The Jewel Basin Center prepares for this summer’s Crown Jewel Concert Series
The interior of the Jewel Basin center at a Tommy Edward's show. (photo provided)
Bigfork Eagle | May 11, 2022 12:00 AM
The Jewel Basin Center in Bigfork is preparing for their first big lineup of concerts this summer since opening last year. Founder Jim Lafferty said he’s imagined hosting a concert series at the center since its inception and is excited to see the outdoor music experience come to life.
The idea of the Crown Jewel Concert Series was formulated with local musician Tommy Edwards, who kicked off the concert series in November of last year. Lafferty said he always wanted to do a big concert series at the Jewel Basin Center, so he brought it up to Edwards who came up with the branding for the Crown Jewel Concert Series. Lafferty said he believes the kind of music they are bringing in for the concert series is reflective of genres that have become popular on television shows like “Yellowstone.”
“It’s kind of an Americana, an alternative country/rock kind of feel. We’re focused on that for year one, and we’re sprinkling in some other types of artists. You know Tommy was on “The Voice” this season, one of the top ten contestants from the show will be joining him for a concert on Labor Day weekend,” Lafferty said.
Edwards was recently a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, where he competed on Blake Shelton’s team. He said he and other contestants would spend a lot of time together working on their music. The experience led him to invite some of his friends to play for the concert series, including fellow ‘team Blake’ member Carson Peters and Ariana Grande team member Holly Forbes. Edwards shares that collaborative spirit with musicians in the valley as well. He believes the Flathead Valley has an unrivaled music scene for its size and population and that the Crown Jewel Concert Series will be a way to see some of the best musicians the valley has to offer, plus some national acts.
“It’s just got such a beautiful backdrop, so looking at bands in that setting with that mountain backdrop, it’s just perfect for Bigfork. We’re bringing bands in, we’re bringing touring acts in from all over the country as well as local acts,” he said.
Lafferty said he consulted with local musicians before the facility was built to gauge what they think it needed to make it a better music venue. One of the most important aspects included having indoor and outdoor capabilities. It has integrated an elevated stage into the building, with two garage-sized hydraulic doors that lift up to create an awning for the stage. Their pickleball courts are converted into an outdoor space that can accommodate up to 2,000 people. The center also has a bar which is right beside the stage for easy access to concert goers.
With eight concerts booked, Lafferty said they’ve been busy preparing to meet the crowds and touring bands. He said ironing out their PA system, renting additional portable restrooms, and getting food trucks are just a few of the items they have been working on leading up to the concerts. He said they’ve tapped into industry experts who informed them of the best ways to book acts.
“Live music touring bands are also coming out of COVID hibernation, if you will. Their venues have been hammered quite a bit, it’s started to be a lot more open compared to last year. So, a lot of the bands are hitting the road again. One thing we’ve learned is that bands are also in the business of efficiency, if we can connect to a band who is playing the next night in Bozeman, or the night before in Great Falls, or Big Sky, then we can seek out those types of acts and have a little bit better of an opportunity to book them,” he said.
Currently, Lafferty said they are working on securing sponsors for the event. He said they’ve been talking to “many high profile people” to discuss opportunities like stage sponsorship or sponsoring a VIP experience for concert goers.
Lafferty said plans for the Jewel Basin Center started in 2019, with construction taking place in 2020. He said this means they were building their investor group right at the beginning of the pandemic, which was challenging. But, his vision of a state-of-the-art pickleball facility and music venue persisted and they opened their doors last year in 2021.
Lafferty said he’s especially excited that locals won’t have to travel to bigger cities to get a quality outdoor concert experience, particularly since concerts happen intermittently all throughout the summer and fall— with future shows happening inside during the colder months.
“Big fans don’t have to travel to Missoula, or Bozeman or Great Falls to see a great show. I’m especially excited that they’re going to see our venue outdoors in the summer because it’s beautiful, it’s just gorgeous and it’s right here,” Lafferty said.
The Crown Jewel Concert Series will kick-off it’s summer shows with Eric Alan and The Gold Sisters featuring John Dunnigan on May 28. It will be followed by ‘Flathead Rocks!’ a concert showcasing some of the best bands in the region on June 18. On July 23, catch The Band of Heathens with Mike Murray Band, followed by Reckless Kelly featuring the Tommy Edwards Band on August 6. More shows follow up until their final show on October 8 with Emmy award winning writer Eric Baker. See a full list of shows and find links to purchase tickets at www.crownjewelconcertseries.com/events.