High-profile concerts and well-deserved national attention to the local music scene offered memorable sounds in Utah despite playing on a tough economic stage that lingered throughout 2012.
Sundancing in the streets • Once again, the Sundance Film Festival provided the stage for great films from musicians, including a documentary on Paul Simon's "Graceland" album and "Searching for Sugar Man." Even the Slamdance Film Festival featured a documentary on Neil Young. With Harry O's replaced by Park City Live and new clubs like Sugar opening on Main Street, the 10 days of the festival was not short of music.
Not nonfiction • Utah prog-rock band Fictionist's recording deal with major label Atlantic Records will soon be released, while other bands with local ties such as Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees proved to be more than one-hit wonders. The Used released a well-received new record after several years of relative MIA status. Joshua James, who performed a rare set by a local at the summer's Twilight Concert Series, released a brilliant new record called "From the Top of Willamette Mountain" near the end of the year. And guess what? All of those bands come from Utah County.
Memorable concerts • Some of the world's most outstanding performers played Utah tour stopovers, including Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band bringing back memories of The Beatles. Some of the best shows of the year included Needtobreathe at The Depot, Brandi Carlile, Bon Iver, and Josh Ritter at Red Butte Garden, The Beach Boys at the Stadium of Fire, and Eric Church at the Maverik Center.
Country is king • Utahns' appetite for country music was rewarded with a wealth of riches, including shows by Sugarland, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley, Hunter Hayes and Eric Church headlining throughout the state. The upcoming year already looks promising, with Taylor Swift slated to perform at EnergySolutions Arena in June.
New morning for Twilight • For the first time in its quarter-century lifespan, the Salt Lake City Arts Council charged an admission fee for the city's wildly popular Twilight Concert Series, held for the third year at Pioneer Park. While crowds were generally thinner than audiences seen in 2011, hip-hop stars Common and Nas drew more than 20,000 fans, while My Morning Jacket, Joshua James and Aloe Blacc thrilled during their sets.
A bounty in Deseret • Deseret Book and its sister label Shadow Mountain Records gained notice when Utah native Jenny Oaks Baker was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental album on a Shadow Mountain release. Although she didn't win, the label enjoyed success with releases by Calee Reed, Alex Boyé and Justin Cash that stretched the idea of what LDS music sounds like. Baker also returned with an album of holiday songs produced by Kurt Bestor.