Interview: Cary Judd of the Vacationist

CJ_TVACUtah Concert Review recently caught up with Cary Judd, frontman of the Boise-based band The Vacationist. We discussed what got him into songwriting, technology, and The Vacationist.

Kevin Rolfe (Editor in Chief):
You have a lot of exciting things going on right now. But first, let’s rewind a little. When did you first begin writing songs and why?

Cary Judd:
I don’t think I ever really completed a song on my own till I was 16-17, but I wrote with bands I was in in high school as a guitarist and occasionally lyricist, though I was terrified to sing in front of anyone. I have vague memories of melodies and lyrics I would string together when I was 5 or 6 years old, though.

I think hearing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” caused some sort of neural connection, however old I was when that came out, that really made me start to think about writing.

KR:
Do you remember your first time singing in front of an audience?

CJ:
Yeah, it was at a coffee shop with my band Moz Eizley. We were a trio at the time and I had been writing a lot of songs. Our plan was to find an actual singer to be the singer. My endearingly spaced-out drummer decided to book us a show before that happened. I had been singing in practices so I was the default singer.

KR:
Those familiar with your music know you primarily as a solo artist. How would you describe The Vacationist? How is it different from your solo work?

CJ:
I would say it’s an extension of my solo work. I’m at the center of the songwriting, or at least the lyrics.

I think after a certain amount of time though you become bored with yourself and you have to rattle your own cage. After the first three albums, I started drifting towards pleasing people rather than making music I would actually listen too (i.e. the Trillions EP) and I very quickly found that I wasn’t really pleasing anyone.

I had bounced ideas off myself for about 10 years and was ready to bounce ideas off of someone who knew and understood things differently than me. I wanted to put as much into every note and sound wave as I had always put into lyrics and amplify the live presentation as well as create a visual experience.

KR:
Tell me about the other members of The Vacationist, Conor, and Sunnie. What is their contribution to the band?

CJ:
The dynamic of the band is something like this. I write and demo new songs whenever I’m at the studio and have free time. I show them to Conor and Sunnie and know immediately by their reactions if they’re making the cut. Conor comes in and does a lot with sound design as well as arranging and rearranging my initial demos. He also comes in with pieces of music that are laid out into verses, choruses, or other sections and plays them for me. I’ll get excited about certain pieces and start maniacally typing lyrics in reaction to his compositions. Then of course, there’s the other way I described above. The two of us get on the desk and start what is essentially a modern sound design/producer’s jam session.

I’ve learned so much in my collaborations with Conor. There are a lot of points on the new record where I designed sounds and played parts that were based on things he had taught me, or me asking myself, “what would Conor do here?”.

I need to learn new things to keep it fresh and collaborating with someone like him who understands sound waves on an elemental level blew the creative doors wide open again.

The sonic magic happens when the two of us are in a room together. The sonic landscape is the dividing point between “Cary Judd” and The Vacationist. It really doesn’t matter who plays what or designs a certain sound because I think there’s a certain respect between the two of us that we have faith in the other to fill in any blanks.

Several of the songs I had written and demoed out on my own and then when Conor and I had time together, he put the last few pieces in the puzzle.

A few of the songs, we created in a very stream of conscious way where we were both at the desk, one of us turning knobs to dial in a sound while the other was searching for a melody, then I go and sit behind him on the couch filling pages with words. The opening track, “The Sound”, to me is the quintessential Vacationist song in that it was created this way.

Introducing Sunnie’s input makes for a really cool wildcard. Her main function is to produce the live show with light design, but she was present in a lot of the sessions and though she’s not a veteran musician, she would find these little melodic movements that had this really cool naivety to them which to me is another theme of The Vacationist, finding wonder in a sound or line of words the way I did when I was a little kid and wanted so badly to understand what a song was “about”.

I think there are moments where some people think of it as, “Conor’s band” or as “Sunnie’s band”, depending on how they came to discover us. But when we perform live, I don’t think anyone in the room thinks of it as anything other than “a band”.

KR:
What can someone expect from one of The Vacationist’s live shows?

CJ:
My hope is that they will expect to be in some way amused, surprised, and changed. With the first album and on into the new album, there’s a certain air of innocent thinking. A lot of the message in the music is a sort of joyful view of the world that I hope will untangle the complexities that we as humans weave into a giant mess over the course of our lives.

It’s not some hippie-new-age rant, but more of a spirit of zooming out and looking at our world and existence with awe of what we know and wonder for what we don’t. Like a magic show might be for a young child.

“whoa, how’d you do that?!”

“magic…”

“…and a lot of computers.”

KR:
I’m a huge fan of Electronics and Technology in music. However, there are those out there that claim that Electronic music is not really music. TVAC uses quite a bit of both. What do you have to say in regards to the use of technology in your music?

CJ:
I don’t think the role technology plays in this band can be overstated. I know it’s common for some people to think of technology as a “cheat”.

The Beatles took criticism for multitrack recording. They weren’t all in the same room playing their songs at the same time, but rather overdubbing and layering piece by piece.

This is now the standard.

Then in the last 20 years, you hear people that don’t really know what they’re talking about, criticize synthetic instruments or “auto tuning”. These are tools to create new layers in my opinion. For me, and I’ve talked at length with Conor and Sunnie about this, if it’s a sound, it’s music.

So much of what we do is definitely dependent on the technology we have access to. I don’t have the slightest bit of remorse or shame in saying that. I have made a lot of samples we use in TVAC by recording sounds I hear when I’m out & about with my iPhone. Conor and I have even set blocks of “recording time” aside to walk around with microphones or handheld recorders, just looking for a literal pattern in the chaos that we can manipulate and make a sound we’ve never heard. A lot of the synths we make from vocal samples of the three of us talking, humming, screaming etc and I think that gives us our sound.

I don’t think people realize that technology is the one thing that makes us human. To interpret our world around us, scramble it into something new, and then simulate a future in our imaginations is its own miracle.

Imagine if Mozart was born before the invention of the instruments he composed on and for, what amazing and wonderful things would humanity have never seen?
I guarantee you if he were alive now, he’d be composing on a seaboard surrounded by computers and modern instruments.

Human’s cheated the first time a cave man figured out he could eat better if he sharpened a rock and put it on the end of a stick he could hunt with. Imagine the first tribe that actually cooked the meat they hunted by making a spark and starting a fire, huge cheaters.

Technology is the most human thing we possess.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_aNMjbieWk&feature=youtu.be

KR:
You’re about to release your 2nd album “Prime Colours/ Bright Numbers”. When do we get to hear it and what can you tell us about it?

CJ:
it’s a very happy album

KR:
So you’re not only in TVAC, you’re also running your own studio. I want to call it a recording studio, but it’s much more than that. Isn’t it?

CJ:
Anymore it’s a multimedia studio. We aren’t experts in everything, but we are fanatically curious, so we’re learning new ways to manipulate sight/sound/photography/video every day. We’ve all worked together on photo and video projects on our own and together and have learned a lot. We have at least 4 music videos in the works to coincide with songs on the new album, possibly more.

KR:
It is unknown to many outside the region, that there is a really strong music scene here along the Rocky Mountains. Why do you think that is?

CJ:
The part of the Rockies I’m familiar with is mostly Boise and Utah. I would attribute the growing scene in Boise to Eric Guilbert of Finn Riggins. He started up Treefort four or five years ago and I think that’s been the seedling that’s grown into a bustling scene here. As for Utah, I think Corry Fox, his venue, The Velour as well as events that have spun off from there. Both those guys are incredibly talented. In both cases you have an individual who saw a lack, set a goal and started taking steps that grew into amazing scenes in both places.

In Boise, there’s been a great scene for a long time. When I was living in Wyoming and would come through while on tour I always felt very welcomed, which is part of why I ended up here. Back then I was an outsider, so it’s hard to say where it was pre-Treefort (Music Festival in Boise), but every year Treefort seems to get better. I’m sure there was a learning curve the first year or two, but as a musician and observer, it seems to have this really beautiful combination of bringing in outside/national talent and weaving the local artists into the fabric of the festival. It’s exposed a lot of locals to great artists that live here.

My favorite thing that I’ve heard every time I’ve played Treefort in different bands is, “what, you guys are from Boise? I had no idea!”.

KR:
You have some very devoted fans in this state. Can the great people of Utah expect to see TVAC performing here live soon?

CJ:
Yes, we will come down to do a show when the album comes out. Utah Valley, specifically Velour has been my default home venue even though I’ve never lived there. I wouldn’t miss the chance to play these songs for the amazing people that have supported me for so long!

To hear music, see videos, and to receive updates on The Vacationist tour dates as well as the release of “Prime Colours/ Bright Numbers”, click here!

Josh Groban w/ Sarah McLachlan USANA Amphitheater August 20, 2016

IMG_0466Josh Groban brought his much-anticipated Stages tour to the jam-packed USANA Amphitheater this past Saturday featuring Sarah McLachlan, a headliner in her own right, and support act Foy Vance. If vocal mastery is what you are looking for, this was the show to see.

I would have never pictured Sarah McLachlan and Josh Groban touring together. Their singing style and genre of music are quite different. Well, I guess this is why I’m not in charge of booking tours because this combination of talented vocalists created the perfect musical evening.

Sarah McLachlan was on point during her set in pretty much every way. With her soft and extremely pleasant speaking voice, she shared stories of heartbreak, loss, and hope for the future. There is nothing I like more in a concert than when I say, ‘Oh yeah!’, after hearing a song that I had forgotten. Sarah’s vast catalog was on display as she sang hit song after hit song. And I found myself saying, ‘Oh yeah!’ many times as I recalled how many of her songs I like. She shared a new song that will be on her forthcoming album. It blended right in with the others. She left the stage just as subtly as she walked on. She mentioned on her way out that we might be seeing her again later. More on that later.

Groban began the show in front of a huge curtain with only a piano to his right. He sang “Pure Imagination” from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Midway through the song the curtain parted and his band and huge string section were revealed, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. This came as a surprise to many of the fans around me. I think they believed they were in for a Josh Groban concert with just a piano and his voice. Which would be a fantastic show to see in a theater or small club. But in a venue like USANA Amphitheater, that holds 20,000 people, you need a large orchestra.IMG_0468

I knew the music was live, and that of course, Josh was singing live, but I looked back at the soundboard a few times to see if maybe there was some sort of backing track. His voice is just that good. You must be saying “Of course it is. That’s why this venue is packed to see him.” I guess, I just wasn’t expecting him to sound that perfect live. It truly sounded as good as the recording. If not better!

I was really looking forward to this show because I knew he’d be promoting his Stages album. An album dedicated to some of his favorite songs
from Broadway musicals. I’m a fan of musical theater so I knew I’d be hearing songs that I really enjoy. Groban did not disappoint. He sang Broadway favorites such as, “What I did for love”, and a tribute to Stephen Sondheim singing “Children will listen/ Not while I’m around”, as well as the off broadway classic “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks.

One of the best moments of the night was when he sang the Simon and Garfunkel hit “Bridge over troubled waters”. Now this would have been a great moment if Josh sang it alone. But he brought out his opener Foy Vance to sing it with him. Foy has a rich soulful voice. His voice paired with Josh Groban’s polished voice created a contrasting, yet beautiful blend. There were very few dry eyes when this song was over.

The highlight of the evening for me was when Josh sang one of my favorite songs, “Run” by Snow Patrol. When he got to the chorus, Sarah McLachlan joined him on stage. She had returned as promised, and they sounded so good together. They followed that song by singing her heartfelt ballad, “Angel”. Their voices were perfect together. As I mentioned, I would have never thought of these two together, but I’m so glad someone thought of it. We were very fortunate to see these two extremely talented vocalists perform together.

IMG_0469Groban’s main set finished with his biggest hit, “You Raise Me Up”. The crowd turned into The Milky Way, as the entire audience lit up their cell phones and were invited to sing along. Josh left, only momentarily, and gave us “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for his encore.

Josh seems to be a very genuine guy. He’s one of those artists where you are really happy for his success, and he really seems to truly appreciate the career he has. He didn’t hesitate to recognize Utah as a location that has helped to advance his success in music. He mentioned his opportunity to sing at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Mentioning how bitter cold it was that night, and how he didn’t realize how sad he would be making everyone singing as the Olympic flame was extinguished. He mentioned that he also filmed a DVD here and that the fans in Utah have always been great to him.

Josh Groban has really honed his craft not only as an incredible singer but as an entertainer. He’s really funny! He sings so many serious songs, whether they be classical arias, love songs, or art songs, that it would be really easy to keep his shows in that tone. But he does a terrific job of mixing these songs with humor, and interesting stories without diminishing the message of this songs. This is a true art form. And one that he has most certainly perfected.

I was really impressed with this concert. To have the opportunity to see one of the premier vocalists of our day, was a memorable experience. Josh Groban might not be for everyone, and he comically mentioned this possibility in the show, but it is impossible to deny his talent and success.  Look for him to make his much awaited Broadway debut this fall in The Great Comet.  

 

Gin Blossoms Kamas DeJoria Center August 19, 2016

FullSizeRender (5)Kamas might not be the first Utah town you think of when you think of places you might be headed for a concert.  But I promise you, you’ll be heading there more and more with the new Dejoria Center fully functional.  I was able to check out this new facility while checking out one the best bands of the ‘90s, Gin Blossoms.

There wasn’t much to dislike about the Dejoria Center.  The staff was extremely friendly, the concert hall was spacious and I thought the acoustics were really good.  At least to my amateur ears.  They had two large video screens at the side of the stage.  They’re almost too big for the venue, but it’s awesome to have screens this nice.  Some of the venues in Salt Lake City might want to look into getting screens like this.  This is a really accommodating venue, and I have a feeling this venue will attract a lot of bands.

The show opened with an acoustic set from two of the four members of the band Fyre & Reign.  The local band based out of Orem did a solid job opening the show.  I think it can be really difficult as a supporting act to gain interest from a crowd who came to see another band.  But Fyre & Reign didn’t hesitate to interact with the audience, even inviting them to sing along in the final chorus of their song “Get Out of the City”.

After the opening set, I broke with man code and struck up a conversation with Fyre & Ice singer, Mikael Lewis at the urinal.  I enjoyed hearing about his band, their recent UK tour, and how excited he was to be offered the opportunity to open for Gin Blossoms.  Be sure to look out for some of his solo acoustic shows around Utah.

Because Fyre & Reign played an acoustic set, we didn’t have to wait long for Gin Blossoms to come out.  Everything appeared to already be set up.  A quick sound check, and then they were on.  They opened with their top ten hit “Follow You Down”.  The crowd was definitely excited but for some reason remained in their seats.  There was singing along, clapping along, and a lot of excited people, but for some reason not too many stood.  Lead singer Robin Wilson clearly noticed this, and when the opening song was over, he mentioned that everyone who wanted to, come right up to the stage and fill the gap between the stage and the seats.  I know a lot of bands don’t suggest standing up, or people moving up, but I really liked this move by Wilson. It was obvious by the people rushing to the front of the stage, myself included, that people wanted to be on their feet.  And I don’t think there was anyone who needed to be invited twice to be that close to the band.

The first thing that stood out to me was how good the band sounded.  They pretty much sounded exactly the same as they did when they first showed up on the scene in 1992.  It was really impressive to me that Robin Wilson has been able to preserve his voice. The harmonies of Jesse Valenzuela are as important to Gin Blossom’s sound as any other part of their make up.  And they were perfect.

Gin Blossoms have a very relaxed demeanor on stage that can be mistaken for them not being into the show, and maybe just going through the motions.  Not so.  Being right at the front of the stage gave me the necessary vantage point to realize that they were having a good time.  They seemed to really like playing live, and they were appreciative of the enthusiastic crowd.


Robin had a couple tambourines that he would rotate throughout the crowd between fans both young and not as young.  He got the crowd clapping along to just about every song. He even promised to do a song suggested by an audience member that wasn’t on the setlist.  And sure enough, they did it in their encore.  They also scrapped what they called a “Power Ballad” to cover Johnny Cash favorite “Folsom Prison Blues”.  This is a band that truly cares about putting on a great show, and pleasing their audience.

As I looked throughout the crowd something that stood out to me was how many people were smiling, and how many people were singing every word of pretty much every song.  It hit me that while like Gin Blossoms, and have always enjoyed their music, to others, this is their favorite band of all time.  There were people with personalized license plates, and signs, and as I said, an impressive knowledge of lyrics.  That had to be an awesome site to see for the band.

I mean look at this guy!  How happy is he that he is seeing Gin Blossoms?!

IMG_5832If you see a band you like performing at the Dejoria Center, do yourself a favor and take a beautiful drive out to Kamas.  You’ll really enjoy this venue.  And if you ever have the opportunity, do yourself another favor and see the Gin Blossoms show. They will not disappoint.

 

Lord Huron & Trampled by Turtles Salt Lake City The Complex August 15, 2016

unnamed (27)I must admit, before last night, I had no idea that Lord Huron, or Trampled by Turtles even existed.  Shame on me because both of these bands are really talented and have great songs.  I have totally cheated myself for not having listened to them before.  But I’m glad I was given this opportunity to see them.

The thing I like most about seeing a band that I am not as familiar with is going into a show with zero expectations.  When I go to concerts of bands I’ve followed for years, I have hopes of hearing certain songs, and I expect things to go a certain way.  Well with these two bands, I didn’t know their hits versus their deep cuts.

Lord Huron took the stage right at 7:30.  I think the crowd was surprised by this because I walked right in the Complex and got a great spot dead center. About halfway through the first song, the crowd filled the space around me.  I honestly can’t think of a song I didn’t like.  The crowd was the indicator from me of which songs were their favorites.  My first impression was that these guys belong on the stage at Pioneer Park.  These guys would be perfect for the Twilight Concert Series.  Next summer maybe?  They have a certain indie flair that would be perfect for that setting.

Again, not knowing much about the band, I looked to the crowd for information.  I could tell that there were some fans there to see one band over another.  The thing I like about situations like these is the band and the way they perform their music will determine whether they win over the entire crowd or not.  Lord Huron did just that.  Before the show was over, they had the entire crowd’s attention.  They’re a very straight forward band.  Not much talking to the crowd, relaxed stage presence.  All that is just fine with me.  Some bands interact with the crowd a lot, others not so much.  I would prefer bands do what comes naturally than to try to force it.

They mentioned having played Salt Lake City in the past, recalling shows at Kilby Court, and the Depot.  Judging by the reaction of the audience, some fans were at those shows, while others just enjoyed that these local spots w
ere remembered.

I thought Lord Huron did an exceptional job of pleasing their fans, winning over the others, and for sure making a new fan out of me.  I look forward to the next time they come to town.  I will for sure be more knowledgeable about their music.

After hearing Lord Huron, I think I was most surprised to discover that Trampled by Turtles sounded nothing like them.  I guess that’s why there seemed to be a divide in the crowd.  Trampled by Turtles would be considered Americana if I were to try to label their sound.  They had elements of Country, Bluegrass, and even a little Spanish style in their songs.

I found it interesting that the six-piece band (Vocalist/ Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic Bass, Cellist, Banjo, Fiddle, and Mandolin) did not consist of a drummer.  And yet the crowd was dancing and moving as if there was one. While I felt like some songs would have sounded great with drums backing the song, I was really impressed with the energy and rhythm they produced drummer-less.

Each instrumentalist was a true talent in their craft.  Sometimes if felt like there were six soloists, meshing together.  And I mean that in a good way.  Each instrument had their time to be featured, in particular, the Mandolin and the Fiddle, but when they all played together they created a beautiful sound.

I’m sure many of you have heard the term “Dance like nobody’s watching.”.  Well, there was something about Trampled by Turtles performance that brought this reaction out of many crowd members.  As I looked around the complex, I saw people country dancing, dancing alone, pogoing up and down, and even dramatic slow dance between two dudes, during one of the softer numbers.  I think it takes a really talented band, to cause someone to just let loose and move the way you want to, without caring who might be looking on.
I really enjoyed this show.  If you are foolish like me and haven’t heard of these bands, do yourself a favor and check them out immediately.  They are very different in their style, but both incredibly talented.

Big Grams Pioneer Park, Twilight Concert Series July 28, 2016

IMG_5585Last night i made my way to Pioneer Park for my first show of this summer’s Twilight Concert Series where Big Grams made their much anticipated visit to Salt Lake City. Big Grams consists of the Electro Rock duo, Phantogram and Big Boi of Outkast fame.

I believe both Big Boi and Phantograms have taken the Twilight stage in the past but this was their first time appearing together as Big Grams.

Unfortunately I was unable to arrive in time to see the full set of Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals.  But I will say this, as I was walking into the park, I noticed the crowd already seemed in top form.  They appeared to be the perfect opener for Big Grams.

Big Grams took the stage just a little after 9 o’clock.  They came out high energy from thestart, and in turn, the crowd was about as high energy as I have seen at Twilight.  From the first beat of their set until the last note, the crowd did not die down.  They were crowd surfing, sitting on shoulders, jumping, dancing, and from what I understand, even moshing.  And without any surprise, Sarah Barthel, lead vocalist of Phantagrams and of course Big Grams, commented on how great the crowd was. Then stating,“The best we’ve had so far! And I’m not just saying that!”  I feel like we’ve heard that before here in Utah, haven’t we?  I’d say we hear that commentary in just about every show that comes through this concert loving state!  Of course the crowd loved the compliment, and turned it up a few more notches for the remainder of the set.

I’d have to say the highlight of the evening was the mashup of Ms. Jackson, of course a huge hit for Outkast, and Mouthful of Diamonds, one of Phantograms initial hits. As if the crowd wasn’t crazy enough, they pretty much lost it during this point of the show. So much so, that I was being bumped, pushed, basically shoved from all sides to the point that I was unable to get any video footage to share with everyone.  If I had posted it you would have bet that I was filming a concert in right when an earthquake hit.

I have to say for a supergroup like this, with only one EP released, there was a lot of excitement for them to come to Salt Lake, and for their visit they were gifted one of the most excited crowds I’ve seen.

From what I’ve read, this EP is most probably their only collaboration.  But if they keep putting on shows like this, and if crowds keep reacting like this one did, I don’t see how Big Grams can stop.

Weezer & Panic! At The Disco USANA Amphitheater July 26, 2016

IMG_5537One of the most anticipated concerts of the summer has to be the Weezer and Panic! At The Disco tour.  You read me right.  Weezer and Panic! At The Disco are on tour together.  These bands really could not be more different.  I remember when I saw this, I was really confused as to why these bands would be paired together.  Whatever the reason, they brought their traveling show to the USANA Amphitheater last night.

The show opened with Andrew McMahon and The Wilderness of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate fame.  I thought he did a solid job getting things started.  I always feel bad for opening bands at USANA.  They usually go on about an hour before sunset, therefore the sun is just blazing right in their face.  They must be burning up!  McMahon didn’t seem to feel the heat as he went from playing piano, to moving all around the stage, and at one point making his way all the way out to the lawn where the band had placed a parachute to be used elementary school style.  Fans held the edges as other fans ran underneath.  He closed with his most recent hit, “Cecillia and the Satellite”.

Panic! At The Disco followed about twenty minutes later.  Now one thing I’ll say for sure, Panic won the t-shirt battle.  Everywhere I looked the amphitheater was flooded with Panic! At The Disco shirts.  For a minute there I was worried for Weezer that they’d be playing to a half empty venue.

My opinion of a band doesn’t really matter.  The only reason I tend to give my feelings for the band is so readers know the point of view that this review is coming from.  With that said, I have never really listened to Panic! At The Disco.  I can’t say anything negative because it’s not like I ever listened to them and hated them.  I simply hadn’t heard much of them.  Which by the way is always strange to me that I missed ever listening to a band this big.  Anyway, I fully recognize that I’m not really the right person to be writing a review on a band I barely know. Being aware of this, I decided to get a better reading on the show by watching the Panic! At The Disco t-shirt wearing fans, focusing on the very excited middle school aged girls right next to me.  (Not creepy sounding at all.)

From minute one of Panic’s set, they were singing every word and in a state of euphoria.   They were filming their favorite songs, and singing in each other’s faces as you would expect of people seeing their favorite band.  I looked around the venue, and these girls certainly weren’t the only ones loving this performance.  And don’t get me wrong, I was really impressed with the band.  Their sound is really unique, and Brendon Urie has an incredible vocal range.  He played piano, and drums and guitar throughout the set.  Their sound seemed to blend together a number of genres from jazz, to punk, to B-52’s, to Modern Rock.  They even covered Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  Urie certainly had the vocal range, and kudos to the rest of the band for pulling off the song.  It certainly was a crowd pleaser. I mean, who doesn’t love “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

I was happy for all of those who were there primarily to see Panic.  They were given a great show, and I’d say even most Weezer fans would come away from seeing Panic! At The Disco appreciating their performance and talent.

Now, when Weezer took the stage, USANA Amphitheater still seemed to be at capacity.  So my worries that Weezer wouldn’t be playing to a full crowd were unnecessary.  The band opened with “California Kids” from their newest album.  It’s always interesting to see how new songs go over with a crowd wanting to hear hits, as well as other fans who came to see the other headliner.  But it was the perfect opening song to get things going.  Surprising to me, the crowd sang along.  So I was foolish for assuming people might not want to hear it.

From there the band rolled out about some of their biggest hits and best songs.  I was out on the lawn, and the enormous sold out venue was in a frenzy at this point.  There were people head banging to “Hash Pipe”, as well as possibly busting out their own hash pipe in celebration.  There were others dancing like no one was looking during “Pork and Beans”, or “Perfect Situation”.  “Perfect Situation” being a personal favorite of mine.

I found it interesting that during this stage of the concert, the middle school Panic! At The Disco fans were now watching me, happy for me that I was getting to experience the euphoria they had previously felt.  It would seem my excitement got them a little more excited and they began to dance, and even sang along to songs that they were surprised that they knew.

I’m just going to say, I was not holding back.  Weezer songs are so fun to sing along to. And was I singing along!  I was pumping my fist, screaming lyrics, and there may have been a few clumsy dance moves.

I looked over to some fans around me in the middle of the song “Beverly Hills”.  At the same time they looked over at me.  We caught each other in a state of perma grin.  We laughed and i said, “How awesome is this?!”.  They followed with, “This is incredible!!!! Wooooo!”.  And they we sang the lyrics as loudly as we could.  There is not much I enjoy more than bonding with a complete stranger over a similar interest.

When I sit back and think about why this Weezer set was so great, I strangely had to stop and thing about it for a minute to get a solid answer.  Their lighting and the graphics on the big screen behind the band are really cool, but that’s not what makes the show great.  They don’t do a ton of crowd work, so that’s not why I was so happy with concert.  They don’t dance, or run all around the stage, or have a really powerful presence on the stage.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun.  Rivers Cuomo sang one song with a crown and royal cape, another with a sombrero or oversized cowboy hat (Hard to tell from the lawn.).  They brought out a bunch of huge beach balls and threw them into the audience.  They even read some tweets that had been posted about the show.  So their stage presence is not boring by any means.  But that can’t be why the show was so great.  And after sifting through the reasons I came to a conclusion.  This show was amazing because they sound great live, and they have outstanding songs that are perfect for a concert. Their songs are so memorable that even if you aren’t a huge fan, you still know all the words.

All in all, it was a very good night for live music. All three bands did a great job. And for me, Weezer was in the right place. Closing the show. I have no doubt that there were probably some fans in attendance that would have preferred Panic! At The Disco close the show. I’m sure it’s all a matter of perspective. But if you were a fan of one over the other, or a fan of both, I know everyone there could agree that even though these bands seemed to be an unusual pairing, they brought us a really fun night.

Panic! At The Disco Setlist 
Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time
Vegas Lights
The Ballad of Mona Lisa
Hallelujah
Time to Dance
Emperor’s New Clothes
Girls/Girls/Boys
Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)
Nine in the Afternoon
Crazy=Genius
Miss Jackson<
Golden Days
Bohemian Rhapsody(Queen cover)
LA Devotee
I Write Sins Not Tragedies
This is Gospel
Positive Hardcore Thursday/ Positive Hardcore
Victorious

Weezer Setlist
California Kids
Hash Pipe
My Name Is Jonas
(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
Pork and Beans
I Love the USA
Perfect Situation
Thank God for Girls
Beverly Hills
Dope Nose / Back to the Shack / Keep Fishin’ / The Good Life / Surf Wax America
Undone – The Sweater Song
King of the World / Only in Dreams
Island in the Sun
Say It Ain’t So

Encore:
El Scorcho
Buddy Holly

Adele Pepsi Center July 16, 2016

IMG_5499So it has been over a week since I saw  Adele in concert.  I saw her in Denver, and I don’t really do reviews outside of Utah.  It seems a little weird since we are Utah Concert Review!  But, I just can’t stop thinking about the show.  I have replayed it over and over in my head since I left the Pepsi Center.  So, I decided to do a write up on my experience anyway.  Therefore, I’m adding a new section to the website called “UCR On Tour”.  This is where I’ll put reviews of any shows I see outside of the beehive state.

 So, Adele.  I have had the privilege of seeing many of the greats in concert.  And while I knew Adele was a great live singer, and accomplished performer, I didn’t think the show would make the impact it did.

I did a little research before the show, and I found out that Adele doesn’t have a supporting act, and she goes on right at 8 PM.  I’m glad I looked into it because most of the time I’ll show up during the opening set.  If I hadn’t looked into it, I would have missed a decent portion of the show.

I showed up to the Pepsi Center at 7:57.  I had planned my flight out perfectly so that I would have plenty of time to meet my sister and her husband (the generous ones who gave me this ticket as a Christmas present.) and get to the venue.  What I didn’t plan on was waiting in the car rental line for over 90 minutes!  So walking into the venue with three minutes until showtime was not ideal.  But I still had three minutes to get to my seat!

After climbing three massive flights of stairs, and sprinting to the other side of the venue, I made met my family, already seated, just as Adele appeared from below the stage!  I was out of breath (I know we’re in Utah, but he altitude in Denver is insane! Adele even said so!  She had oxygen ready back stage just in case!), I was sweating profusely, and yet, all I could think was “I made it!’, and “Wow, there she is.”.  And there she was indeed.  Rising from beneath a small stage, on my side of the venue, with the main stage, housing her exceptional band and backup singers on the opposite other end of the jam packed arena.  (You can see what I mean from the pictures and videos posted in this article.) Adele greeted the Denver audience, appropriately with her huge hit, “Hello”.

The amazing thing about concerts is although you are in the midst of thousands of other fans, the event can be quite a personal experience.  And this night was no exception.  When I was given this gift on Christmas Day, we were unaware that almost seven months later, this would be the last night my sister and her family would be spending as citizens of Colorado.  A life enriching opportunity was leading them Georgia.  So not only were we seeing one of our favorite artists, they were also being given a spectacular send off.

Which brings me one of my favorite Adele songs “Hometown Glory”.  As expected, the crowd roared upon hearing the first few notes of the popular song off of her debut album.  The enormous screen show pictures of Adele’s hometown of London, England.  Midway through the song, the backdrop changed to some of the most beautiful panoramic views of downtown Denver that I have ever seen.  To no surprise, the local audience went crazy.  While I’m sure this happens in every tour stop, it really adds a nice touch, and for my sister and brother in law, it was a very touching moment.  In a room of almost 20,000 fans, Adele gave them a very personal, private, and poignant farewell to the beautiful city they had called home.

Now, just in case Adele decides to come to Salt Lake City, I won’t spoil all of the events that transpired that night.  I’lI finish this article by sharing the two things that stood out the most to me.

One, her interaction with the crowd.  She was so good with the audience.  I heard it mentioned several times in my seats way back in Booniville, “How can we be this far back, and she’s making us feel like we’re in the front row?”  My sister said it, the girls behind me said it, and the couple on the other side of the aisle said it. And it was true.  She spoke to us as if we were old friends from school handing out again.  She brought fans on stage.  She took the time to take selfies with them.  She crouched down so she could fit into the camera frame of fans on the floor taking selfies. She told stories about her time in Denver, and about her life.  She was so relatable, even though she is a huge huge star.  For all I know, it could just be an act.  And if it is, she’s as good at seeming genuine, as she is at singing.  No one is that good at pretending to be awesome.

And secondly, her voice.  What a voice!  I know what you’re thinking.  “Duh, of course she has a good voice.  I’m pretty sure her platinum records, and sold out world tour should have told you that.”.  And you’re right, I knew that.  That’s why I wanted to see her live.  So, Duh to you!  But how impressive is it, that even though I already knew she was an amazing vocalist, and performer, she still blew me away beyond my expectations? She far exceeded anything that I had hoped for.  And I was already expecting greatness.  This woman has a very unique gift.

I consider myself very fortunate to see Adele when her career is this white hot.  She might stay this way for years to come, but I think it’s impossible for it to go any better.  She’s had three albums that are just about perfect, her voice is in peak form, and she still loves what she does.  It’s obvious that even though we were her 55th show of 105, she was still excited to perform for us, and to bring us her songs.  I say this a lot, but I truly mean that this is a night I won’t forget.  This show moved into the top five of all the shows I’ve ever seen.  No frills, no dance routines, no killer guitar solos necessary, just a gifted and talented woman..  It was a perfect night.

Set list:
Hello
Hometown Glory
One and Only
Rumour Has It
Water Under the Bridge
Skyfall
Million Years Ago
Send My Love (to Your New Lover)
Make You Feel My Love
Sweetest Devotion
Chasing Pavements
Someone Like You
Set Fire to the Rain

Encore:
When We Were Young
Rolling in the Deep

Boston & Dennis DeYoung USANA Amphitheater June 25, 2016

unnamed (6)This past Saturday, Boston stopped by the USANA Amphitheater on their 40th Anniversary Tour. My main reason for attending this concert was to see their opener Dennis DeYoung.  Dennis is one of the founding members of the band STYX.  He was one of the lead vocalists, as well as a writer of many of their biggest hits.  While I don’t usually go into much detail on openers, I really want to share my feelings about seeing DDY in person for the first time.

I was a kid when STYX was releasing 5 multi platinum albums in a row.  I had heard many of their songs, and was enthralled with the “Mr. Roboto” video.  But it wasn’t until the late 90’s when boy bands and Britney Spears were ruling the airwaves, that I decided to look in the music vault and there I discovered STYX.  I heard they were going on tour, so I went to their website to see when they’d be in town.  I noticed that in the band pictures, Mr. DeYoung was not pictured with the rest of the group.  So I did a little research and came to find that he was no longer a part of the band.  His songs were my favorite so it was really disappointing.  The history of his departure has been laid out in VH1’s “Behind the Music”, as well as plenty of interviews with the band. So if you want more info on that, there are places to find it.  Anyway,  I went to see the DeYoung-less STYX, and I will say it was a really fun show.  But whenever they would do DDY song, as much as their new keyboard player and vocalist tried, he was no Dennis.  He was a solid performer too.  But there is nothing like the original in most cases.  So from that time, until now, I’ve been really wanting to see Dennis DeYoung perform his songs.  And this past Saturday, there he was, opening for Boston.

Dennis performed for 45 minutes, and it went quick!  He opened with “Grand Illusion”, “Lady”, “Blue Collar Man” and then “Mr. Roboto”.  A song that STYX never does.  And say what you will about that song, it was a huge hit for them, and it was well received by the crowd. He was really engaging with the audience, telling jokes, and interacting with fans in between songs.  He even performed STYX songs that he didn’t sing lead on.  For these gave way to his lead guitarist August Zadra, who did an exceptional job filling in for Tommy Shaw.

As I mentioned, for someone who has really wanted to see Dennis DeYoung for over 15 years, the time went fast.  He ended with “Come Sail Away”, and the crowd was singing along, and into it as if he was closing the entire show.

When I saw STYX, I really missed DDY being there, but when I saw Dennis, I didn’t really miss the other guys.  Maybe it’s because I’ve already seen the other guys of STYX, or maybe it’s due to always really liking Dennis’ songs.  Hard to say.  But I do remember thinking that these guys would put on an amazing show if they were all together again.  And that sentiment was felt by many of the fans there at USANA.  When Dennis was finished, I ran to wait in line at the restroom.  Manyof the guys in line with me, as well as people walking by were talking about how great that show was. Several mentioned how great it would be if Dennis was to rejoin STYX.  One can only hope!

Dennis DeYoung Setlist

The Grand Illusion
Lady
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
Mr. Roboto
Too Much Time on My Hands
Babe
The Best of Times
The End (Beatles Cover)
Renegade
Come Sail Away

BOSTON

As I mentioned, I attended this concert to see Dennis DeYoung.  But don’t get me wrong.  Boston has been a huge band my whole life.  I have many friends who are die hard Boston fans.  I have never seen them, so I was looking forward to seeing them.

Boston came out with guns blazing!  Theyplayed four of their biggest songs, of course starting with the “Star Spangled Banner” leading right into “Rock N Roll Band”.  They played hit after hit much to the delight of this surprisingly much older crowd.  I don’t know why I was surprised by that, Boston has been around for 40 years.  

Tom Scholz is the only remaining original band member still in Boston.  But he’s the songwriter, producer, etc. So I suppose if he’s still in there, it almost doesn’t matter who else is with him. Some of the current band members have been with Boston longer than some originals.  I found them all to be very accomplished, and great performers.   I was really impressed with Tommy DeCarlo.  A Boston fan who replaced Brad Delp on lead vocals after his unfortunate passing in 2007.  He sounded great, and fit the Boston sound everyone is accustomed to.

Another favorite band member of mine was Beth Cohen on keyboard and backing vocals. She was so into the show, covering all the incredibly high harmonies that we love.  She even took the lead on a track or two.  Her voice was amazing!

The order of the setlist to was really peculiar to me.  Keep in mind this is my first Boston show, so maybe they have always done things like this. As I mentioned, they sang a ton of huge songs right off the bat, and then the 2nd half of the show felt like it was mostly instrumental.  I would have thought they would have placed the hit songs throughout the show while throwing in instrumentals in between.  But again, maybe this is how they’ve always done it, so who am I to judge.  

Overall it was a really entertaining show, and I would probably see them again.  It’s interesting to me with bands of this era.  They’ve been panned in the annals of Rock n Roll history.  They’ve been called “Sell-Out Rock” “Arena Rock” or “Corporate Rock”.  But if you really listen, you’ll see that these bands are really talented. Of course, if you like Boston, make sure you get out to one of their shows.  You’ll have a good time.

Boston Setlist

The Star-Spangled Banner
Rock & Roll Band
Smokin’
Feelin’ Satisfied
Peace of Mind
Long Time Segue
Cool the Engines
We’re Ready
Higher Power
I Think I Like It
Don’t Look Back
Something About You
Amanda
The Launch
More Than a Feeling
“E” Jam
The Journey

To Be a Man
Walk On
Walk On (Some More)
Foreplay/ Long Time

Encore:
Used to Bad News
Party

Broods Gallivan Center June 22, 2016 Salt Lake City

IMG_5245

Salt Lake City’s prominent alternative station X96 did the Utah community a solid by sponsoring, along with others, The Salt City Sounds concert series, a free concert downtown at the Gallivan Center.  Their invited guests were Broods.  A brother and sister electronic duo from New Zealand.

With only a couple days away from the release of their much anticipated new album ‘Conscious’, we were given a well mixed 13 song set featuring favorites from their first album ‘Evergreen’, along with songs many of us were hearing for the first time.

Lead singer Georgia Nott didn’t let the hot summer night, or even the high elevation slow her down.  She owned the stage with a balanced, yet highly energetic display of crowd work, and vocal prowess. Georgia is bite size.  I mean, she’s tiny!  With the way the stage is set up at the Gallivan Center, there were times when the crowd was jumping up anddown, she would all but disappear.  I noticed how much the crowd enjoyed when Georgia spoke with her New Zealand accent.  Many of them actually wanted her to speak more often.  Keyboardist, Caleb Nott stayed busy working synths, drum pads, and backing vocals.

Once again, Utah concert goers have done it again.  Early in the show, Georgia mentioned how much they loved performing in Utah.  She told us not to tell anyone, but I had to say it because I have always believed this is one of the best places to see a show, because the crowd is usually so good.  I’ve been to enough concerts to know thatthese artists are genuine when they say that.  And I’ve heard many bands come through here tell us that this is their favorite place to play.

The only thing that wasn’t my favorite, was they left the stage and never came back.  The crowd was the highest they had been the whole night, and they stuck around hoping, maybe even expecting Broods to come back.  But they never did.  Now, I know that the whole encore thing is a little cliche’, and it is understood that our cheering isn’t necessarily what’s bringing the band back on stage.  But, it is what it is.  We want you to leave, we want to cheer, and we want you to come back and sing a few more songs.  That’s just how it works.  Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t ruin the night or anything.  We just want our encore!

FullSizeRender (5)As the band left the stage, Georgia Nott said “Best show ever!” into the microphone.  Now it’s hard to believe that this would truly be the case.  But, later that night, a clip of the show was
posted on their twitter account making the exact same statement.  So, I have no other choice than to believe her. It was a really fun night.

The Cure Maverik Center June 3, 2016 West Valley City

TheCureMavAfter seeing a string of pop stars (who I did enjoy thoroughly), It was nice to spend an evening getting back in touch with my alternative music roots. On Friday June 3rd, I got to witness The Cure perform an almost three hour, 33 song set at West Valley’s Maverik Center.

I did not have tickets to this show, and I was hoping to find some affordable tickets the day of.  The show had been sold out for months, so I was felt that obtaining tickets might not be in the cards.  Well, fate was on my side, because a friend of mine texted me the night before letting me know that she might have an extra ticket, and confirming that the ticket was mine the following morning.  My excitement was through the roof!

The Cure is known for doing really long sets, so I knew that we should show up on time.  We got to our seats right at 7:30 and as we sat down The Twilight Sad took the stage, opening the show.  They played a respectable 40 minutes, setting the mood for the headliner.

When you’re the king of your genre, and when you’ve been doing it for 30+ years, you’re likely to have fans coming to your shows wanting to hear just your big hits.  This seems to be the case with The Cure.  But The Cure are not really that kind of band.  Robert Smith doesn’t want to come out, do 90 minutes of hits and be on to the next town.  He ensures that the fans get their money’s worth, and that the truest of fans enjoy themselves with songs they wouldn’t expect to hear, but want to.  The set list is rearranged in every city, and the best thing to do is to expect the unexpected.

The show opened with about 30 minutes of songs that a casual fan of The Cure would most likely not recognize.  As I looked around the arena I could see the mega fans so excited to hear these songs, while others were looking at each other shrugging their shoulders, unsure of what these songs were, only certain that they weren’t on a greatest hits album.  But right at the 30 minute mark a huge spiderweb appeared on the screens behind the band.  Both the diehard and the casual fan roared their approval, knowing that the next song was going to be one of their favorites, “Lullaby”.  This seemed to be the real start of the show as far as fan energy was concerned.  The Cure sprinkled in hits with songs from albums across their career.  It seemed they would never go two or three songs without performing a fan favorite.  It seemed as if the energy of the show continued to grow all the way to the end.

The Cure did three encores!  The last two were probably my favorite part of the show.  A lot of great songs, and just a really great environment around the arena.  I found it extremely odd that many fans (I’m guessing very casual fans), left after the first encore.  And more after the second.  Was this their first concert?  Do they not know to watch the lighting of the arena?  That if it stays dark, they’re probably coming back out?  I mean, come on people! I even saw some people racing back to their seats when they realized the show wasn’t over. This would be acceptable if they saw The Cure back in the 80’s.  I remember at my first concert feeling like it depended on me to cheer my loudest so the band would come back.  But this is 2016, and most of the fans looked like they had been to a concert or two in their lives.  They should have known better. Those people missed out on some amazing songs!  They also missed out on some of Robert Smith’s best dance moves. He performed a few songs without his guitar, giving him the freedom to entertain the crowd that much more.  With every subtle move, the crowd would cheer their approval.  The band closed with “Boys Don’t Cry”  And then they were off to Colorado.

The thing that stood out to me was Robert Smith’s voice.  As you can hear in these Youtube clips, he sounds perfect!  To me he sounds the same as he did back in the day.  Very little difference.  I get it that Smith doesn’t have the rangiest voice on earth, but you would think a 57 year old man would have some fall off.  Well, he didn’t.  Every song sounded just like you’d want it to.  I was really happy about this.  It’s sad when our favorite singers start to lose their voices, so I was happy to hear Robert’s voice has stayed intact.  I could not have enjoyed this concert more!
On a personal note, Jamin, one of my best friend’s from high school and beyond was attending the concert with his brother and another high school mate of ours.  As I was walking to my seat, I was about to text him, asking him where his seats were. Just then I looked in my row I found him in the seats right next to mine!  What are the chances?!  I think we brought it up at least four times during the show how crazy it was that with all the seats in the Maverik Center, we happened to be right by each other.  I guess we were just meant to see The Cure together!

Set List

Shake Dog Shake
A Night Like This
Push
Primary
Like Cockatoos
Kyoto Song
The Walk
Lullaby
High
The Caterpillar
The End of the World
Pictures of You
Closedown
Lovesong
Just Like Heaven
Trust
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
One Hundred Years
Give Me It

Encore:
Want
Never Enough
Fascination Street
Burn
Wrong Number
A Forest

Encore 2:
In Between Days
Doing the Unstuck
Friday I’m in Love

Encore 3:
Hot Hot Hot!!!
Let’s Go to Bed
Close to Me
Why Can’t I Be You?
Boys Don’t Cry