BEACHMEN with Koala Temple, High Counsel, Palace of Buddies 09.18 @ Urban Lounge

Posted September 24, 2014 in
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Beachmen transcend expectations with their spin on “beach” music. Photo: Robin Sessions

The Urban Lounge has been doing this thing lately where they showcase local music to the public every week at no cost. It’s a simple “walk in and enjoy yourself” strategy to support our homegrown heroes. As a Salt Laker who doesn’t really attend farmer’s markets or other such gatherings, I try to catch as many of these as I can. Besides, organic produce doesn’t have shit on the ripeness of this lineup.

The first act, Palace of Buddies, is a duo consisting of Nick Foster on drums and Tim Myers on guitar. Myers incorporates loop pedals onstage with the heavy grooves provided by Foster. The typical effect of anyone who uses loop pedals is a kind of slow burn. But Palace of Buddies are no newbies. What starts as a seemingly simple riff is built upon until it becomes the spine that holds an entire piece together. Even with the absence of their trusty keyboard, which, according to Myers, “took a shit and died,” these guys lack nothing.
The pace of their set is a gradual incline of energy. Starting with their song “The Band Play,” Palace of Buddies give off the vibe of an anxious lullaby that swung the heads of a few people in the crowd. Once they had our attention, however, they sent themselves off. You can tell that these two have spent a lot of time performing with each other by the way they transfer their enthusiasm back and forth. The crowd catches it, too. With upbeat tunes like “Sexy Girl” and one of my favorites, “Short Time,” Palace of Buddies maintain their hold in my mind as one of the more solid local bands in Salt Lake.
The next group up is the electronic two-piece, High Counsel. These guys built a 9-foot-tall frame to place in front of the stage so that the semi-transparent strips of white cloth, which hung from the top of it, would create a veil between them and the audience. At first, this seems a little bit like Halloween-shop spookery, but then they turned on the projector. With another white screen at the back of the stage, their front piece caught the light as the images made their way to the back wall. And so the effect is like High Counsel is playing within a hologram that alternates between the second and third dimensions.
It’s a hit. High Counsel’s music strikes an exact middle stroke on the spectrum between inciting uninhibited movement or deep contemplation. They use polyrhythms and sounds that remind me of the ambient soundtracks television programs used to use in the 1990s for rainforest documentaries. Alongside their light show, this affiliation to the near-past seems intentional. The projector displays cycles of vintage computer graphics that morph geometric shapes, and include crudely pixellated silhouettes of the human form in motion across graphed planes. The audience is split between a kind of swayed gazing at the digital psychedelics, and some genuinely fierce dancing. High Counsel pulls a sizeable crowd. With a spectacle like this, though, it’s not hard to see why.
After their set, the audience thanks them loudly and High Counsel disassembles their equipment to make way for the psychedelic/garage/punk group Koala Temple. Koala Temple is playing without their surrealist keyboard player, Andrew Sato, whose doppler-like effects give their tunes that familiar cosmic quality. However, in his stead, they’ve added local musician Wren Kennedy (from Coyote Vision Group) to compensate with his guitar.
Diving in with the song “Careless,” Koala Temple arouse the danced-out crowd with their eerily hypnotic tunes. Lead vocalist/guitarist Craig Murray takes his usual place of hunching slightly over the microphone while bouncing on his toes. He half sings and half chants through a voice modulator that makes him sound like he’s talking through a distant megaphone on Mars. Behind him, Kennedy does an excellent job at contributing his own version of their space ambience while bassist Josh Brown chimes in with backing harmonies in between spurts of violent head banging and strumming his four-string to the point of abuse. Though still, somehow, drummer Taylor Clark keeps the chaos together, as usual, with his seriously impressive percussion skills. If Urban Lounge had a drinking game, I’d take a sip every time I saw someone in the crowd pointing out Clark to their friends.
Koala Temple put on a show that’s all their own. Personally, I think it’s refreshing to see psychedelic rock that’s not just attempting to recreate a spirit of the past, but is actually pushing into new territory. Though sticking to a lot of songs from their recent album Blue Milk, they play some new ones I haven’t heard, which still keep to their affinity for 21st century derangement. The crowd follows them through the various moods of their songs: glossed through “Und Wir Stoppen,” jumping through “Dance Hit,” and triumphantly cheering over “Boy of Stone.” I have yet to be let down by these guys, and tonight is no exception.
Once Koala Temple packs up, Beachmen begin to take the stage around midnight. Surprisingly, a majority of the crowd is still hanging out on a Thursday night to catch this four-piece group. I take this as a pretty good sign. Usually, when I hear something is “beachy,” I prepare myself for some derivative of the recent swell of California-esque yacht music that has been beaten to hell in the last six years. You know what I mean. It’s either the kind of shit that makes you think of white people in pastel colors (Vampire Weekend’s first album, Tennis, etc.), or all that ’60s revivalist faux-pop like the Allah-Las and Best Coast. Fortunately, Beachmen bring an element that I’ve been missing from my life way too much in the last decade: funk.
No matter what song you hear by Beachmen, every piece contains a hook of energy that’s hard to ignore.Their repertoire is stacked with alternating vocals, bass walkabouts, ambient keys provided by Mike Cottle, and indie-rock interpretations of reggae guitar sounds brought in by co-frontman Kyle Dickson. Drummer Evan Vice, sans shirt, takes his sticks on a tour across his entire set  in a blur of limbs and hair while bassist Josh Hunsaker rides deep riffs. In another life, Beachmen could have quite possibly been the Red Hot Chili Peppers if RHCP spent more time feeling melancholy over retro surf videos and less time putting tube socks over their dicks.
It’s 12:45 a.m., and people are still dancing. Beachmen flow through many songs from their self-titled album Beachmen including jams like “I Know That You Need Some” and “Trees for Days.” Even during their melodic single, “Gusher,” several audience members could be seen putting down their beer cups just to be able to do what I think were some passionate air-maracas. Nice.
At the end of their set, Beachmen let down their instruments in a wave of feedback while the four members group huddle onstage. A woman on the front calls out, “One more!” and so they shrug their shoulders at each other just before finishing with “Summer Blues” just for good measure. Exhausted, but satisfied, people began to exit east and west for celebratory cigarettes or home, respectively. I say goodnight to the door man and walk to my car my like a proud dad after a little league game. You go, Salt Lake City.
I’m not sure if Urban Lounge is going to keep up the free-show ritual for very much longer, but I would check out the local music harvest while you can. After all, as I’m sure my pesticide-free friends would agree, there is nothing quite like finding nourishment from your own backyard.