[H O M E]
Gazing out at the cloudless sky, smooth skyline of Snow King Mountain and roaring crowd before him, Leftover Salmon guitarist Vince Herman could hardly contain his enthusiasm.
"We're flippin' out!" he exclaimed, a beaming grin on his face. "All the things we remember about Jackson are here, rolled up in one place."
Herman seemed to be speaking not only for his bandmates but for the nearly 2,500 fans who packed the base of the Town Hill on a magnificent summer afternoon. The Sunshine Festival lived up to its billing Monday, with Blues Traveler, Leftover Salmon and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe treating ecstatic concertgoers to four hours of music in a sublime, sun-drenched setting.
The first major outdoor rock concert in Jackson history drew overwhelming praise from the participants. Dozens of longtime valley residents said they had been yearning for outdoor music for more than a decade.
"Long time coming," KMTN DJ Mark Fishman said emphatically as sax master Denson started the festival rolling with his sultry blasts. Fishman, 36, thanked the Jackson Town Council for allowing a series of concerts this summer at the King.
"I hope there's many more," he said. "You can't beat this. No way."
Smiles abounded in the all-ages crowd, with fans exchanging high-fives, hula-hooping, hooting and hollering to show their enthusiasm. Outside the concert venue, valley residents threw Frisbee discs, shared blanket picnics and frolicked in the grass as the Snow King Ballfield was transformed into Jackson's Central Park.
"This is absolutely perfect," said Andy Calder, 33. "It's a natural amphitheater in the city. The sound is perfect here. To have three bands of this caliber here is unprecedented."
While the uproarious jams among all three bands evoked howls of approval, the festival drew mixed reviews from Snow King-area residents, some of whom flipped out over the noise.
Sharon Nethercott, who lives on Vine Street near Snow King Resort, said the concert was "quite loud, and the bass was making such a vibration that it was practically shaking our windows."
Town Councilman Abe Tabatabai said he fielded 18 or 20 complaints from area residents. Tabatabai will call for a council meeting to discuss the concert series, which councilors tentatively approved on a show-by-show basis. The first performance, Lyle Lovett on June 18, was moved indoors because of stormy weather. Jewel, a soft-spoken acoustic songstress, is slated to close the series Aug. 25.
Tabatabai, who lives five blocks from Snow King, said he and his family didn't mind the noise. Outdoor concerts are an amenity that "brings life to the valley," he said. "The next concert, if it doesn't get canceled, I'm going to it," he said.
Other area residents gave the festival a ringing endorsement.
Paul and Caroline Huser, who live two blocks away on Aspen Drive, left their kids with grandpa and came over on bikes to check out the scene. At their house, Caroline Huser said, "We can't hear a thing."
Suzanne Zabrycki, 31, who owns a home on South Millward Street two blocks from the King, said she enjoyed the steady stream of people heading to the show on foot and by bike. "It's so nice to see everybody coming together," she said. "I only wish we had more of these."
Officer Shep Humphries of the Jackson Police Department patrolled as Blues Traveler played the delicate opening notes of "100 Years" with the sun sinking below the Tetons. Humphries described the atmosphere as "wonderful." "Everybody is having a good time, including us," he said.
In all, 12 people were arrested. Six were busted for possession of marijuana, one for possession of psilocybin mushrooms and five for public intoxication. Sgt. Todd Smith said the number of arrests was not excessive for a large outdoor event. "With any concert, there is a certain amount of that type of activity that's expected to occur," Smith said.
During a break in the music, Fishman took the stage and urged fans to be responsible, respect the neighbors and disperse from the area after the show. The future of outdoor concerts in Jackson is in your hands, he told the audience.
Although a stirring encore of "Mountain Cry" by Traveler and Leftover extended a few minutes beyond the 11 p.m. curfew, fans left the area quickly, and the base of the King was soon quiet as crews dismantled the stage.
The disgruntled Nethercott suggested that the concert series could be better scheduled on a weekend or at a venue outside town. "You're always going to find someone to bother or irritate if you have it in a residential area," she said.
Aside from grumblings about the "beer cage" - the fenced-in area that segregated drinkers from the rest of the crowd, far from the stage - fans expressed few gripes. Instead ebullient concertgoers took home a slew of indelible images from the historic evening: Salmon's feel-good Cajun bluegrass grooves that had audience members on their feet and dancing; Popper showing off the moose-emblazoned, "stupidly big" hunting knife he bought in Jackson, saying, "I love this place;" and Scott Stoughton of Sucker joining Denson and Salmon on stage and busting out an impromptu rap celebrating the occasion.
Hanging out backstage after jamming with Traveler, sax master Denson said he would like to bring his family to a show in Jackson. He looked forward to more outdoor concerts at the base of the King.
"This could be really nice," he said.
- Carolyn Smith contributed to this story.