Teton County isn’t quite out of the coronavirus woods, but it looks like there may be a clearing up ahead, and it could be just the right place to hold a music festival.
Summer 2020, aka the Summer That Wasn’t, was a bust for nearly all of the region’s arts and entertainment events. Last April and May, as the seriousness of the pandemic began to become apparent, festivals that had for years, even decades, seemed as constant as the Teton Range went into COVID-induced isolation. Even the outdoors wasn’t considered safe. From the Music on Main series to the Grand Teton Music Festival, the coronavirus felled them all.
We’ll still miss a few favorites in summer 2021 — Jackson Hole Live was displaced by construction at the base of Snow King Mountain, and Grand Targhee Resort deemed conditions still too risky to put out the call to the 3,000-plus Targhee Fest and Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival faithful — but other promoters and organizers are approaching summer planning with cautious optimism, ginning up for the music festivals and concert series that for many of us define this short, sweet, sleeveless season in the northern Rockies.
So best grab a blanket or chair and your Hula Hoop, stake out a spot on the lawn and buy your tickets soon, where needed, because music freaks are jonesing for their fix: After the durn-blasted virus put the kibosh on the 2020 Million Dollar Cowboy Fest, the series is back this Memorial Day weekend indoors at the world-famous Cowboy Bar on Town Square — but is already sold out.
Here’s what else to look forward to:
Reggae in the Rockies isn’t northwest Wyoming’s oldest music fest, but this year it will be one of the earliest, set for noon to 8 p.m. June 5-6 on the grounds of Melvin Brewing’s world headquarters in Alpine. Fortunate Youth, The Elovaters, KBong, Indubious, The Expanders, Sensi Trails and Jackson Hole’s own Chanman Roots Band will play both days of this limited-ticket, intimate, in-your-dreads weekend. Single-day tix cost $150, and both days cost $250. For tickets and complete information, visit ReggaeInTheRockies.com.
Music on Main, Teton Valley Foundation’s wildly popular free weekly all-ages concert series in Victor City Park, eked out a virtual “Music on MainStream” fundraiser last year, but this summer the community party returns with eight Thursday night shows, starting June 17 with North Carolina soul sextet The Broadcast and continuing through Aug. 12 (with a Fourth of July hiatus) with Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, Amy Helm, Jackie Benson, The Commonheart, Micky and the Motorcars, Ghost of Paul Revere and Turkuaz. Each night opens with a regional act such as Inland Isle, One Ton Pig and Aaron Davis, and vendors sell food and drink (both alcoholic and non). Deets at TetonValleyFoundation.org.
The Center for the Arts has already announced a few events for inside its 500-seat theater (Benyaro on May 26, and the Lil Smokies on June 21-22), but it’s still enforcing its 126-person COVID cap while also livestreaming the music. Interim marketing coordinator Jessica Jaubert teased, however, that it will soon release details of an outdoor concert series featuring favorite valley bands set up on the Center Lawn, which, if positive coronavirus trends persist, will allow for larger crowds and fresh-air partying. “It gives us a lot more real estate,” Center Executive Director Marty Camino said, “but we still want to make sure we can host this event in a safe and responsible way.” Go to JHCenterForTheArts.org to stay up to date on developments.
The Grand Teton Music Festival’s 60th season is on, starting July 2 and running through Aug. 21. The first week will take place out on the Center Lawn with Sir Donald Runnicles leading the Festival Orchestra in a Film Music Spectacular (July 2), its annual Patriotic Pops concert (July 4) and a Night at the Opera (July 6) before returning to Walk Festival Hall in Teton Village for six weeks of chamber music and orchestral weekends. Guests this year include young cello sensation Sheku Kanneh-Mason, old festival friend violinist James Ehnes, piano giant Yefim Bronfman and New Zealand conductor Gemma New. Festival Executive Director Emma Kail said COVID conditions will be careful monitored and Walk Hall capacity adjusted accordingly. Keep tabs at GTMF.org.
Plans are afoot for a 2021 run of Concerts on the Commons. Melissa Turley, executive director of the Teton Village Association, which with the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort presents the free, all-ages musical gatherings next to the Aerial Tram, said she was “optimistic that people will make the right choices” so that concerts could start on Independence Day weekend and continue for seven Sunday evenings through Aug. 29. Concert booker Dom Gagliardi said this year’s lineup was still in the works, but since 2011 the Commons have hosted the likes of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Wailers, Dumpsaphunk, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Infamous Stringdusters, with Teton-region bands opening for the headliners. Turley expects the 2021 roster to be announced around Memorial Day weekend, so check back at ConcertsOnTheCommons.com.
As Turley said, and as the other organizers alluded, outdoor music merriment is contingent on the continued success of the region’s campaign against the coronavirus. Spikes in cases could change plans. While organizers promise to endeavor to make their concerts as COVID-safe as possible — strongly encouraging masks and, where possible, social distancing — all it takes is one virulent hippie to screw things up.
“Please,” as Music on Main presenters state on their website, “if you have a fever or don’t feel well, stay home!”