2014 Utah Arts Festival 06.28 with Better Taste Bureau, Juana Ghani, Red Desert Ramblers

Posted June 29, 2014 in ,
Share this:Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Pin on Pinterest1

Hip-hop at the Utah Arts Festival with Better Taste Bureau. Photo: John Barkiple

So I’m going to be emceeing and announcing at the Provo Freedom Festival Parade on July 4, and I spent Saturday afternoon at a training meeting for that. If you’ve ever been to that parade, you know that sometimes people can get fairly testy with each other. So, a good chunk of the training was spent on how to deal with that.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, and here I am writing my wrap up article on the festival, and it made me realize something. Having spent close to 20 hours over a three-day period at Library Square, all I saw was people enjoying the arts, presented in almost every form imaginable. There were thousands of attendees, some long lines and crowded walkways, but I personally never heard so much as an ill word exchanged between festival-goers. The festival, its attendees, and Salt Lake City should be very proud of that.

Because of traffic, some parking issues, and the length it time to get into the gates, I arrived to the festival on Saturday night a bit later than I wanted to. I was scheduled to watch Red Desert Ramblers, but they were wrapping up by the time I made it over to them. I feel terrible, so I listened to some of their music—they are a very tight, energetic bluegrass band from Salt Lake City. Bluegrass is that sort of music that is hit or miss for me recorded (I can almost always get into it live), but these guys nail it.

I rushed over to the City and County Building steps to catch my next act, Juana Ghani. When I got there, what I saw was a dozen or so musicians scattered amongst the steps, with a bunch of belly dancers gathered below. At the head of all of this was a violet tinted haired wild woman, by the name of Leisl Bonell. She’s one of the most interesting lead singers I’ve ever witnessed. Her gruff voice, mixed with her Stevie Nicks-esque dancing makes it hard to pay attention to much else, despite all of the craziness that surrounds her. Unfortunately, the sound at the stage was not quite optimized, making it really hard to hear her, or a lot of the band. It was a shame, really, because it took away from what was an intense and unique performance.

I had about an hour before my next scheduled group, so I did some wandering. One of the booths I happened to stop at was Della Goheen’s. Della, from Olympia, WA, via Las Vegas, has been making hats for a few decades, and has been going to the Utah Arts Festival for the last 12. “I love this festival,” she said. “Salt Lake is a great city and this is just a well done event.”

Going to a hip-hop show has always felt like something of a job. The performers are constantly yelling instructions, which they fully expect you to follow. “Put your hands up! Jump up and down! Clap!” and so on. For example, halfway through Better Taste Bureau’s (heretoforth known as BTB) set, I found myself, and a good chunk of the audience, saying “Hipstas” after BTB’s Gig and Hurris would yell “Too Many.” And yes, the irony was clear—as I was surrounded by probable hipsters, yelling the same thing.

Similar to Juana Ghani, BTB’s set was marred by some strange sound mixing. With that said, the hip-hop group, who will have the honor of opening for De La Soul in August at the Twilight Concert Series, put on a fun show. The highlight for me was the couple of songs that they brought Luna Lune’s Tessa Barton up for. Her soulful voice added a ton to the show’s dynamic.

2014’s edition was the first Utah Arts Fest I had attended, and I must say I was beyond impressed. Everyone and everything that I came across and experienced added nicely to the overall experience, and the amount of creativity and talent packed into Library Square was almost overwhelming. It was a complete pleasure to spend my weekend there, and I look forward to next year.

Photos: