Sunset canceled

Country artist Nikki Lanes performs at her 2019 Sunset Concert Series appearance. (Photo courtesy of Telluride Society for Music)

When Sunset Concert Series producer, Teddy Errico, recently announced he was canceling the well-attended, weekly free concerts in Mountain Village, it came as little surprise. No thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, live music events all over the country and in the area have been falling like autumn leaves. From Coachella (which has canceled its re-scheduled shows after being the first major concert to be called off this year), to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, stages near and far will be empty this summer and beyond. State and local public health officials have warned repeatedly against gathering in large numbers, a warning that promoters are taking seriously.

Errico, operating as the Telluride Society for Music, has produced the series since 2011, in partnership with the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association (TMVOA).

The popular series, now in its 22nd year, served to bring droves of locals, visitors and second homeowners to Sunset Plaza on Wednesday evenings, where they’d socialize, picnic, dance and take in the glorious sunsets for which the series — and the plaza — are named.

“It became a must-do for Wednesday nights,” Errico said. “It is a large event, but it creates community. It melds everyone together.”

At the heart of the event dwelled the artists themselves, a carefully curated offering of genres and styles that ranged from salsa to reggae, Americana to blues. Not only was the series an excellent opportunity to check out any number of up-and-coming or established acts that Errico booked, but it was an opportunity to patronize one of many of Mountain Village’s shops and restaurants.

“(Not having the series) will leave a big hole,” Errico said. “It created a better experience throughout Mountain Village.”

Zoe Dohnal is Mountain Village’s business development and sustainability senior manager. Dohnal agrees that the cancelation of the Sunset Concert Series has left a void. And it’s not the only music series to have been undone as a result of the pandemic.

“While the loss of Sunset Concert Series and Music On the Green was an unexpected blow to the vitality of Mountain Village Center this summer, we believe that our public plazas are perfectly designed for entertaining people during these times,” she said. “Our Common Consumption Area allows for people to buy a drink from any of our participating liquor establishments and enjoy it in the plazas.

Mountain Village officials are working with TMVOA to continue to offer entertainment, though on a smaller scale.

“TMVOA is working on booking local musicians daily throughout the summer,” Dohnal said. “Not only does this help showcase our local talent, but it will help people get their live music fix while also dining and drinking out in the plazas. They will also be able to enjoy some entertainment while maintaining a safe physical distance from others.” 

Dohnal added that officials have invested in enhancement of their outdoor spaces in an effort to expand them further.

“And we are also working on a fun Friday evening happy hour Sunset Stroll to be announced soon,” she said.

In the long term, Errico worries about the fate of the music business in general. Artists that rely on touring to earn a living have been locked down at home like everyone else, and venues large and small have announced they will not be reopening. New York’s Nassau Coliseum is one notable example. Errico sees the big corporations like Live Nation being able to weather the pandemic far better than smaller players in the music business.

“However we get through the pain and the punishment, it’ll be a long recovery,” he said.

The former producer of the Telluride Cajun Festival, Errico admits that hosting a free event as its upsides.

“When you don’t have to sell tickets, the music business is easier,” he said.

Errico noted that the series will be back with gusto in 2021.

“We’re full steam ahead,” he said. “We’ll try to make it better than any other year. “I’m hopeful that everyone stays safe and healthy through the winter.”