Concert Review: The FAIM

APRIL 16TH, 2019 @ THE DEPOT

Normally, on a Tuesday night during the heat of finals, you can find me cramming textbooks and coffee in a dark corner of the library.  Last Tuesday, though, I was at The Depot in the heart of a crowd, dancing away my assignments, just to anxiously remember them in the morning.

BACK IN BLACK

The first thing I noticed as I arrived to the Depot was the long line filled with jet black swooping hairstyles, ripped skinny jeans and more fake leather than a Harley Davidson store. I should have expected this, considering the opener was Andy Black, lead singer of the infamous emo punk band Black Veil Brides. I changed and grew out of that phase, and I assumed others had too. Clearly I was wrong. It was at this point I knew the crowd had not come for The FAIM. But by the end of the show, would leave with them.

THE FAIM

If Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco had a love child, it would be The FAIM. Still, their music is a melting pot of musical diversity, every song bringing a new sound. Lead singer Josh Raven stunned the crowd with his polished melodic voice that is even better live than on the recording. They started with “My Heart Needs to Breathe”. A jumping, pumping bop of a song and the perfect opener. Within seconds they had the crowd dancing along with them, with a few singing along as well. Truth be told, I can’t remember what came after the first song. It didn’t matter because all of their songs carried the same hyped up intensity as the opening act, a feat not many bands can achieve.

The FAIM didn’t falter for a minute from start to finish. Their set was mesmerizing and passionate. Intoxicating the crowd, holding them captive, and making them beg for more. Songs “Amelie” and “The Saints of the Sinners” feature entertaining rock riffs and a catchy drum beat paired with dark lyrics. Ambitious and unpredictable with their shows, The FAIM create an ultimate alt-rock vibe. I caught up with bassist/keyboardist, Stephen Beerkens. He told me that every night is different, no show is the same. This is a band that truly loves what they do and are humbled and full of love for fans. Night after night The FAIM rises to the stage to live their dream and it shows.

The Conference of Champions?

The University of Utah collectively celebrated when the school entered the Pacific-12 Conference in 2011, as the most recent addition alongside the University of Colorado. Home to prestigious and storied institutions like Stanford and the University of Southern California, many saw the move as a big step onto the national stage for the U. Undeniably, joining the PAC-12 has caused a ripple of positive impact across the U, where PAC-12 logos are proudly littered throughout the campus. This status has had the most visible impact on athletics, but it also further establishes the U’s credibility as a high-level research and academic destination. But eight years after joining the conference, is the PAC-12 all that it was made out to be? In sports terms, any progress the PAC-12 seems to have made is quickly evaporating.

The University of Utah Celebrates Joining the Pac-12 in 2011

A Lack of Success

Fresh off of what has been a captivating March Madness tournament, the PAC-12 delivered yet another uninspired performance. After an underwhelming series of conference play, the PAC-12 unexpectedly managed to land three teams in the tournament: Oregon, Washington, and Arizona State. While Arizona State bowed out in the first round, and Washington managed to scramble past Utah State before being quickly dispatched in the second round by North Carolina, Oregon proved to be somewhat more resilient. The Ducks fought their way into a sweet sixteen berth, holding their own against a vaunted Virginia team before falling during the final minutes. As pitiful as this year was, last year proved even more deflating, as the lone PAC-12 team who made the tournament, Arizona, was decimated by the 13-seeded Buffalo Bulls during the opening round of play. 

Given the historic dominance of teams like UCLA and more recently Arizona during March basketball, it is shocking to reflect on how bad the PAC-12’s record has been of late. The conference has only produced one final four team since 2008, and has not won a national championship since 1997. And basketball is not the only sport PAC-12 fans have been bemoaning. Football has been also mired in inconsistency. The conference managed to win four of seven bowl contests this past season, lining up with many of the other power conferences. But go back to the 2017-18 season, and the problem becomes evident. PAC-12 teams lost eight of nine games, with Utah being the lone victor. In 2016-17 the PAC-12 lagged behind all major conferences with just six bowl invites, and went an even .500 in those games. 

In the five years of the College Football Playoff, the PAC-12 has had only two teams participate, and neither won the championship. Rewind past the new playoff system and the results do not get any better. The conference has not produced a champion since the 2004 USC team coached by Pete Carroll (though the Utes did have an undefeated 2008 season prior to joining the PAC-12). 

Washington Quarterback Jake Browning is Tackled During the 2019 Rose Bowl Game

Money Woes

Consistent failings by the PAC-12 to generate competitive teams on the national stage has undoubtedly been a cause for concern amongst school’s athletic directors. Optimists may point out how many of these shortcomings only tell a part of the story, and could argue the PAC-12 still produces top-notch sports. Others may also point out this criticism is only leveled against two sports, football and basketball, despite the PAC-12 representing over 13 different NCAA sanctioned sports. But both of these arguments ignore perhaps what is the most crucial part of all of college athletics. Money. Football and basketball constitute a majority of the money circulating around most college sports, and the health of these programs is often used as a yardstick for the success of the athletics of the school as a whole. The PAC-12 has begun to woefully lag behind in the revenue department. 

As this helpful New York Times piece illustrates, it is easy to be deceived by the PAC-12’s current revenue situation without the proper context. Since 2009 when Larry Scott took up the position of commissioner, conference revenue has grown by $400 million, and member schools have seen their share drastically increase. Yet, when compared to other power conferences, these numbers lag behind. Currently, the PAC-12 beats only the A.C.C. when comparing revenue distribution by school.

A large part of these financial failings is due to mismanagement by conference leadership. Unlike many other major conferences, the PAC-12 ‘s broadcasting network is independently owned. Other power 5 conferences have paired their networks to major media companies like Fox or ABC. While this can pose complications for control over the network, it also can generate millions in broadcasting rights. And major media corporations are clamoring to obtain these rights, as live sports is a continually developing market amidst a shrinking television base. Sal Siino, a sports media executive and Harvard Business School Graduate, cites increasing consumer demand for live sports as a reason for more competitive streaming rights bidding by media outlets. Siino estimates nearly 30% of people have cable subscriptions because of sports alone. This is why corporations like Fox or ABC have begun to put forward more lucrative contracts for streaming rights.

Bucking the data trends, the PAC-12 Network chose to blaze their own trail, and ultimately saw none of this large-scale contract money come in to the conference. Additionally, they must bear the weight of supporting a cable network itself. Sure, this has meant the PAC-12 has maintained complete ownership of their product, but other conferences are reaping the rewards of signing big contracts. The Big Ten recently announced a $2.64 billion deal with Fox and ESPN for their streaming rights, nearly double the size of a similar deal the PAC-12 made in 2011. And despite the optimistic musings of conference leadership about the PAC-12 Network, the outlook seems bleak. As someone who has been involved with and seen PAC-12 Network broadcasts of sports, I can tell you firsthand they are not on par with bigger media outlets. Crew members are not as efficient, experienced and effective. The on-screen presentation is not as fluid. The commentary and analysis provided is second-rate. It is hard to see the this product flourishing.

Who’s Responsible?

The overall state of the conference has become so dire that several former PAC-12 athletic directors, including Utah’s Chris Hill, have publicly criticized its operations.

So why have all these mistakes been made? Conveniently, one individual’s name consistently crops up when discussing the situation: PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. Scott is the former head of the Women’s Tennis Association, and captivated PAC-12 university chancellors and presidents with his vision for where to take the conference. Since his tenure began in 2009, the conference has experienced ups and downs. But given the past several years of mediocrity, Scott’s leadership seems increasingly untenable. 

To start, Scott has reported a salary of $4.8 million, making him the highest paid commissioner in college sports. Such a high compensation should warrant equally high output, but that has not been the case. Another big issue has been referring, which the PAC-12 has seen many high-level gaffes in lately. Scott has confirmed that frequently the PAC-12’s general counsel and other executives have overturned in-game reviews made by referees, asking them to change their conclusion (which they simply state is offering another opinion).

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott

There is no doubt that Larry Scott has a litany of issues on his hands. Granted, the conference is far from a failing institution. As I mentioned, under Larry Scott’s tenure, the conference’s revenue has grown from $100 million a year to nearly $500 million. But again, other conferences seem to be better adapting to the changing landscape that is college sports. 

If the PAC-12 wants to get ahead, the need to realign their goals and promote leaders who understand the business, not just those who want to enrich themselves. In a time when present results are lacking, and future promises seem more akin to lame platitudes, it can be hard to remain optimistic. Whether this low point will continue, or it is a cyclical occurrence for the conference, all we can do is hope for a better tomorrow. So I don’t know about you, but I am going to kick back, hunker down, and hope the conference soon rise to heights equal Bill Walton’s skills with the glockenspiel. 

Graywhale Finds #1

If you’re a music lover in Salt Lake, you probably know a thing or two about Graywhale Entertainment. Located about a block or so from the University of Utah Campus, Graywhale is the perfect stop to find a favorite record, movie, cd, etc.

One of my favorite things to do is browse around Graywhale looking for vinyl records. There’s a bit of a treasure-hunt-thrill to flipping through records until you find one that’s special to you.

For this article, I thought I’d share some of my favorite albums (and some that I’d never heard before) found at Graywhale.

1 ) Science Fiction by Brand New

As a long time fan of the band, Brand New, the release of the album Science Fiction in August was a big deal. The album is beautiful from start to finish and it’s apparent how much time and effort was put into making Science Fiction. It’s eerie, poignant, and definitely an album worth listening to from start to finish.

 

 

2 ) The 1975 and i like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it  by The 1975

 

While The 1975 often gets labeled as stereotypical edgy-hipster music (which might actually hold some merit), these two albums are still extremely important to me. The band uses thoughtful lyricism, intricate instrumentals, and beautiful visuals to depict aspects of life, that may seem rather mundane at times, in a poetic and artistic way. Their self-titled album has a stronger rock influence and deals more with relationships and youth, whereas their second album i like it when you sleep… is more introspective and lyrically driven.

 

3 ) Make My Head Sing… by Jessica Lea Mayfield

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I think it worked out for the best. While I was flipping through records I was drawn to the album cover for Make My Head Sing… by Jessica Lea Mayfield. The cover depicts a child’s drawing of a girl crying, silver glitter with tiny eyes, pink and red stripes, and a fluffy red frame. The whole image is rather dark and eerie, which is a pretty accurate description of the music itself. Songs like “Party Drugs” and “Oblivious” showcase the melancholic yet melodic tone of the album.

 

4 ) Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge and I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love by My Chemical Romance

Whether you’re a fan of My Chemical Romance or not, it’s safe to say that they definitely had a way of captivating an audience and building a loyal fanbase, myself included. The band formed in New Jersey shortly after the events of 9/11 inspired lead singer, Gerard Way, to start creating music. Their first album, I Brought You My Bullets…, is dramatically different from their more popular albums like The Black ParadeI Brought You My Bullets… is raw, genuine, and sad with the gritty sound of most DIY punk records. By comparison, their second studio album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, is a lot more refined, but still has the same emotion and feel. A mix of the album’s theatrics, personal sentiment, and amazing tracklist makes Three Cheers… one of my all-time favorite records.

5 ) The Ride by Catfish and the Bottlemen

If you saw Green Day’s tour at USANA Amphitheatre in August, then you probably also saw the indie-rock band, Catfish and the Bottlemen, as the openers. Not only are they awesome live, but their studio albums are equally special in the fact that they capture that “live” energy. The Ride is the band’s most recent album, coming out in 2016, and probably my favorite from their discography. It discusses love, relationships, life, youth, and growing up with a striking album cover that I think aptly conveys the tone of the record.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metal Alliance Tour at The Complex

It’s Monday night. My roommate is talking about some concert he wants to go to. I’m not one for turning down concerts so of course I’ll go. I’ll soon find myself in semi-unfamiliar territory. Tonight is the Metal Alliance Tour at the complex.

Metal shows are always an experience. There is an incredible amount of passion that the musicians and audience members share. People are quite literally screaming to vocalize their uncontrollable emotion.

The night starts out with a man handing my friends and me free tickets at the door. I didn’t even have to give him my email address. Amazed and bewildered at the ease of it all, I enter the complex eager to see what this show has in store for me. The lineup of the tour includes Invidia, Black Fast, Havok, Crowbar, and Overkill.

I’m a little bit late walking in. Havok is finishing their set. I didn’t come for any particular band, so it’s not a big deal. Being at a concert with relatively unknown bands can be liberating. I’m not expecting to hear any songs and won’t be disappointed when they don’t play them. I have no preconceived idea of their sound. Whatever the band chooses to play and however they sound will be the lasting memory of the night. I can fully soak up my environment. Everything else becomes irrelevant.

I buy some earplugs. Once Crowbar comes on you’ll be wishing you had too. The crowd is relatively scarce. Everyone sneaks outside or upstairs in-between sets for a smoke or a beer. The mostly male crowd is dressed in black, red, and white. My friend is wearing a blue jacket and sticks out like a sore-thumb. Only a handful of people have short hair. The rest have their hair down and are ready for some head-banging.

When Crowbar comes on stage, I’m shocked. The musicians look nothing like how I imagined. The overweight middle-aged men are wearing shorts and t-shirts. The bass player has shoulder-length hair.  The other two front men are bald with massive facial hair. I never get a good look at the drummer. I guess that’s why he’s the drummer.

The sludge metal band from New Orleans relies on slow groovy guitar riffs and aggressive male vocals to sustain their sound. Formed in 1990, Crowbar was a pioneering band of the heavy metal subgenre. The crowd nods and sways with the drum and bass. People throw up rock-on signs and chant “Crowbar”.

The room fills to capacity and overflows into the lobby. Thrash metal band Overkill increases the tempo and the volume. The crowd takes the hint. Some mosh-pits get started but nothing too crazy, it’s still a Monday night in Salt Lake City. The band is quite animated, letting their passion show. They put it all on the line and the audience loves it.

Leaving the show, I couldn’t tell you the name of one song. I might never listen to these bands again, but that is not the point of a concert. I saw musicians get up on stage and do what they love. I saw them create art and music. Personal expression is one of the most important things humans do. I was able to be a part of theirs. It’s moments like these that make life livable.

 

Album Review – “Revenge” by XXXtentacion

Travis Scott, Lil Pump, Smokepurrp, Robb Banks, Ugly God. Among others, they are driving a new wave of hip-hop which is characterized by lo-fi bass with aggressive lyrics and vocals. One of the leading names in this sub-genre of lo-fi is rapper XXXTENTACION.

Hailing from Broward County, Florida, he shook the game with his hit single “Look at Me.” For that song, many tried to pigeonhole XXX into being nothing but a lo-fi bass artist. His new release, Revenge, demonstrates otherwise. Revenge features many tracks that were previously released through his SoundCloud, but are now compiled into a commercial release. Songs such as “King” and “Looking for a Star” show quite a contrast to the style we’ve come to expect. Yet, “YuNg BrAtZ” and “RIP Roach” still show that xxx isn’t afraid to go hard.

XXXTENTACION opens Revenge with “Look at Me”, which, to fans, is to be expected. It’s his leading single and works well as an attention-grabber, but also serves as a way to show contrast to the following tracks. The first of which, entitled “I Don’t Wanna Do This Anymore,” immediately shows this opposing sound. It’s still lo-fi, but the autotune shows XXX’s softer side presented in the form of a hybrid garage-style produced 808’s & Heartbreak and cloud rap.

Continuing to throw the listener through hoops, “Looking for a Star” features a distinctly dark yet tropical back beat produced by none other than EDM megastar, Diplo. Auto-tuned as well, but not over the top and cheesy, his vocals fit well with the song and its Jamaican-ish vibes. 

Moving on, we continue with this leaned out, almost lethargic feeling with “Valentine.” XXX almost seems to be taking notes from early Travis Scott or Yung Lean as he channels his inner sadboy and questions whether or not to continue down his current path, or stop everything and become a better person. The answer presents itself quite clearly on “King,” which starts out very similar to the previous track, dark and airy. This, however, does not last. In almost a hat tip towards his punk rock and heavy metal roots, distorted guitars and thundering drums accompany his screams of “HEY! YOU!” coming seemingly out of nowhere and marks a change in tone for the rest of the album.

However, the next track “Slipknot” continues the running theme of XXX wanting to show his audience that he isn’t a one-trick pony when it comes to rapping. Undoubtedly the most lyrical track on the album, it’s definitely his best attempt towards creating an old school hip-hop sound with piano runs and hooks similar to that of UGK and Outkast. XXX is out to prove that he can not only sing and scream, but also spit bars. It’s also the first track on the album to feature other artists, Kin$oul (who’s featured on the track) and Killstation (who sings the end hook).

Revenge returns to the sound of “Look at Me” with “YuNg BrAtZ,” and marks the return of the XXX we’ve come to know and love; Loud, aggressive, and ignorant toward the feelings of others to ultimately bring the album full circle. Not much can be said other than it’s definitely a crowd pleaser meant to whip the audience into a blood-thirsty frenzy.

The last track, “R.I.P Roach,” features fellow Members Only founder $ki Mask, The Slump God who more or less raps over the beat, as opposed to XXXTENTACION‘s hype shouts. Like “Look at Me” and the previous track, it carries XXX’s signature sound of distorted bass and screamed vocals. It also holds our objectively favorite line on the album with XXX essentially calling his haters “rice krispies.”

From top to bottom, Revenge proves that XXXTENTACION is not a one trick pony. As his first major commercial project, the album sets out to demonstrate his versatility and diversity. Only time will tell which direction he will continue, but as far as our opinion goes, we see X continuing his reign of bending genres, generating insane amounts of hype, and blowing out subwoofers worldwide.

The World Around You Episode 17: Chaotic World Events

This week is filled to the brim with serious world news. Syrian chemical weapon incidents invited a US airstrike. This resulted in diplomatic incidents raging in the UN. Then, saber-rattling coming from North Korea complete with incendiary Trump tweets ™. And finally, horrifying news of Chechnya constructing concentration camps meant for homosexual citizens.

This week we don’t have much time for tangents or jokes. The news is too dense. Furthermore, none of this is really appropriate for joking about.

It’s been a sad week for world events, but we’ll keep you informed as always.

Listen below, or download it here!