Twenty years ago, local artist and music lover Will Caldwell joined forces with the chamber of commerce to make summer in Ketchum a more exciting, fun time.
“In the mid-’90s, we determined that Ketchum was a little boring in the summer,” he said. “All there was to do in the evening was dinner and a movie. We decided to create an event in the park with music.”
Fast-forward two decades and that event, Ketch’em Alive, remains a weekly cornerstone of the Wood River Valley’s impressive lineup of summer festivities.
Every Tuesday between June 18 and Aug. 13, Ketch’em Alive assembles a plethora of touring acts and local favorites for a lighthearted, family-friendly, free concert in Forest Service Park, on First Street and Washington Avenue in Ketchum, behind the Limelight Hotel.
Though Caldwell commented that a tremendous amount has changed in the decades since the event’s inception, the spirit of Ketch’em Alive has never wavered. The objective remains to get people moving and having fun.
“It’s really all about gathering the community together,” he explained. “The music is a catalyst. People come and picnic and dance and connect with each other.”
The summer music series will kick off next Tuesday, June 18, with Fort Collins, Colo.,-based group Pandas & People. The band blends the folk music and alt-rock genres to achieve an upbeat, distinctly summery tone, perfect for the inaugural Ketch’em Alive concert of the year.
The following week brings to stage Tumbling Dice, a Rolling Stones tribute band aiming to put the “fever in the funk house,” as the song goes.
The five Tuesdays in July will bring, in order, Swagger, Scott Pemberton, Kuinka, Pixie & The Partygrass Boys and the Gene Avaro Band. August will close out the series with Lukewarm on Aug. 6 and The Heaters one week later.
During the festivities, the event organizers will close the section of Washington Avenue that runs abreast to the park. This area will host food trucks and beverage vendors to help liven up the party vibe.
The Ketch’em Alive series is essentially a summer-long musical celebration. For those who prefer something a little more laid back and low-key, Caldwell also organizes the weekly Jazz in the Park concert series.
Each Sunday between June 23 and July 28, Ketchum’s Rotary Park will host topnotch jazz groups from across the state and beyond.
“We have the best of Idaho jazz,” Caldwell said.
The lineup includes Alan Pennay and Friends, the Frim Fram Four, the Nicole Christensen Group, Darynn Dean, the Mitchell-Gregory Project and the Idaho Falls Big Band to close things out on July 28.
The Jazz in the Park series maintains a much more relaxed atmosphere. People are encouraged to pack a picnic, sit on a blanket out on the lawn and just enjoy the music.
As with Ketch’em Alive, the goal here is to offer residents of and visitors to the Wood River Valley a free, family-friendly way to enjoy a summer evening. Generous sponsorship from various local individuals and businesses ensures the continued success of both musical series.
After 20 years, some logistics have changed, but the song remains the same. Thanks to the internet, finding and booking bands is much easier and faster than it used to be. Caldwell can listen to bands online now instead of waiting for people to mail in CDs for consideration, and social media have made promotion a good deal simpler.
“I used to drive to Hailey and get on the radio every morning to promote the concerts,” he recalled. “There’s been a lot of change in 20 years. It gives you a chance to look back and reflect on how our lives are somewhat different.”
While the vetting process may have evolved, Caldwell still looks for the same qualities in the bands he books.
“All of the bands I pick are picked because they have a good rhythm that people will dance to,” he said. “It’s a primary factor in Ketch’em Alive. There’s something in the energy of people being up on their feet, moving with the music and connecting with the band. It’s dynamic and it really lends a lot to the enjoyment of people in the gathering, old dancing with young, everybody high-fiving each other. It’s really a fun event.”
Ketch’em Alive begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights, and typically ends around 9 p.m. Jazz in the Park lasts from 6-8 p.m. on Sundays. Keep an eye on the Mountain Express calendar for up-to-date band listings. All groups in the lineup have a lot to offer, so Ketch’em if you can.