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Orion Independent Music Festival

Starry Nights: New music festival hunts for talent.


Shaney McCoy
  • Shaney McCoy

Park City is widely known for hosting one of the most popular festivals around, so much so that the ski town has become nearly synonymous with independent film. Salt Lake City musician Steffen Olsen thinks that’s all fine and good, but what about the music?

Like many artistic/business ventures, Olsen’s drive to create the Orion Independent Music Festival stems from a general disappointment with the status quo. The six-day event serves as response to a profit-driven music industry churning out sub-par talent while ignoring truly gifted artists for the sake of Top 40 demand. OIMF will take place on a stretch of land where, just weeks later, Uggs-clad celebs will scurry to crowded screenings and fetes.

“Main Street in Park City is perfect for this because the venues are so close to each other. It’s easy to hop around from one to the next; you can easily see several bands in one night,” explains Hilary Reiter, festival PR director. “Plus, Park City also has a history of hosting world-class events.”

Organizers also reached out to a handful of Salt Lake City’s venues, including the Woodshed which will host festival showcases on Jan. 14 and 17.

According to Reiter, Orion’s mission is to push independent artists forward by enabling them to better use the free resources already at their fingertips, such as the Internet, or to help get them some major-record-label awareness—more than 20 industry professionals will be in town scouting. The problem, as the festival creators see it, is that so much of the way the music industry works these days promotes “pre-packaged, pre-fabricated pop music; there really is nothing organic about it. Orion’s focus is on artists that are touring on their own, recording on their own and are really genuinely passionate about the type of music they choose to write and perform.”

Even though this is the inaugural year, Orion’s eclectic lineup is encouraging. The schedule features more than 50 artists specializing in a wide range of musical styles, ranging from hip-hop and country to indie and R&B, with many performers traveling from Australia, Chili, Canada and Sweden. Of course, there will be plenty of American musicians on hand, as well, including a number of homegrown acts: Ogden’s Shaney McCoy (pictured above) and Salt Lake City’s Mana Poly All-Stars, Kettlefish and self-described “musical joke gone wrong,” The Sweater Friends, among others.

“There’s way more local talent than the festival could incorporate,” says Reiter. “And although we do have quite a few local acts, we definitely wanted to have as many national and international artists as possible to broaden the festival’s scope. It was also very important to have the widest geographical diversity we could to legitimize the festival. On that note, I see the international side of this growing next year and the year after, with more and more really talented artists getting the opportunity to be discovered.”

Olsen is also not too shy to admit that what he wants is a revolution within the music industry. His goal is to change the way things work on a level akin to MP3s virtually making CDs obsolete. “Music is on the cusp of a revolution, thanks to the Internet empowering the independent artist with the ability to self-promote,” he says.

Orion, therefore, is simply a festival forum to provide that next essential step for the truly independent artistic musician to reach success.

Multiple venues
Jan. 14-20