(Photo Credit: Kristin Barlowe)
(Photo Credit: Kristin Barlowe)
I had the opportunity last week to spend some time with L.A. based band Kolars. In preparation for my interview I with them I downloaded their 2017 self-titled album and their new single “King of Carrot Flowers”. I immediately fell in love with this band. Their music has been on constant repeat ever since. I was a little nervous that I would be overly praising upon meeting them. No one likes a kiss up! But I think any artist would like to hear if someone likes their music. I really enjoyed spending time with Rob and Lauren. They were really laid back and gave some really insightful information on the interworking of Kolars. Enjoy!
Utah Concert Review: How did you to come together as a band?
Rob Kolar: Well we’ve been doing music and arts and theater for Lauren for a long time. This thing kind of came out of the ashes of heartbreak with other projects. So we were in another group that toured for a long time and people just sort of wanted to go their different ways. People didn’t want to tour anymore. And we were kind of like man, maybe this is over. So I was thinking ok well maybe I’ll do a solo album or something and Lauren was focusing on other things and directing some plays and then it was like well, we can still have a band with the two of us. What if we just…
Lauren Brown: But it was a scary prospect too because it was like, ‘Is two people enough? Is it interesting enough? how do we fill out the other sounds? We still want to have a bass. We still want to have all these other things. And I was always drumming and tapping in the background with this other band and with this I would be in the front and everyone could see what I was doing. In a positive way, but also in a negative way where I felt exposed. So that was scary.
RK: And before I was co-fronting, and now I’m the only singer. So there’s these of like, ok all these things are going to be a challenge, but it’s what we want to do.
LB: (Laughing) Now we just have to get better at it.
RK: Yeah, so we got lucky because our first tour was with this band called The Revivalists. They have a single that’s become a hit. But at the time they were just breaking. So we got on the road with them and we were just honing in on what we do…
LB: Our first show was a sold out 600 person show. And I remember being petrified because our first show was in front of all that instead of being a small show in front of Mom and Dad and our friends. So that moment was Sink or Swim. I always felt like look, if I could do that first show in front of all those people and be that scared and get through it and then think I did well at it, you feel like you can do, well not anything, but you’re definitely more confident.
UCR: I really enjoyed listening to this album. Each time I listened to it, I would notice something new in each song. There were a lot of layers in this album.
LB: That’s this guy right here!
UCR: I can tell that you put a lot of work into making this album. Some people love getting in the studio and making the album, others want to make the album simply to get out on the road and perform because performing live is their preference. Which do you prefer, the studio or the stage?
LB: That’s a good question man! We’ll probably totally different on that!
RK: That is a good question. I think I’m right in the middle where it’s both. I don’t think I’d be satisfied if it were leaning one way or the other. But there is something I really adore about being in the studio like a scientist tweaking things. I love exploring and making the song come to life in the studio. There’s something really special about that. But I love being on stage. Especially with Lauren because she really gives it and pushes me to go even further with my performance.
LB: I’m not somebody who likes the studio. I like the performance. I feel like I learn the most from the performance. And not even because people are watching. I escape in what I’m doing in that format. It’s my meditation. I’ve been a dancer since I was a little kid so that’s what I’m drawn to. I hate rehearsals. I like talking about ideas. I like directing shows. But no, the studio is not really where I’m at.
RK: That’s accurate.
LB: But I’m still there!
UCR: So how did your part tap, part percussion come about? Was is born out of necessity? Or did you think “Well, I dance, and I play rhythm so…”?
LB: No, I didn’t play any rhythm. I was a dancer and I was tapping with one of Rob’s earlier bands along with the drummer and then the drummer quit so Rob’s idea for me was to learn all the drums and keep up with the tap. So I created this whole thing based on necessity. Based on we didn’t have a drummer. We didn’t want to hire a new drummer. Ok, I’m going to figure this out. So I started with one drum, and Rob would play the kick drum. And I would just split a kit with him. And he’s already playing rhythm guitar so we were really splitting the rhythm section. And then I took the kick. So now I play the kick, the tom, and the snare, and I do the tap at the same time.
RK: It was definitely an evolution. Even the tap box itself started with just an old plank of wood with a mic. Then we nailed apple boxes together. And now we’ve converted a kick drum into a platform. So it just keeps evolving every couple of years. She either enters a new phase with her ability as a drummer. And the kit evolves with new elements and new drums.
LB: I just want to keep getting better.
UCR: Isn’t that cool though? How long has rock n roll or popular music been around? Seventy years? You start to feel like everything has been figured out or done. And then this comes around. I don’t know if anyone else is doing anything like this.
LB: I think it’s just me.
RK: It’s really exciting. Also as a songwriter, because she doesn’t have a lot of cymbal use, and the beats and rhythms are simple and kind of guttural but still have a pulse, as a songwriter that’s what you want underneath your songs. Because that’s what’s propelling it. Because a lot of times you’ll see bands and you’ll see drummers who are using different elements and cymbals and sometimes that’s competing with the vocals and other things. But in this case it just kind of fits right.
LB: And we’re creating rhythms for dancers because I’m a dancer. So I want to create a rhythm that I want to dance to because I’m actually dancing to it. So I can only go so fast or do it so slow because I’m actually dancing.
UCR: Well and as you already know, with dance, it’s all timing, so while the transition to percussion might not be easy, it does make sense.
LB: And I was keeping time with my feet and doing fills with my feet. So it’s just trying to figure out what to do with my hands.
RK: It’s inverting the kit. Because she plays the kick drum with a mallet with her hand, where usually a drummer would play it with their foot. And her feet are doing what a drummer would usually do with their hands.
When I first heard of how Lauren does percussion I have to admit I was extremely skeptical. A tap dancing drummer? I don’t know, sounds kind of gimmicky. But I was wrong to be so cynical because it was awesome! Not only is it a huge part of the visual aspect of the show, but the driving style of her rhythm removes any thought of it being a gimmick. As you read, it was born out of necessity, but now it’s essential to their sound and live performance. Click here to get an idea of what tapping and drumming looks like. Ok back to the interview!
UCR: I want to preface this by saying that you definitely have your sound. There is definitely a Kolars sound. But as was listening to the album I heard “Turn Out the Lights” and thought ‘Oh, I can hear elements of Joy Division or early New Order.’
LB: I love that. Thank you!
UCR: But then I’d hear “Bullet on the Run” and I recall thinking, ‘I wish Johnny Cash was still alive because I could totally hear him covering this song.’ So it caused me to wonder, who are your musical influences?
RK: Amazing. Those are some of our biggest influences.
LB: Totally! You nailed it, dude!
RK: We love 80’s New Wave whether it’s New Order or Echo and the Bunnymen, or The Cars. But we also love Eddie Cochran, Elvis, and Johnny Cash. We love that early country, rockabilly blues style. But we also love glam rock like T Rex and stuff like that.
LB: I always want drums to sound like Gary Glitter. Fat, Dead, Big.
RK: So we kind of pull from every era. That’s what we always wanted to do. And how do we do that without making it sound like a weird collage? Like how do we do it to where we honor it and it gels. That’s what we’re hoping to do, but you kind of roll the dice a little bit.
UCR: That’s not easy to do but I think you’ve done a great job blending elements of different styles with your own sound.
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you went to?
RK: Yes. Definitely! Mine was Rancid at the Palladium in Hollywood. And it was mind-blowing! I was like 12, and my mom just dropped me off with my friends for my birthday present. So I get dropped off, and of course, I was still growing and I wasn’t super tall and I just remember looking around and seeing all these mohawks and chains and leather jackets and these real authentic punk rockers. I was thinking “I think I need to change my hairstyle”. Because I had that 90’s parted in the middle cut. So got into the show and I had never seen a mosh pit and I’m watching this spiral of people and looking to my friends saying “I just gotta do it.” So ran in and I was like a sock in a washing machine. I was just thrust around all over but it was thrilling! I mean, I’m a young adult, and there are my idols at the time on stage rocking out.
UCR: The floor at the Palladium is huge. That must have been an enormous mosh pit.
RK: There were actually three separate mosh pits!
LB: I’m going to go a different direction. My grandma took me to see Gregory Hines (tap dancing legend). He was alone and did all these solos. And if we were tap dancers we were told to bring our shoes. Then we were invited to go on stage and dance with him. My grandma was very much like “Get up there. Get on up there.” I was so scared and so embarrassed, but I went up. He has since passed but he was brilliant. So yeah, that’s what I remember. Polar opposite of Rob’s.
RK: But it’s sort of formed where we are now to a degree. Like we’re somewhere in the middle of that.
UCR: What was your best live experience as a band?
LB: That’s so hard.
RK: We did this festival in Germany. We didn’t know what to expect. It was wild, there was this line down the block. It’s this festival put on by Rolling Stone. Spoon and some other cool bands were there. They put us in this smallish club where you can fit a few hundred people.
LB: We had never played there before! We had never even been to that part of Germany.
RK: Yeah, never played there, very little publicity there, but the crowd went wild. And on the last song, we have this section where we try to get the crowd to clap along with and literally everybody in the crowd was clapping along to the point where the claps were louder than our playing. So there was this feeling of everyone being united in this moment and experiencing it with the band to where they were almost as much of the band as we are.
LB: I think I started crying a little. It was just kind of mind-blowing.
RK: Yeah I think I did afterward off stage. You just felt the emotion in the room.
LB: And I think we just felt like, if there were just twenty people in there we would have been excited. But then you see a line to get in and you’re like “What? Is this a dream coming true?”
RK: And we’ve had some rough shows along the way. Then you have a show like that it makes everything feel like “Ok, keep going. There’s more of these in front of you.”
I sincerely believe the best is yet to come from this band. As I mentioned, I fell in love with this band right when I heard their first song “One More Thrill” on their self-titled debut album. However, there is nothing I love more than when I see what a band can do on stage. It’s just the two of them up there. They have a little help with some pre-programmed baselines and synth, but that’s it. Rob’s voice sounds great live. And he has all the charisma and stage presence necessary to be a frontman all on his own. His signature guitar style meshed with Lauren’s one of a kind percussions, they’re a band you will see on the rise from here on out. I told them it wouldn’t be long before they’d be moving from 200 person Kilby Court to selling out The Complex which holds about 3,000. Not only do I believe they’re that good, but they clearly have the work ethic to make it happen. Click here for more information on Kolar’s music and tour dates.
I first had the privilege of seeing Audra McDonald about twenty years ago when she originated the role of “Sarah” in the musical Ragtime. And while she was brilliant in the role it wasn’t until four years later that I understood her true brilliance, when I saw her sing the songs of Gershwin at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in Southern California. It was there that I realized that not only is her voice fantastic, but there is just so much more to her concert than just that amazing range. So when I discovered that she would be playing two nights with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall, I knew I had to be there.
Let me first share some thoughts on Abravanel Hall itself. If you’ve never been there, do yourself a favor and see a performance there. I would go as far as to say that it doesn’t even matter what the performance is. I’ve never been disappointed in any concert I’ve seen there. And from my experience, there isn’t really a bad seat in the hall. I was seated on Tier 1 stage right and I could see and hear everything. And while I may not be an expert in acoustics, I know that I love the way music sounds in Abravanel Hall. Some venues in Utah don’t have the best acoustics in my opinion and that can really affect a show negatively. The acoustics in Abravanel Hall only enhanced what was an amazing performance.
Now as I mentioned, you, of course, go see Audra McDonald for her beautiful voice. But what might not be expected is just how great she is between songs. Her storytelling is so engaging and her personality so bright that if you didn’t know just how special her singing voice was, you could sit there and listen to her tell stories all night. She shared information about each song from the composer to what musical it was in and always gave credit to whoever originated the role if it wasn’t her. She shared her experiences with these songs, why she chose them, or how she found them. She shared stories about her career and about her family and I was totally drawn into why these songs weren’t only great, but also why they mattered to her. It was perfect the way she would transition from the hilarious to the touching. It all felt so natural. It was as if she was sharing this information with a group of friends at a dinner party.
Because Audra is performing again tonight (March 24) I don’t want to spoil the setlist for anyone who will be attending. I like to be surprised and I hope you do too. However, I will say that you will not be disappointed in her song selection. She covers it all! She performs pieces from classic Broadway composers to modern up and coming Broadway composers, to jazz standards and of course gems from the Great American Songbook. You’ll hear some of your favorite songs and some new songs that you will be looking up and downloading because they will be new favorites for sure.
And that voice. Wow, that voice! I go to a lot of concerts ranging across the vast spectrum of music. And while I have been impressed with many vocalists, it’s amazing to see a voice used and treated like an instrument. She makes everything seem effortless. She would transition from her belt voice to her head voice and back again like it was nothing. And that is not easy to do. It was so smooth. Her diction and breath control were perfect. I almost took it for granted because she just made it look so easy. Her range is impressive, to say the least. I thought she was hitting some high notes until she really hit a high note! I didn’t expect another level like that. I was almost worried that the glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly in the foyer would shatter. I was in absolute awe.
I thought the Utah Symphony was in prime form at this concert. There were times I would just close my eyes and listen because I wanted to just hear the symphony blending perfectly with Audra and her three-piece backing band. You would think Audra and her pianist, drummer, and bassist had been practicing with the symphony for months and months. It was a beautiful collaboration.
How many times do we see that an artist was in town the previous night and wish we would have had the chance to see them? That happens to me regularly. Not many artists play Utah on back to back nights. They’re usually off to the next town before we wake up the next morning. So if you missed Friday night’s performance I can’t recommend attending Saturday night (March 24) enough. Audra McDonald truly is a once in a generation talent. And she’s in our state! She’d be amazing singing acapella on a chairlift in Park City. But you can see her in one of Salt Lake City’s most beautiful concert halls, with a symphony this state can be more than proud of. And if she moves you to tears with those pipes, I promise you won’t be alone. I may or may not have welled up during her closing number. But you’ll have to go to the concert to find out what it is!
Click here for tickets.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, or OMD, is a band my oldest sister introduced me to back in the 80’s. I knew within the first minute of their first hit “Electricity” that I was a big fan. So, of course, I was excited when I heard they were going to play The Depot on March 21. I was even more happy for them when I learned that Utah fans were so excited about this tour stop that the show was moved around the corner to the larger venue, The Complex in order to accommodate the ticket demand.
The last time OMD played Utah was as a support act for Barenaked Ladies in the summer of 2016 at Red Butte Gardens. They were great, but being a support act, they took the stage while the sun was still out, and it of course not everyone had arrived yet. So I couldn’t wait to see them back in the headlining slot.
One of the best things about seeing a band that you have loved for 30 years is all the memories you’ve had with these songs. The downside tends to be having to forgive a band that’s been doing it that long for having lost a step or two. How many times have you gone to see one of the favorite bands of your youth, and their songs seem slower, or they don’t move around the stage like they used to, or the lead singer just can’t hit the high notes like they did in days gone by. In the moment we’re usually just happy to hear the songs we love but usually, we’ll notice the decline and it becomes a quick reminder of how old we now are. And who wants to remember that?!
Well, that’s the amazing thing about OMD. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but they’re as good live, if not better than they’ve ever been! Frontman Andy McCluskey pushing 60 years old, was moving and dancing the whole show! He’s known for a unique style of dancing, (Back in the 80’s dance studios actually gave lessons trying to teach people this impossible to teach dancing style.) that is almost as much a part of the show as hearing “If You Leave” or “Joan of Arc”. Both Andy and fellow songwriter and sometimes vocalist Paul Humphreys have definitely retained their voices. Andy in particular, who sings all but four songs, somehow has the ability to sing after having danced through the entire instrumental break without any signs of being out of breath. He belts out the big notes with as much vocal power and resonance as he did in his 20s or 30s. As I listened to the commentary around me during the show, the dominant sentiment I heard was some form of, “Wow, he still sounds so good!” or “They sound exactly the same as they did back in the 80’s!”.
I felt like OMD successfully navigated their way through their setlist playing most of their biggest hits while blending songs from their new album The Punishment of Luxury. I think the best thing a band like OMD, where their fans are mainly there to hear the hits, can do is start the show with a new song or two. Which is exactly what OMD did. People are just so excited that a band they love has taken the stage that they’ll live off of that euphoria for a song or two before they’ll want to hear what they came for. OMD planned this perfectly by playing “Messages” a crowd favorite, for their third song in the set followed by Tesa Girls.
Something I was happy to see was how excited the crowd was to hear a relatively new song, at least not a song that would be positioned in the nostalgic catalog of their songs, The History of Modern. The first note of the song was heard and people went crazy. That had to feel good to a band that is still trying and succeeding to put out quality music. And I must say that I’ve been impressed with the albums they have released since their return in 2007. But that’s an article for others to put out. This isn’t Utah Album Review after all!
OMD played hits like “So in Love”, “Locomotion”, “Sailing on the Seven Seas” and “Dreaming”. OMD truly loves their loyal fans because they always play their biggest hit “If You Leave”, from the classic 80’s movie Pretty in Pink. I don’t think it’s their favorite song, but they still play it every time. And it’s obvious that the audience is thankful for it because they are singing every single word.
The highlight for me is always when they sing “Maid of Orleans”. Not only is it possibly my favorite OMD song, but it fits all the elements of a great OMD live performance. I love the lyrics, I love McCluskey’s vocals on this song, and there is a long instrumental piece to end the song so that we get to see Andy show off his dancing without the interruption of having to walk back to the microphone.
While Andy McCluskey is the front man, and his energy and charisma do dominate the show in a positive way, I love it when Paul Humphreys takes the mic. Not only are the songs he sings great, but he brings a calming change of pace to a mostly high energy show. The audience roared when he stepped to the front of the stage to sing “Forever Live and Die”. My favorite song of his is “Secret” which was played in the encore. A song that was not initially played when they made their return in 2007. Apparently, they heard the disappointment from their fans and have played the song ever since. Which is of course to our benefit.
Many might think of them as an 80’s band or a nostalgia act. But they’re not. They are actually a major influence in the world of popular and electronic music. Artists like Depeche Mode, Erasure, MGMT, No Doubt, Mark Ronson, LCD Soundsystem, Sugarland, and Howard Jones have all credited OMD as an influence on their music.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is one of my favorite bands. But I’ve seen a lot of my favorite bands from my youth and left feeling a little disappointed. Sometimes they just don’t have it anymore. OMD still has it! If you ever get the chance, go see this band!
New Shack is headlining Les Femmes De Velour second night (Feb 23). I was able to speak with lead vocalist Cat Leavy. Here is our conversation.
Utah Concert Review: I’m always interested in how things got started. How did you decide you wanted to do music, and how did you New Shack form?
Cat Leavy: Eric and I have similar backstories in that we weren’t originally pursuing music full time as careers. But it’s something that we’ve always done our whole lives. I was raised as a classical musician doing a lot of competitions and I always thought I was going to study music and become a classical performer but that changed. It was a really intense way to grow up. It’s something I still love. I practice the piano every day and I have a very deep love for classical music. But as a teenager, it became a very negative thing for me. I trend towards being obsessive and neurotic so it was a really negative environment for that. Just like the competition aspect. So yeah, I decided to stop doing classical music that way and I actually didn’t really think I’d ever come back to music but I did. And in my early twenties, I decided that I was going to use music as therapy, to write out my feelings. And at the same time, this was before I knew Eric, he lost his job and decided to do music full time. We met through mutual friends and began collaborating virtually because I was living in Germany. We just started emailing tracks between us. So Eric would come up with a cool beat, he would send it to me, then I would write a song to it, record some vocals then send it back to him. And then we would mix it and turn it into a finished product. What’s interesting is even now I live in L.A. and Eric lives in Utah and we still make all of our music virtually. With that said, I think that our live shows have a lot of different exciting qualities about it. Because when we get together and make a live version, it adds a whole different dimension to the music that is already there because we have to spend time figuring out how to really make it come together in a group setting because we don’t create it that way. So we have to put extra effort and strategy into figuring out how to make it translate live. I would describe our live show as our music but elevated. It has so much more excitement and presence. It’s been really fun to do that.
UCR: So how did you get involved with Les Femmes?
CL: Well Velour is our hometown venue. I’m from Provo. So I spent many high school nights at Velour. We perform most of our shows there so it’s really exciting to be able to headline Friday night. We’re basically friends with everyone we’re playing with. It’s a really positive cozy experience. It’s the atmosphere. It’s not too big, it’s perfect. We Love it.
UCR: So what can those attending Les Femmes this weekend expect. Not only for your performance but throughout the weekend?
CL: I think that they can expect a very wide range of musical styles. I look at the artists performing and it’s quite diverse in musical style. That said, I also think it’s important to bring up that this is just a very small group of women artists and specifically femme artists. I think that there are so many underrepresented artists in Utah that won’t be playing this show. You know this is just a three-day series. While I definitely think it’s important to support this show, I think it’s also really important to keep in mind that there is a diverse music scene with young queer, female, like, a lot of underrepresented artists that are out there. There’s a music scene for that and it should be supported. I think that we can use this weekend as a reminder that this is a tiny little peek into people participating in that scene. But the biggest takeaway is that there are a lot of different musical styles represented. Which I think is so cool!
UCR: Why do you think Provo thrives as a local music scene?
CL: You know, I think there are a few reasons, but I think one is very much the presence of Velour. You know, a cool venue, and Corey who’s doing a lot to support local music and connect local bands with opportunities and exposure. I think that he and also Kaneischa foster that music scene. But also, I think if you go to a small town where there isn’t really a nightlife and there’s also a bunch of high school and university students and it’s just something really fun to do. There aren’t any nightclubs or bars, and a lot of people don’t drink. So the music scene is where it’s at. It’s what you look forward to doing on the weekend. When I was in high school that was what we did. It almost didn’t even matter who was playing at Velour, it was where to go. It was where you meet people, hang out with your friends, it’s exciting, it can be loud, it can feel like a party. So I think between the fact that there is this really cool venue and there are a lot of young people looking for thing to do, I think it encourages people who are prone to creating and writing music, I think it gives them a space to do that. So I think it between all those factors it snowballs into something really cool.
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?
CL: I remember when I was 14 I went to a smoothie cafe that was really cool for teenagers at the time. At night they would let local bands play and I remember going to see this local screamo band with these cool 16 year old boys. I remember feeling really cool. I have no idea who that band was, but I was definitely a really young teen. But the first real concert I remember was, I think I was 15 or 16 and it was Death Cab. And I was obsessed with Death Cab when I was a teenager when I started to feel feelings and realize there was more than pop music. And it was just a little more alternative than Jimmy Eat World. I just remember listening to that music in a dark room being like “Oh, so many emotions!”
UCR: Do you remember the first time you performed live? What was that experience like?
CL: Oh my gosh. So the very first show I ever played was at Velour with New Shack. AndI had never performed a show in my life ever. I had maybe sung in a microphone twice. I was writing and kind of recording songs, but I wasn’t ever viewing myself as a vocalist. The very first show I played I was headlining at Velour, the crowd was huge and I actually was so nervous that I can’t even remember it. I like, blacked out! I don’t even remember performing the show. It was so awful, I think my voice was just so shaky. Someone had taken some cellphone footage of it, so the next day I watched it and it was so traumatic! Hearing my voice so shaky and so off, I couldn’t hear myself because I sing so quietly, and it was just traumatic. Eric just laughs it off, he is just able to look at things objectively. And objectively people had a great time, but I remember the next day he could not get out of bed the next day. I would be like “Well, that was my debut! All these people came to see me and I just really flopped.” It was rough. But it’s also motivated me practice really hard and invest in my voice as an instrument. I definitely identify myself as a vocalist. I’m comfortable singing a wide variety of things and I’m comfortable on stage. So yeah, I’ve come a long way from that first show.
UCR: What would you say has been your best experience as a performer.
CL: I’m not sure if this is my best performance, but my best experience would be last summer, New Shack got to open for Glass Animals at the Complex. The crowd was huge! Three Thousand people I think! I really like to dance when I perform. Every time I pulled a dance move the whole crowd just freaked out! So I was like wait, hold on a second you like that? You want me to keep doing that? It was incredibly validating, incredibly fun, and just exciting to play with a big successful band! So yeah that’s probably been my favorite experience.
I want to thank Cat for chatting with me. I really enjoyed it. Be sure to catch New Shack’s headlining performance this Friday night (Feb 23) at Velour!
Get New Shack’s single Cherry! Just released today! Available everywhere. You can take a look at the video below.
Cat has a solo project called Madge with an excellent single titled “Fight or Fight Club” available everywhere.
Eric has a music subscription service called Pleasant Pictures Music Club. There is a wide variety of music that you can license.
Sister Adolescent will be performing at this weekend’s Les Femmes de Velour on Friday night. I had the opportunity to speak with Trevor Free, the brother of the brother sister duo. Here’s our conversation.
Utah Concert Review: How did you get into music and then form a band with your sister?
Trevor Free: So this particular band Sister Adolescent started almost three years ago. It was just me and my sister. It was just an acoustic type thing, but I started to realize that, just how the songs were, it just didn’t feel right. That style didn’t fit my vision with the songs. So we changed things up and added guitars, keyboards, and beats. Then it turned into what it is today. So originally it was just my sister and me making the music and performing. Like, we did a show where it was her singing and just me on my laptop. Which doesn’t make for a great live show we found out. So we added our drummer Seth Ringger, who we literally just met by happenstance. We posted on Facebook that we needed a drummer and a friend referred him to us. So I sent him a message and he came to my house and he didn’t know any of us. So I was just like ‘Hey if you hate this you can go.’ But he was actually like, “No I actually think this is ok.” So he stuck around and he’s in our band now. For a while, it was just a three piece but we all realized that we needed more for it to feel, and look, and sound like what we wanted to sound like. Because we had a lot coming through backtracks and it just wasn’t a compelling live experience. So we added Dave Reynolds who was playing bass with us for a while. He’s currently away studying abroad in Greece. This last year we added Matt on the Bass, Dave switched to guitar and when he left we brought Ethan on. So a lot of musical chairs so to speak with our band members.
UCR: How did you get involved with Les Femmes De Velour?
TF: I’ve known Corey Fox (Owner of Velour) for a while now. I grew up in this area, so even in high school, I was in bands that were playing Velour. So recently we played there at the “Battle of the Bands”. And we won our night and ended up playing in the finals. I think the judges were kind of impressed with our set, and I think Corey liked it too. So we had pretty good feedback and we were talking to Corey about playing other shows. We’re actually going to play a release show for our album that comes out next month. So he just reached out to me and asked if we wanted to play the event. I’ve always followed Les Femmes over the years and have felt that it was an amazing an important event, so when he reached out I was obviously excited.
UCR: See that’s the thing I love about Velour. Not only is it one of my favorite venues to see a show, but it’s in a place where people who grew up here, like you, can see shows, then be in shows, then win your night at “Battle of the Bands”, then be asked to be part of this event. It seems like a great place to receive a musical education in that way.
TF: Yeah! As far as winning that night, yeah we actually won! I never thought anything like that would actually happen. It’s been really cool growing up in this area. Really admiring the people that are playing in these shows, and then getting to actually play in them, it’s kind of a dream come true really. And the support Velour provides local artists, to how great Corey and Kaneischa are, it’s just really encouraging to grow up in a place like Utah, to have a place where you can go and connect, and be in shows that have been curated, where you can play with other like-minded artists and grow as a collective community. Velour is a great place!
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?
TF: So my cousin. Well, I don’t know if he’s directly my cousin, but he’s in No Doubt, so when I was 6 or 7 my parents took me to see No Doubt. I just remember thinking it was the coolest thing. And also, just bragging to my friends that I got to go to some concert, and the fact that I got to stay up past my bedtime. That was pretty cool.
UCR: Now do you remember your first time performing live?
TF: Yeah, I think so. It was this one show. I don’t know if you could really call them shows. But we got to play in the commons area of the school. It was kinda cool because the commons area had all these step platforms. So all of us were standing on different steps and playing like we were The Beatles or something. So yeah that was the first time I played live. I’m sure it was terrible. But it was fun.
UCR: I have to say though, that’s pretty innovative for first time performers to decide to be on different steps like that.
TF: Oh yeah, so, we weren’t any good I don’t think, but we had choreographed guitar moves. Yeah, it was pretty good. We were all in the performance. Not in the actual music. But we were very interesting performers for sure.
UCR: Do you have a concert that you performed in that you would say was your very best?
TF: I don’t have a particular experience. But I will say that there is something amazing about, especially at Velour, about playing at these live shows. There are a ton of people there, and because they’re curated, there are artists there that are similar to you, and playing a song that you’ve written and produced, and hearing people be receptive to that and actually really like it, and being into it, that’s really cool. I think the moment where you get people to like your music and it’s not just your mom telling you, you know, sweet lies, and identifying with it, is just really nice and what I think it’s all about. You hope to make art that people want to be connected to and to say something to that person. Seeing that translate from the initial thought to performing in a live setting and hearing people be receptive to it is kind of a magical thing.
See Sister Adolescent tonight (February 23) at Velour in Provo. And be sure to be at Velour for their album release on March 17th!
Mia Grace is a up and coming musician from Utah. She will be headlining night one of Les Femmes De Velour, a three-night event that will showcase some of Utah’s finest female musicians. Here is the interview we had leading up to the show.
Utah Concert Review: What is your background in music and how did you decide you wanted to perform?
Mia Grace: Music is something that has changed my life in so many ways. Since I can remember I have been writing songs. Writing songs is relaxing to me. I don’t get distracted easily with music and instead it gives me energy and I’m so passionate about it. It is something that is refreshing and stimulating and when I have finished a song or am working on it I feel like I face other things in my life feeling inspired. It also has given me so much power in my life when I felt like I had none. I am a very quiet person and incredibly shy but when I sing I feel like I have a voice. It has given me the power to heal and cope.
UCR: Do you remember the first time you performed live?
MG: Oooooh, I try not to. Just kidding. I was maybe 13 and I cried. Not a good cry. Like a nervous, I am so scared cry. So If you come tonight you will see that I have come a long way.
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
MG: The first concert I went to was The Allman Brothers Band. I was six and couldn’t see over anyone in front of me and was covered in spilled beer by the end of the night. Even so, it was a great concert and I still love that band today.
UCR: So how did you get involved with Les Femmes?
MG: I have been to every Les Femmes weekend the past eight years as a fan of course because there are so many talented female musicians around here. I think I have performed at all apart from maybe two or three years as a solo act. Corey and Kaneischa (Cory Fox and Kaneischa Johnson owner and booker of Velour) have always been really supportive and encouraging and it’s actually Les Femmes that kind of pushed me to finally start a band. They told me I could headline last year if I got a full band and so I did and I feel like the luckiest person ever to kinda have had that push because the evolution from last year until now is black and white. Les Femmes De Velour provided that platform for me to get that started.
UCR: What do you think those attending Les Femmes should expect?
MG: Each night is well curated by Corey Fox. If you are going to hear one performer you are likely to leave a fan of someone you just heard there for the first time. All of the ladies performing this weekend and the men who support them are really talented and great songwriters so I would expect to be moved in some way.
UCR: In your opinion, what is the message a show like Les Femmes is trying to convey?
MG: With music, you are conveying messages. Sometimes it can invoke feelings of happiness, sorrow, patriotism, inspiration, loneliness, and camaraderie. All of these emotions bring about change because music is inspiring and empowering. Right now the culture is shifting. If women are given more opportunities in any field or industry it could only help them feel empowered and I think with female songwriters and musicians to see them perform and hear their perspective I don’t know about everyone else but that inspires me and makes me feel like I can be and do more.
UCR: What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?
MG: Black Keys in Mesa. for their “Brothers” tour. My neck was so sore for about a week from the headbanging! HAHA!
UCR: What was your best concert experience as a performer?
MG: All my favorite memories of performing are because of my band. I played as a solo act for a decade before last year when I started a band. My band includes Scott Wiley, Marcus Bently, Nate Pyfer, and Aaron Anderson. The confidence I have gained from playing with those guys is black and white from last year until now. They don’t want me to fail and even more than that they are supporting me and are my friends. I am so lucky to have them. When we first played together I think I clapped after every song was finished because I wanted to celebrate them after every song. They are so funny and are always making it fun and making me laugh.
Mia Grace headlines night 1 of Les Femmes De Velour on February 22. Doors open at 8, with music starting at 8:30. Tickets available at the door for $8 or at 24tix.com
Mia’s music can be found on both Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music.
I can’t express what an enjoyable time I had at the Naughty By Nature show at Park City Live. It’s an excellent venue to see this group. If you haven’t been to Park City Live, I recommend checking out a show there. I would imagine it’s unbelievable seeing shows there during Sundance Week.
The concert was great. So much fun! They hit the stage and opened with “OPP”, then they gave all in attendance an education on the history of hip-hop. They Sampled hip-hop legends like Run DMC, Sugar Hill Gang, Tupac, and Biggie. They paid homage to the best while mixing in their own chart-topping hits like “Feel Me Flow”, and of course “Hip Hop Hurray”.
I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Vin Rock before the show. Because UCR focuses on the live music experience, our conversation was focused in that area of his career. He was really enjoyable to talk with, as were Treach and DJ Kay Gee who I briefly met. Naughty By Nature’s tour management was extremely accommodating to the point that they pretty much rolled out the red carpet for us. A carpet that escorted us to the stage for the final song! Here’s the interview…
Utah Concert Review: Hey Vin, it’s good to meet you. My name is Kevin by the way.
Vin Rock: What’s up Kev. My hood alias is Kev. I’ll explain it to you. When we used to be on the block, you know what I mean, the customers would come up and they would never really know your name. So me and my partner who was out there on the fly, I was Kev, and he was Antoine. So all the customers knew us as Kev and Antoine. So if you’re ever intimate enough to be around our hometown crew, nobody calls me Vin. They all call me Kev. “Yo, Kev, Yo Kev, Yo Kev Kev”. Cats will come up “What’s up Kevin?” And then people who are around are like, “Why are they calling you Kev?” So that’ a moniker that’s stuck around since the 80’s.
UCR: So next time I see you I’ll be like “What’s up Kev?!”
VR: What’s up Kev! That’s right. You know me on a Kev basis.
UCR: Some might think, coming to Park City or Utah, in general, might be a random tour stop for Naughty By Nature, but it seems year after year you pack the club every time. Why do you think that is?
VR: Hey man it’s Hip Hop. Hip Hop has been around for a long time. It started in the hood it spread to the burbs it spread to, you know, every nook and cranny of America. Then you have these pockets, like Park City Utah. You have the Sundance Film Festival here, I mean this is a destination city. So hip hop and culture period thrive here. And the hip-hop community here they just love it. They love music. They just love art period here. You know what I’m sayin’?
UCR: Absolutely. So Naughty By Nature has been doing this for almost 30 years now. What is your secret to being able to stay successful and have the longevity you’ve had?
VR: You know to me, music is all about the live performance man. Minus the record contracts, minus the hype and hoopla, your average musician starts in their garage or in their bedroom. You know? And that will never go away. The live performance will never go away. So no matter where music evolves to, it’s the people who have those great live performances that will always thrive. And that’s the school we come from, you know? We started in Kay Gee’s sun porch. Rest in peace to his father Gizmo, man. His parents let us practice on their sun porch on 18th Street. And we practiced our routines, went out to the clubs. We banged out with different artists. You know, club for club, artist for artist. And we developed a live stage show. So, those were our bones. That’s the bones and that’s the crux of Naughty By Nature’s business. You know what I mean? And then when we got put on and had the record deal and everything, just that live stage show always you know, always carried us. And here we are at Park City Live, right? You know what I mean? So all the artists, and this is a jewel for any artist out there, you can do whatever in your bedroom. But you gotta get out here in front of the people. You have to perform live. You have to have a reputation for performing live. If you have that and God-given gifts of songwriting and musicianship, you never have to worry about thriving in this industry.
UCR: Was there a specific show where you guys realized, “Ok, we’re going somewhere with this.”?
VR: Yeah, yeah. For one it was our first talent show in high school. We didn’t even have a name for ourselves. We scratched the Beastie Boys “It’s the New Style”, and we just had a freestyle routine but it went over so well that we called ourselves The New Style. And then we switched our name to Naughty By Nature once we got hooked up with Flavor Unit. But prior to that, when we did The New Style, we used to do a Tough Teen Talent Competition around the way. So it was Club 88 and all the teens used to come in and compete. So we used to always come in their with our crew and the crowd would judge who was the best. We would win every week that we came in there. So they switched it. And said, “You know, New Style comes too deep. So we’re going to get judges.” So the judges came and we kept winning amongst the judges! We were the best performers! And we were like “You know what, we really have something here.” And that’s when we transformed from The New Style to Naughty By Nature.
UCR: That’s awesome. Great story! Is there somebody right now that never miss seeing live?
VR: I don’t see a lot of them but, you know, and I have to study more of the newer cats, but I definitely know that some of my veteran peers like no matter what DMX always gives a good live show. And Redman and Method Man, they always bring it. You know what I’m sayin’? They always bring it. So that’s how I judge the new cats. I don’t care because music is music and marketing is marketing. You can always break a record. Especially in today’s climate. My thing is, what do they do live with their live show? I’m gonna look more into that, into today’s artists to see who’s really bringing it live.
UCR: I know people are dying to get you on that stage, so I’ll just ask you this one last question. Is there a concert that Naughty By Nature has done that you look back and consider the best as far as performance, crowd, venue, etc?
VR: When we first came out, maybe ‘91, ‘92, I remember we were in Rhode Island, we did some arena date and we were red hot, brand new, just O.P.P. you know? And I remember coming on stage and Treach had braids back then. When we came on stage we used to stand still and say nothing, like Michael Jackson. And I remember the crowd being so loud, that I saw Treach’s braids blow backwards! You know what I mean? And there was no music playing, no nothing. It was just the crowd going “Aaaaaahhhhh!!” And his braids blowing backwards like a cartoon you know?!
UCR: Wow! That must have been incredible! Well, thank you so much, Kev. Have a great set tonight!
Vin Rock: Thanks, good talking to you Kev!
For the last several years, whenever Styx visited Utah, it’s usually part of a package deal. They’ve co-headlined several tours out at USANA Amphitheater with the likes of REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard, and Foreigner. And while these concerts have been exciting and full of great songs from two or more hitmaking bands, it was really nice to be in the beautiful Eccles Theater to see Styx by themselves for two-plus hours. No opener, no co-headliner, just Styx.
I have seen musicals, Christmas concerts, and even the opening Gala at Eccles Theater, but this was my first time seeing a proper rock concert at this venue. I’ve been curious to have this experience and Eccles theater did not disappoint. It’s the perfect venue for a rock show. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and the acoustics were fantastic. I go to so many shows that I always wear earplugs, but I’ll usually test out the real sound midway through the show to see what it really sounds like. I took my plugs out and never put them back in. It was perfect in there.
Styx has been around for over forty years. I thought they did a good job of covering the highlights of their lengthy career. This is one of those concerts where throughout the course of the show you’re reminded of just how many hit songs they’ve created. They’re promoting their newest album The Mission. Whenever they did a song from that album they would bring down a different backdrop resembling the album cover. Unfortunately, this was usually the time where the audience would take their seats. It seems even the most dedicated of fans are not always thrilled to hear new songs from a classic rock band. I will say this though, the songs fit right in with the show, and whenever Styx finished performing these songs the audience, although sitting, responded with generous applause. I would say that many times the volume of these cheers matched the applause of many other songs besides the biggest hits.
Styx shared lead vocals between keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, Guitarist Tommy Shaw, and Guitarist James “JY” Young. I have to say that the standout vocalist was easily Tommy Shaw. How often have you gone to see a classic rock band and the vocalist just doesn’t have it anymore? You’re so excited to hear the songs that you just kind of look past the fact that the lead singer has lost a step. Such is not the case with Shaw. Not only did he hit all the top notes in songs like, “Crystal Ball”, “Blue Collar Man”, and “Renegade”, but it appeared to me that he was singing all the high harmonies on the other songs. I was blown away, and I could tell the rest of the audience was extremely impressed as well.
James Young shared his appreciation for the state of Utah mentioning that they were one of the first places to embraced Styx and their music. He said their albums caught on here before they did in New York City or Los Angeles. The crowd, many of them Styx fans from the beginning went nuts upon hearing this.
Styx took a twenty-minute intermission during the show. This gave me an opportunity to listen to the audience reaction to the show and even talk to a long time Styx fan. The overall feeling was how impressed they were with Eccles Theater, and how much they loved this band. The man I spoke with saw them back in 1983 and expressed that they sounded as good as they ever did.
Now the elephant in the room at any Styx show is the fact that they have a co-founding member and songwriter of many of these songs not with them. Of course, I’m speaking of Dennis DeYoung. Having severed ties over 15 years ago, it’s still a little weird not having him there. I would imagine that the rest of the band knows that this is the thought of many of their fans. I do have to say that Lawrence Gowan brings an energy and performance style to the band and these shows that we wouldn’t see otherwise. He has certainly earned his place in this band and I think the concerts are benefited by his talent and showmanship.
Speaking of co-founders, it was great to see founding bassist Chuck Panozzo make an appearance on stage for a few songs. As I understand it, he no longer tours with the band, but he’ll make the occasional visit to the band, and when he does, he takes the stage. So it was pretty exciting when he walked out.
Todd Sucherman has been the Styx drummer for the past 20 years and in my opinion, he’s worth the price of admission alone. He’s one of the premier rock drummers today, and I think he gives Styx the added punch that keeps them sounding fresh and exciting in their fifth decade as a band.
The set ended with the ultimate sing-along “Come Sail Away” which began with Gowan singing an excerpt of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The band left and returned to sing ‘Rockin’ the Paradise”, and of course “Renegade”.
Like I said, it was great to see Styx by themselves. I felt like they were able to really settle in and give us the type of show they’re known for. No need to rush to get the next band on, no time curfew, just a two-hour high energy Styx show that kept the audience singing hit after hit from start to finish.
Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Man in the Wilderness
Suite Madame Blue
Pieces of Eight
Too Much Time on My Hands
Come Sail Away
Rockin’ The Paradise
I have two confessions. One, I love Christmas music. And with that, I enjoy collecting holiday albums. Second, It was Jewel’s 1999 holiday album Joy: A Holiday Collection, that converted me into a Jewel fan. Don’t get me wrong, I understood that she was a good songwriter and that she was a talented singer. But she really displayed her versatility on that album in a way I hadn’t heard from her before. She moved from Opera (Jewel at one point was training to be an opera singer) to jazz, to country, to her most known singer-songwriter style. I played that album to death that season, and it’s been a favorite ever since. So I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was when it was announced that Jewel would be doing a holiday tour. The concert was everything that I hoped it would be.
If you haven’t been to a concert at the Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake you really need to. It’s a beautiful venue. I had seen a few musicals there, but this was my first time seeing a concert. I love the acoustics in there.
Jewel invited her father Atz Kilcher and her brothers Atz Lee and Nikos Kilcher to join her on this tour and they actually opened the show. Each one of them did a couple songs each. They seemed honored to be on the tour with Jewel, and her brother Atz Lee mentioned that it was great to be together touring since Jewel had to go out on her own on so many of her other tours. Jewel’s father Atz shared his ties to Utah having received his bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University, and his masters at the University of Utah as well as living in Payson. Where Jewel was born. I think audiences here tend to embrace an artist that much more if they have some connection with Utah.
Jewel took the stage with a five-piece band consisting of guitar, bass, drums, piano, and a multi-instrumentalist who played the violin, cello, and mandolin.
She opened with “Joy to the World” and moved through a variety of holiday tunes. I was instantly impressed with the band. They sounded like a recording. They were impressive. And speaking of sounding like a recording, Jewel’s voice was perfect. I would even say she sounded better than she does on her albums. I just sat there watching her sing “O Holy Night” with such ease and couldn’t believe this was live. Like I said, I knew she had a good voice; she’s famous because she has a good voice. But having never seen her live until now, I wasn’t prepared for how clear and controlled it is.
After singing a number of Christmas songs, the band left the stage and it was just Jewel and her guitar. She asked the audience what they wanted to hear and after hearing several options being shouted to her from the audience she settled on one. But before I get into that, here’s a bit of advice. When you go to a concert and the artist says “What song would you like me to play?”, don’t shout out their biggest it. What they are actually saying is, “What song would you like to hear that you might not hear otherwise.” People were shouting out, “You were meant for me!” and “Foolish games!”. Come on people. Like she’s not going to do those.
She landed on the song “The Shape of You”, a song she wrote about a friend who had passed away from cancer. After that, she went into her big hits. Just her and her guitar, telling stories of how these songs came to be. Songs like, “Hands, You Were Meant For Me”, “Foolish Games”, and “Who Will Save Your Soul”. While she was singing “Foolish Games”, a song that she said was her best attempt to knock off the late great Leonard Cohen’s writing style, I couldn’t help from thinking, ‘She’s performed this song thousands of times. How is she singing it so emotionally, and deeply as she is right now? I was mesmerized. I don’t know that I’ve experienced something like that before. I’ve heard that song so many times over the last twenty years, and yet I had never heard it quite like that. I was initially a little disappointed after the song because Jewel had to check with us to see if she had sung all of it. She said that she was distracted midway through and had to remind herself where she was. It was a funny exchange with the audience. She’s a pro. If she hadn’t said that, I would have never guessed that she was distracted. The song was fluid and moving. I’ve been distracted about 20 times writing this review, so if it seems disjointed now you know why. #ADD #ImNotJewel
She returned to the holiday-themed songs, and it became a real family affair. Jewel’s brother Atz Lee came on stage and they sang “Silent Night”. Jewel expressed her gratitude that her brother was with her after surviving a fall off of a forty foot cliff!
She then sang a song called “My Father’s Daughter”. From my seat, I could see her dad Atz standing in the wings watching her sing this song and beaming with pride. He then joined Jewel on stage and they dueted a song he had written called “Homestead Yodeling Christmas”. They blew the audience away as they yodeled in harmony, going faster and faster and faster. This song probably received the biggest ovation of the night.
The show was concluded with all of the Kilchers on stage singing with the band a rocked out version “Let it Snow” as snow machines shot show onto the stage. It was a beautiful night of music. I think it was a really good idea for Jewel to do a holiday-themed tour. It kind of felt like it was a long time coming. Just like her holiday album, she had the opportunity on the tour to really show off her range. And a great way to celebrate the holiday season.
Joy to the World
The Christmas Song
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
O Holy Night
The Shape of You
You Were Meant for Me
Who Will Save Your Soul
Silent Night (with Atz Lee Kilcher)
My Father’s Daughter
Homestead Yodeling Christmas (with Atz Kilcher)
Let it Snow (with Atz, Atz Lee & Nikos Kilcher)