"You guys are a miracle," shouted Beach House's Victoria Legrand from the stage in the middle of the dream-pop duo's set Thursday at Pioneer Park.
She had no idea how right she was.
Despite pessimism that the new $5 fee to attend Twilight Concert Series events after 24 years of free admission would drastically dissuade large crowds from attending the annual summer series, the season's opener proved that the series is alive and well, with an estimated 10,000 people attending, according to officials.
"The magical Twilight lives on," said Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, near the end of Beach House's performance. "Five dollars was not a deterrent. ... I doubt you'd find anyone who thought it was a bad investment."
While the decision to charge admission for the first time was made for reasons more having to do with ever-rising artists' fees and production costs, officials with series presenter Salt Lake City Arts Council acknowledged that the fee would discourage some people from attending. Last year's season-ending concert featuring hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco drew an estimated 55,000 concertgoers.
Pre-sales at ticket retailer 24Tix and Graywhale Entertainment stores were "more than expected," said Casey Jarman, founder and director of the Twilight Concert Series. More than 3,600 tickets were sold for Thursday's show.
But the phalanxes of walk-in traffic came as sort of a welcome surprise, considering that rain earlier in the day could have persuaded people to stay away.
The only inclement weather were a few sprinkles that came between the opener and headliner.
Chad Jenson, 18, of Draper, said he had decided Thursday morning to come to Pioneer Park simply because he and his friends were looking for something to do. He had attended Modest Mouse's 2010 Twilight concert that alerted officials that moving the series from the smaller Gallivan Center to Pioneer Park had, in turn, created increased demand. "Modest Mouse was insane," Jenson said. "People were tearing down fences. I think the five-dollar price will keep that from happening."
His friend, 18-year-old Kingslee Teo, agreed, having attended the Lupe Fiasco concert. "I think it's a really good idea to limit people," he said.
Matt Burdick, 33, said he hoped the $5 fee would keep away people not interested in the music. He quit going to the series when it was held at the Gallivan Center because crowds there constricted concertgoers who were there for the music. "People were encroaching on others' experiences," he said.
Although a crowd of 10,000 was more than expected, the less-constricted Pioneer Park seemed to have more of a family-friendly community-concert feel.
Tiffany Sollis, 26, a BYU student, brought her 76-year-old grandmother Arlene Sollis to Arlene's first concert in a quarter-century. "I can bring my Grandma," Tiffany said while looking at her. "There are some places I go you wouldn't approve of."
While Beach House and opening act The Walkmen have their fans, future concerts in the series are expected to draw even greater numbers to the park. Band of Horses, Iron & Wine and My Morning Jacket lead the pack in pre-sales, Jarman said.
Anna Lee, 36, of Salt Lake City, was at her first Twilight Concert Thursday. She appreciated the low cost of attending, but said, "Hopefully, it doesn't increase to $10."
2012 Twilight Concert Series
July 5 • Beach House with The Walkmen
July 12 • Raphael Saadiq with JJ Grey & Mofro
July 19 • Nas with Tinie Tempah
July 26 • Band of Horses with Lower Dens
Aug. 2 • My Morning Jacket with Joshua James
Aug. 9 • Passion Pit with Austra
Aug. 16 • Iron and Wine with Kathleen Edwards
Aug. 23 • M. Ward with Devotchka
Aug. 30 • Common with Aloe Blacc