Since its renovation in 2008, Red Butte has become a premier spot for concert-goers and musicians alike. Artists as varied as bluegrass great Ricky Skaggs, '90s radio staple Sugar Ray, classic-rock legend Steve Miller and standards crooner Harry Connick Jr. have all played the stage—and that was just last year.

Rarely does an artist play the venue and not comment on the view they have from the stage and the atmosphere for concert-goers has no equal in the city. Unfortunately, Red Butte’s success has made getting into shows ever more complicated. Here is your Red Butte primer.

THE SHOWS

In the darkest and most depressing parts of Utah’s winter, when the air in Salt Lake is thick with inversion, the only thing that gets us through is the trickling announcements of Red Butte Garden's Summer Concert lineup. Expect 28 shows this year, all brought to you by booking genius (and busy guy) Chris Mautz.  

GETTING TICKETS

Red Butte shows will sell out—sometimes within minutes of the Garden members’ presale. (A membership, $45-$150, gives you early access and a modest discount, to boot). 

Tickets used to be sold directly by Red Butte, without service fees. But, after a few years of downed websites, jammed phone lines and queues of people streaming down Wakara Way, Red Butte now contracts with ticketfly.com.  It's in your best interest to set up an account on ticketfly at least a week before sales launch to avoid last-minute complications. 

When it comes to buying tickets, act fast. And yes, sometimes that means clearing your schedule so that you're able to be online the minute ticket sales start—usually the last Monday in April for members, the first Monday in May for nonmembers. Tip: Your calendar app is your best friend here.  

Ticket prices for Red Butte shows vary according to artist. Typically, prices start at about $35 and can run to about $100. If you are experiencing sticker shock, factor in the cost benefits of the Butte's open seating and the open alcohol policy (more on that later).

CONCERT PREPARATION

You've got your tickets. Now you need the gear. 

Unless your tickets came from a corporate sponsorship, you don't actually have a seat. All Red Butte general admission seating is on the lawn. So, you need a few supplies.

  • Blanket. Preferably one with a strap to make it easier to carry.  If rain is in the forecast, substitute a tarp for a blanket. Shows go on, rain or shine, and a blanket will quickly get trashed and sopping in  the mud. 
  • Camp chairs. Optional, but recommended. You'll ditch them and probably end up standing (or dancing) when the music starts, but they are useful for the picnicking portion of any proper Red Butte evening. Seats must be no taller than 30 inches and the seat itself can be no more than a foot off the ground. (The security guards carry yardsticks.) 
  • Cooler. If you're packing for a group or drink a lot of beer, one with wheels is advisable. If you're just bringing a few drinks, a soft-sided-six-pack sized cooler will do. 
  • Booze. You bring your own. Grab a six pack, a bottle of bourbon or your favorite wine (and corkscrew). If you go the wine route, don't forget the glasses—red Solo cups will work, but find some bomb-proof melamine or stainless goblets to class up your act. 
  • Snacks. You'll see all manner of take-out bags make their way through the gates, but most people opt for the makeshift concert charcuterie—cheese, summer sausage, olives, crackers and other light noshes, spread out on their blankets.  Go gourmet if you like. Or you can also buy burgers, pasta salad and other plebeian
    fare from the concession stand. Menus are on Red Butte's website for advance orders.
  • Hat. Or sunscreen. Or both. In the middle of summer, Red Butte is an unshaded piece of land that approaches the temperature of Sun's surface until the stars come out. (Then it can get brisk—see below.). Your skin will thank you for the foresight. 
  • Water. You cannot survive on alcohol alone in the heat. Stay hydrated. 
  • Layers. It's hot during the day, but thanks to Salt Lake's high-desert climate, no matter how hot it is, it gets chilly at sundown. Plan accordingly, pack a cardigan and, early and late in the concert season, a warm hat or gloves. Because shows are rain or shine, watch the forecast. If it looks like rain, pack appropriate gear. If you don't have bonafide rain gear, a Disneyland plastic poncho and dancing more expressively will reduce your misery.  

GETTING THERE 

Red Butte Amphitheater is adjacent to the gardens. Head towards Red Butte Gardens' aboretum, then follow the signs for event parking. The venue provides ample parking and a parking garage for overflow, but none of it is close, unless you've scored VIP parking. Keep in mind while searching for the perfect spot that the shorter your walk on the way up, the longer you'll wait in your car when traffic bottlenecks on the way  out. So prepare to hike uphill, carrying or wagoning cooler, bags of food and blankets. Or, sagely, drive to the top of the hill, drop a friend with all the group’s stuff, park, hike up empty handed and meet them in line. 

Even better idea: Use a combination of TRAX and pedals and take advantage of the complimentary bike valet feet from the main entrance. This way you avoid both the hike and the traffic jam on the way out. Just remember the uphill part.

WHEN TO GET THERE

In recent years, using tickets to a Red Butte show has been an all-day affair. This is first-come, first-serve seating, so the line begins to form early in the morning and it’s deceptively long. It snakes around the entrance, up into the foothills and back. The good news is, even if you're at the end of the line, you'll find a spot inside. The bad: It might not be the spot you'd hoped for.

A solution: Send a scout. Convince a friend to sit in line most of the day with a blanket or two. When they get inside the Butte, they can claim enough real estate  for your entire group. As long as it's a reasonable amount of space, dirty looks are all they'll suffer. Red Butte's draconian security troops do have the discretion to rule your blanket too big—so don't be greedy.

Waiting in line, by the way, is not a bad way to spend the day. It's a lot like tailgating—booze is allowed—just pack an umbrella for climactic conditions. Oh, yeah, rattlers have been encountered on the trail.

Ticket prices for Red Butte shows vary according to artist. Typically, prices start at about $35 and can run to about $100. If you are experiencing sticker shock, factor in the cost benefits of the Butte's open seating and the open alcohol policy (more on that later).

WHERE TO SIT

When the gates open, there's a  mad dash. People are scrambling to get the biggest, closest piece of real estate available. Here's the secret seasoned Red Butte veterans (and Beyonce) know—go to the left, to the left. The stage actually skews slightly to the east. This means that your line of sight will be better anywhere along that tree-line on the far boundary of the amphitheater, and even better than when you’re positioned close and center.

Some people like to sit on the upper level in an effort to avoid the crowds as much as possible. The downside is the constant sea of people walking to and from the bathrooms, concessions and smoking areas. Unless you have VIP terrace seating, closer is better. 

You will only have as much space as your blanket will give you. Security will ask you to crowd in to make space for everyone still coming through the gates, and you should.

DURING THE SHOW

It's important to remember that at concerts, especially rock and roll shows, people will stand when the music starts. Rather than be angry at people who stand in front of you, stand with them.  Red Butte concerts are a communal experience.  

Be kind to your neighbor, share your corkscrew with someone who has forgotten theirs, and make space for their friends on your blanket, if needed. 

The universe will repay you with a rocking good time.