After this story was published in our print issue and online, Park City Song Summit organizers announced that the festival will be cancelled in 2021. Read the update here.
What Is the Park City Song Summit?
The Park City Song Summit (PCSS) is no ordinary music festival. “It’s kind of like South By Southwest meets a TED Talk,” says PCSS founder Ben Anderson. More than 100 artists—each of them invited to be an artist-in-residence for the entire week from Sept. 8–12—will participate in a variety of events ranging from spirited concerts at venues like Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater and the Eccles Center to intimate Labs held in small venues on Main Street. A unique combination of live performances and discussion of craft build an edifice to the songwriting experience for audiences to connect with.
The Man With the Plan
“My dad was a gospel recording artist, so music’s always been part of my family,” says Anderson. He spent three decades working as a trial lawyer but hasn’t stopped performing live since he was in sixth grade, most recently with the Grateful Dead tribute band Aiko. After retiring from the courtroom, Anderson quickly found his way back to music. “Music adds dimension to our existence. I couldn’t stay away.”
The seeds of the PCSS were sowed when Anderson organized the Park City Songwriter Festival in 2019, blooming into this year’s event. “I love the history of music, how the shoulders we’ve all stood on from the most primal rhythm create notes and harmonies that affect the soul. Just like a song begins to take form, we took influence from people and places that inspire us to create something truly different.”
Beyond the Songs
The Labs set PCSS apart from the ordinary. Some Labs are Masterclass-style discussions about songwriting. “It’s about the process and what makes songwriters tick. How do you take things from the muse we call life and distill it into three minutes we’ll keep coming back to forever?” Anderson explains. Others are unscripted conversations about mental health and addiction issues plaguing the music industry with artists like Langhorne Slim.
There are even visits with polymaths like SNL alum Fred Armisen and Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White as they discuss creativity within music and outside pursuits and the complexities of fame. The Labs are unique opportunities to get inside the music and minds of artists like never before.
The lineup is a curated list of talented artists who support the event’s interactive concept. “We’re musical omnivores, so we wanted the lineup to represent the fabric of the music community with inclusivity and a variety of genres,” says Anderson. Highlights include performances from the likes of Father John Misty, Mavis Staples, Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel, Iron & Wine, Fruit Bats, Josh Ritter, Andrew Bird and dozens more. See a full list of who’s playing live tunes and talking songwriting on the PCSS website.
Supporting the Cause
“Lots of people in the music industry are suffering,” says Anderson. “Being on the road, isolated and away from family is difficult, especially when it’s overlaid with mental health and addiction issues. We want to make the conversation around that less taboo and bring it into the open, so it’s easier for people to find the help they need.”
In addition to approaching the topic within some Labs, PCSS aims to achieve the goal by partnering with local and national nonprofit organizations addressing mental health, addiction recovery and suicide prevention issues.
“There are so many different types of people who are music lovers. It was really important to us PCSS had something accessible for each one,’ Anderson says.
People who want to do it all can buy festival passes starting at $1,500
There are also ala carte tickets. Individual event tickets are available as well, with more affordable options including entry to premier shows at Snow Park and Eccles Center starting at just $50. Tickets can be purchased on the event website.
Read more stories about music in Utah.