Scott “Scooter” Thomson — owner of O.P. Rockwell and The Rockwell Listening Room — says the Park City Songwriter Festival “started with us doing an Aiko show.” Aiko is a Nashville-based band in which the festival’s (then, future) co-founder, Ben Anderson, plays bass.
Scooter continues, “We got to know each other — Ben and myself — and did a phenomenal Christmas party downstairs at O.P. Rockwell, and boy was that fun! I was always wanting to do a Bluebird Cafe-type thing in The Rockwell Listening Room, which I thought would be perfect for this town. So, then Aaron [Benward] and I hooked up, and I wanted these two guys to meet. So, we went over to Ben’s house, and right there on his ‘pickin’ porch,’ the notion came up: ‘We’ve gotta do a songwriter festival.’ I mean, it just sort of happened. And that’s kinda where the magic started.
The notion became a reality when High West Distillery pledged to be the festival’s lead sponsor. “It was like ‘OK, we’re doing it,’” Scooter remembers. “It was that day the festival became real.”
And after the event’s first year, it’s clear the Park City Songwriter Festival is here to stay. The up-close-and-personal nature of venues like The Rockwell Listening Room, creates intimate audience-artist moments. Scooter admits, “I probably cried five times myself.”
In addition to offering a musical connection between artists and audiences, Scooter is very thoughtful about the impact a music festival can have on a town like Park City. “We wanted the festival to be a give-back to this town. The people in town don’t want just another event or festival. We wanted it to be meaningful and to really benefit Park City, its retailers and restaurants, and the community in general, and I think we did that.”
Scooter, Ben, and Aaron like to speak in terms of “mission” and are out to change the feel at music venues large and small. To wit, they talk about creating all-inclusive spaces that cater to people who can’t or don’t drink, as well as people who are able to drink alcohol safely. At venues like The Rockwell Listening Room and O.P. Rockwell, audience members can avail themselves of alcoholic beverages, but nondrinkers will find more than just Coke, Diet Coke, and water.
Scooter “pioneered,” as Ben puts it, handcrafted non-alcoholic mocktails, which are called “rocktails” at the festival. Energy drinks and kombucha are also available. The fellas say they don’t want to exclude people by having 50 kinds of wine, 50 kinds of beer, 50 kinds of liquor, and then two alternative beverages. “That’s just not acceptable,” they say, “and we’re not going to put up with that anymore if we have anything to do about it.”
Ben says “he applauds” Scooter, who was one of the first to say, “There’s a different way and a better way we can do this, so that no one feels excluded — the drinker or the nondrinker.” It’s just one of many reasons why Park City locals and visitors alike flock to Scooter’s Main Street music establishments.
Scooter, along with his two partners, agrees that a shout-out to the sponsors of the festival is due. Without them, the trio say the Park City Songwriter Festival literally wouldn’t have happened. Presenting sponsors Zions Bank; Rocky Mountain Power; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; High West Distillery; Kimes Ranch Jeans; Jaybird; Mountain Town Music; and others help to power — both figuratively and literally — the festival, as do all of the volunteers, caterers, restaurants, and the Park City community.
Scooter, Ben, and Aaron stress that the Park City Songwriter Festival is a community effort and that they are grateful for, and won’t forget, all of the people who pitched in to make the first event such a remarkable success.