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She & Him wrap up Twilight series

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She & Him, the collaborative project of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, will hit the stage Aug. 26, wrapping up the popular Twilight Concert series in Pioneer Park.

An actress turned singer, Deschanel gained audiences' attentions with her surprisingly soulful voice in movies "Elf" and "500 Days of Summer."

The duo got together while filming "The Go-Getter," an indie flick starring Deschanel and scored by Ward, after Deschanel revealed that she had a few songs of her own in progress.

Twilight Concert Series creator Casey Jarman said he's received a huge number of inquiries from She & Him fans about the upcoming show, most asking if they could meet Deschanel.

While Jarman had to decline, he said he sees the appeal of the effervescent actress-singer who has chosen to perform behind an anonymous moniker.

"She's a very serious musician, and she has been very serious about She & Him for a long time," Jarman said. "She's a musician first and an actress second when she's doing this stuff. She's not like Paris Hilton going on tour."

Even though Deschanel is the familiar name, Jarman said it was her talented male counterpart who was instrumental in getting the band to Salt Lake City.

"I booked M. Ward last year for the show, and he came out and did a phenomenal concert — had a really fantastic time," Jarman said. "So the word that I get is that he talked to Zooey, and they were planning on doing a handful of concerts this summer, and he pitched the idea of the Twilight series to her."

Jarman said the band reaching out to book a spot in the concert series lineup was a welcome change.

"It was nice because it started with them wanting to come out versus me having to beg and plead," Jarman said.

When the annual series opened this summer at its new Pioneer Park location, Jarman said they saw an almost 50 percent increase in numbers from last year's shows at the Gallivan Center.

"Certainly we were surprised about Modest Mouse," Jarman said, "People will say, 'Well, you know it's a big band,' it's all these things, but you know we really expected 30,000 and planned for 40,000."

What Jarman didn't anticipate were the additional 20,000 people who actually showed up and lined the block waiting to get into the packed show.

Salt Lake City resident Chris Melzer was among the 40,000 concert-goers who got in the gate and said he noticed two drawbacks to the new location — the sound quality and crowd size.

"Modest Mouse was huge," Melzer said. "Although things were starting to feel really cramped at Gallivan last year, it would be difficult to say that they didn't feel equally as crowded in the larger venue of Pioneer Park."

Despite the massive crowd, Melzer said the actual show didn't disappoint.

"As for Modest Mouse's actual performance, it was awesome," Melzer said. "I love seeing them live and continually am impressed by their stage presence and the alternative ways they play their songs live in comparison with their albums."

After the unexpectedly huge Modest Mouse turnout, Jarman said his team went to work making changes that included increasing security, reinforcing fences surrounding the park and adding more restrooms.

"We've tried to accommodate more people and make people that were there more comfortable and safer," Jarman said. "The first show I knew was going to be our biggest show of the year, and it woke everybody up."

Since then, Jarman said the park has housed almost equally large Thursday night Twilight shows with little incident.

"All in all, it's been a really great success," Jarman said. "The layout is really nice in the park, the neighborhood has been great, our partners for the series have been tremendous, and attendance is way up."

For Melzer, who has attended several Twilight shows since Modest Mouse, the series continues to be an essential addition to the fabric of Salt Lake City.

"It's just really nice to have a city put on big shows for all ages and provide the whole experience for free," Melzer said. "The bike valet is great, (you're) not having to worry about getting ripped off while watching the show. "

She & Him may signal the end of the summer series, but Jarman said he's already thinking about next year and the challenges his team will face getting the funding to keep Twilight going.

"We don't have the final figures on this, but our attendance is up at least 40 percent — closer to 50 percent — and our sale of beer and wine is down," Jarman said. "So that's a budget item I have to look at."

While concessions may be down, Jarman said it's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Mostly it's a good thing, because what we've determined is that people are watching the concerts," Jarman said. "They're hanging out, enjoying the concerts more than they were able to do at Gallivan where you couldn't see the show. So it's a real positive.

"It just means that we're going to have to try and find the money."

e-mail: amears@desnews.com