Canvasback wine pours us a glass straight from the duck's mouth.

The fifth annual Eat Drink SLC has come and gone, but our palates remain ever changed. Every year, this amazing event sells out days in advance and every year they up their game with new and exciting restaurants, bars, distilleries, breweries and wineries. As we celebrate Salt Lake’s coming of age as a culinary hotspot, we do so at Tracy Aviary, whose location could not be a better host for an event such such as this. We sample the best in seasonal fare from many of our finest restaurants and drink until our bellies are full and our smiles shine bright.

Craft cocktails decorate the area thanks to local distillers and the bar staff from around town while boutique national and international wines accompany our plates. If hard liquor or wine is not for your liking, award winning beer from around the state is showcased as well, providing a wide variety of  options for pairing your food and drink.

All proceeds from Eat Drink SLC benefit local non-profits that enhance our community and our lives. The festival has raised over $45,000 for worthy causes such as Comunidades Unidas, Race Swami, Tracy Aviary, and SB Dance. For this year’s event, the 2019 community partner chosen was Neighborhood House, whose mission is to enrich, empower and educate children and adults through quality, affordable day care and support services. If you missed out on this year’s event, make sure to mark your calendar for next year and come prepared to have a culinary experience in Utah unlike any other.

All photos: Talyn Sherer

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Photo: Shae Detar

The third installment of this year’s Ogden Twilight lineup brought dual headliners and local opener Le Voir to one of Utah’s best outdoor concert series. In the balmy, barely sub-100 heat, the Ogden Amphitheater simmered in a night of sweltering shoegaze with two Pitchfork indie favorites. As usual, the Twilight crowd was cool, youthful and laid back with the anticipated array of piercings, Chucks, vintage cargo shorts and band tees.


Deerhunter’s Psychedelic Soundscapes

Atlanta-born Deerhunter came onstage at 7:30 with a cheered shoutout to the local queer community. Frontman Bradford Cox donned what appeared to be burner-style goggles, sweating through his white tee shirt in the setting sun. Cox, a multi-project musician and resilient survivor of the genetic disorder Marfan Syndrome, led the band through a sometimes gritty, sometimes shimmering set of older hits and tracks from their latest album, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?

Midway through their spacey set, Cox called out a pair of pit hecklers with a flipped bird and a request to chill out and enjoy the show. Deerhunter provided a clever musical meandering from one song to another with ambient synths and simple chords, linking the set together into a pleasing tapestry. In an all around smart maneuver, the band kept with their crispest hits and a simple stage setup, including a sole mandarin orange bamboo parasol—fitting for this eccentric act. Their set list wrapped up with live sax for “Helicopter” and an electric violin flourish in a final psychedelic crescendo as a miasma of pizza and vape juice filled the summer air.


Washed Out: A Painterly Indie Band

Washed Out came onstage with the setting sun and their signature retro, Dali-esque visuals for their sophomore Ogden Twilight visit (the first was in 2016). Theirs is a sound and stage performance that’s decidedly cool and clever, with abundant midi keyboards, Ableton perfection and a combined live and triggered drum pad setup fit to arouse any synth aficionado. Washed Out keeps true to their studio sound, especially evident in Earnest Greene’s  dreampop-indebted vocals. The adept use of trippy chillwave samples makes for a calm, entrancing show, even with only three players onstage and fairly sparse live instrumentation. As the night progressed, Greene energized the crowd ever further with an array of uptempo and funky tunes displaying the polish and professionalism of a skilled multi-instrumentalist who plays in technicolor. Like something of a sonic Picasso, Greene and his live performance cohorts patch and weave strange and fabulous sounds together, crafting a noisy canvas of delicious layers to underlie his slightly sad, sometimes soaring voice. After witnessing their live set, an abiding respect and slight obsession with Washed Out seems impossible to avoid.

As a midpoint for 2019’s Ogden Twilight Concert Series, Washed Out and Deerhunter were downright fantastic and funky.

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The crowd at the Ogden Music Festival.

The Ogden Music Festival was a three-day camping extravaganza at Fort Buenaventura that was filled with people enjoying the warm days and cool nights the weekend had to offer! Hanging around the beautiful lake with mountain views, travelers gathered to enjoy canoeing, slack-lining and even giant bubbles.

Wandering around the camp, I stumbled about a red drum bus, full of folks young and old beating on their instruments in a rhythmic collaboration. The festival goers enjoyed days of workshops on subjects like banjo playing and flat-pick guitar playing. The audience picked up slices of  pizza from Lucky Slice and washed it down with a local brew from Rooster’s Brewery. Many great bands played the Ogden Music Festival, and headliners included Shook Twins, Mavis Staples and Chris Jones & The Night Drivers. Lounging on chairs and blankets center stage, the festival had also provided an area to the right of the stage for dancing and moving. Proceeding behind the venue were the Van Sessions folks—a podcast of local jamming!  The vibe at the festival was wondrous, even for my short experience there.

All photos: Colton Marsala


In a Van Down by the Railroad Tracks: Van Sessions Podcast
Nick Murphy @ Ogden Twilight Concert Series 06.20 w/ Beacon, David Moon


Seanna Ladd in Thicker Than Water
Thicker Than Water Promotional Poster
Photo Courtesy of Lucre Films

I can’t decide if I took something from Thicker than Water or if this film took something from me. The consistently haunting Lucre Films leaves you with more than you walk in with every time—or maybe it’s the other way around. Thicker than Water just might be Lucre Films‘ most emotionally-charged, thought-provoking brain burner yet. 

The plot is your typical wrongly-accused, revenge-type romp filtered through the odd mind of director Oscar Sanchez. In the same way you add “in bed” to the end of fortune cookie predictions, Sanchez adds grizzly death to the end of vacant plot scenarios. The emotional density of this film is also uniquely reflected in the film’s artistic hue. As scenes intensify, we see their emotions mirrored in the presentation of the film (cool use of filters, basically). Thicker than Water moves quickly—as short films do—but the cast still shines bright in the moments they have. Stephen Harr’s portrayal of Daniel was authentic, which can be hard considering the nature of the character. However, Harr doesn’t portray a character that requires empathy for their disabilities alone. I feel bad for the character of Daniel for an entirely different set of reasons, illustrating the multi-faceted nature of Daniel. These reasons become the catalyst for his sister’s revenge. 

We meet his sister Tommi earlier in the film playing Risk with Daniel. In a scene siblings could appreciate, we see the tired, ordinary instant of a board game that’s gone on too long. It’s a sweet moment, without being sappy, that sets the connection between the two. Seanna Ladd plays Tommi with an air of lunacy that had me thinking she probably didn’t need as much motivation as “Brother Death” to pull this off. 

I’d also like to mention that the tropes of the horror/thriller film douchebag were righteously managed. In many films within the genre, simply being a douchebag (with or without the cutoff sleeves) is cause enough for death. It is refreshing seeing this being handled with good reason (for a contrasting example, see any vampire/ill-fated summer camp movie ever made). Sanchez shows up to act as well, playing Detective Ortiz. Hearing his pitchy growly voice in the final moments of Thicker Than Water was the perfect send off for the film, and the atmospheric filtering shows up to fade the film into the credits.

To whatever extent, you will think about this film after it’s all said and done. Thicker than Water can easily be appreciated in the sense that indie short films can. Plus it’s fun to see our local acting talent popping up in the odd places they do. Thanks Lucre Films for creating another fine film for those of us that like to be haunted. –Benjamin Tilton

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Brooklyn-born experimental rock trio Yeasayer are a weird array of smart lyricism and strange sounds, the breadth of which they brought to Urban Lounge on Sunday, June 23, a night on the heels of the summer solstice. Just days before, the band released their fifth studio album, Erotic Reruns, via their own label of the same name. The release met some early criticism for its brevity and less adventurous sonic profile than their four previous albums.

Co-ed shoegaze foursome Oh, Rose from Olympia, Washington opened with a mesmerizing and half-messy set, mellowing the room with songs about cannabinoid-fueled Harry Potter marathons. Their punk Florence Welch simulacrum singer was a fun front woman for their Siouxsie Sioux-meets-psychedelia sound, which would be a stellar addition to any chic hipster bar’s top playlists.

The room filled for the arrival of Yeasayer, replete with aptly holographic and bedazzled stage dressing. A wide array of auditory esoterica cluttered the small stage, and a respectable and similarly eclectic crowd nearly filled the venue. The band opened with 2010’s “Madder Red” and wandered through several songs from the new album, including “24-Hour Hateful-Live” and “Ecstatic Baby,” all-too-topical tunes for the year of their release. I had been eagerly anticipating the chance they’d play my all time favorite, “I Am Chemistry;” alas the evenings slightly-smallish setlist did not abide. Frontman Chris Keating has an energetic presence, writhing cooly around the minimalist space in orange trainers that neatly matched his fiery vibrations. His vocal passion was so abundant as to prompt him nearly exhausting it a third of the way into the set, only to come back triumphantly with his usual fervor.

The trio’s gear setup is significant and smart; one of several indicators of a band with fairly veteran chops after a baker’s dozen-plus-years of musical collaboration. In fact, their equipment is far more flamboyant than the band itself, including an Ableton interface that would make Giorgio Moroder blush.

Alongside their solid prog chops, the band’s signature vocal harmonies were gorgeously on display and were one of the highlights of the band’s stage performance. Known for big, sprawling and beautiful bridges, the set was a solid, albeit quick, sampling of Yeasayer’s weird and wonderful world.

A three-song encore closed the evening’s oddities and sent a sleepy, late-Sunday night crowd back onto the summer streets, satiated from a proper experience of sound. Yeasayer is a winning and still accessibly indie live event for anyone open to an energetic, experimental and melodically complex evening.

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(L–R): Tara McArthur and Liz Ivkovich in Rite of Spring

NOW-ID is currently the international dance company in Salt Lake City. It is the creation of choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen and her partner Nathan Webster. Boye-Christensen formed NOW-ID soon after departing from the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, where she had been artistic director for 11 years. In making this daring transition from a sweet gig into a precarious new situation, her determination was—in her own words—to produce the most “fiercely contemporary” dance possible and bring world-caliber emergent art to Salt Lake City. 

But this will be yesterday’s news to anyone acquainted with Salt Lake’s thriving dance community. In the time of Diet Prada—characterized by compulsory originality, free cultural appropriation, an epidemic of influencers and rampant online artistic theft—nothing could sound more dubious than the promise of yet another “innovation” or “breakthrough.’” Today’s news, then, is how Boye-Christensen, in the midst of the current manic episode of the culture industry, has confronted the formidable challenge of keeping dance’s cutting-edge sharp, precise and relevant. How do you keep the “new” genuinely new?

In this instance, Boye-Christensen’s daring creative strategy was to perform an unexpected about-face. Specifically, she takes her choreography decisively in the direction of the abstract. Abstraction, or the exploration of pure form, was once the foremost characteristic of modern art. However, for the last several decades, some leading artists have instead worked to emphasize the specificity of performance times and spaces and the inescapable interconnection of humans and technology. Boye-Christensen herself has aggressively and shrewdly engaged in such phenomenological explorations. In particular, she has used a variety of more or less sophisticated props—mirrors, electric fans, scaffolding, treadmills, voice recordings and video screens—as a means of foregrounding the situated-ness of the body within optical, technological, commercial and other networks. While such choreography was indeed revelatory in its moment, it is now undeniably the case that the vast majority of us are often far more aware of networks, particularly online social networks, than anything else. Of genuine interest today is no longer the matrix and its discontents but, rather, what lies outside. 

“NOW-ID returns dance to its most elementary components.”

Jo Blake in NOW-ID's Rite of Spring
Photo: Jeffrey Juip

Consequently, NOW-ID’s one-night production of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, like much of Boye-Christensen’s more recent work, took place in a carefully selected outdoor location. Clearly, aligning the event with the summer solstice was another conscious choice. While it’s true that the site, beneath the on-ramp at 600 North, was chosen for its industrial aspect, anyone familiar with Boye-Christensen’s work will not have missed the performance’s surprising turn toward the “classical.” By classical, I refer specifically to Russian composers of the early-20th century, whose work rejected the emotionalism, psychology and melodrama (petty personal squabbling) that had become typical of program music. In an effort to jettison the narcissistic expression that bogged down the lively arts, they turned to folk tale, myth and ritual as sources of inspiration. Rather than private agony, they sought to explore the world of pure impersonal forces. 

NOW-ID’s Rite of Spring surely took its cues from this modernist outlook. Such inspiration is overtly and unapologetically announced at the opening of the performance, when operatic baritone Joshua Lindsay wanders about the stage singing 19th-century German romantic lyrics, frequently delivered directly into the face of the unimpressed dancers. No other forced encounter could so clearly convey a sense of direct confrontation between opposed sets of values, emotional excess versus modern austerity. In the ensuing performance, NOW-ID returns dance to its most elementary components: mutually responsive gesturing bodies, pure music (unburdened by words or story), simple but non-quotidian costumes, and freedom from overbearing technology. This is the very antithesis of Wagner. The blankness of the mise-en-scene—an empty platform several feet above street level—could not have stood in greater contrast to the surrounding environment, consisting of a clutter of blacktop, concrete, street signs, suspended steel, parked semis and passing freight trains. Such assertive simplicity of this production became most evident mid-performance when one of the dancers collected and mutely contemplated clothing fallen from the other performers. This minimal use of props elegantly announced the complete and highly significant absence of guy-wires, mechanical apparatuses or projection screens. 

“The overall trajectory of the dance seemed directed not into the heat of a crucible but rather out of the ashes.”

While Stravinsky’s masterpiece is routinely associated with uninhibited sexuality, it was refreshing to see how this production seemed blissfully unconcerned with instigating any sort of riot or scandal. Nothing struggled to be in your face. The choreography did indeed include close engagement between bodies, but most frequently, contact took the form of partnering rather than any sort of mimed, erotic coupling. Additionally, the choreography—pervaded by a sense of perpetual motion—included alternating passages of folk dance, galloping, trudging and swagger, bringing to mind dancers depicted on a Grecian urn. But rather than a Dionysian or orgiastic struggle to break out of the constraints of individual identity, the performance appeared to be a quest to gather and hold transient matter in some kind of recognizable and stable physical form. 

This impression was enhanced by the canny use of intense red lighting and flowing rather than clinging costumes to give the dancing bodies the appearance of flickering flames (or firebirds). Still, the overall trajectory of the dance seemed directed not into the heat of a crucible but rather out of the ashes. In all this, any morbid fascination with death was replaced by steady attention to gestation and birth. The prominent role assigned to single or multiple performers of sitting and pondering one another’s travails reinforced this reflective mood. In true modernist form, NOW-ID’s Rite was self-referential, a creative act exploring the very nature and limits of creation. The entire production, presented in a moment glutted with sundry forms of entertainment and with patrons addicted to distractions of every sort, returned to the most basic questions: What is dance, why do we do it, why are we gathered here tonight under this bridge?

NOW-ID's production of Rite of Spring featured adventurous lighting and set design.
Photo: Jeffrey Juip

“Where, NOW-ID seemed to ask, lies dance’s astonishing power to transform massive and looming steel girders into thin atmosphere?”

(L–R): Liz Ivkovich, Sydney Sorenson and Tara McArthur energetically perform Rite of Spring
Photo: Jeffrey Juip

This last question prompts a consideration of overall production values. It seems clear that NOW-ID’s Rite adopts modernist abstraction as a temporary refuge from the current (not to say postmodern) technological landscape. Nevertheless, the engaging performance hardly ignored the surrounding environment. Rather, all preparations conspired to open a dialogue between artistic text and surrounding context. Even the visible metal risers on which the dancers performed, by dint of their bare utilitarian functionality, announced a connection between the opposed realities on and offstage. If there was any sort of synthesis in this polarity, it was achieved by the silent but mighty partner that presided over all the evening’s events. This was the massive on-ramp whose diffusely illuminated steel undercarriage served at once as both a ceiling and a sky. It may well be the case that we no longer inhabit primary and immediate nature—if we ever did. Nevertheless, NOW-ID’s performance of Rite begged to argue that veritable and compelling life events can still take place even within the confines of industrial, secondary nature. NOW-ID’s invitation was simply for us to notice this.

Where, NOW-ID seemed to ask, lies dance’s astonishing power to transform massive and looming steel girders into thin atmosphere? What is dance’s capacity to absorb our attention and to lift us, if only momentary, out of concrete practical reality—or the reverberation tank of endless digital pseudo-events—and into a world of pure form? For it is one thing to hold an audience’s complete attention in a darkened theater or enclosed art space and quite another to hold its attention on a street corner running adjacent to an active train track. Further, it’s one thing for an audience, once reminded, to put away its devices when the house lights dim. It’s quite another for hundreds of persons to refrain from all use of cell phones, in the open air on the corner of 600th North and 500 West, and without any prompting whatsoever. When, I found myself wondering as the performance came to a close, was the last time any of us have witnessed this kind of miracle?

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Headliner Billie Eilish serenades the sold-out crowd. Photo: Colton Marsala

On the first real warm and sunny day in a long time, we trekked out to see Billie Eilish. As we approached off the freeway onto Saltair Drive, we watched droves of people park alongside the frontage that are hoping to avoid the outgoing traffic. A yellow school bus shuttled back and forth between the overflow lot and the already packed Saltair. The initial plan involved this show being at The Complex, but after seeing all the people and hearing stories of ten-hour waits for front row and bar spots, it was obvious that Saltair was the ultimate location.

As we entered the venue, we transitioned from the bright outdoors to the dark interior. Crossing the unused stage inside, the approach to the outdoors was blinding as the end-of-day sun began to burst across the salt flats. Walking outside, the view of the Great Salt Lake is stunning: The mirrored reflection creates a mirage in the landscape, extending off into the infinity of the sky. The crowd was filled with younger folks, a fact made obvious by the less-than-crowded 21+ balcony over the overflowing grassy area. Maybe people just wanted to be close; or maybe, as a 17 year-old herself, Billie Eilish draws a crowd that deeply empathizes with her music.

Grappling with tough topics like self confidence and growing up in a weird, changing world, Billie Eilish provides the mantra and voice to a generation that is feeling the discomfort of growing into young adulthood. As someone that is rapidly moving out of that stage, being in the venue on June 4  brought a wave of nostalgia for those initial days of self exploration. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? shows off the musical production of a genius by using a mix of weird sounds and interesting lyrics. I’ve listened to the album over and over again, and every time I find something new to enjoy. With the references to The Office and the sarcastic tone of each song, Billie Eilish has created an interesting piece of art that brought out the devotion of everyone in the Salt Lake crowd that beautiful afternoon.

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Photo: Lindsay Beaumont

The first time I ever met Keith Morris was when I saw OFF! at the Loading Dock. When I asked him for an autograph and to pose for a picture, he complied but he didn’t say a single word while doing it. So, when time came for me to exchange more than one word with Morris, my nerves were on fire. When he picked up the phone he got on for about 15 minutes about sleep deprivation, phone surveillance, his love for The Damned’s keyboardist, and that if you punched him in the head and knocked him out, you’d be doing him a favor by erasing a Good Charlotte show he had witnessed. When we did get some words in about the Punk Rock Bowling Festival and his expectations of performing with Bill Stevenson, Dez Cadena, Chuck Dukowski, and Stephen Egerton in FLAG, his words were anything but boring as he’s a man who’s blunt in his delivery and even more so in his sense of humor.

FLAG has been referred to as the closest resemblance of the original Black Flag, as most of its members are not only pivotal in the band’s many lineups, but all bring the same energy and aggression as they did back in the old days. “We love each other’s presence,” says Morris. “We know that we’re older guys—we’ve known each other for years and years and years going all the way back to being Neanderthal men battling dinosaurs.” When Morris left Black Flag in 1979, the militaristic practice regimen laid out by Dukowski was what drove him out. Now, all five members don’t rehearse or play shows for years at a time and when they do, they perform like a band. “We perform because we know these songs, we love these songs, we live these songs, and we ARE these songs,” says Morris. “So, we don’t need to step up and defend ourselves, all we need to do is to step up and be motherfucking loud and proud.”

“Go out and do stuff. Go out and meet some new people.”

I can vouch, that the times I have seen FLAG, it felt like I was seeing the actual band and not just scene veterans trying to relive the glory days. The energy that Morris speaks of when playing with FLAG is true and it’s translated and absorbed by the audience. “We have this thing called the internet and people sit at home and they watch stuff on YouTube, or Hulu, or ‘zoo-zoo’, or ‘boo-hoo,’” says Morris, “The one major thing that’s lacking when you’re watching something on the screen attached to your computer is the energy, the sites, smells the vibe and the slippery floor and bodies flying through the air.” There are certain things that can’t be caught with a camera, and Morris is a firm believer in that the only way to experience something is to go and live it. “Go out and do stuff. Go out and meet some new people,” Morris says. “Go out and smoke some cigarettes and drink some beers in the parking lot. Make some new friends. Maybe what you’ll do between songs is you’ll hear some new music.”

Since FLAG doesn’t rehearse often there is no time to switch up the setlist or learn a handful of other songs. Because Morris is buried with OFF! and Egerton and Stevenson are piled high with Descendents, there’s no room for more shows than what they’ve given us. “It turns FLAG into just fun time,” says Morris. “Do not hold your breath waiting around for FLAG playing any other shows.” If anything, the sparse rehearsals just makes for more prep time to gear up for the show and makes it more special. “We have to be happy and we have to dive into it when we have the opportunity,” says Morris. “We embrace whatever time we can get together.”

“Punk rock is about freedom.”

These days, Morris continues with his main band OFF!, who are currently writing and recording a new set of songs for an upcoming LP. “We’re in a situation where we have two drummers—Dale Crover (Melvins, Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (original drummer for OFF!, Earthless, Hot Snakes)—who are going to lay down their tracks for these songs,” says Morris. “So, we’re going to have 50 songs to choose from, so we’re going to have the comparison—is it McDonalds or is it Burger King … that’s a terrible analogy.” The LP, once recorded, will also function as the soundtrack to a movie that they are filming in February.

Morris is someone who has always kept himself musically busy. It’s a testament to his stance on punk’s ethos. “Punk rock is about freedom,” he says. “It’s not about any of the rules. It’s not about any of the fashion statements. It’s not about the punk-rock police. It’s not about any of these panels of all these punk rock experts telling us ‘you’re not punk rock because you look this way,’ or ‘you’re not punk rock because you act that way.’ We’ve been doing this long enough, we need to step up and do what we do.”

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Photo: Lawton Howell

Punk rock, politics and pro-choice were just a few of the things that were touched on in my conversation with Shawn Stern. Raised in the thick of LA’s most derisive wave of punk rock in the late ’70s, Shawn and his brother Mark implemented the D.I.Y. code of ethics when forming their band Youth Brigade and starting their label BYO Records. They also continue to use that approach to lead the Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival for the past 21 years.

SLUG: Punk Rock Bowling is turning 21 in 2019! How does it feel that this festival has been going this long?
Stern: It’s pretty amazing actually! We had no idea that the little party we threw for all our friends back in ’99 would evolve into a full-blown festival and be what we spend most of our time on each year. This year is going to be the largest attendance we’ve ever had—we’ve already sold more tickets for everyday beyond what we’ve ever sold before.

SLUG: How have you guys managed to keep this festival relevant and still have a draw every year?
Stern: It’s a mystery to me to be honest. My brother [Mark] runs the booking and he does an amazing job and we’re friends with a lot of these bands. The elephant in the room that, as aging punks, no one wants to bring up is that none of us are getting any younger and we’ve lost lots of people over the years. There are a bunch of exciting young bands that are playing this year, I would think that with the douchebag we have in office right now that [they’d] have plenty to write about. I’m at a point right now where I’m hoping that younger generations are going to pick up the flag There are a bunch of bands that are playing this year that are inspiring me to think that that may happen.

SLUG: How do you juggle the festival, managing BYO Records, and find time to perform with Youth Brigade?
Stern: [The label] still exists for us but it’s just out of feeling of obligation. We haven’t released a new record for the label in ten years—not since we did our boxed set. You just got to adapt. So, BYO doesn’t really take up much time. We spend the majority of our year now setting up PRB and when we have a minute or two, we’ll go out and play a few shows with Youth Brigade. I’d really like to sit down and spend some time writing some songs. There’s certainly enough things to write about and I’ve got a bunch ideas that I’ve had floating around and writing down. I say this every year that I’m going to sit down and work on stuff but then I get busy with PRB. This summer I think I’m not going to go anywhere—I’m going to stay home and really try and get some stuff done.

SLUG: A couple of years ago, PRB extended its festival to Denver and even as far as Asbury Park, NJ. What was the reasoning behind the expansion? Recently those offshoots seemed to have folded, what happened there?
Stern: The reason we were trying to do that was Mark was coming up with some issues when he was trying to book bands from overseas. We’re not a big festival, we can’t afford some of the prices that these bands ask for, and they got to fly from Europe with their crew. We thought that if we had three shows to offer them in different cities, it’d be more realistic because all the expenses are now shared between three different venues. It was a good idea, the shows were fun, but we had problems in Ashbury Park—it was far from New York and that’s where most of the people were coming from. I just said, “let’s just focus on Vegas, because that’s what we do.”

SLUG: This is the first year where PRB will have two festival stages. Why the second stage?
Stern: That was Mark’s plan. He wanted to see more music and we have the space and the time. There are so many bands that want to play and we feel bad that we weren’t able to get anybody on there, so he figured we add a second stage and we can add another seven bands and give the opportunity for a lot of newer, younger bands.

SLUG: PRB has a few “house bands”—Rancid, Bad Religion, Cock Sparrer and Descendents all seem to play every couple of years. How do you go about rotating them evenly for each festival?
Stern: Well, that’s the challenge, right? There’s only about 15 to 20 bands that can headline something like Punk Rock Bowling, and we need three of them every year. We try to divide every two to three years. Last year we tried some new stuff out with Rise Against and At the Drive-In. I thought the bands were great but, apparently, not all the people agreed. We don’t want to repeat bands but where are the young, new bands that can draw, that can headline, or can even be middle of the bill and stare working their way up? We had FIDLAR a couple of years ago and that went over well, but FIDLAR in L.A. can draw 3-4000 people. I don’t think [they] are driving up to Punk Rock Bowling, so we got to figure out a way to get more of those kids to come out to PRB and support bands like FIDLAR and then we can move on to another plateau and a newer generation.

SLUG: How do you keep your radar about for picking up all these new, younger bands and how do you fit them on the festival?
Stern: Mark is always scouring stuff and I’m looking online, checking new bands out when I have time, I listen to a local college radio stations and I hear lots of new bands here and there. I don’t use Spotify because I’m opposed to their whole model of doing business. Most of the time people tell me, or I go out to see shows and see an opening band you never heard of. The internet helps with bringing bands out of the country. And then, word of mouth—friends of bands who have been on tour who tell us to check bands out.

SLUG: I noticed, especially this year, there’s a lot of, not necessarily newer bands, but well-known bands that are making their PRB debut.
Stern: Yeah, and a lot of those bands we’ve been trying to get for years, but for one reason or another, they’re not available. Especially when they are from overseas which, like I said, trying to bring them here for a one-off is expensive, so if we can catch them on a tour that works out for everybody. We managed to do that quite a bit this year.

SLUG: Which ones are you most excited for and which ones do you think are going to have the biggest draw?
Stern: I’m a huge Stranglers fan, it was one of the first punk bands we listened to back in ’78. I’m always excited to see The Damned. I love Killing Joke and I’ve never seen them before and they played in LA about six months ago and was pretty blown away by how strong Jaz [Coleman]’s voice was. There’s a new band from England called Shame I’m looking forward to checking out. Definitely excited to see The Hives, they put on an awesome live show! Always excited to see Rancid and Descendents. Definitely happy that we finally got The Specials to come and play—they’re another band that were favorites of ours back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. We had them in Jersey a few years ago and they were great. It’s a really strong lineup. There’s so many bands it’s hard to pick one.

SLUG: What is PRB’s “white whale”? Meaning, what band or bands have you been jostling to bring onto the festival?
Stern: You know, the bands that we’d love to see, we’ve been told many times, are never getting back together again. People still ask for them like “You should get Minor Threat, Operation Ivy and Fugazi!” Not gonna happen. I know those people and they have no interest in reforming. We tried to get Jawbreaker, maybe we’ll get them at some point. Misfits would be great, but I think they want ridiculous money—we’re not Riot Fest or Coachella. We don’t have 200,000 people coming everyday, so we just don’t have that kind of money. It’d be great to have the Sex Pistols get back together, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. It’d be great to see the remaining members of The Clash, but without Joe Strummer, why bother? We got Iggy Pop and that was one of the best things we could do. There are tons of awesome bands out there that are no longer playing but there’re reasons that they aren’t. I’m looking more to the new bands that are going to blow me away, that’s going to be more interesting.

SLUG: PRB is very active on social media. Do you think it’s easier connecting with people through social media in that you can retrieve everyone’s ideas and criticisms or is it more difficult having to take more opinions into account? How does it affect planning the festival?
Stern: If there’s constructive criticism, I’m totally open to it. We go back and forth and discuss criticisms of every aspects of the festival. In fact, this year we’ve partnered up with a company called R. Cup who make reusable plastic cups. You deposit $3 to use them, you go to the bar and they’ll refill your beer. At the end of the night, you can keep it or you can return it and get your money back. We posted about it on social media and we got an overwhelming positive response—it’s a little thing that ends up being a big thing if more festivals did stuff like that. I try to be responsive to people online, I try to engage people as best I can to be rational and logical and reasonable. I don’t want to get into a pissing war with someone and start name-calling because that doesn’t solve anything. At the end of the day, we can disagree but you don’t have to be nasty about it.

SLUG: Speaking of internet trolls, how do you respond to people who accuse PRB of being a “corporate punk festival”?
Stern: People can think what they think. [Me and my brother] have been doing DIY shit since before a lot of those people were born. Call it corporate if you want, we are a corporation so technically you would be right. I think actions speak louder than words—I think the popularity of this festival and the goodwill of the majority of people that go there and the fact that people keep returning every year says everything. When they’re up there complaining, I can’t convince them about whatever it is they have a problem with, I tell them the same thing every time, “if you don’t like it, you can start your own festival and do it your way.”

If you think Punk Rock Bowling is not an accurate representation of what punk rock represents, the ever-increasing attendance and popularity seems to favor the notion that the people who attend continuously either think that the opposite is true. Even, those that confide in the belief that PRB is corporate still attend because, to some degree, they know that the bands will kick ass and that they will have fun.

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Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival 2017
Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival 2016

The Japanese House Photo: Jim Mangan

English indie pop youngun Amber Bain is the mind and heart of The Japanese House, one of the expanding roster of talents on UK label Dirty Hit. Since summer 2017, Bain has released four EP’s and a full length album, Good At Falling, which dropped in March. A’la Imogen Heap and Fiona Apple, Bain brings back a subtle mid-nineties nostalgic sound with a smoky, suede vocal with more modern production values under the wing of The 1975 producer and drummer George Daniel.

The past week has been a veritable bacchanalia of Dirty Hit artists playing live and local, with Bain rounding out the “DH” double feature within a week. This marked The Japanese House’s first time in Utah, recently her set was swiftly upgraded from Kilby Court to The Complex, perhaps in part due to the diligence of her markedly competent indie label and their thus far fruitful relationship with our local audiences. Said relationship delivered as the turnout for the night was ample, especially for a first-timer.

Fellow Brit female solo act Art School Girlfriend started the evening with a single guitar and an array of backing tracks on a lone laptop. A very similar and near perfect complement to Bain, the opener was simple and smooth, albeit a bit of a somnolent starter for the night.

“Once more a moment in (what appears to be) the beginning of a rising career for a youthful indie protege is a pleasure to witness.”

Before her entrance, a curious audience singalong to “Dancing Queen” managed to breakout spontaneously, indicating the crowd was still vibrant even on a Sunday evening. Like most of her Dirty Hit colleagues, Bain’s set opened with a recorded sonic crescendo that veered cleanly into soaring single,  “Face Like Thunder.” Brief guitar tuning glitches overcome throughout the set, The Japanese House soldiered on with brief entreaties of love from their onlookers as they shifted gears into the contemplative tune “Cool Blue.” Bain’s ethereal vocals are validated by live performance, and her band stays true to her songs with just slight flourishes, proving her oft abundantly produced tracks can be beautifully arranged onstage. “Lilo, Saw You In A Dream and the infectiously delightful “Maybe You’re The Reason were the tracks that most finely reflecting this lovely translation. Bain and company finished the night with a confident assertion that the show marked her favorite of the fledgling tour thus far; not exactly a glowing endorsement as she is only a handful of stops into her summer series. Whether or not her statement stands, it seems likely she’ll be back soon enough, especially after the crowd cheered the band back to an unexpected encore even after the house lights had snapped back on. Bain and company regales the crowd with a repeat of “Maybe You’re The Reason” with all the more fervor during its banger of a guitar bridge.

Once more a moment in (what appears to be) the beginning of a rising career for a youthful indie protege is a pleasure to witness. Although The Japanese House is perhaps less probable to fill some of the clownishly large shoes of her Dirty Hit originating brethren, she’s clearly destined for her own fashion of greatness. The Japanese House live is an absolute must-see at any juncture and on any local stage.

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