The sun relentlessly beat upon our ever-reddening skins … and we fucking loved every minute of it. Summer had finally arrived and with it the Utah Arts Fest. By Sunday, the festival was on its final leg but showed no signs of losing momentum. I worked Saturday night so I only heard talk of the great sets from Fictionist and King Niko, but now it was Sunday, I was sun-screened and ready for My Dead Ego, The Suicycles and other bands I had yet to partake of. My Dead Ego is the stage name of Allison Martin, previously of Cavedoll. Martin is a piano prodigy, who finds herself quite at home on the stage and also shines as vocalist, backed by the band The Last Look. Martin relishes the stage, she exudes confidence and charisma and you’d never know from hearing her that this is her first project wherein she sings. With her breathy and soft vocal delivery, full back-up band, two back-up singers and a butterfly dancer, M.D.E was set to awe the crowd. The set was a mixture of originals composed by Martin as well as songs from The Last Look. The band offered up driving indie-emo rock laced with piano and strong vocal harmonies. A highlight in the set, Martin brought up co-collaborator Patrick Munger, an electronic music producer, and the two built a live piece onstage around an electronic beat, Martin’s piano and some sporadic vocals. It’s always an impressive process to see a band build a song, however, not many would try it at one of their first shows, and certainly not one of Arts Fest caliber––it was good to see M.D.E bold enough to try. With their theatrics and musicianship, this band has the ability to appeal to a wide range of listeners. I hope they continue to experiment and expand and not fizzle out like so many local bands do.
One of the big surprises of the day was when, mid-beer with my friends Diego and Camden, I looked backstage to see a man in a tux shirt and blazer jumping up and down madly while contorting his face and hands. “Some people have various rituals before they go on stage,” I explained to Diego, “but this guy is in rare form.” I was curious to see what all the freaking out was about, when the well dressed freak made a mad dash up the back steps and onto the stage to introduce his band, Eyes Lips Eyes. The first thing I noticed about this band was the complete and seamless diversity of styles. There was a touch of Flaming Lips, a little Talking Heads and a touch of Rusted Root. My attention was piqued and we quickly rushed around the front of the stage to take part in the magic. These guys are good, real good. The band, they claimed, are all cousins, and they performed with an uncanny sense of synchronicity. The bass lines at times reminded me of Primus, while the vocal delivery was very Shakespearean and dramatic. I found this annoying at first, but by the end of the set, I knew if I were to follow these guys, they would grow on me. The guitarist played mostly acoustic and was possessed with the rhythm of a machine gun. The drumming was eclectic yet solid, rarely were patterns followed, and each set of fills was unique. Midway through the set, the bassist managed to bust his own nose and proceeded to bleed quite profusely. This didn’t hamper him at all, and as his white button-up shirt sleeves soaked up the blood, he just rocked on. I could tell these guys love what they do. I hope they have the sense of focus to promote themselves well, and I hope they come back to Utah soon, I fully expect to see these guys touring with Edward Sharp And The Magnetic Zeros, or dare I say it, The Flaming Lips.