Life is stressful … it’s hectic, it’s unbalanced … sometimes life is just plain hard. But I’ve found the perfect prescription for it. On a mild June night, surrounded by a few hundred beautiful strangers, lay back on a cool bed of grass under a clear Salt Lake City sky and let “Carla Cain” by The Hollering Pines wash all of you. I found myself using this exact medicine Friday night. And after having something of a stressful, hectic, unbalanced… hard day, this remedy somehow made everything seem pretty damn okay.
The second night of the Utah Arts Festival was a complete departure from the first. The sky was clear, no rain in sight, the crowds were full, and everything was generally amazing. I arrived to Library Square about an hour before the first show I was assigned to. I decided to do a bit of wandering around the various booths and tents. I saw some amazing art and presentations. Like this guy, Bob Culbertson, who was playing “Eleanor Rigby” on an instrument called a Chapman Stick, or the insanely talented poet Gray Brian Thomas that had about a hundred or so people hanging on his every verse.
Even though they may not know it, these artists, these creative types, they have it all figured out. You see, while the rest of us are pulling ourselves every which way trying to find a place in the world, these artists, even if they are doing it for only part time and for no money, they are creating their place in the world. Take the first act I was covering, Hope and Tim Glenn, a folk duo that just happens to be married. While a lot of married couples barely can find time to sit down and eat together, these two are creating timeless Americana music on a regular basis and regularly performing together. It’s really quite a feat.
Hope and Tim, at least musically, perfectly complement each other. While Tim is the classic folkster, with a voice and stage presence like Dylan or Seeger or, who he most reminds me of, Provo’s own Joshua James. Hope, on the other hand, possesses a voice filled with delicate soul. Singing separately, they are very good, but when they harmonize their music hits whole new levels. The set’s highlight was “Variety Blues” from their EP Middle Eight. The tempered, muted build up really showed how great of songwriters and performers they are.
SLUG’s own, Gavin Sheehan, expertly introduced the next band I was covering, The Hollering Pines, at the Park Stage, even going so far as to chide the crowd for not yelling loud enough when he asked if they are having a good time. The Pines, an Americana Country band, started things off with “Don’t You Say Nothin’” which, right away, showed off their duo of lead singers, Marie Bradshaw and Kiki Jane Buehner, fantastic harmonization. After a few more balladic type songs, The Pines kicked it all up a notch with “Cadillac,” a jumping rockabilly number that was written by drummer Dan Buehner and was selected as a finalist in the 2014 MerleFest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. My very favorite parts of the performance were the aforementioned “Carla Cain” and the gospel number “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?” I don’t know why, but I love twangy gospel music. The whole performance was so beautiful, I just laid back and breathed it all in.
Before my next assigned act, I wandered over to the Amphitheater Stage to check out The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, led by that Chris Robinson, formally of The Black Crowes. The Crowes are one of my favorite bands of all time, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The Brotherhood isn’t quite as fierce as the Crowes, leaning more toward psychedelic rock rather than electric blues. But make no mistake, Robinson is still a god and is one of the great frontmen in rock music. I only got to catch a few of their songs before I returned to the Park Stage to take in Swagger.
Fuckin’ Swagger—with a name like that, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t an Irish Punk band featuring a kilted fiddle player. They kicked off with “America Land” from the album of the same title . Right away, the entire crowd was taken. Their energy, their tight music, their stirring songs, everything added up to a feeling that this was going to be a great performance. One of the features that was amazing in a few of their songs was when guitarist Andrew Marshall and kilted fiddler Dennis Harrington rocked some dueling solos, incredibly dynamic.
Not long into their set, a good chunk of the audience found themselves in front of the stage, jumping around and dancing. Song after song, the energy just kept going up. To say this performance blew me (and everyone else in attendance) away would be a gross understatement. The fact is, this was one of the very best shows I have ever seen. As the show was close to wrapping up, and nearly half the crowd had gathered in front of the stage, just going mental, I had one of those great realizations.
There is a lot of strife in the world … there always is, I guess. There is war, disease, poverty—even locally, on a daily basis we are seeing family and friendships breaking up over nonsensical things to do with religion and politics. But Friday night reminded me, as long as we continue to smile, as long as we dance and love; as long as we throw all the bullshit aside and just have a good time—as long as we, as humans, continue to create, I think things will be pretty damn okay.