Moab Music Festival

No matter how many times you visit Moab’s otherworldly red rock landscape, it will take your breath away. The magnificent cliffs that radiate warmth and tower over the sparse sage-scented atmosphere are a sight to see. And so, to Moab Music Festival founders Michael Barrett and Leslie Tomkins, it made perfect sense to start a music festival with this backdrop, amplifying its power with rich acoustic performances.
 
Twenty-three years after the festival’s inception, the sound waves are still going strong, and it’s definitely worth a trip for both out-of-towners and Utah locals alike. There are one to two concerts per day for two weeks, in venues dotting the area’s landscape.
 
The venues are unconventional to say the least — three concerts are held in a secret rock grotto that guests are jet-boated to (a surreal place that you can’t get to otherwise), another show is held on the less-esoteric lawn of Moab’s town park, and yet another is at the lovely Red Cliffs Lodge. The festival culminates in a multi-day musical rafting trip down Cataract Canyon, a must-do if you can fit it into your schedule and budget. The festival organizers and musicians partner with a local rafting company to pull it all off. This is a big win for concert-goers because all your food and camping equipment are supplied, so all you need to bring is your own personal belongings.
 
Don’t worry about being a classical music buff or symphony regular to appreciate these concerts, which are stunning and stimulating for all the senses regardless of expertise. Newbies may want to check out the Open Rehearsal Conversation held at the Star Hall, when offered. This is a unique way to learn about the music and musicians in a more informal, non-performance setting.
 
Outreach and education are paramount to the festival organizers, who know the importance of introducing visitors and our next generation to the musical arts. They offer education outreach for local Grand County schools, and arrange assemblies for school-aged children to meet musicians and learn about music during the festival.
 
You’ll want to scope the festival’s website well in advance to choose your shows and order tickets. A few of these shows are kid-friendly, while others are adults only. You can also choose between a daytime show or an evening performance so you can be sure to fit everything in with your other desert adventures.

One writer from Denver Magazine phrased the festival’s appeal to newbies like this: “Although I don’t know Tchaikovsky from Brahms, the beauty of this festival is that I don’t have to. It’s about what you feel when the music starts, not about what you know. The combination of music — whether it’s chamber music or jazz ensemble — set against the canyonlands background is, in a word, stirring…. As a first-timer, I can’t help feeling as if I’ve discovered the keys to some magic kingdom.”

Moab Music Festival 2017

August 31–September 11, 2017
Westwater Musical Raft Trip: August 28–30
Cataract Musical Raft Trip: September 11–14

GPS Coordinates: Locations vary by show, so check the Moab Music Festival website for directions to each venue or meeting-point.