The Music of Halloween

I love the month of October. Utah is beautiful, you can pull out your old sweaters, and of course Halloween. Aside from the jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and candy, the sounds of this season are amazing. Hearing creaking doors, howling wolfs, or whispering winds can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Music is the greatest thing to create a mood, and the music inspired by Halloween does just that.

During the ancient Celtic festival Samhain, people would light fires and wear costumes to scare off ghosts. That night they would play dark folk music. These haunting tunes, known as souling songs, are still played in parts of Europe today. Children go out in groups singing these souling song and begging for treats.

Dark classical music is often associated with Halloween for its mysterious overtures and frightening melodies. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony number 5 in C Minor” are iconic songs recognized by many as the first Halloween songs. Dozens of other composers from Rachmaninoff to Vivaldi have taken a crack at capturing the eeriness, suspense, and gloom of this beloved time.

In recent years, horror films and their accompanying scores have been a new way to showcase scary music. Movies live and die by their soundtrack. Good horror films have soundtracks that put you on the edge of your seat and make the film enticing. Films such as Psycho, The Shining, and Saw have powerful musical themes which add to their popularity and success. Other movies like Jaws and Ghostbusters feature songs that have become so popular they stand alone. The Nightmare Before Christmas and A Clockwork Orange are two of my personal favorite horror film soundtracks.

Halloween has also made its way into the rock and pop world over the last few decades. Bobby “Boris” Picket’s “Monster Mash” was released in 1962 and was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 prior to Halloween of that year. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was listed as the most successful music video by Guinness World Records and is in the Library of Congress. It’s safe to say that people love scary music.

Aside from the two Halloween songs that everyone knows, many other artist have been inspired by the horrors of Halloween. The Cure’s “Lullaby” from the album Disintegration (1980), is a haunting track and the one of the darkest from the gothic-rock band. They sing an ominous tale of the always hungry Spiderman.

David Bowie’s song “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” features screeching guitars and sharp piercing chimes. Bowie sings of running scared from the horrors of monsters. Other songs inspired by this holiday include The Ramones “Pet Sematary”, Morrissey’s “Ouija Board, Ouija Board”, and Alice Cooper’s “Feed My Frankenstein”.

Although Halloween lacks full length albums, like Christmas, there is a wide variety of music that features themes of fear, fright, and horror. For centuries, this music has been revered by several different cultures. Today it is the music of October, the music of Halloween. It shows how music can create powerful emotions and is one of the reasons why this time is beloved by so many.

Concert Review: Mitski

Indie rock can oftentimes be blunt, but that is not to say it lacks finesse; to the contrary, some of the best indie rock artists only achieve their blunt sound with a great deal of finesse. Mitski’s concert at the Urban Lounge proved just so, demonstrating the extent to which practice and finesse can take a band from good to great.

You don’t have to look hard to find where Mitski mustered such skills. As Carrie Battan brings to light in her article for The New Yorker, the singer-songwriter released her first two albums, LUSH and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, while studying music composition at SUNNY Purchase. Since graduating, she has released another two albums, Bury Me at Makeout Creek and Puberty 2, both of which pushed her towards a more traditional, rock sound. Despite this, it’s evident that Mitski’s training in school has paid off; her command of her voice is impressive, and even within more traditional arrangments her attention to detail is difficult to match.

Overall, this gives Mitski a good amount of experience to work with, which stands in contrast to opener Stong Words. An up-and-coming act from Salt Lake City, Strong Words carry the sound of a band beginning to solidify their musical identity. At its best, their music conjures easy-going vibes with mellow vocals and an airy feel. At its worst, it feels too easy, collapsing in on the padding its mix overly relies upon. The sound balance at the concert didn’t help, rendering the guitar and the vocals indistinguishable, although out-of-tune harmonies in the vocals occasionally (and unfortunately) stuck out in the mix. All in all, these factors ultimately rendered Strong Words’ performance unsatisfactory.

Despite the luke-warm opening, Mitski quickly brought an air of excitement to the Urban Lounge. With a restless start, her band cut their teeth right away on newer material, including more raw cuts like “Dan the Dancer”. Contributing to the raw sound was their mix, which was both drier than Strong Words’ and better balanced. This change put the talent of Mitski and her band members front and center, and fortunately, they were more than able to impress; particularly noteworthy was the guitarist, whose adept use of effects turned the instrument into a jack-of-all-trades for the band.

Later in the set, Mitski took over duties on the guitar, dismissing her band members to play some songs by herself. The expectation at this point was to hear some of her quieter arrangements, but she began with one of her loudest, playing “My Body’s made of Crushed Little Stars”. It was the most intimate moment of the set; the space left behind by her band produced an atmosphere rawer than anywhere else in the set. It also gave her room to truly demonstrate the power of her vocals as she bellowed over the jagged-sounding guitar.

The use of space in her arrangements demonstrates just one of the ways Mitski puts time and thought into her craft. Strong Words does not lack thought when it comes to their music, but the difference in the quality of the performances demonstrates not just the importance of a good sound balance, but the extent to which practice and training can take a band from good to great.

Hoodie Allen Hypes Up The 801 Crowd Sunday Night At The Complex

Straight ‘outta Long Island, New York, Steven Markowitz, aka. Hoodie Allen made a stop here in Salt Lake City to hype up the Utah fans on his “Hype” Tour.

The night involved lots of creative raps from friends, such as Myles Parrish and Luke Christopher, who are on the Hype Tour with Hoodie. Altogether, it turned out to be a lively night for the young fans in attendance.

The first act of the night was 25 years old, Myles Parrish, from California. Myles used to be active in the duo, Kalin & Myles, most known for their tracks “Love Robbery” and “Trampoline”. When he first came on stage, I couldn’t recognize him and I thought that he was just the average teenage boy wanting to pursue a rap career, but was succeeding at it. However, when he started to perform “Trampoline” on stage, I immediately remembered that he was Myles from the duo. I had a blast rocking out to the young rapper himself – look out for him because he is definitely going places!

Following Myles was another California native, Luke Christopher. Personally, I’m not that familiar with the California rapper himself, but I really enjoyed listening to his raps. Some tracks that I enjoyed hearing was his cover of “You & Me (Flume Remix) and his flip on Odessa’s “Say My Name”, but my absolute favorite from him was his most known song “Bedroom Trip”. I love the trippy vibe the song gives and it definitely lit up the crowd for what was about to come next!

When Hoodie Allen hopped on stage, there were some different aspects of his set that I noticed. First off, he brought on a live band to accompany him, which I would’ve never expected from most rappers. Second, I usually expect lots of artists to start off their set with their most popular hit song, and for example, in this case, it would be “All About It”, featuring Ed Sheeran.

However, he started off his set with “Believe”, one of his songs from his new album Hype. I really enjoyed the live band performance that Hoodie gave – it was definitely a new perspective that was born. Since his tour is The Hype tour, focusing on his new album Hype, most of the songs that he performed were hits such as “Fakin”, “Know It All”, but he also threw it back and performed the hit “Act My Age” that was from one of his past albums People Keep Talking. Out of all the songs he performed on Sunday, my favorite song that he sang live was “No Interruption”, from his first album All American. Towards the end, he hopped into the crowd and crowd-surfed while flying around on a floatie, and I thought that was very enjoyable to witness and participate in!


Overall, Hoodie Allen is an enjoyable artist live – he really participates with the audience and makes his performances a ball of a time – and he’s also a cutie! If you’re looking for an amusing, chill artist to listen to with nothing extreme when it comes to live shows, Hoodie Allen is the perfect rapper for you!

A Night With The National

Concerts have a way of bringing people together. We all have personal struggles, yet concerts have always been a way for me to forget mine and enjoy a night. Being in an amphitheater, surrounded by 5,000 people; it doesn’t matter if I just failed a test or had a spat with a parent. I’m going to enjoy the show and dance with the person next to me, regardless of if I know you or not.

The National is one of my favorite bands. Their songs speak to me on a personal level. I deeply relate to their lyrics that speak of depression, anxiety, and not fitting in. I recently saw them perform at the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre in San Diego, making it the third time I’ve seen the indie-rock band from Cincinnati. The venue is in the middle of SDSU’s campus. College students wander around the many restaurants and bars surrounding the school.

Eager anticipation overtakes me as the opening act, Daughter, performs. There is nothing better than seeing your favorite music being performed with people you love. My mom and I are sitting in the third row. She is almost as big of a fan as me. It is fitting to go to the show together as she was the first person to introduce me to The National years ago.

Earlier this year, The National released their 7th studio album Sleep Well Beast.  Their new album is more experimental than their older stuff, but still has a classic National feel. Seeing them perform is a one of a kind experience. Despite their melancholic sound, the 5 band members know how to rock out and put on a hell of a show. Lead singer Matt Berninger ventures into the crowd during “Mr. November”. He often reaches into the crowd and grabs peoples drinks. He chugs half, then showers the concertgoers with the other half.

For certain songs, guitarist Bryce Dessner plays with 2 guitars; 1 around his neck and 1 in his hands. He bangs the hand-held on the ground creating an ominous feedback that echoes throughout the theater. Band member improvise and elongate songs, making 3-minute songs last 7 or 8.

Prior to playing “Fake Empire”, Berninger says that some song’s meanings have slightly changed over the years. “This is one that has,” he says. “Things seem a little less fake now.”

Berninger told a story about a conversation he had with his dad earlier that day. His dad said, “Matt slow down.” “I’m trying to dad, I have to be in San Diego in 2 hours.” His dad then repeated, “Matt slow down.” Berninger tells the audience, “I heard him that time.” I love when musicians are honest with their fans and show that they are people too. Simple stories like these create an intimate connection between the musicians and the crowd.

With close to 20 years’ worth of music, The National has plenty of material to choose from. You’ll never hear them play the same setlist twice. They played “Start a War” for the first time since 2014, numerous songs from Sleep Well Beast, classics such as “Apartment Story” and “Terrible Love”, and some lesser known songs like “Wasp Nest”. They are on stage for a solid 2 hours, playing over 20 songs.

During the show, I remember looking up at the night sky and taking it all in. I had had a bit of a rough week, and it seemed like all the pressures of the world were coming down on me. For a moment, just a moment, I forgot about all of them. Listening to music doesn’t erase my problems. It doesn’t put a roof over my head or buy the groceries. It does, however, make life tolerable. It brings people together and allows them to dance. I’ll always cherish that night in San Diego, with my mom and 5,000 other friends, listening to some of my favorite music in the world.

A Night of Metal: The Exodus Kick-off Tour

Despite what you may have heard, the metal genre of music is no stranger to Salt Lake.  There’s an overflowing line up of local thrash metal bands with a strict metalhead following, including some SLC’s favorites: Visigoth, Deathblow, and Necrowolf along with several others who frequent the regular venues downtown on what seems to be a monthly, if not a weekly basis. There’s also a little black metal thrown into the mix with the band Darklord, and some progressive metal from Deathrone the Sovereign. Then there’s Silence of Mortuary headbanging their way from a faraway land called Moab. These are just to name a few of the many metal bands playing Utah’s local metal scene.

Even if you wouldn’t necessarily classify yourself as a metal fan, I still recommend you catch a show or two if you’re in the mood for a little hardcore headbanging fun. However, most of these bands are still considered relatively ‘new metal’ The metal genre has been going strong for the last 40-something years and this is worth noting because what is considered old metal has helped shape each facet of the genre today.

Speaking of metal that’s been around forever, I was unexpectedly put on the guest list for the first show of the Exodus tour. The show took place at Music Metro Hall and I was excited to see a band whose career spans over the last 30 years.

The night was a fun one with Deathblow and Villain getting the metal heads hyped before the main act took the stage. As the show began, I noticed that there was a shift in the proximity of the audience from the stage. Some people were taking several steps back almost retreating as far back as the bar located on the other side of the venue. Trusting my intuition, I followed suit and I was glad that I did. Frequenting the amount of punk rock shows that I do, I am no stranger to the ways of the mosh pit, but for some reason, I didn’t really understand what that meant when one is attending an actual headbanger show. And with that, Exodus stepped out on stage and in an instant, they were bringing all the headbanging energy beginning the set with fast guitar riffs strummed in sync with flailing waist-length hair as the crowd moshed with the same intensity.  

As each song finished, the singer Steve Souza riled up the audience by appealing to their metal obsession and yelling out “You’re all just a bunch of rowdy metalheads, aren’t you?” Which of course produced a heightened reaction with said metalheads bumping shoulders and yelling their allegiance back to the metal gods. The band went on to play numerous songs from what seemed like a sampling from every album put out during their 30-year discography. I even witnessed Souza asking the audience which album they had not gotten to yet. And by the end of the show, I realized this was a fan based band- one that plays solely for its fans. One that tours for decades off the same songs that propelled their success in the first place. They understand who makes a rough metal head tour life worth every show played, and of course- it’s the fans.

 

Concert Review: Japanese Breakfast

There is an undeniable lure to the quaint charm of Kilby Court and, to an extent, an artist’s performance in the venue is defined by how well they inhabit the space. With the help of two impressive opening acts, Spirit of the Beehive and Mannequin Pussy, Japanese Breakfast did just so. Boasting ethereal beats and an impressive vocal performance by frontwoman Michelle, the band successfully created a homely but vivacious atmosphere fitting of the venue.

The fact that it was the band’s fourth performance in Salt Lake City in the last year certainly didn’t hurt either. On tour for their latest album release, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Japanese Breakfast looked as comfortable as the audience within the comfy proportions of Kilby Court, Michelle going as far as to mention the relief of performing at the venue after a long day on the road.

Just last April, her band broke into the music scene with the release of their debut studio album, Psychopomp, and evidently, she’s been keeping busy; on Soft Sounds from Another Planet, released in July, she builds upon the catchy dream pop established on Psychopomp, creating a slicker album that lets her vocals shine.

While, at first, I was primarily looking forward to hearing her perform this newer, slicker material, I was pleasantly surprised by the opening acts. Spirit of the Beehive set the mood with a well-tempered set, exchanging male and female vocals over riffs that would be right at home on an episode of “Twin Peaks”. While their music was the least varied of the acts, their performance was strong.

Mannequin Pussy

Ending their set with a raucous finale, Spirit of the Beehive created a perfect atmosphere for the next act, Mannequin Pussy, and for their part they did not let up, marching through one of the loudest sets I’ve ever heard at Kilby Court. Unlike many loud bands, however, their musicianship was not lost under the crushing weight of their volume; with a healthy variety of music, as well as a couple tamer interludes, Spirit of the Beehive proved to be a formidable opening act, leaving an air of excitement in their wake.

While forgoing the tenacity of Mannequin Pussy’s set, Japanese Breakfast kept the air of excitement alive, starting out their set with “Diving Women”, the groovy opening track from Soft Sounds from Another Planet. From there, Michelle and co. played a well-mixed set of new and old material, balancing a consistency of character with a diversity in sound. A large part of this consistency is thanks to Michelle’s vocals, which floated perfectly atop the instrumentation.

Japanese Breakfast

The only tunes by Japanese Breakfast that did not totally captivate relied upon more studio oriented sounds and instrumentation. For example, “Boyish”, while a personal favorite of mine, includes a MIDI (or a digital rendition) of a harpsichord that simply did not translate well into a live setting. On other songs, however, the band made smart changes to counter this issue; having no saxophone player, they remodeled the outro to “Machinist” to work without one, giving the guitar a more active roll in the mix. The resulting product was the best and funkiest song of the show, Michelle joining the crowd to dance along.

To just see her and her band perform “Machinist” and other such songs would have been enough, but what really made the concert special was how intimate it felt. Japanese Breakfast’s dream pop is already a perfect fit for Kibly Court, but their infective stage presence, and the homely atmosphere they created made them the right band at the right venue.

The Possibilities of Music

Some bands simply love playing music and don’t care about anything else. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is one of those bands. These Aussies are straight-up music-holics. Since their formation in 2010, they have released 11 full-length studio albums that span a variety of genres. Their music is described as psychedelic or progressive rock but is influenced by folk, jazz, and heavy-metal to name a few. Songs incorporate themes and ideas from these extremely different styles pushing the boundaries of music.

I saw them at Metro Music Hall accompanied by Ice Balloons and Tropical Fuck Storm. Ice Balloons did not impress me. They sounded muffled and messy. However, they did leave a lasting impression for one particular reason, their lead singer wore a fly’s head mask. Uniqueness aside, I was not a fan of their music.  Tropical Fuck Storm was less memorable but seemed more put together as a band.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard consists of a herd of members and more instruments than I could count. Their distinct sound is attributed to multiple guitars, synthesizers, harmonicas, a flute, driving bass lines, and two dueling drums. Drummers Eric Moore and Michael Cavanaugh are smack-dab in the middle of the stage battling the entire night. They are the heart and soul of the band whose songs constantly change tempo.

Mixing music genres is not the only way King Gizzard revolutionizes music. For their album, Flying Microtonal Banana, guitarist Stu Mackenzie, Cook Craig, and Joey Walker “modded” guitars adding additional frets.This allowed them to access microtones, semitones, and additional notes impossible on a traditional western guitar. Lead singer Mackenzie had the idea after messing around on a Turkish stringed instrument called a baglama. The result is an easter sounding electric guitar. Creating their own instruments adds to their odd unique sound.

The Melbourne musicians put everything into their performance. They are incredibly energetic and the crowd matches their energy. In all my years going to concerts, I have never seen a wilder crowd. My shoes were completely destroyed in the madness. During the slower parts of songs, concertgoers sway and headbang. When the music gets faster and heavier, mosh pits form in the blink of an eye. The crowd is tightly packed, but the proximity doesn’t stop people from dancing.

King Gizzard’s albums have related songs that blend together and are often broken into multiple parts. Their setlist is programmed in the same manner. They play multiple songs in order or slightly jumbled so that they playing music for 20 or 30 minutes with no breaks. The reoccurrence of melodies and specific lyrics makes you question whether you are still listening to the same song as half an hour ago.

By the time Mackenzie announces their last song, the audience and musicians are beat. They summon enough energy to play a 15-minute version of “Am I In Heaven?”. The crowd cheers for 10 minutes but they don’t get an encore today. After almost 2 hours of constant music, there is nothing left in the tank.

Music truly is limitless. There are innumerable possibilities to be explored and as a society, we have only scratched the surface. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is a band that is pushing the limits of traditional music both in the studio and on the stage.