Since I hadnâ€™t been to Kilby Court in awhile, I left home a bit early to allow myself plenty of time to compensate for the inevitable moment when I get lost on the way to the West side. However, my sense of direction has improved considerably, so I was able to scout out a suitable parking spot and head in. I struck up a conversation with a few visual arts majors all the way from UVU, who expressed a profound excitement to see The Cave Singers perform live. I saw this as a promising developmentâ€"â€"it would take one hell of a band to motivate me to drive all the way down to Orem. As the opening act arrived and began to set up shop, I took my leave in order to get a decent spot inside.
When I saw Utah local David Wilson take the stage, I wasnâ€™t quite sure what to expect. Heâ€™s a skinny dude who peeked out at the audience through a vast tangle of black hair and a beard that put those belonging to 90% of the male attendees to shame. His outfit was smallâ€"Wilson on guitar and vocals and an equally skinny but more clean-shaven gentleman on drums. The duo launched into a set of Springsteen-esque tunes about traversing the urban jungle of the soul and all that crap. Wilson handled his guitar with a formidable amount of skill, which he demonstrated through liberal application of solos throughout his set. When they finished, the crowd was sufficiently warmed up for the headliners, and I made my way closer to the stage as the audience shuffled out to smoke and buy water.
â€śYou guys are badass!â€ť Shouted one over-excited spectator as The Cave Singers took the stage. Lead vocalist Pete Quirk was quick to respond, â€śWe are badass! We steal, and we loiter, but weâ€™re a good catch, nonetheless!â€ť Guitarist Derek Fudesco and drummer Marty Lund chuckled and hooted in agreement as they took their postsâ€"Fudesco on a ripped up barstool, and Lund behind his percussion set, which included a pair of bongos. Seeing the group assembled and ready to bring their unique style of indie folk to Salt Lake conjured an image of traveling, Depression-era troubadours getting ready to blow the roof off of a rural hootenanny. And blow the roof off they did.
Based on my interpretation of their albums, I was expecting a show that fostered moments of deep introspection and hushed toe tapping from its audience. It didnâ€™t quite go down like that. When they hit â€śAt the Cut,â€ť a mere three songs into their set, Quirkâ€™s Bob Dylan drawl had worked itself into a gravelly rasp, and the audience was stomping and hollering like an old-timey barn dance that had been privy to an excess amount of moonshine. Seeing these guys take their familiar recorded material and transform it into something visceral and substantial is the mark of true artists, and it reminded me of why some music just begs to be heard live.
Given Kilbyâ€™s limited space, the band managed to pack in a large selection of guitars and other musical instruments. In addition to a regular appearance of maracas, I was surprised to see Lund scraping and banging away at an actual wash board that he had situated on the top of his drum kit. During â€śHaller Lake,â€ť Quirk produced a strange hybrid of a keyboard and a kazooâ€"which I later learned was called a melodica. Thanks, Google.
As the show was drawing to a close, Quirk announced that they had a long drive back to Seattleâ€"which got me thinking about the grunge movement of the early â€™90s. Back then, grunge, like its punk predecessors, was all about infusing honesty into a medium that has been monopolized by giant record labels and cross-promotional ad campaigns. In addition to The Cave Singers, it would appear that Seattle is still cranking out these honesty-seeking rabble-rousersâ€"Fleet Foxes and The Head and the Heart also come to mindâ€"Itâ€™s interesting that our current incarnation of the punk/grunge spirit is a bit less like Mudhoney and a bit more like The Band. The Cave Singersâ€™ stripped down, blue-collar folk is indeed a welcome infusion of honesty in the deluge of mass produced swill that seems to constantly permeate the modern music market. Should these gentlemen decide to grace Salt Lake with their presence again, I will definitely be there.