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Sandy Journal

Local bands, acrobats perform at Shops at South Town’s drive-in concert

Sep 29, 2020 12:10PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Under the lights again—local band Groove Merchants is happy to be performing after a big drop off in gigs in 2020. They were one of two bands at a creative outdoor drive-in concert in Sandy Sept. 5. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

The Shops at South Town in Sandy held an outdoor back-to-school concert Labor Day weekend. Cars parked in the west lot for the free event, which featured professional local acts. Radio personalities from sponsor KODJ 94.1 warmed up the crowd. Anyone who brought donations for the food bank got coupons to South Town restaurants Pot Belly and El Pollo Loco.  

“We all miss in-person events. We’re craving it. We wanted to show the community that we can gather in a safe way that feels familiar, yet new. We also did a giveback to the community with the food bank,” said Kati Price, head of marketing for Shops at South Town. 

Country band Drive performed first, followed by Groove Merchants. Both are associated with Utah Live Bands. Professional performers have seen their business dry up almost completely this year due to crowd restrictions. 

“This was going to be a banner year for us. We play a lot of weddings and corporate events. We had things scheduled all over the world—we were going to go to Dubai. But with COVID it all fell off the rails. I’d say 95% of our events this year were canceled or rescheduled,” said musician Stephen Tobias. Tobias plays saxophone and sings back-up vocals for Groove Merchants. 

“We’re professional musicians—I’ve been playing since junior high and I played and studied music through college. So, for everything to get canceled was very disappointing,” Tobias said. 

“Finally performing at a concert again was great. We didn’t know what to expect with the crowd, but we were happy with the amount of people who came. We felt it was a good amount while still being able to socially distance,” Tobias said. 

Another big draw was performers Mary Wolfe-Neilsen and Tyce Nielsen, known as Duo Transcend. “When I heard Duo Transcend would be here, I had to come, and I dragged my parents along, too. I saw them on ‘America’s Got Talent’ and they are amazing,” said Laurie Griffiths of South Jordan. 

The Nielsens are “married performers from Salt Lake City who specialize in duo trapeze and duo roller skating, aerial silk, tramp wall, diving and acting” according to their website. They performed acrobatics on roller skates and wowed the crowd with their aerial silk acts.

Everyone who donated to the food bank was entered into a raffle, which Griffiths won. She was awarded $150 in prizes from merchants at the Shops at South Town. “I’m really glad I came. I’m so excited to come back and use these!” Griffiths said. 

Price said the Sept. 5 event was a test run for more community events planned with safe gathering and social distancing in mind. “We held it outside and asked people to park every other parking space at least. We encouraged them to wear masks and told people that if they crowded the front, it would have to end. It was a great crowd—everyone followed the rules and it was a lot of fun,” Price said.

After the concert’s success, Price planned other events: The Firefighter’s Challenge on Sept. 11 and 12, One Sweet Festival with local Utah chocolatiers and food trucks on Sept. 19, Cosmicon (cosmetics, not cosmos) on Sept. 26 and a ski swap event TBA.

“We called it the back-to-school concert because we are celebrating that we have a semblance of normalcy. The concert-goers have missed seeing live music. The performers missed performing. The community missed coming together and being human. But there are safe ways to do that,” Price said. 

Tobias agreed, and thinks the concert was a good practice of a safe way to gather. “We’ve had some sponsors contact us who want to be involved in more events like this. Hopefully, next year will be better. Hopefully, COVID won’t be as big of a deal and we will have learned how to work around it. 

“But as long as COVID is a factor, we feel we can have large events happen in a safe way. As professional performers, we’re really excited that prospect is holding true,” Tobias said.