Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface Tour 2017

Manchester Orchestra is one of those bands that construct each song in such a way that it hits you right in the feels. Much like the band Brand New, their entire aesthetic is one of a melancholy nature, and at times just plain emo. Considering they’ve toured with them several times – it makes sense.

They’ve understandably evolved from the throttling angst of their two earlier albums, I’m like a Virgin Losing Child (2007) and Mean Everything to Nothing (2009). These two albums rivaled every emo band at that time and rightfully staked out their position in the realm of emotionally driven music. Soaring tempos with heavy drums and guitars danced with the crashing emo lyrics that are still hymned along with heightened adoration to this day.

But, that’s not to take any attention away from their new album – A Black Mile To The Surface. This album is right on track in the band’s musical evolution. Most of the tracks aren’t throwing any punches, but instead creating a steady stream of controlled sound rippling around Andy Hull’s signature vocals and seemingly meaningful lyrics. Even though the album as whole lacks the angst of prior work, it fills in the gaps with a mature vibe and thoughtful lyrics that shine against exceptional instrumentals.

While I do enjoy the new album, it inevitably brought me back to those first albums that once provided such a superb emotional outlet in my life that I decided to buy a ticket to see their upcoming show at The Complex. And the performance was everything I could have wanted.

The earlier stuff was played with vigor, forging a brilliant energy amongst the crowd, which made me wish my favorite songs were more than a nostalgic obligation at this point. However, I am aware that it is not necessarily the best perspective to take when you love different eras of band’s work- It’s all good. And the art meant to evolve to better express different times and challenges of existence that people can relate to as their life progresses.

The concert started out in the dark venue with almost hymn-like chanting in a mellow hypnotic trance; The sound began to rise and everyone cheered just to have the tempo drop, which you knew the rocking-out commenced.  

The ambiance was the perfect contrast of dark shadows painted with burning orange and yellow floor spotlights and not one person in the finely tuned post alternative group missed a beat. The soaring guitars meshed together over escalating drums and keyboard, and the ebb and flow of the tempo had every note effortlessly blended together to create a climatic orchestra of sound.

Hull and the backup vocals managed to croon each lyric in a way that appeared profound and soft to the ears. Pair this with the frequent guitar breaks in the stream of instrumental chaos, and you’ve got an amplified rollercoaster effect eliciting a wide range of emotions being emitted from the lush soundscape. The live performance reinstated their reputation to me as an immensely talented group of musicians and as I’d hoped, even inspired me to grow along with the progression of their music.

Crucial Quest: Day 1

The K-UTE writing staff ventures to this year’s 7th annual Crucial Fest in a quest to discover new artists and experience a festival like no other in downtown SLC.

Sarah

After waiting months in anticipation, the first days of Crucialfest 7 were finally upon me, and I had no idea what to expect. First of all, I had never been to any of the previous Crucialfest shows, nor had I been to any “festival” style concert before. However, after seeing the setlist for Crucialfest 7, I couldn’t wait to go.

Upon entering, the band SALES was already performing. Their music was simple and minimalistic with soft guitar rhythms and drums. They also took a minimal approach to their live show; wearing casual outfits and rarely moving around the stage. While I’m typically a fan of theatrical and over-the-top concerts, I enjoyed how SALES let the music speak for itself. The band’s lead, Lauren Morgan, had a uniquely high pitched and nasal-y voice that contrasted beautifully with the toned-down instrumental. While I was a DJ a K-UTE, I became a fan of their two songs “Chinese New Year” and “Renee.” If you’re a fan of dreamy indie-pop, they’re definitely worth a listen.

After their set, I thumbed through some records at the Greywhale Entertainment booth and made my way into a large gallery (presumably an emptied out shopping area). There, the local band The Boys Ranch was playing a set. I had seen them at previous shows, but never with their full band before. They played upbeat surf rock tunes and bounced around the stage in matching striped shirts. The Boys Ranch had charisma and confidence. The audience loved their energy, and so did I.

As I exited back into the main stage area, the band Baroness was playing. I had never heard their music before, but watching them perform was quite the show. The band’s lead, John Baizley, had a booming and full voice that soared over the heavy/progressive rock instrumental. The music was high-intensity and electric. I also noticed my eyes being continually drawn to one of the guitarists who played with such an intense emotion and passion. I definitely have an appreciation for bands who play with all of their heart; it’s a hard thing to do, but it makes the music all the more special and personal.

Finally, after Baroness’s set, the audience swarmed back over the main stage. The energy hummed in anticipation as an introduction track played for STRFKR’s entrance. Even though I had listened to STRFKR multiple times before, I had no idea what to expect from them in terms of a live show. Whatever I had in mind, however, was completely wrong.

Fog that was pooled at the surface of the stage was immediately dispersed by the entrance of a crowd of men wearing full astronaut suits. I immediately knew that I was in for a show. The lead singer, Joshua Hodges, entered in a bobbed pink wig, sunglasses, and a dress. When I said that I was a fan of theatrical concerts, this was what I meant. STRFKR’s music is heavily electronic, which paired perfectly with the intense visuals. At one point, one of the “astronauts” flung himself into the sea of hands and started crowd-surfing; the audience was going wild.

I had no idea what to expect when I signed up to go to Crucialfest, but one thing’s for sure, I’ll definitely be going again next year.

 

Martyn

Two o’clock in the afternoon and rushing through downtown Salt Lake City on my way to the 7th annual Crucialfest was an apt way to arrive early in the day. For those who have never seen the mostly dilapidated Gateway Mall on Rio Grande street, the empty storefronts contrast against the finely manicured grass and comfortable sitting area. But for Crucialfest, the circularly fashioned mall was alive with two massive stages facing each other from either side, vendors, records for sale, a wonderful circus of noise and sights. We walked down the stairs with an aerial view of the festivities while King Dude played from afar.

First up on the local stage was the (always-wanting-to-see-them) band, Indigo Plateau. A personal favorite of the Salt Lake scene, they opened the Exigent Stage (and the local side of Crucialfest). Playing original songs off of their solid EP The Heights along with some new ones, their passion and immaculate playing ability sounded rad through the converted Forever21 qua concert venue (which, aesthetically, was quite pleasing although the acoustics were less than tight).

After a windfall of music, eating, and constantly trying to find a place to sit, was the band Sales. Hailing from Florida, they have been to Salt Lake a few times. Their dreamy vocals and guitar playing played to a calmer atmosphere than the previous metal bands. The beauty of Crucialfest being a bevy of musical variety allowed one to move from the outside heat and main stage bands to the local stage inside.

After a half hour of Sales, I made my way to The Boys Ranch gearing up for their unique brand of surf-rock. Again, these local heroes proved the significance of Cruicalfest as a way for people who may not experience the immaculate surf-rock to see something new. The Boys Ranch got the crowd into a frenzy of dancing and good beach vibes (being that this is a landlocked state, the irony is not lost). Surf rhythms and guitar riffs straight from the oceanside came through the venue. This is the type of band that feeds energy into a crowd and should always be a priority show when available.

Minutes after the local stage set ended, Baroness began playing outdoors on one of the main stages. A metal band incorporating some nu-metal influences. they hammered out their set list in a fury under the setting sun. The mix and mingle of the crowd between those now arriving for STRFKR and those here for Baroness were a gorgeous sight to behold. As the headliner from the metal influence of Crucialfests past. Baroness was well enjoyed and sounded great outside.

Some more minutes after Baroness had finished, the main stage was again lit in a flurry of anticipation as the crowd shifted eyes towards the approaching STRFKR. Opening with a quiet monologue piece set to electronic rhythms, the band came out in matching NASA astronaut suits, the band and dancers all synchronizing to lead singer Josh Hodge’s beautiful dress and pink wig.

The band was essentially throwing passion into the audience even as an astronaut went crowd surfing on top of a large, inflatable white duck. STRFKR’s electronic sensibilities were heightened by the live performance where each song could cascade into lengthier versions of themselves. “German Love”, “In the End”, and “Open Your Eyes” each sounded like a new song. With the light show streaming from the background and the heavy draw of synths, guitars, and drums, STRFKR played an amazing outdoor set to end the night on. Better still, there was an entire day to go.

 

 

The Grateful Dead’s “Holy Grail”: Does It Hold Up?

 

What elements are required to make a show the “greatest of all time”?  Is it the location, the quality of music, the performance, or a combination of all of these elements?  With the Grateful Dead’s official release of their long held “Holy Grail” show, which took place in Barton Hall, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on May 8, 1977, listeners get the chance to find out.

As any more-than-casual fan of the Grateful Dead knows, it’s not long after one’s introduction to the band’s huge catalog of live recordings that whispers (or in some cases, shouts) of a singular date, May 8, 1977, begin to appear.  I can personally remember sitting on the lawn at SPAC, my local summer amphitheater in New York, waiting for a Phish show to begin, and hearing a remark made behind me by a former Deadhead, arguing with his companion, “No, man, no way you can beat May 8th, man.”

So it was with some excitement that I sat down to hear the Grateful Dead’s first official release of this famous show, promising crystal-clear audio for a show that has only ever been heard through audience recordings and soundboard patches.  Regarding audio quality, like so many shows from 1977, the sound is very strong and well mixed, with all band members being able to be discerned.  Phil’s bass is very strong (always a concern), just check out “Dancin’ in the Streets” with your subwoofer to see what I mean.

However, it’s not the audio quality alone that makes the great show. For those who have never listened to the Grateful Dead, this is perhaps the perfect show to start with.  Set One comes out the door with the classic late-1970s Dead sound, leading off with some Bob Weir-sung swagger on “New Minglewood Blues”. By “Lazy Lightning>Supplication” though, the Dead are beginning to reveal their true form, as the song begins to shed its verse-chorus structure and depart into musical freedom, lead by Jerry Garcia’s somewhat restrained lead guitar. Later in the set, the band moves through a solid version of its folk-y classic “Brown-Eyed Women” and sees Jerry Garcia lay down a strong “Row Jimmy”.  It is the closing song of Set One that stands out, though. The aforementioned “Dancin’ in the Streets” certainly dates this concert, but it is still a nearly 20 minute trip through a psychedelic disco, with the band tight as ever, each floating around the central groove before rejoining to end the song. 

It is in Set Two, however, where the magic of the Grateful Dead really shines.  If Set One represents some level of musical restraint, then it can be said that the opening notes of “Scarlet Begonias” represent a point of no return into total musical freedom.

Paired with its longtime song partner, “Fire on the Mountain”, this monster 25 minute “Scarlet Fire” cements its place as one of its most popular examples, with a focused mid-point transition, and Jerry Garcia’s guitar soaring above the huge wave of sound provided by his bandmates during the last half of “Fire on the Mountain”.  The following “Estimated Prophet”, a personal favorite, is the darkness to the light that precedes it, with Bob Weir describing a seemingly apocalyptic vision of delusion with a backdrop of a romanticized version of America before allowing the music to leave into a snaking cosmic exploration.  The band comes back to Earth with a strong version of the classic favorite, “St. Stephen” sandwiching a sprawling “Not Fade Away”.

What comes next, though, is for me, the high water mark of perhaps all of the Grateful Dead that I have heard, truly.  Attendees of the concert have since described feeling a wave of energy radiate from the crowd as they heard the opening notes of this “Morning Dew”, a relative rarity.  Beginning as a low-energy, somber tune, “Morning Dew” rises in energy as it progresses to its emotional peak, where instrumental music says all and more than lyrics possibly could have.  Closing with the utterance, “I guess it doesn’t matter anyway…”, Jerry Garcia speaks to the existentialist that lives within all, urging listeners to live in the present, as the past is gone and the future is coming.

So is this truly the “greatest Dead show of all time”?  For me, this question can not be answered, as the musical power that the Grateful Dead convey can not be simplified to any moment, song, or concert.  What this concert is, though, is a measuring stick.  This concert brings unparalleled consistency, power, tightness, exploration, and emotion together to deliver the trademark Dead experience.  So, if you can only listen to one Dead show, make it this one.

This concert can be heard on the Grateful Dead’s newly released “Cornell 5/8/77” set, either as a 3-CD or 5-LP set, or, of course, on digital streaming and download services.

http://www.syracuse.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2017/05/legend_of_1977_grateful_dead_show_at_cornell_lives_on_at_40th_anniversary.html

http://www.spin.com/2017/05/grateful-dead-day-cornell-show-40th-anniversary/

http://www.stereogum.com/1939833/why-even-non-heads-should-listen-to-grateful-deads-famous-cornell-show-from-40-years-ago-today/franchises/sounding-board/

 

 

Lotus: A Park City Live Review

When there’s nothing happening in Salt Lake City, it’s often worth checking up on SLC’s smaller neighbor, Park City. While packed during the Sundance Film Festival, Park City has a toned down local feel for the rest of the year. With the size of city being so small, it’s surprising that it still manages to pack a strong punch when it comes to booking top quality bands. Park City Live is a concert venue in the center of historic Main Street. Their Winterfest concert series helps people like me who dread the winter to have something to look forward to during the year’s darkest months. This year the venue booked current big names like Major Lazer and Marshmello, but also has some more eclectic picks ranging from Bluegrass bands to Reggae in the lineup. No matter what your tastes, its likely Park City Live has booked some serious talent within your favorite genres.

Last Saturday the venue hosted Lotus, a band formed in 1999 that has since been heavily touring venues and music festivals across the country. They’re pioneers in a genre best labeled as “jamtronica”. A mixture of classic jazz band jamming and improvised electronic music. The combination of the two leads to a unique sound and a wide range of tempos from get up and dance or sit back and chill.  While the band worked as a well-oiled machine with each musician playing off one another, the guitarist Michael Rempel really stood out. The riffs he provided often brought the funk to their songs, getting the greatest reaction from the audience. Near the end of the set the band played their song Greet the Mind, during which Michael’s playing brought the filled venue to a state of boogie.

The crowd Lotus brought together is a testament to their music. It’s free of any labels of classification and requires only a mind open to good music. Just looking into the crowd you could see a range of people from those dressed in full costume to elderly couples swing dancing. Going solo to a Lotus show like I did only means there’s a greater opportunity to meet friendly and interesting people. Among the crowd I met a group of real estate agents from San Francisco, a raver chick from California, and a nomad who shapes his travel itinerary according to the touring schedule of the band. After questing him more, I realized that he was hardly an anomaly. Lotus has a grouping of roadies that follow them from show to show particularly for the open-hearted scene their music creates. This following is also due to the jam aspect of their set. No two Lotus shows are the same, providing a unique experience only available in the present moment of their concert.

 

Arms and Sleepers Concert Reflections

Full disclosure, I had never heard any of the bands and as such, this was my first experience listening to all of them. The show started off later than I expected for Kilby Court with the group Soft Blonde. My hopes for an awesome show crumbled as the two men on stage before me began a warbling croon. This went on for several seconds until the real show began and reignited my hopes with an abrupt shift into their synth heavy music that set the crowd into a trance. Soft Blonde’s slower sounds set the stage for AudioTreat’s entrance. The producer of AudioTreats made the show by putting a ton of energy into his dancing and stage presence which enhanced their “Swanky Grooves.” The group fully came together when their singer took the stage, a 19 year old female vocalist who reminded me of Aluna George. Their performance was the highlight of my evening.

After the energy put into the show by AudioTreats I wasn’t as ready for the slower pacing of YEYEY. I appreciated the projections he brought that added to the music and he held his own. Continuing on, the main act of the night, Arms and Sleepers were perfect for the intimate setting that is Kilby Court. The connection between the band and the audience made hearing their tracks a memorable experience. I left with an afterglow and a satisfaction of hearing the new bands. All the bands I saw are worth a listen and seeing live, with a special emphasis on AudioTreats.

Arms and Sleepers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LucQTHULdBs

https://soundcloud.com/arms-and-sleepers/swim-team

 

YEYEY,

https://soundcloud.com/yeyeyband/sets/yeyey-the-vision

 

AudioTreats,

https://soundcloud.com/audiotreatsproduction/scope

https://soundcloud.com/audiotreatsproduction/farewell-part-a

 

Soft Blonde

https://softblondemusic.bandcamp.com/track/i-should-go