WASI in full color

Los Angeles indie punk-pop band WASI are on a colorful mission to interlace their current touring cycle with a heaping dose of activism. On the back of their recent debut album Riot Pop, founders Jessie Meehan, Merilou Salazar and company embarked on the Love is Gay tour, bringing together the core messages of their songs and the work of connecting young queer communities via the power and collaboration of music-making. Ahead of their stop at Gold Blood Collective in Utah during the aptly celebratory vibes of Pride month, SLUG spoke with WASI about the big, rainbow picture of the tour and the inspirations for it.

SLUG: Tell us about the central mission of the Love is Gay tour.
WASI: The Love is Gay tour aims to engage with local LGBTQ+ communities in the areas we are going through by creating a safe artistic space. We are all about having a good time together where we can all feel safe to share what’s going on with each other and know we are all not alone.

WASI with weights.
Photo: Kat Contreras

SLUG: What inspired you to integrate activism and outreach into your tour?
We participated in an LA version of Love is Gay and people loved it! We have experience in throwing festivals (Merilou started the successful Women Fuck Shit Up Fest with her friend Mayra a few years ago) and thought it would be a cool idea to have a pride-related tour during pride month. Something we did with WFSU Fest was to find a local beneficiary to receive funds raised during the festival that does great things for marginalized communities. It has been such a fulfilling endeavor and we wanted to take that on the road and spread awareness. We are all in this world together for a short time and should do our part to help each other out and make it a better place.

SLUG: What have been some of the best and most difficult moments?
WASI: In regards to touring, some of the best times are just meeting people from all over—truly connecting with people and hearing their stories. Some of the most difficult are just the long hours of driving. We try to stop regularly for some yoga, stretches and burpees!

SLUG: You’ll be meeting with local youth groups in the queer community at each tour stop. What message are you hoping to convey to young queer kids about the value of music and art?
WASI: We come from a place that is pretty conservative—we dealt with a lot of depression and bullying growing up, which we know a lot of folks can identify with.  The thing that truly saved our lives was music.  That being said, we also never really found a scene we fit in with, so we decided to create our own path and community.  We work with the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles as well, which encouraged young girls to embrace everything their own awesomeness through playing music. Whenever we were feeling discouraged or down, we would pick up our guitars and write. This is what we encourage youth to do as well: Whether it’s a paint brush or an instrument, just release everything you’ve got into your art.

SLUG: How did you pick working with Familia for your stop in Utah?
WASI: We were doing our research for local non-profits, and what Familia is doing really resonated with us.  We really love the feeling of hope they carry for minorities. As a first generation immigrant, the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ identities and an immigrant is something really important for me to connect with.

SLUG: How do your tour dates correlate with June being Pride month?
WASI: We really wanted this tour be a celebratory tour for those who want to be part of it. Pride month reminds us of the struggles that haven’t taken place for us to be where we’re at, and we’re excited to be part of the space in different cities. 

SLUG: In what ways is LGBTQ+ activism personally salient for you?
WASI: For us, being queer is something we’ve had to struggle with in our own ways, be it navigating society or just with ourselves.  To speak up and help connect with someone the way may have we needed that connection is important to us. 

Day-Glo WASI
Photo: Kat Contreras

SLUG: How does your music reflect your LGBTQ+ affirmative stance?
WASI: I think just being shamelessly ourselves represents that affirmative stance. We’re loud, we’re proud and we work hard! We try to come into spaces that people may not expect, and I think our live show showcases that. The energy we carry to the live show is part of who we are, and that feeling of pride hopefully can resonate with others. 

SLUG: How do you see music and performance art as an apparatus for effecting social change?
WASI: It’s everything! It’s how we express how we feel and how we see the world.  It makes sense of the things that don’t make any sense. Art is how we view the world through our individual lenses. We can talk about anything and do anything through art. If our songs make just one person feel better about their situation and make them feel less alone, then we have done our job!

SLUG: After your stop in Utah, what do you anticipate the remainder of the tour looking like?
WASI: Colorful! It is Pride month after all, and we have a lot to celebrate—Being queer, and being loud and proud. We are really excited to meet lots of new folks and make new friends!

WASI play Gold Blood Collective on June 18th alongside their work with Familia during their local stop. The band continue their Love is Gay tour throughout Pride month with several stops through the northwest back into California, ending in their hometown of Los Angeles at the Bootleg Theater on July 8th. Learn more about the band at isawwasi.com and hear them on Spotify and Bandcamp.

More on SLUGMag.com:

Familia: An Interview with Ella Mendoza
Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls: Loud Music, Proud Women and the Future of SLC

Photo by: Ori Media.

Salt Lake’s Tease! event was the perfect way to kick off our city’s Pride celebration. Housed at our old beloved Urban Outfitters at the Gateway, Tease! showcased what truly makes Salt Lake City special. A mixture of visual and auditory bliss, this was a night meant to promote what we do best —supporting community and expressing creativity.

Leading up to the event, the Tease! organizers were focused on visually representing the ideas that they wanted to promote. During promotions of the event, local photographer Luca Pearle and a select group of our queer family were photographed displaying their beauty and teasing our senses with excitement, admiration and awe. These photographs would be used to promote the event and would be featured in an art exhibit at the actual event, playing a continuous loop of some of our cute LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters sharing intimate moments together. The promotion of the event highlighted the inclusivity that would be experienced at the Pride celebration. It was a perfect starter to a perfect event that I look forward to experiencing year after year.

When I arrived at the event with my partner, we strolled into the event donning leather, lace and chains. Walking him in on a chain leash, we were immediately welcomed and embraced and I had a time trying to keep track of him all night, as other party-goers were having just as good of a time with his leash as we were. The vibe of the event fit perfectly with our looks and never did I feel over the top—we fit right in. Not only did we receive high praise for our looks, but almost everyone around us was also dressed as their most fabulously queer selves.

“The venue was completely redone and hid any trace of corporate unpleasantness. It only presented an enchanting, magical and gay vibe.”

Photo Courtesy of Tease! SLC
Photo by: Ori Media.

Tease! partnered with local non-profits Encircle Together and the Utah Pride Center to provide a safe environment for Utah’s diverse LGBTQ+ community to celebrate their love and inclusivity. These organizations work tirelessly to create spaces where both families and youth are provided resources to not only survive, but also thrive here within our community. Partnering with Tease! encouraged our community to come together in love and support and to give back to those organizations, which helps ensure a culturally diverse place for all to feel welcomed and accepted.

The Tease! event itself was stunning. The venue was unrecognizable, the decorations beautiful and the energy palpable. The venue was completely redone and hid any trace of corporate unpleasantness. It only presented an enchanting, magical and gay vibe. Booths surrounded the dance floor encouraging attendees to cover themselves in glitter, courtesy of WARPAINT Makeup Academy, sip on delicious glowing cotton candy and boozy slushies, and interact with very special vendor Wanderlust Sex. Each vendor seemed genuinely happy to be a part of the event, and the eventgoers appeared just as happy with their presence.

Additionally, Tease! featured an art instillation centered on queer love and acceptance. The exhibit displayed a stream of clips of queer members of our Salt Lake community tenderly expressing love, appreciation, infatuation and intimacy with one another. It stood as a strong statement of the vulnerability, confidence and courage that our LGBTQ+ family demonstrates here in Salt Lake. It was such a beautiful and essential element of the Pride celebration to express at the event, and in my opinion, elevated Tease! to another level of festivity.

“This is what I love about our LGBTQ+ community—they are always present, always supportive and always full of love.”

Photo by: Ori Media.
Photo by: Ori Media.

Musically, Tease! brought in the best. Featuring artists Jesse Walker and DJ Flash & Flare—two staples within the LGBTQ+ and electronic music scene. The event was able to flow seamlessly from start to finish. The energy built steadily, maintained a high energy with groovy house music and finished strong promptly at 2 a.m. Never did I feel pressed for space or air, and the crowd which surrounded me always seemed to be keeping an eye out for one another. The entire event felt like an event you would experience in a much bigger club, with a small communal vibe and incredible energy all night.

The audience was so loving and supportive of one another, and neve did I notice anyone who wasn’t fully participating. This is what I love about our LGBTQ+ community—they are always present, always supportive and always full of love. I felt as if I was in a room filled with my friends, while realizing that the majority of those in attendance were actually strangers. We didn’t have to invite all our friends to the event to feel like we were all together.

Tease! SLC was an incredible event, particularly for a first-time experience. It felt as if the event had always been a part of the Salt Lake’s Pride celebrations. Organizers are hoping to continue this event as an annual occurrence, and I look forward to this in the upcoming years. The event was so well put together and so well thought out, it made the night that much more special for all in attendance.

Throughout the event, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and appreciation for my community and all they have done for themselves and this city and am so proud of my LGBTQ+ people. Be sure to check them out next year during the Pride celebrations and if you missed the event, be sure to share some support and love with organizations such as the Utah Pride Center and Encircle Utah. Also, keep an eye on Tease! SLC for future events from these extraordinary humans. Until then, stay safe and take care of each other, my ladies and mens and my non-binary friends. I love you all.

More on SLUGMag.com:

SLC Pride Parade – 2019 Gallery
SLC Pride Parade – 2018 Gallery

Joining the SLUG team in July of 2016, Colton Marsala has photographed an impressive range of stories. From concert/event coverage to features about local businesses, Marsala has approached each assignment and challenge with tenacity and creativity. Shooting concerts is Marsala’s favorite type of SLUG photo assignment, and few things get Marsala’s adrenaline going like shooting from the pit. In that vein, Marsala values being a SLUG photographer because it allows him to help develop content that keeps people informed with happenings in Salt Lake City, and he loves being a part of something that promotes our community. Marsala believes in SLUG’s mission to support and promote smaller organizations—those who work hard at perfecting their craft. You can see Marsala’s photo essay on Michael Ori for this month’s Local Photography Issue.

SLUG Cat 2018

SLUG Magazine Presents the 7th Annual SLUG Cat. This alley cat-style bike race sends participants around the city and stops at multiple local bike shops and other businesses. Each stop will have games and other activities, and the winners of the SLUG Cat will receive recognition and prizes from the race’s sponsors at the awards ceremony.

Registration at Saturday Cycles: 4 p.m.-5 p.m.
Registration cost: $5
Event: 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Awards: 7:30 p.m. at the SLUG Magazine offices on 351 W. Pierpont Ave.

The 7th Annual SLUG CAT is sponsored by Blue Copper Coffee Room, Fishers Cyclery, Graywhale, GREENbike, Mountain West Hard Cider, New Belgium Brewing, Pig and a Jelly Jar, Proper Brewing Co. and Saturday Cycles, and will take place on Saturday, June 15 from 4–8 p.m. Find more information on the race and RSVP on the Facebook event page, and check out our gallery from last year’s race.

Photo (L–R): Daniel George, Carsten Meier
Edward Bateman
Portrait Courtesy of Edward Bateman

Creating a boundary is a powerful method of solidifying the definition of something as its own whole. Boundaries encapsulate, separate and clearly define the end of one thing and the beginning of another. In the Utah art scene, like in any region, boundaries exist. And like in any other circumstance, these lines that exist concurrently within the scene can produce both positives and negatives. The DE | MARCATION portfolio is a snapshot of what that looks like today within Utah art photography, all while combating boundaries that exist as walls.

“There are physical boundaries, in the sense that I think artists have a difficult time promoting and getting their work across state lines. It is easy to stay inside our own system, our own bubble, so I wanted to break down that boundary,” says Amy Jorgensen, Executive Director and Chief Curator at Granary Arts, Head of Photography and Associate Professor of Visual Art at Snow College and Co-Creator of the photography portfolio DE | MARCATION. “It’s also the conceptual boundaries that we have. What are the traditions of photography in the West? How is it going to work breaking those traditions and really reach beyond what we are accustomed to?”

The word “demarcation” means to fix the boundaries or limits to something. This is a perfectly fitting title, considering the mission Jorgensen has in mind with this project: To expand the audience and encapsulate what art photography exists now in Utah. Although, Jorgensen says, “DE | MARCATION came later—the title was the hardest thing. The title has to capture the essence of what you are trying to accomplish. All of those goals were rooted from the beginning of the project.”

“It is easy to stay inside our own system, our own bubble, so I wanted to break down that boundary.”

Amy Jorgensen
Portrait Courtesy of Amy Jorgensen

DE | MARCATION had its genesis in the archive section of the Center of Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona. Jorgensen discovered similar portfolios from the 1970s, which sparked the desire to bring this concept to Utah. As Jorgensen starting developing the concept of the portfolio, she brought in Edward Bateman, Head of the Photography and Digital Imaging area and Associate Professor in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Utah, to help collect the right photographers to highlight in the portfolio. “I’ve participated in a lot of printmaking portfolios—I knew exactly what Amy was talking about and how portfolios build communities among artists,” says Bateman. “I knew that it would be a huge amount of work … but also that this was an important project.”

Now that the vision was in place, there were multiple goals that needed to be met to manifest this project into reality. One of them was the funding for DE | MARCATION. Soon after Jorgensen’s visit to Tucson in 2016, UMFA pre-purchased the portfolio. It was this milestone—and the generous financial support DE | MARCATION received along the way—that allowed the groundwork to begin, including the design and curation of the portfolio.

“We wanted this object that moved conversations forward, looking to the future. We wanted a design of a box that was very contemporary.”

Photo: Samuel Davis
Natalie Kirk
Portrait Courtesy of Natalie Kirk

When looking for artists, Bateman and Jorgensen initially wanted photographers to apply but quickly realized this wasn’t the best way to find the appropriate photographers. “We interviewed and met with many of the artists and debated for months and months on who to include,” says Bateman. That’s when they tapped into their network and contacts, and searched for artists who were dedicated to their practice. They also kept an eye out on a spectrum of makers—people from younger and older generations. The 20 photographers who are officially featured are: Kimberly Anderson, Christine Baczek, David Baddley, Edward Bateman, David Brothers, Van Chu, Samuel Davis, Daniel George, Haynes Goodsell, Mark Hedengren, Amy Jorgensen, Natalie Kirk, Karalee Kuchar, Carsten Meier, Bernard C. Meyers, Andrew Patteson, Kim Raff, Nancy E. Rivera, Fazilat Soukhakian and Josh Winegar. The work of photographers Carsten Meier, Daniel George, Kim Raff, Natalie Kirk and Samuel Davies are highlighted in this piece, as many of the other photographers have already been featured in past issues of SLUG.

Of the final project Jorgensen says, “The specific design of this box was a collaboration with myself, Ed and the amazing staff at Red Butte Press (Emily Tipps, Marnie Powers-Torrey, Crane Giamo). We sat down in their studio, and they listened to what the goals of the project were and what would be important to communicate—which was that we wanted this object that moved conversations forward, looking to the future. We wanted a design of a box that was very contemporary.” This concept was successfully executed with details like the slim and sleek presentation—the edges don’t hang over the sides, the corners are slightly beveled, and everything fits together perfectly. “We look at hundreds of swatches of color—we wanted something that grabbed your visual attention, there is a lot of red in Utah, politically and in the landscape. There is a gold inset and when you slant it, it turns gold and blue.”

“You have to look at any multi-year collaborative art project as a labor of love.”

Photo: Kimberly Anderson

In November of 2018, the design work, curation and vision to support the artists of Utah was complete, and DE | MARCATION was ready for its debut. “From the beginning, you have to look at any multi-year collaborative art project as a labor of love because it will take more time, energy and money that you will ever imagine,” says Bateman. The love for the project and what the project represents is deeply saturated in every crevice of the object, from the fine detail in design to the love each photographer poured into the creation of every image. Jorgensen made good on her inspiration when looking through those archived portfolios back in 2016, and approached this project from a place of love and pride for Utah and the artists whose work lives within its boundaries.

DE | MARCATION currently resides at Granary Arts at 86 N. Main St. in Ephraim, Utah, and will be up until Sept. 27, with plans to move to the UMFA in the Fall.

More on SLUGMag.com:

Amy Jorgensen and Justin Watson: Artists in Dialogue
Paint the Town: Murals Adorn Granary District and South Salt Lake

Trent Nelson
SNFU at the Speedway Cafe in Salt Lake City, May 1988.
Photo: Trent Nelson

When viewing a photographer’s portfolio, you can grasp within the first few seconds what they’re trying to communicate through their photos. However, with Trent Nelson, predictability is not a niche in which he feels comfortable. From his beginning as a photographer for local hardcore shows to being one of the few visual documentarians of the FLDS community, his work is anything but monotonous. Being rooted in the punk and hardcore scene has conditioned him to not take everything at face value and taught him that people with whom he’d never think he would find common ground were actually more relatable than he’d anticipated.

Coming up from the Bay Area, Nelson found his penchant for photography while attending shows at the infamous 924 Gilman St. in Berkley, California, absorbing the styles of photographers like Murray Bowles. In 1988, Nelson moved to SLC and began photographing local delicacies such as Insight, The Stench and Bad Yodelers at The Word, Pompadour, Cinema In Your Face and The Speedway Café. Word of mouth, zines and being one of the only photographers in the scene helped solidify Nelson’s presence.

“At Gilman I photographed this Youth of Today show and I got this shot where everything clicked,” Nelson says. “There was this skinhead guy leaping off of the stage, and Ray [Cappo] is right in the center and there’s a guy flying into me from the side.” Nelson made a print of that photo and gave it to the band, which is now on the cover of one of the reissues of Break Down the Walls. “I kind of got known for that photo,” says Nelson, “and then Operation Ivy came around, and I photographed them and I had a cover of Maximum Rocknroll with that photo.” For him, bringing prints to shows was the most intuitable form of advertising his photography, and people started recognizing him as “the guy with the camera.”

“You can go into a show and size up who the dangerous people are and who’s looking for someone to pick on, or who’s going to get picked on.”

Uniform Choice at the Word in Salt Lake City, July 1989.
Photo: Trent Nelson

“The challenge at punk shows was cameras were manual focus,” says Nelson. “You had to do all the controls, and that meant you had to hold it up to your face and you couldn’t see someone flying at you.” Nelson always had to keep his wits about him when documenting these shows because, not shockingly, they often got violent. “You can go into a show and size up who the dangerous people are and who’s looking for someone to pick on, or who’s going to get picked on,” says Nelson. “That’s the same thing with being a photographer in those environments—where should I be? Who should I watch out for? Who to stay out of the way of. Move in when you need to and move back when you don’t need to be up there.”

Hardcore punks and straightedge kids thrash in the pit to the band Ookla the Mok, performing at the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City on August 16, 1998.
Photo: Trent Nelson

While some of Nelson’s photos may have presented Salt Lake’s hardcore scene in its most violent moments, they also capture its vibrancy and intensity that makes it feel so visceral. Since Nelson was one of the only photographers around, his photos share a special connection not only with him but also with the people in the stills. “I have people email me and are like, ‘I’m in a picture you took of me at the Speedway in 1988 stage-diving. Can I get a copy?’” says Nelson, “and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah! That’s going right to you!’ It’s always amazing to see who finds themselves in the pictures. This is without Facebook tagging; this is just people organically finding stuff.”

“There are people doing certain crimes, and they get arrested and charged. But then you find people who are respectful who are in, people who are respectful who aren’t living it, and people who are respectful who are trying to shut it down.”

Raunch Records in Salt Lake City, February 1988.
Photo: Trent Nelson

The photos capture the energy of the time in which they were taken and also showcase a time when punk and hardcore were still underground and dangerous, as opposed to now, where being alternative is the norm. “It’s like Disneyland—there’s little kids; it’s safe; everyone is filming and shooting,” says Nelson, describing the Masked Intruder and The Interrupters show he attended earlier this year. “I was trying to get a good picture with a camera working around all these people, and it was very difficult to get something with that energy.” While the culture that Nelson grew up in was becoming a mainstream accolade, his sense for discovering new subversive groups shifted. “I was working at the Salt Lake Tribune, and one of our other photographers was covering polygamy,” says Nelson. “A year or so went by, and I dove in and started covering the Warren Jeffs group down in Colorado City.”

Though Nelson was warned about the dangers of the polygamist communities and the onslaught of crimes that took place, he simply shrugged it off the same way he did when people called punk rock a derisive subculture of derelicts. “That mentality helped me cut through the fog around these people,” says Nelson. From a formal-journalism stance, he didn’t always agree with them, but his role was simply to tell their story. “There are people doing certain crimes, and they get arrested and charged,” says Nelson, “but then you find people who are respectful who are in, people who are respectful who aren’t living it, and people who are respectful who are trying to shut it down.”

One thing that attracted Nelson to the FLDS community was how a lot of the ethics he picked up from punk rock translated so well in this community. The FLDS community was (and still is) an ostracized and misunderstood subculture, and Nelson approached them with a genuine and equal interest in every member from housewives to prophets.

“We’ve met people who were children when they were in the raid in Texas in 2008 and were taken from their families. Now we’ve met them recently, and they’re out of the group and they look just like regular kids.”

“It was a very difficult gig,” he says. “I went down, and no one wanted their picture taken. They didn’t like me; they wouldn’t talk to me. Gradually, I think they started to come around and understand that I was sincerely interested in who they were.”

Naturally, not everyone was accepting of an outsider, a photographer no less, coming into their world and documenting their lives. “There was a lot of negative vibes directed at me,” recalls Nelson. “I think that, in the end, people will be glad that I was there, documenting even the low points of their lives.”

In the near-15 years of work Nelson has done with the FLDS community, he’s covered court cases and trials, the 2008 raids in Texas, prophets getting arrested, temples being built and taken over, and people losing their land getting evicted from their homes. “By some stroke of luck, I’ve been the one photographer that’s covered most of these huge events for this community,” says Nelson.

Initially, the photos were used to illustrate the daily stories that ran in the Salt Lake Tribune, but Nelson was careful to archive all of his photos on his website, as well as keeping in contact with the majority of the people whose lives he documented. “It is part of a larger body of work, with thousands of pictures of hundreds of people,” says Nelson. “We’ve met people who were children when they were in the raid in Texas in 2008 and were taken from their families. Now we’ve met them recently, and they’re out of the group and they look just like regular kids.”

“A lot of these people who I compete against and work with here in town have been doing it for decades, and what makes [them] great is that consistency.”

Holm and her sister Helen had recently left the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints.
Photo: Trent Nelson

The value of Nelson’s photos is underscored by how much he stresses the importance of holding a degree of consistency in his work in the digital world. “I don’t think you can make yourself better than the world on the internet because everyone is posting what you’re doing,” says Nelson. “A lot of these people who I compete against and work with here in town have been doing it for decades, and what makes [them] great is that consistency.”

Another thing that keeps Nelson above water and continually creative is that he doesn’t rely on Facebook or Instagram to house his work, focusing on owning his own platform along with his photos. “When I was in high school, MDC was singing about multi-death corporations, and today, it’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” says Nelson. “I don’t completely avoid them, obviously, but I do have my own site that I control and publish on, and I might not get as much traffic as if I posted stuff on Instagram, but I get the right audience. People find it, eventually, and I’d rather have that integrity.”

If there’s anything for us creatives to take from Trent Nelson, it’s to be in control of how you present yourself. In today’s world, that can mean claiming ownership of your work, securing your own website so people can see it, being consistent in your craft and, above all else, not relying on social media to do any of your legwork. Now, more than ever in today’s digital bath, people need reminders of that human touch that makes great art and helps decide what’s worth preserving in the long run.

More on SLUGMag.com:

The Speedway Project: The History Within the Walls of SLC’s Legendary Underground Venue
Terrance DH

Photo: Jackson Hogg

EZ$ Gallery is an unassuming, photography-only gallery tucked away in the Marmalade district of Salt Lake City, behind Stefahn’s Barbershop. Started by local musician and photographer Trever Hadley in 2018 after realizing he had never seen a photography-only gallery, EZ$ has since hosted monthly galleries, giving photographers exposure and a place for them to display their work. “I wanted something small and [it to be] somewhere that new—or experienced, photographers—[could] show [their work],” Hadley says of EZ$.

Evan Kinori
Photo: Isaac McKay-Randozzi

Amelia England assists Hadley with operating and running EZ$. “Collaboration just kind of rose naturally from my involvement,” she says, “I liked [Hadley]’s commitment to collaboration in general.” England is pushing EZ$ to build a more diverse archive than a traditional photo gallery. “We live in a gorgeous state, and there’s plenty of landscape and astrophotography, but not many small venues dedicated to narrative, point-of-view, happy little film accidents, et cetera,” she says.

The shows that EZ$ has put on thus far span a diverse and interpretive field, ranging from mixed media projects, to photo diaries, to self-portraits. On June 22nd, EZ$ will show the works of photographers Sam Milianta, Isaac McKay-Randozzi, and Jackson Hogg in a show that focuses on square-format film photography.

Milianta is a well-known face in the photography scenes of Utah, with a network of peers spanning across continents. One might say, he’s one of the godfathers of modern film photography in Salt Lake, but any of his close friends will agree that “Oddfather” is probably a more fitting term. A person who often gifts cameras and rolls of film to friends, and is always lending them encouraging words, he tends to shy away from any spotlight himself. His work has become increasingly scarce and hard to come by.

“We live in various shades of grey. The mastery of two spectrums of colors and the complexity of light is enough for me.”

Photo: Jackson Hogg
Photo: Jackson Hogg

“We live in an age of followers and follower-count, and that is less important to me than the amount of work I put in,” Milianta says of why he’s selective about his output. “I don’t know who said it, but you should take your work seriously, but not take yourself too seriously. The people that stand out are the people that put effort into it. [Photography] means more to me than how it is received.”

He began shooting film in his early 20s, pushed both by listlessness and skateboarding. “I needed a hobby… When I bought my first camera, I had the photography issue of Transworld with me.” Milianta’s photographic work centers around his travels, making zines of his trips to visit friends and cities around the world. He uses a large arsenal of different cameras and shoots in both black-and-white and color on a myriad of formats and different films. Some recurring themes of his work include his friends, skateboarding, street moments, cats, and light patterns.

Sam Milianta
Photo: Sam Milianta

McKay-Randozzi’s photography is primarily black and white, and as someone who constantly carries a camera and is surrounded by skateboarding, his photography lends a lot to the latter. “We live in various shades of grey,” he says when asked about his preference for black and white film, “The mastery of two spectrums of colors and the complexity of light is enough for me.” McKay-Randozzi was influenced early on by his mother’s best friend, an artist and photographer, and soon after was hooked up with a camera setup. He began to contribute to an upstart website covering San Francisco’s skateboard scene. “As a young dumbass kid, skating opened the adventurous side of my brain,” he says, “When the camera became a part of those adventures… [it became] a partner in the motivation to explore.” You can view McKay-Randozzi’s photographic work at mydumbluck.com.

“You catch some really magical moments, but you miss just as many—if not more—when you’re staring through a viewfinder.”

Swirled Ab Air
Photo: Isaac McKay-Randozzi

Alongside Milianta and McKay-Randozzi, Hogg will also be showing some of his square photographs. Hogg’s photography stems from an intrinsic point-of-view, photos that are vignettes of the world around him. A native of Ogden, Hogg has been shooting film for about ten years. He states that the process of shooting film and carrying a camera around helps him “get into stuff, around stuff, and past stuff physically and emotionally.” Hogg hopes that his photography on exhibit can leave viewers with an appreciation of themselves and the world around them, but accepts that you can’t always be glued to your camera. “You catch some really magical moments, but you miss just as many—if not more—when you’re staring through a viewfinder,” he says. Hogg’s intimate photography can be viewed on his Instagram, @islandjacky.

Stop by on June 22nd to view the medium-format centered show at EZ$. England states that EZ$ is intimate and feels magical in the summer. “There is a side door with a lighted sign that says EZ$. Enter there. The solo shows are elegant, and the group shows are a party. I hope the whole thing feels like a gem,” she says.

More on SLUGMag.com:

Roughside of the Lens Presented by Monster Energy, Half and Half Skate Shop and Roughneck Hardware
Skate Photo Feature: Levi Faust

Photo: Ponneh Ghana

Something about the Wild Reeds’ combination of differing styles used to tell similar stories makes them appealing and accessible to all walks of life. Whether it’s through the gravelly soul of Mackenzie Howe, the sultry musings of Kinsey Lee or the earth-shattering pipes of Sharon Silva, listeners find something to believe in, someone to champion their inner thoughts or someone to identify with under the sheltering umbrella The Wild Reeds have established. These three women would be formidable as singular artists, but what they create as a three-piece ensemble is unrivaled in the music world—at least from my perspective.

I can absolutely get lost in any verse where one singer is featured. What really gets me drifting away is when the three come together to harmonize something fierce. The ebb and flow between them is something they have honed over time, but there is an obvious connection that goes deeper. This quality is likely part of what drew them all together in the first place.

The Wild Reeds have grown since their beginnings as a rustic folk trio.  They added rhythm and percussion a few years ago (Nick Phakpiseth on bass and Nick Jones on drums), a move that led to the development of a rich sonic presentation that highlights each voice’s distinct flavor while still blending them all together like a secret family recipe.

“Up-and-coming indie singer-songwriter Jenny O. was the opener. She was the perfect ingredient to begin the evening.”

The first time I heard the Wild Reeds was on an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert in 2015. I was floored by their give-and-take and how powerfully they could sound in such a small space. I missed them the last time they played around here, so I was happy to head down to Metro Music Hall to witness their latest local show.

Up-and-coming indie singer-songwriter Jenny O. was the opener. She was the perfect ingredient to begin the evening. She hopped up on stage with no lights and no fanfare; just her and her acoustic guitar. It was nice to see her envelop the still-growing audience with a few chords, enough to coerce them into putting down their drinks and ceasing their conversations. She played songs from all of her releases (a couple of EPs and two full length albums). She opened with the title track from 2013’s Automechanic, which was a great way to get people moving and humming along. Jenny O. picked up an electric guitar before giving the crowd the rockish “Case Study” from her 2016 EP called Work. Before wrapping-up her set, Jenny O. brought an unnamed friend onstage. Together, they played a few songs. Most memorable—for me—was “Can’t Let You Leave” off of her 2010 debut release, Home. The crowd had come out to see The Wild Reeds, but Jenny O. got them out of their chairs and off of their stools.

“After genuine and warm pleasantries, The Wild Reeds jumped right into some of their best stuff.”

Each of the first three songs The Wild Reeds played featured one of the singers more prominently than the other two. I am not sure who wrote the songs, but it would be fitting for each of them to take the lead on those they penned. They began with “Young and Impressionable” from their latest release, 2019’s Cheers. Silva’s range and emotionally-packed guitar playing lit up the stage. The trio then moved right into another from the new record, “Moving Target,” this time led by Howe. Lee fronted the last of this opening batch, picking up a guitar and ditching the keys for “Of All the Dreams” from the band’s debut, Blind and Brave. Their interchanges were fascinating to watch, especially the way all three seemed to feed off of one another. It was all that I had thought it would be.

After genuine and warm pleasantries, The Wild Reeds jumped right into some of their best stuff. My favorite album from the band is their sophomore effort, The World We Built. This second stretch of music featured a handful of tracks from that album. The group began with “Fix You Up” before an absolutely gut-wrenching rendition of “Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight).” The latter may be my favorite track the band has ever laid down, and hearing it played live from only a few yards away was great.

“The Wild Reeds played nearly 20 songs from their catalog. My only hope is that they have more music in the works, so that they can play longer the next time they pass through here.”

Next, the two Nicks left the stage for a spell and Lee mentioned they would play without them for a time, like they used to do. This portion of the show was quaint and hushed with reverent spectators. The band performed songs like “My Name” (from Cheers) and “New Ways to Die” (the title track from an EP released in late 2018). 

After inviting back the complete collective of musicians, the band played hard for a while. The Wild Reeds were really jamming with one another—singing two to a mic, getting down on the ground to rake the guitar strings and more. It was a really fun time. Prior to taking a moment before the encore, they finished their set with “Cheers.”  Both the energy from the stage and that from those watching was huge. After a brief moment in darkness, we were treated to “Capable,” a track many people knew the lyrics to. A proper send off, for sure.

The Wild Reeds played nearly 20 songs from their catalog. My only hope is that they have more music in the works, so that they can play longer the next time they pass through here. Again, the crowd was too damn small for such a talented act. I’m fairly sure it won’t be next time.

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Photo: ThatGuyGil

Click images to view captions and in full-size. Photos by ThatGuyGil.

Michael Elliott is an artist, designer, creative, event coordinator, music enthusiast and a true gem of Salt Lake City. He has been an active participant in the queer nightlife scene for the past decade. He loves this city and its people, and it shows as love radiates from this handsome beefcake. I’ve interacted with him from time to time over the years, grabbing drinks at drag shows where he used to bartend (he frequently called his patrons “Hun” and gave them little winks), or at one of the recent SLC SLAY Balls. But this time, I got to dig into him and spotlight someone who normally sticks to working behind the scenes—it turned up gold.

Born and raised in the Salt Lake Area, Elliott came out at a young age with a good support system. His Mom asked if he was gay—he said yes. He experienced something that not all queer youth get to experience here in Utah. But tragedy struck soon after, when his mom passed away in 2017, and that was when he really learned not to take life for granted. “Why sit there and wait for life to happen to you or put your dreams on the back burner? Follow your dreams—do what you love and spend time with the people you love and make memories,” Elliott says. The familial support he received in his youth propelled him to provide similar support to others in need in our community.

Recently, Elliott began studying at Salt Lake Community College with the intent of becoming a fashion designer. His hope is to encourage those whose body proportions are outside of beauty norms to embrace their curves and swerves, and create their ideal visual of comfort. Elliott, himself, wears an outfit completely constructed of his own accord. “Fashion is such a fantastic thing for me,” says Elliott. “It’s my suit of armor for the day. It gives me confidence and puts that extra bounce in my step. Growing up, I thought that I had to dress, live, breathe and sleep everything within one genre of fashion. But once I realized I could be whoever I wanted and do whatever I wanted, that’s when I really flourished.” Although he had little experience initially with creating fashion, he has since become a representative in his own way for those who have also had difficulty with finding the size or design of clothing that fit a specific intent.

Over the last year, Elliott has been coordinating the SLC SLAY event—an East Coast–ball-inspired dance competition. This centers on groups of competitors working toward acknowledgement or recognition, often called “families,” who compete in waacking and voguing styles of dance. These families are primarily constructed of individuals exiled from blood relatives due to sexual orientation or religious preferences, who create new relations based on necessity and preference. Elliott’s SLC SLAY events have worked to create a community where individuals can express their own artistic endeavors. “As someone who considers themselves an outsider, I never felt like I personally fit in. The biggest thing that stuck out to me about the ball culture is the heavy emphasis on family. A lot of people got involved in houses and ball culture after being outed by their own families for being gay, trans or doing drag and they didn’t have anywhere else to go. These houses welcomed them in and gave them an avenue to showcase their talents and harness their energy into something positive and wonderful,” says Elliott. Wanting to create a space where all—particularly the queer youth of SLC—feel welcome, Elliott has worked tirelessly to build a platform for future artists, creators, designers, dancers and body-positive enthusiasts.

Despite only recently diving into the career world in which he now resides, Elliott hopes to continue to pursue his desire to create family within community. “My eventual goal for all of this is if we can reach our youth and, especially, our queer youth and let them know they have a voice and an avenue and people who care and will be there for them—that’s everything to me. The little 12-year-old me would have been over the moon for that kind of community support.” He hopes to continue his pursuit of fashion design and expand his influence to the world. Elliott also hopes to continue connecting with his community through music, dance, fashion and love.

Be sure to not miss out on the upcoming SLC SLAY events. April 7, 2019, SLC SLAY will be hosting the first teen SLC SLAY Bunny KiKi Ball for competitors less than 17 years of age. Doors will be at 5 p.m. at the HERC at 2505 S. State St. May 12 will be the 18+ SLC SLAY A KiKi In Wonderland event at Impact Hub at 6 p.m. Also, make sure you follow Elliott’s personal artist journey @destructicorn on Instagram and @Michael Elliott on Facebook.


Back in my day, comic-book stories stayed on comic-book pages. Yes, there were Batman movies—the best still being 1997’s Batman & Robin, naysayers be damned—but superheroes were mostly relegated to print. A live-action Hulk could fucking not be done.

I’m still right on that one, but the rest of the Marvel, DC, and other comic-brand universes are now inescapable on all the screens, all the time. TV has been more prolific and creative with its adaptations—Netflix (Marvel) and The CW (DC), in particular. You already know about those, so they won’t be covered here.

Instead, here are 10 comics-based TV series ranging from “Hey, I’ve heard of that!” to “Huh?” status to stream while you’re waiting for Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Aquaman v. Magic Mike: Dawn of Thrust-Us.

Deadly Class (Season 1 on Syfy.com and Syfy app)

Based on the eponymous Image Comics series, Deadly Class is an ’80s-set action-snarker about a secret academy that trains good-looking teens to kill elegantly—“Harry Potter Assassin School” will do. Deadly Class is smart enough to go toe-to-knife-tipped-toe with Syfy cousin The Magicians, but with a gonzo-goth edge all its own and a killer, Reagan-era soundtrack.

Blade: The Series

(Season 1 on CW Seed)

The original 1998 Blade was the first “real” Marvel movie, effectively wiping away the foul/fowl aftertaste of ’80s bomb Howard the Duck. To replace vampire hunter Wesley Snipes, 2006’s Blade: The Series cast Onyx rapper Sticky Fingaz and cranked out 13 solid-to-superb episodes before cancelation by Spike TV. Netflix’s gritty Daredevil and Luke Cage owe this Blade.

Painkiller Jane (Season 1 on Hoopla, Tubi and Roku Channel)

A ’90s Event/Icon Comics title that became a 2005 TV movie and a 2007 Syfy series, Painkiller Jane (Kristanna Loken) is The Punisher and Wolverine wrapped into an Instagram model. She’s a vigilante crime-fighter with brutal combat skills and an indestructible body (though Jane can still feel pain). It’s a A forgotten series that’s soon to be a Marvel flick starring Jessica Chastain.

Black Scorpion (Season 1 on Prime Video)

Moving backwards, ridiculous 2001 Syfy series Black Scorpion, which was preceded by a couple of equally ridiculous movies in the ’90s, was a TV show that later became a less-ridiculous comic book. The series, starring Michelle Lintel as barely leather-clad vigilante Black Scorpion, is ’60s Batman camp crossed with softcore fetish porn—kinky superhero cosplayers take note.

Preacher (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu)

A disillusioned drunk of a small-town Texas preacher (Dominic Cooper and his gravity-defying hair) suddenly has the power to bend people’s will—so he sets out to find God with his trigger-happy ex, Tulip (Ruth Negga), and Irish vampire bud Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) in tow. The Vertigo comic Preacher is fantastically, mind-fuckingly weird; TV Preacher doesn’t disappoint.

(Seasons 1-3 on Netflix)

Another hell-larious Vertigo import, Fox-to-Netflix series Lucifer follows the exploits of a “retired” Devil (Tom Ellis) opening an L.A. nightclub and helping local police solve crimes—it helps if you don’t think about it too hard. Despite its cop-show trappings, Lucifer mixes devilish comedy and heavy drama seamlessly, and Ellis plays the best Satan since South Park’s.

Mutant X (Seasons 1-3 on Roku Channel)

A year after X-Men cracked the superhero code in 2000, Marvel and Canada produced a blatant rip-off, er, “unrelated property,” syndicated TV series Mutant X. Super-powered beings who look great in leather—what’s the deal with all the leather, anyway?—fight evil and search for fellow mutants while avoiding government capture and 20th Century Fox lawsuits.

The Gifted
(Seasons 1-2 on Hulu)

A better, more legal TV take on X-Men arrived in 2017 with Fox’s The Gifted, which focuses on younger mutants struggling to control their powers and a normie society that’s determined to snuff them out. The Gifted only dabbles in action and flash, focusing more on characters like Polaris (Emma Dumont) who get little play in the X-Men screen universe.

(Seasons 1-2 on Hulu)

Showrunner Noah Hawley (Fargo, the TV version) took an already-surreal Marvel Comics X-Men series about the psychologically damaged mutant son of Charles Xavier (Dan Stevens) and turned it into a Pink Floyd acid trip of a TV show. Yet somehow, it’s the most intimate and heartbreaking corner of X-World. Legion is the ultimate cure for superhero burnout.

Night Man
(Seasons 1-2 on Roku Channel)

No, not the enemy of the Day Man from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—this Night Man is a Malibu Comics character who got his own TV series that lasted for two stupid years in the ’90s. Jazz saxophonist Johnny Domino (Matt McColm) is struck by lightning and suddenly has the power to “hear” evil—like Daredevil, but with shitty musical taste. So bad it’s … still bad.