By Megan Tackett
Special to The Sopris Sun
Another summer in Carbondale, another monthly series of free concerts in Sopris Park. Starting Sunday, June 11 — and continuing every second Sunday of each month until the program’s Sept. 10 finale — locals and visitors can count on late afternoons of free concerts from 4-7 p.m.
“This is an amenity for everyone,” said Marty Silverstein, co-event coordinator with Steve Standiford of Steve’s Guitars fame. Each show features two acts that includes a usually local opener followed by a touring headliner, according to Standiford. The two organizers split their roles according to their strengths: Standiford takes care of booking the performances, while Silverstein ensures the fundraising coffers are sustainable.
Thanks to the monetary support of the Town of Carbondale, myriad business sponsors and individual donors, all bands get a guaranteed payday, audience members get exposed to potentially new music and local bands get increased exposure.
“This year, KDNK is going to to broadcast at least one concert, [which] also exposes our musicians to more people. So, hopefully, it’s of mutual benefit,” Silverstein said.
“It’s family friendly,” Standiford added. While park rules apply — no alcohol, no glass and no pets — throughout the duration of the concerts, that doesn’t mean they are limited experiences. In fact, the duo behind the series fully encourages all participants to patronize the surrounding downtown vendors before or after each show.
“Some families come with picnics,” Silverstein said, adding that people may also order food to bring with them to the shows. “If people have to have a drink, they can go to White House [Pizza], Mi Casita or [Carbondale] Beer Works — and they have patios!”
“And Batch, soon!” chimed in Standiford about Carbondale’s soon-to-be Main Street newcomer.
While stumbling onto a free concert in the middle of the park will undoubtedly be a pleasant surprise for some this year, Silverstein and Standiford have been in the town’s music production scene for decades. Behind the scenes, they’ve had to evolve with the town’s needs — and the industry’s.
“I’ve been putting on live music every week [at Steve’s Guitars] for 20 years,” Standiford said. “[Planning] is kind of year-round.” By September, Silverstein noted, it will be time for grant applications.
“It’s 10 pages; it’s quite the list,” Standiford commented about the Colorado Common Grant Application. “Quite the contrast from the first event!”
Both Standiford and Silverstein expressed continued gratitude to all supporters for the series. This year, they plan to pass a collections hat around the audience after the same strategy proved so successful in the past — one year, individuals contributed about $300 to a passed hat, which ended up funding the September concert.
In an era of apparent divisiveness, the summer concert series is a beacon of inclusivity, as far Silverstein and Standiford are concerned. “This is a nonpolitical event,” Silverstein said. “The only thing I tell people is, if you like it, let your elected officials know. Because some of your money is going to this, let them know that you think this is a good use of that money. And I think it is. Through Steve and myself, we get a really big bang for the buck.”
Both organizers amusedly acknowledged that producing just one three-hour concert that attracts between 250 and 500 people, as each Sunday show in the Sopris Park series does, in Aspen could carry a much larger price tag.
“It’s really a group, community event with the whole town represented,” Standiford continued. “One of the things I like the best is that there are hippies and ranchers and cowboys: they’re all sitting in the same space. It’s such a nice thing to have the music just put everyone in the same space that they can agree on.”
“The last two years have been very successful,” Silverstein said, “and we just want to build on that success.” For Silverstein, some of the more poignant moments of that success are seeing three generations of the same family enjoying a music-oriented outing together.
“We’ve had a truly amazing response from the musical community and from the local community,” he added. “To me, this is part of keeping Carbondale funky.”
Of course, there is always one last, consistent ingredient to a successful outdoor event in Colorado, as Standiford pointed out: “Praying for good weather!”