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The Sundance Film Festival for decades has provided small-town and small-budget filmmakers with the chance to break into the business. But Stephanie DeGraw, former host of local TV program "The Music Scene" and a veteran festival attendee, thought something was missing for local musicians.
"I noticed there wasn't much opportunity for independent artists," DeGraw said. "Big promoters rent out all the venues, so [local musicians] can't just call up the bar and say, 'Hey, I want to play.' "
This is the fourth year DeGraw has produced Concerts at Park City during Sundance, and this time the eight-day series starting Friday features nearly 30 artists, most of them based in Utah. Audiences can expect everything from country to alt rock to metal, but all the performers have a common goal: They're looking for exposure.
"You can't get anywhere from your garage," DeGraw said. "I hope that I'm giving artists a platform where they can network with other [people in the business] … people who can actually make a difference in these artists' careers."
With a slew of producers and promoters wandering around Park City for more than a week, it's hard not to run into someone who can change a starving artist's life. And it's happened before. Belgian artist Sacha Delone used the Concerts at Park City series in 2013 as a jumping-off point for building a U.S. presence for his project Superglam.
As for artists with local origins, Clearfield-based singer/songwriter Pete Sands, who performs under the name Blackkiss and gives off serious Johnny Cash vibes, will be appearing for the second time at Concerts at Park City. Sands said if it weren't for this opportunity, he'd still be performing for crickets.
"I was playing live for two years before [Concerts at Park City], thinking, 'It's getting too hard, it's not making any money,' " Sands said. "You're trying your hardest, but you're either too different or you don't fit the mold. … At that moment, no one was coming out to watch."
Sands said he was on the brink of quitting "the music game" when DeGraw found him on Facebook and asked him to apply for a spot in the series. The chance to perform for a crowd and potential producers kick-started his involvement in the local music scene, which Sands considers a good fit for him.
"One thing I really like about Utah is that they're really open-minded," he said. "They allow people like myself a chance to play, and they really welcome diversity."
DeGraw's been involved in the local music scene since 2008, and she feels that same sense of community among Utah musicians.
"They help me, I help them. The more you support other bands, the more it draws that positive energy in," she said. "They lift each other up."
That community support presents itself as the overall theme of the series. The shows in Park City are free to the public, but DeGraw asks that attendees give either a money or food donation to the Utah Food Bank. That charity aspect of the series also draws in artists, who aren't compensated and cover their costs of performing. Sands said it's both the exposure and chance to give back that interested him enough to apply.
"The main part of the series is to raise money for the Utah Food Bank, and to me, that makes it worth it," he said.
The kickoff today will be at Barbary Coast in Salt Lake City, with the rest of the shows taking place at Hotel Park City. Sands performs Sunday, but thinks the whole series is a great opportunity for folks to learn about Utah musicians: "It's really good because you get to see local artists grow."
Concerts at Park City
The series kicks off Friday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. with several performers at Barbary Coast, 4242 S. State St., Murray. There is a $7 cover. The rest of the series goes through Saturday, Jan. 30, at Hotel Park City, 2001 Park Ave., Park City. Shows start at 7 p.m. and are free. Donations of money or food are requested for the Utah Food Bank.
For a full lineup of performers, visit http://www.ticketor.com/concertsatparkcity .