Last month, Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s office recommended funding for the 2018 Twilight Concert Series be cut while it’s under review. Two of the seven 2017 shows lost $63,000 each and as City Councilman Stan Penfold told Fox 13, “We just wanted some clarification as to how it’s being spent and what the return is.” Hence, the hiatus—and a stated intent to bring in back in 2019.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Once something is gone, or under review, it could become mired in bureaucratic muck. Who’s to say Twilight won’t stay gone? Well, a survey at least proposes a few options for the series.
Other than it going dark, here are four possible outcomes:
Keep It the Same: Seven Shows in Pioneer Park
Obviously, to Twilight Concert Series fans, this sounds like the obvious winner. But it would still be a gamble for the city. Well, that’s the music business for you—some shows lose money. This is where considerations of how, and how much, the series benefits downtown businesses, including bars, food trucks, parking garages and meters, restaurants—not to mention public transportation, cabs, pedicabs and Uber/Lyft drivers. All of that translates to tax revenue for the city.
Four Shows Instead of Seven
This keeps Twilight in Pioneer Park. It might also decrease the financial risk, but only if each show breaks even or turns a profit. Once again, it’s dicey. One or two bad turnouts would give the city more of a reason to scrap Twilight entirely.
Return to the Gallivan Center for a Seven-Show Series
During its formative years, the Gallivan Center was a great venue for Twilight. Watching concerts under towering buildings is much different than rocking out beneath tall trees—but open-air shows in a concrete jungle are still pretty cool. Though the Gallivan’s maximum capacity is only 40 percent of Pioneer Park’s. That could affect the caliber of artists. Then again, the shows weren’t too shabby back then, because 6,000 is still a respectable crowd. And fewer tickets means it’ll be easier to sell out shows, and a smaller venue means better sight lines. The only other drawback would be that the city would have to find another home for Excellence in the Community’s weekly free concert series, which also happens on Thursdays. It’s important that we not sacrifice one for the other.
Take the Show on the Road!
Moving the series around between Pioneer Park, Salt Lake Community College’s Grand Theatre and a west side park to be determined, with the Pioneer Park shows staying the same size. It keeps the series alive, with the experience staying the same for at least two shows. It’s convenient for those of us who live in the suburbs. It will spread some of the revenue around. But part of Twilight’s appeal is its communal aspect: We converge on the same place on the same day of the week to watch a show that we’re all excited to see. Also, it would create an identity crisis for Twilight as a series.
Bottom line: The Twilight Concert Series is 30 years old. It’s moved around before and been fine, but scaling it down ignores that it’s become an institution and tradition in Salt Lake City. Arts programs are rarely moneymakers. And we’re probably wasting larger amounts of tax dollars on things that contribute far less to the city’s cultural identity. Why not audit and, if necessary, cut those things? But if cuts must be made, I vote we return to the Gallivan Center.