The New Pornographers February 16, 2020, The Depot

By: Alex Wardell

Photo Credit: Alex Wardell

This last week has been more than special to me. I had the opportunity to photograph and provide coverage for an artist I have followed since the day I could bounce along with a rhythm and could feel the hum of a bassline. This time I am humbled, in having the unadmonished pleasure in discovering and meeting a group of musicians I have been obsessed with ever since they left the stage that Sunday night. I will get to that after reveling in the wonder of explosive and heartfelt entertainment that was Sunday night at The Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Photo Credit: Alex Wardell

The night was rather cold yet I was living way above the atmosphere of the city to register temperature; fresh from covering my choice show of the year, so far; I had a spring in my step and a plethora of ideas in my head. This night would prove no different as the only two performers I had requested to possibly cover if they were available, thanks to Kevin, Editor in Chief of Utah Concert Review, were mine and also booked within the same weekend. I have been overwhelmed, emotional, empowered and humbled by the last seven days. I have Kevin Rolfe to thank for that (seriously Kevin, thank you); the wonderful community of venue owners and managers, distributors, vendors, promoters as well; and the fans, for which the joy of music ever succeeds as a commodity and art form. 

The New Pornographers have always been a fascination of mine when I began discovering music in my youth, hearing nothing but fabled stories of music festivals in Vancouver and Carl Newman and Neko Case, writing another “Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Album of The Decade.” I am only poking fun at a group that is recognized as one of the most dynamic songwriting groups of the last twenty-five years. The diverse and overtly patient crowd was evidence of that. Their new album, In the Morse of Brake Lights has only been released September of last year and already a full-on tour has since been underway. 

Photo Credit: Alex Wardell

The powerhouse that is Carl, Neko, Kathryn Alder, Joe Sieders and many others seemed a prolific enough event for which, anyone could hope. And faith in which, the Indie and Power-Pop fans would not want nor be disappointed. Within the last few months, I have been finding my greatest solace and true passion in discovering new music enveloped around an obsession for the unknown, these unknowns, being the unexpected, ostentatious, memorable and affable acts; touring with and opening countless magical nights for fans and performers alike with their sheer love and character for music and performance. Diane Coffee is effervescent with the spirit of why I love doing what I do. Shaun Fleming is the most beautifully monstrous voice and talent which almost impossibly balances and throws himself headlong and heel first through his songs, that have such a range which unbelievably is housed within such a stylish frame and platform shoes. Let’s not forget about the rest of the band. Diane Coffee is almost all Shaun, however Sam, Aiden, Kyle and Matt on the keyboard and melodica, make this group a quintet of wonder and awe. I can only wish to convey the enormity of Shaun’s voice, but my best suggestion is not to listen to me attempt in describing the treat, which is Diane Coffee; my best is a suggestion in hunting down the next venue they happen to electrify. That’s what I’m going to do. 

At this point, I was in a trance, as was the rest of the audience, from an opener the likes, as that. I found myself edging my way closer and closer in the direction of the upper section of the venue to simply gather in the emotion of the crowd, the band and the night in general. This is why we come to concerts, why we bother to wait in lines and pay outrageous fees for services, perhaps beverages just to listen, together; this is why these eccentric, talented and insane individuals spend their time creating collaborating, traveling and living in buses and vans simply to perform, together. It is times like this why I try to jam as many shows as I can in when I am available. Although not every concert can be as rich as this one, I still never leave any concert hall without something new to and reflect upon or to simply sing- along.

The New Pornographers performed a twenty-two song set, with an encore that seemed to embody the late 90’s in itself. I was blown away to hear the new album from the group, almost entirely with the classics peppered in tastefully. The night went from a pinnacle of euphoria to a solid wave of voices we have had sing us to sleep during our favorite TV Shows and James Franco space-out cut scene, montage or flashback. The night was absolutely surreal. The “Indie,” is becoming “Classic,” I would have thought that it would be alarming and possibly disenchanting, only contrarily so. It is said Carl Newman named the band The New Pornographers as such because of the fact that Rock n’ Roll was pornography in the vernacular of the 1940s and ’50s. I can only say I am more than anxious to see what “pornography” the next generation has in store for the world next. We all had a taste of the very excitement that night and all I can say is, I want more. 

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