Whistle Pig Vail: Everything you need to know about the new summer concert series coming to Vail
Whistle Pig Vail
What: A new concert series of headliners.
Where: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail.
When: Summer, the first concert is Dispatch on June 16.
More information: Visit www.whistlepigvail.com.
Editor’s note: In early January, the Vail Valley Foundation announced a collaboration with AEG Presents, one of the world’s largest music companies, to book headliner concerts at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail. The concert series, known as Whistle Pig Vail, will take place each year from June through September. With the recent announcement of Dispatch as the first booked band, set to play on the evening of June 16, we sat down with Vail Valley Foundation president and CEO Mike Imhof to talk about Whistle Pig Vail, and the Vail Valley Foundation’s renewed efforts to expand artistic offerings in the Vail Valley.
Vail Daily: Mike, thanks for talking with us. The Ford Amphitheater is such a great venue, maybe one of the best of its size in the Rockies, and there are plenty of people that love music who live and visit here. So I guess my first question is, why haven’t we done something like this sooner?
Mike Imhof: Thanks Ross — great question. The quick answer is, we have done this kind of thing before. Many times actually since 1987 when we opened the (Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater) season with Willie Nelson. Since then we have also had other amazing pop and rock artists come through and play, everyone from Sheryl Crow to Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, The Allman Brothers, Phish — and the list goes on. However, these great artists were somewhat sporadic and we never embraced ongoing headliner music as a core strategy of our summer season at GRFA. Now, we are.
Since 1987, we’ve also had phenomenal classical offerings through our friends at Bravo! Vail, and of course annually we’ve hosted the world-renowned Vail Dance Festival every year for the past 30 years.
What we have consistently heard in recent years is our community clearly wants more headliner music. In fact, we performed an independent, third-party survey with Intercept Insights in 2017 and they found that “headliner music” was the most desired new step forward for our organization in terms of the arts aspect of our mission. We made it a reality, all based on truly tremendous support for this effort from our donors, from our partner town of Vail, from our community as a whole and from our board of directors.
VD: How important is AEG to this process?
Imhof: Partnering with AEG Presents creates just the right team of people to consistently bring in the right talent for this initiative, to bring in music that matches well with the Vail community and identity, and with Whistle Pig Vail we feel we are filling that need and desire for more music that comes from locals, visitors, businesses and our municipal partners as well.
VD: Will Whistle Pig Vail affect the annual summer calendar for Bravo! Vail and the Vail Dance Festival, as well as the Tuesday night Hot Summer Nights concerts?
Imhof: No, it will not. Although the GRFA calendar is packed for about six-plus weeks between the end of June and middle of August with all of our existing offerings, we have many available dates in the earlier part of June, late August and September. All of our Whistle Pig dates will be scheduled in the ample dates available before and after the existing events, concerts and performances. In addition, we are working very closely with our team at the Vilar Performing Arts Center to unify our efforts in booking artists and making sure we are not competing with our own business.
VD: Where did the name Whistle Pig Vail come from?
Imhof: We wanted something fun and creative and something that really captured the spirit of this community as well. Whistle Pig is another name for a marmot, and it turns out that there has been a marmot sighted around the grounds of our Ford Amphitheater, going back to the earliest days of construction and still today.
VD: What kinds of bands and music do you expect this summer, and when will we know the full lineup?
Imhof: Well we are very happy to announce Dispatch as the first band under contract for the summer 2018 series. By late this spring, we hope to have the entire lineup booked and announced. We are working closely every day with AEG Presents to ensure that we are bringing bands that fit well with our community’s desires, and this includes our ability to have right of refusal for any band that we don’t feel is a good fit. I think we can expect a bit of everything — some rock ‘n’ roll, blues, pop, country, bluegrass — those are the main genres we will be pursuing and we are also keeping an eye on artists that are multigenerational.
VD: OK Mike, we hear you are a big music fan yourself. What’s the band you personally really want to see, and do you think you can make it happen?
Imhof: That is a great but difficult question to answer. Personally, I am a huge fan of the ’90s Seattle grunge rock scene but that may not be what is best for Whistle Pig and our valley. It is a very complex process but if we could see artists that span a spectrum of Van Morrison to Jack White to Dispatch, that would be a win. How all this works out is a very complex puzzle, it always has been for Vail because of where we are on the routing, between Denver and Salt Lake City, a matter of good timing and making sure the arithmetic behind total seat capacity and booking fees. The good news is, we have a great team at VVF leading this project, and with AEG Presents on our team, solving this puzzle will indeed be easier. We’re looking forward to a very entertaining summer — and the first of many more years of great music in our valley.
Whistle Pig Vail gets underway in its first year with Dispatch on June 16 at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Tickets and more information are available at http://www.whistlepigvail.com.