The Sam Bush Band provided a top-notch musical backdrop Friday for a free mass inspection tour overseen by myself and about 2,000 others of the retooled Gallivan Center.
With the exception of those who braved the parade of '90s radio rock via Toad the Wet Sprocket on Thursday night, Friday night was one of the first looks for many of the newly revamped Gallivan Center.
Turns out, it was worth missing out on a summer of music. And truth be told, if United Concerts stays well, united, behind the idea of booking music there during the summer and Twilight continues to flourish at Pioneer Park, then Salt Lake actually has expanded its number of worthy outdoor summer concert venues. And that would be oh-so fine.
And even though you can always grouse about the particulars of a lineup - this summer's Gallivan shows offer sort of a metallic version of United's traditionally mixed-bag Depot schedule - there appeared to be little reason Friday for upset regarding the made-over venue.
The new elevated lawn offers reasonable sightlines - but Friday's show wasn't a stiff test in this regard because I think the place was only a bit more than half full - the venue provides lots of room down front if you want to dance. Also, if you want to hang back, there's room to amble, look for friends and watch the music from different vantage points.
And yes, the remodeled bathrooms are AOK - very similar to the facilities at Red Butte, but much bigger. Again, until there's a sell-out, it'll be tough to know how all the amenities hold up under duress.
Meanwhile, the Sam Bush Band offered its usual salad-style approach to music. It's a fun mix of traditional bluegrass "Bringing in the Georgia Mail," with reggae staples Bob Marley's "One Love," and instrumental jams, "Bananas." A standout was the title track to Bush's 2009 album "Circles Around Me," in which the veteran musician laments and marvels how he and others have survived when so many haven't.
The 59-year-old Bush, who has played alongside such American music stalwarts as Bill Monroe, John Hartford and Emmylou Harris, has spent much of the past 25 years or so entertaining tie-dyed crowds nationwide. And Friday there were many dancers wearing hippy dresses, dreadlocks and even the occasional whiff of smelly smoke in the air as Bush and company played their roughly 100-minute set.
Bush also marveled at Salt Lake's continued ability to offer free shows, despite "debts and budget cutbacks," as the mandolin player mentioned early on during his set.
Another thing about Gallivan that you can't tell until a big crowd arrives is if it keeps the relaxed family-friendly vibe that was on display Friday. Sunday night's Avett Brothers concert should be more crowded and we'll report back to see how the venue performs then.