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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Ogden Twilight 2018: Big Wild, Jai Wolf, Madge
Ogden Twilight 2018: Bonobo, Slow Magic and Mooninite

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.”

More on SLUGMag.com:

Behind My Damage: An Interview with Keith Morris
OFF! Interview with Keith Morris

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.

More on SLUGMag.com:

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.

More on SLUGMag.com:
Review: The 1975 – A Brief inquiry Into Online Relationships
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Photo courtesy of Thrill Kill Cult

Thrill Kill Kult’s front man and founding member Groovie Man, after his participation in the Wax Trax! Q &A touring panel for the movie Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax Records, discusses their upcoming tour and took a brief look into the history of the band. We grieved, loved and laughed as we conversed about the days of yore.

SLUG: What spiked your first interest in music?
Groovie Man: I lived in a suburb in Illinois called Rocksford and that is where Cheap Trick was from and they were my friends, although they were older guys. I would go to their shows. Then in ’77 there was a punk club called La Mere Vipere. I went there with my girlfriend and hung out and danced and stuff. The local magazine had put a picture of me dancing at the club with the wraparound sunglasses and I was signing autographs for being there. I wasn’t even in a band yet. We would dress up punk because that was the new freedom for expression and drive 90 miles into Chicago with my girlfriend Malice and we would just dance and be decadent. I was a bar performer—I was an artist type and I was approached to become a singer. I had never sang before but I gave it a shot. That started my journey into music, my first couple of bands and then into Wax Trax!

SLUG: How did My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult come to be?
Groovie Man: I met Buzz on the Ministry tour in 1986 and we just became friends along the way and hung out. We never talked about music or anything.  We would go to Boston for a concert and we would see him and the friendship started to grow. Then he moved to Chicago and lived with me for a while and then got his own place. I would go over there with my cassettes and collection of stuff I recorded and my lyric notebooks. We just literally partied to create and dabble with ideas. He had some backtracks, or old songs from his previous bands and I had bits and pieces from my two previous bands. We just started molding songs and put together three for an E.P. and showed it to Jim. I was working at the Wax Trax! Store doing various jobs so I had access to him as we were not recording artists for his label at the time. I was signed with an affiliated label when Wax Trax! brought Bauhaus over. I met their manager in 1981 and he flew me over to London to replace a singer in a situation 2 band that was through Was Trax! before Wax Trax! was full blown. They knew what I was capable of through the other band. The Name My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult was from some tabloid Headlines that I had picked up when I lived in London in 1983, and just kept it in my working notes. When we decided to form and put together the band, we named it after the tabloid and then they released the E.P.

SLUG: What was your first interaction with Wax Trax!?
Groovie Man: My first interaction with Wax Trax! was in 1978 I lived in Chicago and I knew these girls that lived at the end of my street. I met them through a theatrical performance group that was in the neighborhood. It was set up like the “Factory”, a place where the director lived there with his muses and all these people would come in dress up and do performance art. Through that we I met these girl named Marti Marsten and she said these guys were coming from Denver that have a really cool record store and were going to have a party, I went and that is all how it connected.

SLUG: If you could go on the road with any Wax Trax! artist who would it be?
Groovie Man: That is a tough one, probably Chris Connelly or Paul Barker. I just saw them recently and we are just so close. We are like best friends I love them so much. They are just so wonderful and then we have this common bond now. It is like I watched them grow up and they watched me grow up. It is like thirty years later or longer for some us. Thrill Kill is 32 years old this year. The whole frame of mind of the people that are still around from the store, is that of family. Jim Nash was a father figure one who understood and was interested in what you were saying, and did not just give you a head nod. He would help you learn about something and help you grow. It was a great adventure with so many facets.

SLUG: In previous interviews you mentioned that you were going to revisit the side project Darling Kandie. Is that still happening?
Groovie Man: It’s undecided who to produce it with. Mars is so busy, it is hard to get to those side projects. I hope that we do. It will always be a tribute to William Tucker, as he was such a wonderful person. It was sad when he passed away. William Tucker took his own life in the bathroom at his house. He had physical issues going on that kept him in severe, constant pain. He had a weird virus that was in his intestines and I believe that is what killed him, in the end. He just could not take it anymore. I was around him a lot and we were recording what Darling Kandie became. I named it Darling Kandie after he died. All I had when he left us was a box of discs and cassettes, all those old computer cards and a note that said, “Hey Frankie, l am really sorry but I am going to have to cut this short. If you have any questions just call me on the bone phone. Love, William.” Paul barker also got a special box of stuff with a note just like me, as we were the ones he was working with. I had all the stuff and I was living with a partner named Dave Collins that was a producer and a systems developer of software for music programs. He was smart, he helped me put it all together, and he helped me ignite the project. He said, “You gotta finish what you are doing.” I was so devastated to lose William I just did not see it coming.

SLUG: What is in the works for the side projects Katastrophe Clown and Trash Deity?
Groovie Man: When the tour is over Trash Deity will be the next album for a 2020 release. I have a bunch of tracks that I need to work on and write stuff for but I can’t right now because I am still learning my House of Strange Affairs songs for the tour. Trash deity will be pursued. Katastrophe Klown I do with Justin who is a shared drummer with Skinny Puppy. We recorded that in Bologna, Italy at his studio there, where he also does his band kETvECTOR. His album came out last year and is brilliant. To me it was the best of the year. It features Ogre, Edward KaSpell and Buzz McCoy and me, from Thrill Kill Kult.

SLUG: Do you ever plan on releasing the art film titled My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult?
Groovie Man: We had clips and ideas, if I found someone that had some editing skills we could put something together that would probably seem like a documentary collage, but trippy. Something that is like history that is modernized through somebody’s technical style of blasting out images or stretching them. You know something crazy, and update the whole retro thing and turn it into something that is now. I want to go into the psychedelic and trippy. Graphics on the computer are fabulous now. I love all that stuff. I love a trip beyond. I don’t need to see the singer anymore or those pretending to play their instruments. I don’t give a shit about that. I just love the artists that have had the option of being able to have a film, and not just a bunch of stupid clips joined together. It works when they are club videos, that’s fine, but now it’s a little different because we have these gorgeous televisions. We still have these old images. That is my bitch as an artist, is to break out of the old and try something new. Take a chance with something that is so new that it might not work. If it doesn’t work, maybe it’s working. You don’t know you are the artist.

SLUG: What creative process do you go through while making an album?
Groovie Man: It’s like our life exists and then we take time from our lives to go do our recordings and do our band. Once we begin this process, a couple times a week I go over there with my notebooks and my ideas and he usually has backing tracks. I will listen to them and improvise a bunch a stuff over the track after I have heard it a few times, or I will have the tracks on my computer. I will just have the rhythm and I will go in and literally express how I feel, what’s going on, sometimes it is really powerful other times isn’t. We capture what we can and then he’ll go through that and pick out what works and what doesn’t work, and things start to come together. There were a few tracks on the last album towards the end that he was not happy with certain parts and start over with different lyrics or a different melody until it works. I always call it the jigsaw process. It is all free, expressive, wonderful and insane and then all the sudden it is focused down to a fine point. It’s finding the right piece of this puzzle that is taking time to put together your whole vibe changes into this more serious finale of the song. There was no hurry to finish the album. It is always a lot of work, especially at this point we want it to be perfect for us and for our fans.

SLUG: What do you have planned for our dedicated industrial fans here in Salt Lake City?
Groovie Man: There will be more of a set, we are designing a set of windows from the album and we are working on having the projection of the old Thrill Kill Kult imagery playing through them. There will also be Justin, Mimi, Buzz and myself sharing vocals from time to time. We plan on playing the songs that the fans wrote in and requested. So, we have taken their requests and made the set list out of that. The stuff we have not done in a while and then some of the hits. It will be a full show!

It appears that Wax Trax! is more than just a legendary music label—it is a family of very talented musicians and the people that support them. Be sure to stop by the Metro Music Hall on May 7  to catch My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and the Strange Affairs tour with special guests Curse Mackey and Dude Cougar. This is a show that you will not want to miss. Get there early to grab great parking or Uber or Lyft to really get your party on. Doors are at 8pm and you can still pick up your tickets in advance on Eventbrite.

Photo courtesy of Chuff Media

For their third run-in with Utah audiences, the bombastic and ever ballooning indie pop foursome The 1975 graced the UCCU Events Center making for a wonderfully unusual Monday evening. The smallish arena feel of this triplicate tour date befit the equally demi-extravagant live production of one of smart pop’s most successful dark horses. Slightly shoddy stadium seats aside, the space was ample for Dirty Hit’s headliners and supporting artists No Rome and Pale Waves, all members of the British indie-label family.

Our evening began ushered by the band’s ever tightening security detail to a colorful soundcheck session with the Manchurian lads and their veteran stage cohorts Jamie Squire on keys and John Waugh on saxophone. Even in pre-gig preparatory mode, Matthew Healy, Adam Hann, George Daniel and Ross McDonald bring the polish and professionalism of the better part of two decades as bandmates.

The boys were lit by a colorful, deco stage design, once again furnished via the imagination of Tobias Rylander, who brought the glowing rectangle to new life during the band’s sophomore album tour. To our delight, they obliged us with a request for a favorite from their debut-album era, once more manifesting their ongoing indie attitude even as they burgeon into a pop powerhouse with genuine tenure. It’s apparent, though, that The 1975 are swiftly exiting smaller market boundaries and necessarily having to operate as a taut machine since their first Utah visit to cramped Kilby Court in October 2016. The fates have been kind to this band, and the obligatory aches of growth have been suffered along their expanding path.

No Rome warmed up the youthful and stylish crowd with his sophisticated synth r&b, a proper aperitif for the evening ahead. Pale Waves served second opener style to the local crowd, having been in our neck of the woods as a supporting and headlining act numerous times. Clearly the Utah audience knows this band well by now, as evidenced by the roar of voices singing along to nearly every song. Having seen this young brit-pop act in their prior iterations, their development over the past two years, in particular, has been a pleasure to witness. Unfortunately we only got four songs from this act, who easily could’ve kept the audience for a full set.

The 1975 burst forward with their now standard opening title track, a grandiose ode to youthful sexual endeavors had in automotive backseats. The evenings setlist was a pleasant embarrassment of surprises via several older hits and the weird, wonderful and winsome array from their current third album. Slight yet clever adjustments to the classic catalog helped breathe a fresh life into favorites from the early era. A conveyor belt across front stage and a set of knit rabbit ears made the jazzy track “Sincerity Is Scary,” a whimsical nod to the equally fun music video. The tightness of the band’s stage persona is increasing, with Healy appearing healthier and heartier than in previous years via his ostensibly ongoing recovery and rebound into an elevated level of wellbeing.

A new sense of celebration exists in The 1975’s live performance, as though the band intends to fashion a world for its audience and invite them gleefully into it. At times, Healy (the apparent impetus of said imaginary orbit) paused to absorb his own artistry with a childlike awe. The addition of identical twin backup dancers added to the playful yet contemplative rabbit hole of their current persona.

The boys from Manchester brought their original rock skills in the second half of the set, reminding the audience of their post punk and guitar heavy origin story.

The anthemic “Love It If We Made It” opened the encore, with Healy roaring into the mic about the ills of modernity. The audience absorbed the energy with fists held high and righteous bliss, pressing on through the waning night with their boys. Old radio hit “Chocolate” sat second to last, with now standard closing track “The Sound,” wherein Healy entreats the audience to end the evening with a “fucking jump.” Fortunately the crowd availed, and the rickety risers held as a sea of thrilled bodies bounced in near stunning unison.

Although no longer an underground, occult pop secret, The 1975 remain complex, curious and downright cool well into their rising international fame. Although they may fill larger and larger arenas over the coming years, this band will always have heart and sincerity, a set of traits worthy to follow for their sonic lifespan. -Paige Zuckerman


Photo: Sam Jones

Ever since their formation in 1984, The Offspring have been a popular name within the punk community. Whether you remember their demo days, when they released what would be their most beloved album, Smash, or if you just heard “Self Esteem or “Come Out and Play” on the radio for the first time—The Offspring have made themselves a household name, maintaining relevance and momentum over the last few decades.

In my life, I remember listening to The Offspring all the time growing up—so much so that I can’t exactly pinpoint what age I was when I first listened to Smash, but I knew that I loved it. As my music taste has changed and developed over time, there’s no denying that bands like The Offspring and other pop-punk powerhouses of the ’90s and aughts make up the foundation on which it’s built, and that I return to these artists time and time again. Because they’re so crucial and influential on not only mine but the musical development of so many others, The Offspring are easily one of the most recognizable, prolific and long-standing bands of their time, as they influence generations of people.

Noodles, lead and rhythm guitarist (and original member), discusses what it’s like being in The Offspring after 35 years, the impact the band has had in the punk community, touring and what audiences can look forward to at the Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival this summer.

SLUG: At the beginning, did you expect The Offspring to become so popular? What was your initial reaction when Smash gained the popularity it did?
Noodles: It was crazy! We never expected it. Punk bands were always underground. We always thought we would be underground—it was something we thought we would just have fun doing for a few years before we all had to get real jobs and settle down and have families, and all of that.

We never expected Smash to do what it was going to do. Right before we made Smash, we toured Europe opening up for NOFX, and we saw that they were actually making enough money to live off of. So, we hoped we would get a little closer to that, but we never really expected to make it into a career.

SLUG: What was your mentality when the Offspring started? What influenced you to start the band then and how have those influences changed over time?
Noodles: The influences, at the time, were a lot of the local bands. The biggest influence on all of us in The Offspring is T.S.O.L. We all just love that band—everything from their early stuff to Dance With Me, all the way up to Beneath the Shadows and even into some of the Joe Woods stuff, we love, too.

When we got together as a band, we all really just loved music. I first started playing with a band called Clowns of Death, which we actually stole from Oingo Boingo when they were playing club shows to get some warm up gigs. When they were done using it, we stole that name. When Dexter first sat in with the whole band, [we were practicing] in my parents’ living room. Then a couple of months later, he asked me to join Manic Subsidal, but we would change it to be The Offspring a few months after that. We stuck with The Offspring because no one [in the band] hated it. It doesn’t nail anything down, it’s kind of nebulous, you can take it to mean a lot of things, and we ended up sticking with that.  

SLUG: What is meaningful to you about The Offspring being in it’s 35th year as a band?
Noodles: Everyday that I get to go out and do this is a blessing. We thought that it would be something that we would do in our time off as a hobby. We never planned on it ending, but we didn’t think we’d be doing it forever, you know? We love music and we love getting together and doing it, so, now that we get to do it for a living, it’s just so much fun.

I remember being a little afraid when things started taking off with Smash because it’s like … this is my job now. But every night that we get to take the stage and play music or get to go into the studio to put songs together, it’s so much fun—it’s what we love to do—and that hasn’t changed. Everyday we get to do that is a blessing.

SLUG: What has been your favorite experience you’ve had while in The Offspring?
Noodles: Oh man, there’s been so many. One of the ones that sticks to my mind was around the time of Americana, I think. We did a couple of headlining shows at the Verizon Amphitheater, which is gone now. One of the shows goes off—it was crazy, packed house, local crowd. We loved them and they loved us, family and friends were there, and we did a big, long meet-and-greet afterwards. After the show, I was walking out to the car with my wife and [I remember] looking up into the bleachers and thinking, “What the fuck just happened?” It was crazy.

We just played four shows in Japan that were incredible. The venues were small, but the crowds were just as energetic as they’ve ever been. There have been so many great times.

SLUG: Out of all of your songs and albums, what are your favorites to play? Why?
Noodles: I always really like playing new stuff that we’re trying to work out, but I love all of them, really. I really do. I love it when we mix in deep cuts that we haven’t played for a while. When we were in Australia in December, we were playing Smash in its entirety, all the way through. So, we had to work out “Something to Believe In” and “Not the One”—songs that we haven’t really played in a long time. Those songs are always fun, but I love playing “Gone Away,” and “Kids Aren’t Alright.” “Self Esteem” is always fun, and “Come Out and Play” is super fun, too.

SLUG: What have you noticed in the mix of generations of pop punk fans who attend your shows? How do you feel when you witness the impact your music has on fans of all ages?
Noodles: The audience hasn’t really changed much, in the front. It might be a little greyer in the back, but in the front, there’s always been young, energetic people. It’s incredible because it’s never really changed. We, I guess, have. I’ve gotten older, but our crowd hasn’t, and we feed off of that energy, and it helps keep us young, too. I don’t really know how to analyze that we are reaching these people, but I know the feeling when we connect with the audience at our shows is like nothing else in the world. For me, it really comes together when we’re playing live. It’s the main reason why I wanted to do this.

I just know that when people are rocking out, whether they’re expressing their angst during a song like “Bad Habit” or just smiling during a silly song like “Pretty Fly for a White Guy,” there’s just no feeling in the world like that.

The Offspring are cruising by The Fairgrounds this Sat. April 27 with the Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival. Be sure to catch their set, grab some delicious tacos, a refreshing beer and keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming album that’s dropping sometime this year.

Photo courtesy of Lucre Films.

Dead things have a way of getting in my head. Seeing them splashed up in front of you in Creative Guild Studio’s completely cozy environment is an oddly suiting contradiction. Director/Actor Oscar Sanchez is sitting to the right of me, but in front of me, on screen, he’s a mess of bloody circumstance. Creative Guild Studio’s premiere of Lucre Films’ productions, F.U.B.A.R. and Criminals,  was everything an enjoyable evening viewing should be; funny, scandalous and full of potential abandonment and dead things.  

Creative Guild Studio wheels in theater chairs attached in long rows for this event. The rows are stadium style, and rise as they proceed back. This is notable, because the skeleton-like construction of these rows leaves my feet dangling a foot from the floor as I sit. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a film while swinging your legs like a kid on a swing, but it’s fantastic. The youthful indulgence is magnified when you consider the studio also had treats to offer, as well. As my legs were swinging, I had a snack and beverage in hand. This is a proper way to enjoy film—I was cozy, fed and ready.

Films are generally taken in separately. Being this was a double feature, I’d like to take a moment to consider these two films in the same breath. Though these films feature some crossover in both themes and actors, they really couldn’t be any different tonally, and that’s what’s make the pairing so effective. It was a one-two punch, featuring desperate men in two varying positions, but where one leaves you haunted and wondering, the other leaves you chuckling with its tongue-and-check presentation. Humor rings well after horror and this was excellent film pairing.

The desperate men in Friday night’s first film, F.U.B.A.R., are stranded in non-descript military attire, out of touch with HQ and trying to survive in a crumbling circumstance. The film is at it’s strongest when all of the actors are working together, and you get to feel the camaraderie these performers developed working together over the three-day shoot. This also works to a fault, because, at times, the actors perform dialogue so casually that their firearms moved as if they were talking with their hands. This act undermined the situational intensity at times, but also made the audience smile. So, it’s a soft criticism at best. The sound in the film was used to great effect and drew me into the focal points. The look of the film (Ursa Mini Pro) seemed to have two different personalities. The initial feel catered to the abandonment situation, with its focus on environment and situation, but as the film progresses, the camera work becomes more intimate and the focus shifts from the environment to the characters with it’s dark, silhouetted close-ups. Speaking more about the details would compromise the film, just know it is rather haunting and you will wonder about F.U.B.A.R. afterward.

In Criminals,  these men are a different lot all together. Somewhere in the production process, you almost wonder if someone said, “What would Quentin Tarantino’s take be on Pineapple Express?” and the answer was this film. Criminals  is a bit more nuanced than that idea, and the humor is uniquely cheeky, which compliments  Director Casey William Walker’s presentation of the narrative. I could almost hear the laughter between takes. The film sits around two characters in an impossible situation involving a death of a lover. With a clean resolution to the film being thrown out in the first minutes, (think: Shaggy finding out Scooby Doo was in a relationship with Fred and killed Fred for dating Daphne as well), we accept the madness of the situation because there is no other recourse. We accept the absurdity which makes Sanchez (returning to act) ability to chew up the screen with offbeat, stoner antics so much more enjoyable. While the film displays a difficult situation, it doesn’t transition that burden to the audience—making the film light hearted and ultimately fun.

One of the more potent moments of the evening came during a Q+A session, where Sanchez was asked why he worked on these films. He answered, “I wanted to be reminded of why I did it,” which I found brilliant. Art comes from any source but ultimately, it’s function can be, via Gertrude Stein, “to induce hope.” What’s missed in that statement is that hope doesn’t always come from the person perceiving the art, sometimes, that hope is for the artist themselves. There’s a genuine feeling that comes from art made for yourself and great fictions come from genuine hearts. Criminals and F.U.B.A.R. were incredibly genuine films and hold up well in the lofty ranks of Utah film.

Meat missiles were firing on all cylinders Saturday, March 9, at the 19th Annual SLUG Games: Winter Wizardry rail jam at Brighton Resort. There’s no better way to ring in the start of spring ski season than with a competition made possible by all our sponsors: Arbor Snowboards, Izm, Pit Viper Sunglasses, Saga Outerwear, Graywhale Entertainment, Chaos Headwear and Brighton Resort.

Fonnzy was keeping the stoke high as the contestants warmed up on this years course and kept the crowd moving and warm all day. Featuring a flat down box, an S-rail, a waterfall rail to a shed jib, a cannon tube and a bunch of cardboard wizards, the setup made by Brighton’s park crew allowed contestants plenty of variety to show off their best tricks. The day followed traditional rail-jam format of 20-minute heats for the 17-&-Under crowd, then Open Ski and Open Snow, followed by finals for those who qualify in the same order of categories.

The MC and head wizard of the day, Rad Brad, kept the event moving and vibes high all day long while giving the riders the shout-outs they deserved and explaining to the crowd what they’re seeing.

The 17-&-Under category kicked off the jam, and these kids didn’t hold back. There were one-foot board slides down the flat-down box, there was a huge daffy and Luke Mullan threw a 2 off the waterfall rail to gap the whole shed jib that had the crowd going crazy. Garrett Calaway won the award for “Best Crash” of the day, giving the crowd the daily dose of carnage they desired. Watching the next generation of skiers and riders throwing down this hard was inspirational and an ego check at the same time. Between the heats, you could find a lot of the 17-&-Under crowd shot-gunning Red Bull and eating whole bananas over with our friends at Pit Viper, further proving the sendy nature of these kids.

The Open Ski crowd that followed, though it was small, didn’t lack talent.  Isabel Parada was representing the girls out there and holding her own, ripping the flat-down box. Tucker Fitzsimons was hot, lapping the park and sending all day. 

Finally, the Open Snow category ended the day. The field of contestants were huge, and they all seemed to be feeding off of each other’s stoke. The Best Trick of the day went to Jeff Hopkins for a back slide on the “S” rail, but he certainly wasn’t the only one getting after it out there. The boys were jibbing their hearts out and getting creative on the “S” rail.  Flips are always a crowd pleaser and were thrown off the cannon tube. Paxton Alexander was spinning to win out there, and the crowd was loving it. The girls showed up in a big way too. Small but mighty Gwynnie Park was giving the course her all and charging every feature she hit.

A huge shoutout to everyone that competed. The top spots of the day went to:

Men’s 17-&-Under Ski: 1st Place Luke Mallen, 2nd Place Alex Mallen, 3rd Place Jaxon Lewis

Women’s 17-&-Under Snow: 1st Place Scarlett Park, 2nd Place Jaida Davis

Men’s 17-&-Under Snow: 1st Place Isaac Harkness, 2nd Place Greyson Hawkins, 3rd Place Noah Singer

Women’s Open Ski: 1st Place Isabel Parada

Men’s Open Ski: 1st Place Tucker Fitzsimons, 2nd Place Bagesol Baker, and 3rd Place Hayden Gellesen

Women’s Open Snow: 1st Place Gwynnie Park, 2nd Place Lexis Bryner,  3rd Place Jess Kelley, Honorable Mention Chizv Maeda

Men’s Open Snow: 1st Place: Bryan Watson, 2nd Place Paxon Alexander, 3rd Place Evan Thomas

Best Trick: Jeff Hopkins, Best Crash: Garrett Calaway

Thanks again to the Brighton park crew, Line Skies, Hovland Snowskates and all of our sponsors. We can’t wait to do it all again next year! Bring on the spring slush.



***More photos will be added soon!

Logan Sorenson


Ceza Dzawala

Brendan O’leary

Jessica Bundy

Photo: Giles Clement

 There is a connection between punk rock and roots music, I know that’s not a new or original notion, but the fact that some how Merle Haggard leads us to Black Flag, in some way, intrigues me to no end. What could it be that links these two seemingly disparate forms of music? I can and have spent hours going on about this, so I’ll cut to the chase, and tell you it all boils down to sincerity. Both of these genres live and die by sincerity. It’s not surprising at all that a few punk rockers end up playing country and americana music. J.P. Harris was not only been entrenched in the Bay Area punk rock scene, and has gone on an interesting journey to become a stalwart of country music—especially when it comes to honky tonk. J.P.’s life has taken him to some unusual turns, and it all seems to have been building towards him becoming one of the dos genuine singer/songwriters working today.

I got the chance to talk with J.P. about his journey and how he became a singer-songwriter that brings the past and present together in a concoction all his own.

SLUG: I heard that you were in the East Bay punk rock scene in the ’90s. What was that experience like?
Harris: I was there for about a year when I was 14, and I had gotten into punk rock a year or two earlier from getting into skate boarding and, you know, just generally being a bad kid. I got turned onto the legendary bay area scene, and I picked that out as a mecca of west coast punk rock,moved there, and squatted in few places around Oakland. We’d get chased out by the cops—this gang of punk kids that had all runaway from home.

I got a job at 924 Gilman St., which was already a legendary all-ages punk rock venue to us. I worked there for about nine months and at the age of 14, I was the youngest “key-holder” to ever work there, which to me and a very elect few, is a badge of honor. I was what they called ‘the clean-up coordinator’ which actually meant I was the trash kid. I look back on that time and I’m really grateful the the people running the place for putting up with me and steering me in the right direction. I still, to this day, take a lot of the lessons I learned in punk rock and put them into what I’m doing now, I may not put on punk records as much as I used to, but I definitely have a DIY ethic and put that attitude into everything I do.

SLUG: When did you make the transition into country and roots music?
Harris: Well, the punk scene I was a part of was very political and there was a lot of talk about self sustainability, creating alternative economies, and I just didn’t see anyone doing that and I just felt like I had to get out and do something to advance my life in some way and do something useful. So, I ended up living on and off of the Navajo reservation for about year in northeast Arizona, helping these elderly ladies, hoarding sheep, chopping wood and helping out some folks who were in a tough political situation. Then, after traveling around the country for two or three years, I landed in Vermont where I just kind of dug in to learning a bunch of different trades like carpentry, metal working, farming, and living in the woods where I didn’t have any power or running water for a damned 13 years of my life, and it all lined up with not needing material things or comforts. So, at first when I transitioned into living in mostly rural areas, I learned that punk rock sounds like shit on an acoustic guitar. I had heard my grandparents play country music and hearing the ’90s stuff on the radio, and by default, country and folk music became the soundtrack to that lifestyle and I started to see those correlations to the way I was living.

SLUG: How did living in these rural areas without power and running water affect you as songwriter?
Harris: I think experiencing that crazy life and experiencing things that most people never have, gave me a different point of view. It also brought me closer to the origins of the people that created this music, like how Merle Haggard grew up in an old box car or how the Carter Family came from Clinch mountain. It helped me identify with everyday peoples’ stories, I was ultimately exposed to the human condition more. Maybe it made me more compassionate to other peoples lives. They may not have my problems, but I can appreciate their struggles. Being able to take my stories and distill them down to something that’s a little more identifiable for everyone else is the fine art of good writing and good story telling.     

SLUG: Fans of old country will veraciously defend it and they will travel many miles to see it live. Why do you think this music resonates so deeply with people?
Harris: There are a lot of factors to that question and I, being 35-years old, now, was born at the tail end of living a certain way. I’m apart of the last generation that knows a little bit of life without cellphones and the internet as well as the fast paced world would come from those things. I think when we see artists who are still in touch with that world—reaching back to something older and simpler—it allows them to have a breather from a the non-stop movement we’re all experiencing. The word “nostalgia” was developed to describe a condition that people suffered from, where they were yearning for a time they never lived in. Nowadays, the simplicity of the early days of country music makes people long for some aspects of the past that we should’ve held onto before we went barreling into the future. I definitely think our brand of country music tempers that feeling of sadness for a bygone time. Country music has a simple message that’s much simpler than the world we live in now.

SLUG: You seem to have a special talent for writing drinking songs. Where does that come from, and what makes a good drinking song?
Harris: You definitely have to have a good sense of humor. There’s an old Leadbelly line that says “If you see me laughin’ baby, it’s just to keep from crying, ” so, there’s kind of a sour, jaded sense of humor that you have to apply to a good drinking song. The other approach is just understanding and experiencing the ultimate lows that come with life, scrape the bottom and turn that into a song. It makes people feel so good, and helps them get through their own tough times. To be in a room with other folks and listen to really sad country songs is a cathartic experience. I’ve had lots of ups and downs with drinking, real rough periods and derailed parts of my life, and luckily, I haven’t in the past few years, but the songs allow people to laugh at drunken behavior and step outside of their own life for minute.

SLUG: With festivals and labels popping up all over to support more varieties of artists, it’s starting to feel like there’s a substantial movement to support roots music artists like yourself. Are we seeing a changing-of-the-guard, so to speak?
Harris: I hope so, but I feel like there’s a ceiling to what we’re doing. I used to rant and rave about pop-country and how its ruining the music I love, but the truth is that there’s a lot of people that like mindless, dog shit music. You’re not going to convince them that it’s dog shit, it’s not how that works. Luckily, right now, there is enough attention on artists like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell that it hopefully leads to more artists being discovered by people, but it will never be what it was in the ’60s. I don’t think I’ll ever play to ten-thousand people, and that’s okay, I don’t need that to survive. If I can pull in six or seven-hundred people every night, then I’ll have a great career. I’ll tell you, most days I’m not on tour, I’m swinging a hammer. If I could just play music, that would be enough success for me.

J.P. sees himself as a tradesman and approaches his music career the same way he approached working as a carpenter. He works hard and gives his work all that he has. He’s not concerned with stardom—he’s more focused on the show he’s playing that night, the people he’s singing to and the sincerity of his message. He only knows his way of doing things, and that’s to be direct and thoughtful about what he’s trying to accomplish. (The State Room: 04.01)