To recast a quote from Park City Song Summit founder Ben Anderson, I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I know that there’s a need — and that it’s terrific fun.
Up in Park City, Utah’s Canyons Village over the “weekend” (Thursday, September 7th through Saturday the 9th), Park City Song Summit returned for its second full year. The event presents itself as a gathering place for artists and fans to not just enjoy music, but cherish the people behind it. Between sets on the main Canyons Amphitheater (a stage constructed at the foot of a hill betwixt a pair of ski gondolas), the intimate Songwriter Stage, the lawn-based Forum Stage, and downtown Park City clubs The Cabin and OP Rockwell, performers took part in a range of panels — dubbed “Labs” — to discuss art, wellness, and music history.
On the surface, the sheer range of experiences to be had at Park City Song Summit makes it an event worth attending. There’s not going to be many places where your day can consist of watching a trio of Adia Victoria, Celisse, and poet Caroline Randall Williams discuss the history of Black women and the blues before putting on a choreographed performance of poetry embodying “blues thought, prose, and the bodies of Southern Black women,” then head to see a collaborative performance with Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Public Enemy’s Chuck D honoring the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, and close your night with the live debut of Eric Krasno’s (Soulive) new band King Canyon. That’s the kind of itinerary that would be legendary in certain circles; at PCSS, it was Friday.
And each one of those things were legendary. Celisse brought her powerful mashup of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” and Nina Simone’s “Four Women” to the “How She Move” lab and stunned even fellow performers Victoria and Williams; “Representation matters, y’all,” the latter said through joyful tears. Watching DMC and Chuck D do some of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time while also trading praise and stories was literally once-in-a-lifetime. Even for a non-jam fan like this writer, watching King Canyon come together after never being in the same room and absolutely rip was utterly affirming.
Of course, the true jam-heads are going to be talking most about Bob Weir‘s headlining set with the Wolf Bros featuring The Wolfpack. Weir’s first set since the disbandment of Dead & Company, the group turned in fan-pleasing renditions of classics like the “Terrapin Station Suite,” “Friend of the Devil,” and “Weather Report Suite.” They also welcomed out the iconic Ramblin’ Jack Elliott for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” rising country star Brittney Spencer for “Looks Like Rain,” and songwriting great JD Souther for a take on Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight.”