Phish Dick’s 2017: Nights Two and Three

In what has become a solid yearly tradition, Phish brought three nights of high-energy improvisatory rock and roll to a sold-out Dick’s Sporting Goods Arena (soccer stadium) in Commerce City, Colorado this past Labor Day weekend. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the Saturday (Night Two) and Sunday (Night Three) shows. Without any shows scheduled for the rest of the year, Phish closed off a historic summer, riding high on the wave of a solid thirteen-night residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City (Baker’s Dozen Run).

One of the most fun aspects of any Phish show is the fact that the musical performance is only one part (albeit a very large one) of the full “experience”.  Upon arriving at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (lovingly referred to as “Phish Dick’s”), phans are met with a very large and accessible Shakedown Street, the open air market that began at the time of the Grateful Dead. Colorful vendors sell food, drinks, artwork, glass, t-shirts, and other less-than-legal items to pre-show partiers in what may be one of the most fun examples of unregulated capitalism.  I was impressed by the size of Dick’s Shakedown, and a walk through is a key part of the Phish show ritual.

Upon entering Dick’s itself, I was surprised by the size of the venue.  Dick’s is certainly no Meadowlands Stadium, but it is definitely larger than a venue such as Madison Square Garden, for example.  With a sold-out crowd, the venue became a cozy sea of bodies very quickly but never felt too uncomfortably tight.  A quick overview of the stage showed that the amazing Madison Square Garden Baker’s Dozen lighting rig was once again being used, with lighting director Chris Kuroda at the helm. (An aside: It is quite unusual for fans of a group to know the name of the lighting director, however, Kuroda’s lighting rig is such an integral part of the live Phish experience that fans have taken to calling him CK5, with ‘5′ designating him as the group’s fifth member.)

On Saturday night, the band came on slightly after 8 pm, launching into the classic “Simple”.  As an opener, “Simple” received a solid jam treatment, stretching out to fourteen minutes before giving way to a dance-party “Martian Monster”. Other Set One highlights included a very tight “Reba”, a rousing “Sand”, and a jammed-out “Wolfman’s Brother” towards the end of the set.  With the amount of jamming and exploration that occurred in Set One, there was a palpable “How can they possibly follow that up?” feeling throughout the crowd.

Overall, Set Two was a pure Saturday-night rock and roll dance party.  While jaded Phish veterans may have been slightly underwhelmed by the lack of deep exploratory jamming, the solid third quarter Fuego, Steam, and Chalkdust Torture section provided the band with a chance to go into full singalong rock-star mode. A fourth quarter “Mike’s Groove” included a beautiful “Winterqueen>What’s the Use?” segue within, before giving way to a blissful “Slave to the Traffic Light” to end the set.  Encores included a fun “The Lizards” and a chaotic “Run Like an Antelope.”

As phans filled the stadium for Sunday night, many gave predictions for what the night would hold. Popular predictions were for a huge “Tweezer” or “Down With Disease” to open Set Two, but what Set One would hold was anyone’s guess.  Set One opened with a novelty “Buffalo Bill” before giving way to a funky-but-brief “Moma Dance”. For me, the real highlight was the second quarter, beginning with “The Wedge”.  “The Wedge” was jammed on nicely, but gave way to an extremely exploratory and somewhat dark “46 Days”.  After settling back down on Earth, guitarist Trey Anastasio led the way into a full-speed-ahead “Bathtub Gin”.  This jam reached an intense peak, where, in a very cliche moment, I completely forgot what song I was listening to before being reminded by the re-appearance of the recognizable “Gin” theme.

Photo by Taylor Hill

Those who put their money and reputation on a huge Set Two opening “Down With Disease” were certainly paid in full. The jam out of this DWD was full Type I guitar-hero, with Trey soloing straight to an early peak before giving way to a dark and ambient section.  Out of this ambiance arose a slow building and intensely evil group jam, which became so full of psychedelic energy that it could best be described as an alien spaceship launch meets a Chernobyl-level reactor failure.  Segueing out of “Disease”, the first notes of “Light” were accompanied by thousands of glow sticks being thrown from the upper seating levels, giving the sense of a glow stick rainstorm, quickly leading the way into a more blissful jam, followed by the inspirational stadium-rock of “Rise”. Other personal Set Two highlights were a fun and adventurous “Piper” and a very tense but exhilarating “Possum”.

I was very pleased with the first encore, “Waste”, as it is one of the few Phish songs whose lyrics are somewhat meaningful to me, and despite being very similar each time, is very uplifting.  The final song of Dick’s 2017 was “First Tube”, giving phans one last chance to dance all of their energy out, and leaving them with the image of guitarist Trey Anastasio, bathed in white light, with guitar held high overhead.

I cannot close out this review without including this personal story though, which I feel is truly representative of what Phish is about.  On Sunday night, I was only able to attend the show alone.  While sitting down to relax before the show, I started chatting with the guy next to me about the run of shows.  He soon introduced me to his crew, a diverse group of experienced phans, many who had met each other through Phish concerts alone, and soon I was part of a larger group, even if only for the show.  During set break though, I went to check my phone, only to be met with a black screen.  Dead phone.  This was definitely a problem for me, as the venue was about 11 miles away from where I was staying in Denver, I was alone, and had been planning to use Uber or Lyft to return after the show.

I mentioned this to Nate, one of the guys in the group that I had been happily pulled into.  He told me not to worry about it at all and to just enjoy the show because his crew would get me home. After the show ended, Nate and his crew told me to come with them, and they grabbed me an Uber back to their place in Denver, where I was able to charge my phone and meet a few more of their friends before making my way back to where I was staying.  I am so thankful to Nate, Matt, Trey, Casey, and all of the other guys and girls in their crew whose names escape me for helping me out despite just meeting me, and I will pass on that good energy for sure.  These are the kind of people that Phish attracts, and I am so glad to be a part of that scene. I encourage anyone who can to attend a Phish show and form their own opinion of “Phans” and the music that unites them.

 

Check out the full Sunday night performance here!

 

Featured image by John Leyba, The Denver Post

Crucial Quest: Day 2

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.

Morgan C.

There’s a certain pride one feels whilst taking part in a local made event such as Crucialfest. This Utah created and sustained event does nothing short of give back to everyone involved. With a killer line-up of local and touring bands, Crucialfest 7 has arrived once again to give Salt Lake’s people a loud and lively week of musical chaos and energized performances to look forward to.

That being said, the week is an exciting one with several after dark shows kicking off the crucial-week at participating venues Metro Music Hall and Urban Lounge (which happen to be just a couple of favorite local venues in the SLC music scene) and the main two-day event taking place at the Gateway.  The second day into the main event I was able to catch a couple of shows earlier in the day, including, The Flatliners, a punk band straight from the Ontario Canada ska/punk scene with catchy melodies carrying classic punk sound construction and gritty yells alternating simple chord progression.

But, ultimately my Crucial quest led me back to the outdoor setup later in the evening, and as I approached the Slug stage, Pinback was beginning to set up their equipment. Perfect, since they were on the agenda to see for the evening.

I’ve met quite a few ‘Pinnies’ as I like to call them- Long-time fans of Pinback. People who get it, people who pick-up the musical messages the band is putting down. Because of these encounters, I was pleased to check out the group first hand myself. Not being a prior fan, the first thing I noticed was how there was two guitarist taking main stage, and how they appeared to be playing the same chords in the same pattern at the same time. However, I then heard the combined vocals of lead and co-lead singers, Rob Crow and Zach Smith, in which I began to see the effective use of two leads. The gentle voice of Rob Crow breathed somewhat meaningful lyrics over-energized instrumentals, while the vibrating tones of duel vocals danced on the jangly combination of drums and strings creating a hypnotic harmony which contributed to the continuous flow of melody, and I can see why so many ‘Pinnies’ give praise to this feel-good band.

Next up was Built to Spill a group from our neighbors in Boise. They hardly need an introduction considering they’ve been playing since the early 90’s with a fan base that has been listening just as long. Now, that’s not to say that they aren’t capturing the attention of new fans. As the instrument-driven band began to play it was apparent they were pulling the biggest crowd i’d seen in hours. Guitar riffs soared through the air piercing our ears with vibrant sound waves that quivered over steady basslines and drums, and the understated vocals echoed along giving a vintage feel reminiscent of the good vibes at Woodstock.

The last performance of the night was by headliner group the Growlers, and the Cali grown 7-piece group did not disappoint. The entire performance oozed a groovy aesthetic with the lead singer wearing a painfully cool printed collar shirt strutting around purring catchy lyrics tied to the string of wailing sounds being emitted by the whole lot of garage-rock dudes.

The vocals alone lived up to the band’s name as pithy one-liners like “drinking the juice” and “If your heart thinks I’m a crock of shit, then I’ll follow it” were growled towards the audience. The unrefined vocals and sounds of multiple instruments produced a fun raw sound akin to other popular garage rock groups such as the Hives and Hot Hot Heat for an exhilarating performance that acted as a bid goodbye to the super fun fest. Till next year!

 

Morgan P.

Not to be cheesy or anything, but this fest is crucial for our salty city. This was the seventh Crucial Fest and first one to be so large. SLC is too often overlooked as a music hub but in recent years there has been more attention directed here and it’s events like this that makes that happen.

Rolling up to The Gateway later in the day felt so comfortable and nostalgic, sending me back a few years to when I would take Trax down with a friend just to window shop and hang out in the city. It’s really cool to see how the mall has changed over the years although it is bittersweet to see the shops that have gone. However, the unique use of space for music and community events is a novel idea that I hope continues in the future.

After a spontaneous trip to Wyoming, I, unfortunately, missed a few of the opening bands but after being at the venue all day on Saturday, I couldn’t really feel too bad. The first item of business: finding a spot to set up camp so the K-UTE crew and company would have a place to hang out in between sets. We found two chairs on the turf between the Rye and Graywhale tents and never had less than three people sitting together enjoying the late summer day and stellar music.

The Flatliners were the first band on when I got there and although I’d never listened to them before, but their old school style punk rock sound made my inner riot grrrl way too happy.

POS was the next artist up and I wasn’t particularly interested in this performance until I saw the huge crowd that had gathered but were facing away from the stage. It took me a second to realize Stefon Alexander was standing on the stairs next to the SLUG Stage. I wandered over to see what was up just in time for him to be in the center of the crowd absolutely commandeering the energy. Everyone watching was so intently INTO the show that even people who probably wouldn’t have normally come over were expanding the crowd even further.

The indie rock vibes that seemed to dominate the lineup continued when Minus The Bear took the stage. For me, this performance wasn’t as much about seeing the band as it was hearing the music exist as background sound while walking through all different groups of people, checking out the art gallery, and relaxing under the trees. I was quite pleased with the mix of songs they chose to play what with their newest album, VOIDS, having come out in March.

As far as the second day goes, Built To Spill is who I was looking forward to most. Carry The Zero had come up on my Spotify discover playlist a few weeks prior and quickly found its way onto frequent rotation within my own playlists. I’ll admit that I don’t have any sort of vast knowledge on the rest of their songs but that didn’t make seeing them live any less special. Contrary to the popular belief that you have to know every word and riff to every song by a band before the band even knows they’re a band — you don’t. It is possible to like a band even if you only know one song; who would’ve guessed?! After all, there is simply too much music in the world to go that in depth with every artist.

Finally, headliners, The Growlers took the main stage and immediately began belting out their signature sound of beach goth vibes. Having grown in popularity at an immense pace over the last decade, The Growlers showed their finesse. The band shifted between songs from their discography with personal favorites “Chinese Fountain” and “Someday” receiving the love treatment. The crowd was going wild for it. Most Growler songs keep it poppy within the requisite three to four-minute song length, but on stage, the band took each song into the stratosphere, stretching out the catch guitar riffs and general fun for much longer. Fantastic renditions permeated the end of the night. Because now Crucial Fest was completed. A fabulous four days of music and energy. Seeing the festival growing was a spectacle in of itself and I can’t wait to see what happens next year!

A Night In The Red Rocks

People do crazy things to see the bands they love. I have waited in the scorching heat and freezing cold. I have traveled across the country and around the globe. I have gone to incredible lengths just for a couple hours of live music.

I saw The Head and The Heart and Grouplove in August of this year. I highly-anticipated this show since I bought the tickets back in December of 2016. Not only was it 2 bands that I really liked, (and have seen both live before), but it was performed in what is often regarded as the best concert venue in the US: Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. This was the type of concert that I knew was going to be legendary from the moment it was announced.

For those who have never been to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, it’s truly a spectacle. Located 30 minutes outside of Denver, the venue is placed around a breathtaking landscape. Massive red rocks eject out of the green hills creating a visual masterpiece. Smashed in-between a couple of these rocks is a 10,000-person open-air theatre. Because it’s built on a hill, everyone in the venue can easily see the stage. The sound becomes amplified around the rocks creating natural acoustics which make the sounds feels like they’re coming down from heaven.

Artists and fans alike understand the reputation of the venue and act accordingly. The energy of the musicians and the crowd is unparalleled. It is common for bands to say, “It’s great to be back here at ______”. But when they’re at Red Rocks, they actually mean it.

Grouplove played first. I say played first instead of opened because both bands are good enough to headline. The indie rock band from Los Angeles could sell out the venue by themselves. The 2 bands have toured together before and are close friends. Grouplove never fails to entertain. The frontmen of the band and partners, Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, dance around, feeding off each other’s energy for their hour-long set.

They played 14 songs including the more well-known “Itching on a Photograph,” “Tongue Tied”, and my personal favorites “Hippy Hill” and “Enlighten Me”. Their music is up-tempo, happy, and perfect for dancing along to. After seeing their enjoyment and pure love for what they do, it’s almost impossible not to have a good time.

The Head and The Heart is much more mellow but equally as entertaining. The Seattle Band’s indie folk sound relies heavily on 3 part harmonies from vocalists Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russel, and Charity Rose Theilen. They played a 15-song set list, a 4-song encore, and were on stage for 1 hour 45 minutes.

Both times I have seen them, they have ended with the familiar “Rivers and Roads”. The song off their self-titled debut album is what propelled the group into fame and is still a favorite among many fans. The final lyrics, “rivers and roads, rivers and roads, rivers till I reach you”, are repeated multiple times. Theilen starts as the lone vocalist. She messes around with the melody adding musical expression and variation not heard in the recording. The instruments and other vocalists slowly build as the entire crowd sings along.

These final lyrics provide hope for something not yet achieved. To desire something more is human. We may be searching for different things but we are all searching. For some it is that one person they can’t live without, some might be looking for success in their career, others just want to find live music. Whatever you’re looking for, go down every road and every river, til you find it.

The Freedom of Music

Concerts on the first day of school have a sentimental meaning for me. When I first started school at the U, I moved into the dorms on a Thursday. That night, I journeyed to Pioneer Park with a couple of classmates. Kid Cudi would perform in what was the most attended Twilight Concert to date.

I remember how incredible I felt that day. For the first time in my life, I experienced true freedom. Freedom to stay out as late as I want. Freedom to go to a rap concert singing songs about marijuana. Freedom to be me, whoever that was. I had no idea what lie ahead of me that year, yet I was ready to accept the consequences of my own decisions.

4 years later in 2017, on the first day of school, the day of the solar eclipse, I journeyed downtown again. This time the venue was a little smaller, the artist had a little less hype, but that same feeling persisted. Washed Out was playing with Dega at the Depot.

The Depot is one of my favorite venues is Utah. They sell tickets at the door on Fridays prior to the show, eliminating the always dreaded service fees. Security works quickly and effectively. The venue stays relatively cool and has appropriate seating for those who want to sit. The sound is not overbearing but clear. The doors opened at 7. Dega started playing at 8 and Washed Out at 9:30.

Dega set the stage for an awesome show. Their set up included various synthesizers, a couple of microphones, a guitar, bass, and a computer with drum backing tracks. Both musicians played a variety of the instruments and added vocals. They did what all openers should do, get the crowd excited for the show.

Washed Out, aka Ernest Greene, is on tour following his June release Mister Mellow, a psychedelic chillwave album that explores stonerism and the monotony of life. The entire album has a coordinated visual music video designed to create a psychedelic or trippy experience for the viewer.

Washed Out played several songs off of his latest release as well as some older crowd favorites. The entire show was set with timed light cues and different projections on a screen behind the musicians. Washed Out truly personified his sound. He danced around like a lazy stoner lost in the music. Greene’s enchanting vocals gave the impression of daydreaming. The crowd fell under his spell and swayed along for what could have been 30 minutes or 3 hours.

This concert meant more to me than just the music. It represented a new school year, a new opportunity. I’m not sure who I’ll be at the end of it and I’m not sure exactly how I’ll get there.  Although I am filled with uncertainty, here’s to one more year. Another year of concerts. Another year of school. A couple more late nights in the library and weekends downtown. A few more friends made and hopefully a couple less lost. Whatever happens, music will help me get through.

 

Why I Go to Concerts: Beach Fossils at In the Venue

It’s seven thirty on a Saturday night. The doors to In the Venue were supposed to open thirty minutes ago. Instead, the line wraps around the corner and half way down the block. The heat is almost unbearable. The people in line squeeze together trying to hide under any shade they can find.

An hour passes. The heat has somewhat subsided as the sun begins to set, but everyone just wants to get inside. Ablebody begins to play. The sound echoes through the windows with hundreds of people still outside. I hear some voice their frustration saying they came just to see this band. The line slowly begins to move. By the time I get inside, they are wrapping up their set list and I hear only one song.

The second band, She-Devils, only has two members. Their performance struggles to captivate the attention of the audience. The instrumentation sounds disconnected from the vocals and the music unpracticed. Some listen silently while others converse.

The headliner of tonight’s show is Beach Fossils. The indie-pop band from Brooklyn, New York has experienced moderate success since their formation in 2009. They are currently on a world tour showcasing their June release, Somersault.

When Beach Fossils gets on stage, there are issues equalizing the music. Frustration sweeps over their faces as they converse with the engineer. “Can I get some more keyboard in this monitor?” “More guitar over here.” The lead singer, Dustin Payseur, leaves the stage to try and mend the situation.

After thirty minutes, everything sounds good and the band begins to play. The tired audience has little energy during the first couple songs. After a slow start, a couple people start to dance and their excitement radiates throughout the rest of the crowd. Within seconds the entire vibe changes. “I was wondering when you guys were gonna wake up”, Payseur asks.

I somehow find myself three rows from the stage with nothing to do but enjoy the show. For the next hour, I dissipate into the crowd. I am entranced by the music and the motion of those surrounding me. The outside world seems disconnected and my entire existence seems limited to the five hundred people under the same roof.

Many artists love playing in Utah solely for the passion of the audience. Utahans always show their appreciation for a good performance. Several concertgoers hopped on stage then surfed off into the crowd. While mosh pits may not be customary at indie-pop concerts, in Utah it is expected. When the enthusiasm of the crowd went up so did the band’s. They played a variety of fan favorites including Saint Ivy, Daydream, and This Year.

At the show, I was reminded why I go to concerts. Despite the heat, the long lines, and the problems with the tech, I genuinely enjoyed myself. For a short time, I was able to forget about everything outside of the venue’s walls. I didn’t have to worry about school, work, or the current state of our country. I could just listen to music and dance with my friends.

Twilight In Ogden: Miike Snow & Klangstof

Ogden Twilight has not disappointed me yet. If you’ve ever driven to Ogden from Salt Lake City, you may know how bad traffic can get between Farmington and Ogden. On the way to the Miike Snow concert, the traffic doubled due to an automobile accident. That did not stop me from seeing Swedish band Miike Snow and Dutch/Norwegian band Klangstof with a spotlight on local heroes New Shack.

Driving an hour north is usually worth it when going to the Ogden Amphitheater. It’s a very nice, friendly, and welcoming venue. When I arrived, I bought myself a frozen pink lemonade, and smoked while I waited for Klangstof. A very clear day, only a few small cirrus clouds in the sky. The place was getting packed. Due to the traffic, I only caught the last few moments of New Shack’s set. I listened to their music on SoundCloud when I got home. New Shack is from Provo, UT and they have a very new age indie pop sound.

Klangstof is a progressive/indie/alternative-rock band. The drummer would go back and forth from drum pad to traditional drums. Sometimes, you can tell when a band stumbled into the music industry; Klangstof is not one of those bands. These guys look like they have been on the grind for a while, and they are now on tour with Miike Snow. I fell in love with Klangstof‘s singer Koen Van De Wardt. He said the band, Miike Snow, had an incredible Swedish tobacco, but it stops working. The joke fell flat but I laughed.

From what I can tell, it can’t be easy to keep a band together. The way Koen kept all of his band mates engaged and relaxed showed me how real this band is. Very dual-sided, beautiful, light at times, with droning tones and complex shredding. This band was perfect for helping me release the built up tension from the awfulness of the world. After Klangstof‘s set, I felt like maybe things aren’t that bad.

After playing with the Pepsi Patrol, there was a brief introduction to the indie/pop/electronic band, Miike Snow, from the same host who introduces every Ogden Twilight I’ve been to. She introduced the band and then about ten minutes later Miike Snow came on.

This band had been apart for a little while working on solo projects. At first, they seemed to be very okay with me taking photos. It seemed Andrew Wyatt was even giving me some poses. I got carried away and kept taking photos. I’m very enthralled with this band in general. Towards the end, he seemed to break the pose he was making as soon as I lifted my camera (I don’t think bands like it when you watch their sets through your phone screen).

He kept a great and electrical energy the whole time; this band is so cool, Pontus Winnberg is my favorite.  The drummer, whose name I can’t find, had the key to my heart. the other band member, I can’t find his name either, absolutely stole the show with his sick licks. He was not regular bandmate Christian Carlson, he was not there on this particular night, however, he is a very important part of Miike Snow.

These guys are some real and professional musicians, which don’t always go hand in hand. I caught a glimpse of the setlist taped to the stage after the show and they had the encore they did on the set list. The encore song was “Animal”, a very popular song of theirs and I’m glad I got to see them play it.

This music definitely does not look easy to make happen every night sofor that, I thank you, Miike Snow. I can tell this band has made a real difference in people lives for the better. I’ve been a Miike Snow-Flake for a while now, it’s absolutely great music for dancing out the feels. Overall, a stellar end to the Ogden Twilight concerts.

 

New Shack- Soundcloud

Klangstof- Spotify

Miike Snow- Spotify