heaters during intermission.”

In some cases, the instruments need to be protected from the summer heat.

“That doesn’t happen too much at Deer Valley, but we have to put space blankets up to block the sun from hitting the piano, because the sun can put the piano out of tune,” Dance said.

Side step to the right: using existing equipment

“If, by chance, an outside promoter came to us to put on a concert and told us they were going to bring in other vendors for sound and stage and lights, we would let them know that we have a procedure and that we will always look to use the existing infrastructure that we have in place,” said Westberg, the senior event and promotion manager for Deer Valley.

Using another system can be expensive.

“If a production company wants to use their own systems, we have to take ours out,” Westberg said. “That will add to costs and usually becomes a logistics puzzle.”

The DeJoria Center also owns its sound and lighting systems and offers its services to every tour that books shows in the venue, which can also include a temporary stage on the three-acre lawn.

“We will often get requests for lots of stagehands for lights and sounds when we have a national touring act come in,” said Mullen, the director of sales and marketing for the DeJoria Center. “We can accommodate most requests. Since the infrastructure is already here, it makes our job and the touring crews’ jobs easier.”

The DeJoria Center’s indoor stage measures approximately 1,922 square feet and the ceiling is 17.5 feet high

The sound system is comprised of a Yamaha CL5 digital console and eight Shure ULXD2/Beta58 microphones.

“We offer mic and stand packages, and a monitor package that includes Shure PSM 1000 IEM with earbuds,” Mullen said. “We also have intra-venue communication systems and two big LED monitor screens that flank the stage so we can show videos on either side of the stage.”

The venue also features a main PA, center fills and a system analyzer.

The DeJoria Center is a technical crew's dream. From mobile chair seating to sound equipment, lighting equipment and ease of loading in and out, the center is one largest and most technically advanced concert venues in Kamas. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

“We have extravagant lighting systems that include moving lights, conventional lights and spotlights,” Mullen said. “There are three dock doors where semis can back into for easy loading. And when we begin working with an act’s production manager, we can show how easy and quick it is to load in and load out. So a lot of what they need we have in-house already, with few exceptions.”

The DeJoria Center is also well equipped for outdoor concerts.

“We build a stage and bring out our portable sound system,” Mullen said. “We also activate our food truck so we can pull food from our buildings. The goal is to recreate the indoor experience to the outside.”

Side step to the left: happy artists

Another responsibility of a production organization such as Mountain Town Music is to make sure the artists and musicians it presents are comfortable.

In some cases, Mountain Town Music will accept a rider, which is a list of items requested by the artist.

Riders can include food, drinks and anything else that can help the artists relax before they go onstage.

“We usually take care of riders for bigger shows we present at Canyons, Newpark and Deer Valley, because they are mostly touring bands,” Richards said. “We book the other stages with local bands and they don’t necessarily have riders, but we do provide those local bands with waters and try to take care of them.”

Cellist Cheung Chau looks to clarinetist Russel Harlow for a cue during the Beethoven Festival Concert in the Park at City Park Monday evening, August 15, 2016. Pamela Jones plays during a duet at the Beethoven Festival Concert presented by Mountain Town Music on August 15, 2016. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

The DeJoria Center has a 375-square-foot green room just off to the side of the stage that serves as the perfect chill-out area for artists.

“The green room also has a shower for the performers,” Mullen said. “There is also a private entrance so the artists don’t have to walk through the crowd to get to the stage.”

Step Four: The show goes on

Once all is ready and the last-minute systems check is complete, the music begins, and that’s when the artists do their jobs.

Usually, the concert itself is the easiest part of the night for the production companies, Dance said.

Slaughter performs at the DeJoria Center on March 25, 2017. (Photo courtesy of the DeJoria Center)

“A large part of my responsibilities take place up until the concert and then immediately after so if everything goes well, my job between these times is pretty relaxing, and I can take my breath,” he said. “It depends on the show, but during the concerts I usually stand by to either assist with a stage shift or help put out fires, not literal fires, but to assist wherever is necessary.”

While stage managers and instrument technicians can take a breath during the show, other contractors — namely security personnel — start earning their paychecks.

“We are fortunate because the building is vendor friendly, and it’s easy for a tour to load in and load out...” — Tracy Mullen, Director of sales and marketing for the DeJoria Center

“The Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, in the past, have worked with volunteers for security, but this year, moving forward, they will use an outside security company,” Westberg said. “Last year was the first year Deer Valley hired a security team to be present at the Wednesday night Mountain Town Music series. The reason is because Deer Valley has only so many employees and their job scope isn’t large enough to also handle security.”

Westberg said First Tracks Entertainment, which will start the Deer Valley Concert Series this year, will contract with another security company.

The DeJoria Center has its own security.

“Our director of security is a full-time staff member, and we also have a list of on-call security teams, as well,” Mullen said. “The security fluctuates, depending on the number of people who are expected at the shows and, of course, our comfort.”

Step Five: the take down

A concert encore doesn’t signify the end of the night for production crews and venue personnel. It signals the start of a new project — striking the set.

The time that takes varies for Mountain Town Music crews, Richards said.

“It usually takes anywhere between 45 minutes to three hours,” he said. “Spring Grüv and Deer Valley shows take longer.”

Mountain Town Music just purchased a compact EV (Electro Voice) rig to replace a bigger and bulkier system it used for the past 15 years for Miners Park.

“We will always look to use the existing infrastructure that we have in place...” — Carrie Westberg, senior event and promotion manager for Deer Valley

“The new system fits in the trunk of a car and only needs one person to set it up and take it down,” Richards said.

Because of its design, which includes three external semi-sized backstage doors and adjustable loading docks, the DeJoria Center is easy to vacate.

“We are fortunate because the building is vendor friendly, and it’s easy for a tour to load in and load out,” Mullen said.

Step Six: the final thoughts

While producing concerts takes a lot of work, it’s rewarding work for the concert-goer, but also production crews, Dance said.

“We get exposure to wonderful music all year long, with the orchestra, and we also are exposed to wonderful guest artists,” he said. “It’s also great to see how enthusiastic the audience is, because when we play outdoors at the Snow Park Lodge during the summer, we get to see and feel the energy between the artists, musicians and audiences. We can look up the hill and see the audience.”

Story by Scott Iwasaki; photos by Tanzi Propst; additionaly photos and video courtesy of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera and the DeJoria Center; DeJoria Center videos and story design by Kira Hoffelmeyer.

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