UCR Interview- Cat Leavy of New Shack

Trevor Christensen

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.  

UCR Interview- Trevor Free of Sister Adolescent

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!

 

UCR Interview- Mia Grace

Michael Hansen

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.

Justin Hackworth

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.  

UCR Interview- Vin Rock of Naughty By Nature

 Kevin Rolfe

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!    

Styx January 23, 2018 Salt Lake City Eccles Theater

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.

Setlist

Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Lady
Radio Silence
Lorelei
Man in the Wilderness
Light Up
Locomotive
Suite Madame Blue

Intermission

Miss America
Lights
The Outpost
Khedive
Pieces of Eight
Too Much Time on My Hands
Bohemian Rhapsody
Come Sail Away

Encore:
Rockin’ The Paradise
Renegade

Jewel’s Handmade Holiday Tour November 27, 2017 Salt Lake City Eccles Theater

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.  

Setlist

Joy to the World
The Christmas Song
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
O Holy Night
Hands
The Shape of You
You Were Meant for Me
Foolish Games
Who Will Save Your Soul
Ave Maria
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)

Jade Bird November 14, 2017 Salt Lake City The State Room

Getting the opportunity to be the support act on a  tour is a  great opportunity for an up and coming artist to get their music heard by those who might not be familiar with their work.  That being said, I generally get nervous for these artists who open the show for the headliner because I’d imagine that it’s not their ideal situation to be performing in.  The audience isn’t necessarily there to see them, the venue is half full at best, and the sound isn’t always perfect for them.  In my experience more times than not, if the opener isn’t known, the audience tends to ignore them by talking with their friends and paying very little attention. This was not the case when Jade Bird performed at The State Room in support of Son Little on Tuesday night.  

The State Room is a venue I don’t get to as often as I’d like, but it’s one of my favorite places to see a concert in Utah. I have never been disappointed with any of the shows I’ve seen there.  They have an open floor with a few dimly lit pub tables scattered throughout.  Behind the floor is a seating area that looks like it could have been pews from a church at one point.  I like the way the sound resonates in the room, and there isn’t a bad spot in the venue.  

Jade walked out to a half-full venue by herself bringing only a white acoustic guitar with her to the stage.  She said some brief hellos and jumped right into her set.  I noticed a number of the audience members questioning whether Jade had a British accent or not.  Her singing voice doesn’t really display any type of accent so I could tell they weren’t exactly sure.  Especially because Jade’s music is blues and country influenced.  It was fun for me to know of her British background already and watch the audience delight in her speaking voice then blended with the type of music she was playing.  I think it may have contributed to initially gaining the audience’s attention. 

Now if I had to guess, I would say that maybe ten people knew who Jade was.  This was a real opportunity for Jade to gain some new fans and it was obvious that she did exactly that.  Jade played songs mostly from her five-song EP Something American.  Initially, the crowd was polite in their applause, but then they really started to warm up as the show progressed.  She sang the title track to her EP and as she was singing the song I noticed a number of people walk from the seated area to the middle of the floor.  I saw heads begin to bob as she went through her set. By shows end Jade had the audience clapping along.  She attempted a new song called “Anniversary”.  Jade joked that she had made it through the song only once out of three attempts so she was hoping to even it out with this performance.  She was flying through the song brilliantly when all of a sudden she stopped and said “I lost it!” inferring that she couldn’t remember how the rest of the song went.  The audience just cheered their support as Jade just laughed it off.  

The highlight for me and from what I gathered was the highlight for the rest in attendance was when Jade did a Johnny Cash medley.  She sang “Cocaine Blues”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, and “Ring of Fire”.  This really got the audience going.  They were clapping and singing along.  I thought Jade did a great job of making these songs her own while at the same time staying true to the original arrangements. When Jade finished the medley she received her biggest ovation of the night.  

By this point, the floor was mostly full and Jade had their full attention.  I really need to hand it to this audience.  I couldn’t hear anyone talking.  In fact, I actually heard a pen drop.  That’s right, a pen.  It was so silent in The State Room that when someone pulled their phone from their pocket and a pen fell to the floor on the other side of the venue from where I was standing I could actually hear it when it hit the ground.  Jade even thanked the crowd for how engaged they were.  Like I mentioned, this is not always the case for support acts so I could tell that Jade was really enjoying the respect she was being paid.  

Other than the Johnny Cash songs, my favorite moment of the show was when Jade sang my favorite song on her EP “Cathedral”.  I noticed a few fans in the front singing every word of the song.  Jade even looked at them and smiled with a surprise that someone in a very unfamiliar town for her, knew the lyrics to one of her songs.  

Jade has a beautiful singing voice and a really fun stage presence.  I’m happy I was able to see her this early in her career because I really think we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. It’s an amazing thing to witness when an artist has the opportunity to introduce themselves to a new town and they leave having gained more fans than they came in with.  That’s what happened with Jade Bird.  I fully expect her to be the headlining shows in Salt Lake City in the future.  

Don Felder November 10, 2017 Salt Lake City The Depot

I had the opportunity to see a rock n roll legend this past Friday night at The Depot.  Don Felder was the lead guitarist for the Eagles from 1974-2001.  During this time he co-wrote a number of songs most notably “Hotel California”.  

Here’s what I expected from this concert.  The guitar play would be fantastic and I’d probably hear some Eagles songs.  Both things happened.  However, that’s putting it mildly.  This show really exceeded my expectations.  

Don got things going right away opening with one of my favorite Eagle songs “Already Gone”.  Then moving on to the classic “One of These Nights”.  The first thing I noticed was how amazing Don Felder is on the guitar.  This, as I mentioned, was one of the things that I expected.  But watching him play these riffs in person was simply amazing!  It truly was a masterclass in guitar.  

The other thing I noticed was Don is actually a solid vocalist.  A famous story within Eagles lore is that Felder wanted to sing lead on “Victim of Love”.  A song he co-wrote.  He recorded the vocals for the song and then the Eagles manager Irving Azoff took him to lunch.  In the meantime, Don Henley re-recorded the lead vocals that ended up being used.  When I heard this story I just assumed that Don Felder wasn’t a very good singer so the rest of the band did what had to be done.  And sure, Felder isn’t Don Henley when it comes to singing.  Not many are though.  But he’s a good vocalist.  I really enjoyed his voice and he sang all of these songs competently.  In fact, he sang “Victim of Love” in this show and I liked his vocals on that song quite a lot.

To my pleasant surprise and to the delight of the mostly middle-aged crowd, 13 of the 16 song setlist would come from the Eagles catalog.  The three other songs were solo gems “Heavy Metal”, “Girls in Black”, and a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride & Joy”.  

Don dedicated “Tequila Sunrise” to his formerEagles bandmate the late Glenn Frey.  Frey and Felder had a falling out that unfortunately was never reconciled. I thought this was a really classy move and I noticed many in the audience talking with their friends about what a nice touch it was leading into the song and to the show.  

Felder’s backing band was incredible. When introducing them, Don shared some of the other bands they had toured with.  Each one of them had extensive resumes, touring with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Kid Rock, Kenny Chesney, Pat Benatar, White Snake, and the Eagles.  Their harmonies were on point and at times if you closed your eyes, it sounded as if the rest of the Eagles were there.  

Don and his band zipped through Eagles song after Eagles song like “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “The Long Run” giving some personal history or backstory to each song.  Things really turned up a notch when Felder played “Heartache Tonight” and “Life in the Fast Lane”.  

At that point, the band put down their instruments and waved to the crowd signifying that the main set was over.  They never left the stage.  They picked their instruments back up and went into the Eagles first hit “Take it Easy”.  The crowd was electric.  They sang and shouted every line of the song.  It was then immediately clear why everyone to see Don Felder as soon as he strapped on his iconic double neck guitar.  It was, of course, the guitar he used for “Hotel California”.  

Now I’ve of course heard this song before, and I’ve seen it played live before.  But there is just something about seeing the man who wrote the music to “Hotel California” play that legendary solo and of course the guitar duet at the end.  I was mesmerized the whole time.  I found myself just staring at his hands picking away and moving up and down the fretboard.  People were singing this song so loud that a few times I couldn’t even hear Felder’s vocals.  People were singing to their friends, and at times singing it to me even though we had never met. 

Don couldn’t have ended this show with another song.  The audience, however, still cheered for more.  They kept cheering even after the lights came on and music from the house speakers came on.  I thought for a second they might give a second encore but then the crew came out and started breaking down the gear and we knew it was over.  

I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Felder.  I’m sure in some way it has to be disappointing to not have been with the Eagles in the past years and I’m sure he at times misses being in that band.  But he is a true talent, and he has put together a great band and a really fun show.  I’m glad he’s out there doing his thing. 

This past summer Don opened for Styx and REO Speedwagon out at USANA Amphitheater.  I was unable to attend the concert but the reports I heard back from friends was that Don Felder’s opening set blew away the bands that he was supposed to be warming up.  At the time I took that as the other bands weren’t that good.  But after being able to see Don Felder for myself, I realized that Don and his band and these songs are just that great!  

 

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley September 22, 2017 Salt Lake City The Depot

By: Brittany Demott & Meghan Johnson  

It seems there’s a lot of tension right now in this country.  When that happens we all look for a place to go where we can find peace of mind even if for a couple hours.  Some go to church, some go to the gym, and some just take a nap. We chose to go see Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley at The Depot.  

The minute we walked in we could see the vibe was relaxed and easy.  Just like you’d expect a Reggae concert to be. The crowd was so fun.  Everyone was having a great time. It was a great feeling to see everyone getting along and singing along together.  Security was so nice and friendly at The Depot.  They stayed pretty relaxed throughout the show and let the crowd enjoy the concert.  This wasn’t really the type of show where people got too crazy so security had an easy night.  

 

We loved Damian’s band.  They really set the tone for the show. They sounded great!  The beautiful backup singers had amazing moves and their voices blended perfectly with Damian’s.  There was one guy on stage whose sole responsibility was to wave a Rastafarian flag.  And that is just what he did.  For the entire show!  He waved that flag back and for almost 2 hours! We were so impressed.  We thought that he’d maybe just wave it for the first song, or maybe the first few.  But nope.  He was up there all night.  It was great.  The band as a whole just seemed like they loved what they were doing and loved being up on that stage. 

Damian sounded great and seemed to be really enjoying himself as well.  He has dreadlocks that fall all the way to his ankles. Watching those is a show in itself.  He played the best songs from his catalog including “Medication”. Damian also educated us on the benefits of legalized Marijuana.  We found it very informative.  

 

The highlight for us was when he sang some of his father Bob Marley’s hits.  He sang “War”, “Exodus”, and our favorite of the three “Is This Love”.  When Damian Sang “Is This Love” it was almost as if we were seeing Bob Marley himself singing it. Damian sounded just like him.  It was incredible.  It bordered on being a spiritual experience for us.  The moment was that special for us and really the entire audience.  

 

 

Damian finished the show with his biggest hit “Welcome to Jamrock”.  The crowd went as crazy as they had all night and we all sang every word.  It was the perfect way to end such a beautiful night.  

With so many crazy things going on in the world right now it was so nice to spend a couple hours with Damian and his fans. The unity, fellowship, and one love in The Depot was exactly what we need it.  We recommend that everyone spend some time at a Reggae show.  

Muse September 20, 2017 USANA Amphitheater

The summer is quickly transitioning to fall here in Utah.  But the temperature is still warm enough for just a few more outdoor concerts.  One of the final shows at USANA Amphitheater this season and one I had been eagerly anticipating since I bought tickets in the spring was Muse.   

Due to scheduling conflicts, I wasn’t able to see all of 30 Seconds to Mars set.  I saw the final few songs. From the little that I did see I was impressed.  The crowd was alive as if they were the headliners, and Jared Leto sounded better live than I had anticipated.  He’s also a really good front man.  He had the crowd singing along while inviting many to come on stage for the final song.  The constant thought while looking at him was, ‘This guy is an academy award winning actor, and he’s killing it on stage in a moo moo? Share some of the talent dude.’  

While the energy was high for 30 Seconds to Mars, it really did go up a notch when Muse walked onto the stage. They hadn’t made a tour stop in Utah since October, 013 so I think the crowd was happy to have them back. Truth be told it was that 2013 concert that inspired me to want to create this website back in 2013.   

Frontman and lead guitarist Matt Bellamy doesn’t say much in between songs.  He’ll say things like “How’s it going Salt Lake?”, or “Let me hear you Salt Lake!”.  But other than that, there isn’t much crowd work on his part. They play the songs, let the crowd go nuts for about 30 seconds, then get right back to playing.   

The thing I find most interesting about a Muse concert is that despite their lack of crowd interaction, it’s impossible to not be drawn into the show.  Yes, the lighting and special effects are great.  They always are at a Muse concert.  But it’s more than that.  It’s quite simply the music.  They have so many great songs.  Songs that are meant to be performed live, and in front of a large crowd. And from my vantage point, USANA Amphitheater was packed!  

Their music is a blend of so many music genres.  In one song I’m hearing indie rock, the next I’m hearing elements of funk and disco.  And of course, many of their songs feature strong elements of hard rock.  It fascinates me to watch a crowd go from a dance party to headbanging.  Sometimes within the same song!  I think that’s why there really is no need to interact too much with the audience.  Their music speaks for them.  

There was, however, a moment towards the end of the show when Muse mega-hit “Starlight” began.  I could hear Matt Bellamy singing, and I could tell it was the vocals were live.  But I couldn’t see him.  His face was on the screen and he appeared to be walking so I looked behind me and saw him walking at the back of the seated part of the venue where the seats end and the lawn begins.  As someone who has sat in the lawn many times, I was excited for those fans to get a closer look. Selfishly though, I was bummed to have the action so far away during one of Muse’s biggest songs.  So while I say that Matt didn’t say much, the music and his visit to the back of the venue made up for it.

The band closed the main set with “Mercy” off of their most recent album “Drones”.   They came back and sang two huge anthems “Uprising” and “Knights of Cydonia” to close the night.  I really like both of those songs and they are incredible live.  I remember after becoming a fan of Muse thinking ‘How are they going to top the album “Absolution” and the song “Hysteria?”’. And then I heard “Knights of Cydonia” on their follow-up album “Black Holes & Revelations” and I thought, ‘Touche Muse. Touche.”. So as I’m sure you can guess, I was so excited they closed with that song.  The place was on fire, and I was going nuts.  I looked to my left and there was this really pretty girl headbanging as if it were a Metallica concert.  It was awesome!

I’m sure it’s obvious, but it must be said that I’m a huge fan of Muse.  I used to like them, and then I saw them live back in 2013 and I appreciate them so much more. I think everyone needs to experience their live show. Their songs need to be heard in that setting.  I can’t wait to see them again. I just hope they come back sooner.  

Muse Setlist

Dig Down
Psycho
Interlude
Hysteria
Butterflies & Hurricanes
Plug in Baby
The 2nd Law: Isolated System
Stockholm Syndrome
Supermassive Black Hole
New Kind of Kick
Madness
Dead Inside
Take a Bow
Munich Jam
Starlight
Time is Running Out
Mercy

Encore
Uprising
Knights of Cydonia