Rock and roll means a lot of things to a lot of people: It’s music, It’s a culture—a lifestyle. It means dancing and it means fun; oft times it means sex and even more often it means just not giving a fuck. There are a lot of “rock” bands around these days but, to be honest, rock and roll bands—groups that live, eat, drink and breathe the very meaning of rock and roll—they are an endangered species. Enter stage right, all the way from Sweden, The Sounds and their brash, loud, rowdy lead singer Maja Ivarsson. Clad in a short black cocktail dress, with a cigarette in her mouth and a pint in her hand, Ivarsson was an absolute wrecking ball from the moment she stepped on stage.
Until Saturday night, it had been far too long since I had been to In The Venue. Say what you want about the converted dance club, but the staff was great, the sound was great, and the crowd was lively, and that’s really all you can ask for from a show. I arrived at about 9:30 p.m., and got in without a hitch. As usual, the back part of the room was sort of empty, populated with a few groups here and there. The main part, in front of the stage, was pretty much packed, as was the bit overlooking the stage. The crowd was moving to the beats from Strange Talk’s DJ set, a perfect opener for what was to come next. The second opening act, Blondfire, warmed up the crowd even more for The Sounds, Erica Driscoll giving the crowd exactly what they wanted.
Coming onto the stage at about 10, the Swedish rockers kicked off with “The Emperor,” a track from Weekend, the band’s 2013 release. It rolled right into “Song With A Mission" from 2006’s Dying To Say This To You. Ivarsson was in form early, jumping up and down, dancing, screaming, pulling on her own dress seductively, sexually harassing the roadies who came on stage to tinker with equipment— completely in form. The Sounds are a great live act, incredibly tight and lively, but the show is definitely watching Ivarsson do her thing.
By the time the band moved into the meat of their set, with songs like “Living in America,” “Painted By Numbers” and “Weekend,” the diminutive, pony-tailed Ivarsson and really the entire band, was completely in their element. The crowd was feeling it and The Sounds fed off of that energy. “I fucking love you Salt Lake!” said Ivarsson, in one way or another, at least a half a dozen times. She showed that love, literally, to one young man who somehow made his way on stage. Ivarsson danced with him for a moment and then planted a lengthy (possibly open-mouthed) kiss on him. The dude did a backflip, for real, just before being escorted off stage.
The set’s apex came during “Outlaw.” By the time the first hook hit, the crowd became completely unhinged—dancing and jumping wildly. The track really let the band shine as well, with plenty of moments of just them playing. Jesper Anderberg on keys and guitar is brilliant to watch, as he puts everything into the performance, and the same can be said of guitarist Félix Rodríguez. With the style of The Sounds being what it is, driving dance rock, it is imperative that bassist Johan Bengtsson and drummer Fredrik Blond blend perfectly, and they were flawless.
They wrapped the set up with their relatively subdued hit “Rock and Roll,” followed by the closer “Hope You’re Happy Now." When The Sounds released Living In America, with that hit “Rock and Roll,” they probably could have never dreamed that they would be playing it a dozen or so years later in a packed house in Salt Lake City. But there they were, Saturday night, not only still here—but here as one of the only real rock and roll bands left.
Check out SLUG photographer Gilbert Cisneros’ photos from the show here.