Think of NYC’s Central Park and strains of Simon and Garfunkel come to mind, or the outpouring of grief expressed through music after the passing of John Lennon. Go a little further back in time and consider the impact of Golden Gate Park in the 1960’s when it was the setting for the musical musings of Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead. Finally, there is our nation’s acknowledgement of the unique complementing value of parks and arts through the establishment of the National Park Service administered Wolf Trap Park for the Performing Arts, outside of Washington DC. Closer to home, Waterfront Park and WFPK have joined forces on Waterfront Wednesday’s that have come to define outdoor music for Louisville.
Americans love music and parks – and when we put them together in some of our most cherished outdoor spaces, magic can happen.
The Parklands designers were inspired in part by these experiences and thus the park offers some great venues for outdoor performances. Anyone remember the opening of the Egg Lawn last year with the 23 String Band? What a night!
The big performance this year is our inaugural annual benefit concert, August 1st’s Creekside Jam Presented by Papa John’s Pizza. The Jam brings to Louisville performing artists whose skills and virtuosity match the thoughtful design and execution of Beckley Creek Park and theHumana Grand Allee.
So, how exactly does an outdoor park unite a beautifully designed special park place and special music to produce truly memorable events?
First, we want to ensure that any Parklands’ event is world class in quality. We also are keenly interested in highlighting the park’s authentic Kentucky roots. In the musical world, one would be hard pressed to find something more world class, or more authentically Kentucky, than bluegrass music and that’s why we picked it for the 2014 Jam. This homegrown, heartfelt, and incredibly timeless art form has been nurtured for hundreds of years in our home Commonwealth. While there are many places across the nation that do bluegrass music festivals very well, Louisville is one of a very small number of cities that can rightfully claim to be a place that bluegrass music got its start (and its subsequent reinvention with the Newgrass movement).
Second, we sought to bring in artists that will take audience members through experience they won’t soon forget. This is where matching the park’s landscape with the artist has to be intentionally scripted. When we look to the park design, it is clear that Fredrick Law Olmsted is the bar. And while Olmsted is the bar for The Parkland’s architects, this park is designed to be used for well over 100 years. So, the backbone of design is based in lessons learned over 100 years ago –but with flexibility, creativity, and adaptability to meet the new and emerging needs and park interests of Louisville’s dynamic future. That tells the Jam organizers that we needed something old, something new, and something authentic. We think each one of the artists selected for the Jam brings this unique sonic perspective to The Parklands – timeless in foundation, and forward-looking in terms of execution and creativity. And we think these artists match The Parklands’ design and programming statements.
So, with that said, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage will bring tremendous traditional bluegrass chops to kick the night off, channeling the bluegrass equivalent of classic Olmsted’s design philosophies, but via mandolins and voice.
Then, we pivot to wondering what bluegrass will sound like on the Egg Lawn in 2050 – Sam Bush and The Sam Bush Band with their clearly forward-looking sound and musical trajectory might just be giving us a taste of that recognizing the 21st Century arc of The Parklands.
Then, we pull it all together with the most authentic sound of the bluegrass region and Kentucky – Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. We couldn’t be more honored or proud to have these multi-Grammy award winning artists join us for this wonderful benefit concert.
Finally, even with all of this planning, the real star of the night is the audience and its connection with the performers. The energy, spirit, and emotions of the audience and participants that can take a concert from interesting to the sublime.
A great audience, in a great setting, with great musicians, promises to make this concert one that is talked about for years to come.
We hope you plan on joining us on August 1st as we begin a new tradition in The Parklands celebrating the sonic landscape of Kentucky under the stars of a warm summer evening.
For tickets and more information, click here.