- Shervin Lainez
- Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn.
At the beginning of July, the Ogden Twilight Concert Series notched some big firsts: the first time a show took place on a Friday, and the first time the lineup expanded outside its usual June time slot. It might not seem like a big deal, but this series only started in 2015, when realtor/local business owner Jared Allen and Ogden City Arts division manager Christy McBride joined forces.
The first few years featured four or five shows on Thursdays in June, with ticket sales increasing each year. In 2016, the maximum sales were 4,000 tickets; in 2017, it was 7,500 tickets, with more presales in the first week than all of 2015 combined. In 2018, Ogden Twilight hosts 10 shows spread across June, July and August, with an expected total audience of about 60,000.
"Ogden isn't on the map yet with most major booking houses," says Allen, who serves as principal broker at Restoration Realty and owns the nightclub Alleged and the graphic design firm Conveyer. "But there's no question that Utah boxes well above its weight class in terms of live music. Each year that we build a stronger rapport, opening doors gets a little easier."
That statement is backed up by perhaps Ogden Twilight's biggest show of the year: the triumvirate of Sylvan Esso, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Shamir performing on July 17. The first 2018 show Ogden Twilight announced way back in December, it's an indelibly cool lineup of indie tastemakers from different ends of the spectrum: North Carolina's Sylvan Esso smashes all dance-party expectations with its joyously handmade electro-pop, while New Zealand's Unknown Mortal Orchestra has incubated its own psych-R&B dimension, and Philly's Shamir has soundtracked his struggle with bipolar disorder via skittering indie rock and lo-fi folk.
Looking at things from a purely business perspective, it's a major coup for Utah: Sylvan Esso has already sold out a third of their summer shows, and the day after their Ogden Twilight stop, they'll hit Red Rocks in Colorado. Those tickets run $50-$75, while here in Utah the same opportunity to see them costs $10-$15. "We're very fortunate to have sponsors to make the series possible," Allen says. "There's just no way to make these shows work at these ticket prices without the generosity of local businesses and their willingness to step up and throw these parties for their community."
Allen credits the support of Will Sartain and Launce Saunders of S&S Presents for Ogden Twilight's growth. "I contacted Will right at the start of Year One hoping to bring him onboard, but I wasn't successful," Allen says. "Nevertheless, he was still kind enough to give me pointers along the way. I'm a huge music junkie, but I didn't know anything about the business at the start." Allen says he made far fewer mistakes thanks to Sartain's behind-the-scenes help in 2015 and 2016, with S&S' history and credibility enabling Ogden Twilight's big leap in 2017 and 2018.
With four shows left this summer—Big Wild, Jai Wolf and Madge on July 26; Broken Social Scene, In Tall Buildings and Joshua James on Aug. 2; Chromeo, STRFKR and Flash & Flare on Aug. 7; and CHVRCHES, Pale Waves and Tishmal on Aug. 9—Ogden Twilight still has a lot of road to run before its staff can really take a load off. But Allen says the gears are always turning—even into next year.
"We already have dates held for 2019," he says. "It's really a year-round job to try to put together a solid and consistent lineup. We have to be creative and nimble to produce these shows in this location with our small budget."
But Allen says it's worth it, citing the joy of loyal Ogden Twilight fans, the satisfaction his staff exudes after a well-run event and the cultural impact the series has had on Utah's next generation of music fans. "We've been paid in happiness the last three years," he says. "It's really gratifying to see so many people singing along at the concert or sharing their photos on social media. I was taking my son to a soccer game in 2016 a few days after Peter, Bjorn & John played Ogden Twilight, and the other kids in the truck were whistling the tune for 'Young Folks.' These were 8-year-olds, mind you. That definitely made me smile."