Author: Andy Silva

Tour de Brewtah

This weekend on April 30, the annual Tour de Brewtah will bring together two of Utah’s biggest communities, incorporating great beer and cycling into one of the biggest and most anticipated bicycle events of the year. This year’s Tour de Brewtah will raise funds to benefit Splore, whose mission is to reveal the “dignity in risk-taking,” through adaptive recreation. Splore provides outdoor adventures for individuals of all abilities and believes in encouraging others to break the belief that someone with a disability should be sheltered from life experiences.

Tour de Brewtah
Brandon Smith and Janine Donald enjoy some brews while reflecting on the history and growth of Tour de Brewtah. Photo: Scott Frederick

I had the opportunity to grab a few beers with Janine Donald and Brandon Smith to talk about the roots and creation of Tour de Brewtah, as well as Tour de Brewtah’s involvement with Splore. Splore started in the ’70s when founder Martha Ham wanted to take people with disabilities on river rafting trips in Moab. Donald explains that when Ham first wanted to go there, people thought it would be dangerous and that she was crazy for wanting to try. When Ham was ultimately able to complete the first river-rafting trip, everyone loved it, and soon after, they were able to start taking more people who might otherwise feel that such activities were inaccessible to them. Now, Splore has a variety of winter sports—stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing and outdoor rock climbing—in addition to the river rafting.

“What we really see impact people’s lives is that for many people—especially those who are born with a disability—you’ve grown up with this idea that there’s only so much that life and the world can offer,” says Donald. “It’s a matter of education and getting people to try it, and when they try, it’s amazing to watch their awareness open up … challenging themselves in a world suddenly filled with new opportunities.” Splore works with all ages, from five year-olds to 85 year-olds with everything from developmental disabilities, mental illness, learning disabilities, to MS and spinal cord injuries. “I see us as a catalyst for people who want to do more with their lives, showing more of the possibilities that life has for them—and that having a disability doesn’t mean that they have to live a sheltered life,” Donald says. Registrants of this year’s Tour de Brewtah will directly help to raise funds for a this local nonprofit, maintaining the localized momentum of the event.

I asked Donald about the history of Tour de Brewtah and how it has evolved into such an anticipated event. As it turns out, a little inspiration from Oregon and a small group of friends started it all. “It’s crazy to look back and see how something that was just a fun idea has grown into an event of this size,” says Donald. “We really just wanted to have an excuse for us to all get together and have a few drinks around the city. It was all about having fun and exploring the city.” Having known about Oregon’s brewery tour, Tour de Lab, five friends wanted to recreate and adapt a pub-crawl here in Salt Lake. Six years later, Tour de Brewtah now features 14 breweries, four host bars and nearly 1000 riders each year. Breweries such as Shades of Pale, Proper Brewing Co., Squatters, 2 Row Brewing and Desert Edge have all gathered in to participate in this diverse gathering of cyclists. The size of the event provides its own tests—fortunately, that’s only as a direct result of its growth and the enthusiasm of Salt Lake’s cycling community. “Coordinating with all those entities and making sure everyone is on the same page can be a challenge,” Donald says, with “all the standard run-ins of running any event with such a large attendance.” Smith says the payoff vastly outweighs any stresses or pitfalls that the preparation for Tour de Brewtah could ever present. “The rewarding part of [Tour de Brewtah] is a combination of multiple communities in Salt Lake. You’ve got the brewing community, the cycling community and Salt Lake in general. Even if you’re not a cyclist, this is a great opportunity to come and meet those people who are really into it, and this is where you’re going to meet your brewers and other cyclists. It’s a bonding experience … and cycling is the best way to see our city.”

Combining Salt Lake’s craft beer and cycling communities has created a crossover that Utah has fully embraced. Now, there are dozens of small weekly and monthly gatherings for cyclists to barhop or simply get together to ride, but Tour de Brewtah provides an all-day event that ends in an afterparty for participants to mingle and enjoy the city’s finest craft beers together—a much-deserved reward, regardless of which of the four routes riders choose. All the routes start and end at the Gallivan Center. The longest route, EX-Splorer, is 36 miles, and the shortest of the four routes is the 4.5-mile-long Free Spirit. The variety of routes allows cyclists of all experience levels to participate. Smith puts it perfectly when he says, “Every aspect of Tour de Brewtah has exploded.” It’s not hard to figure out why this well-organized event is one that is so looked forward to by the brewing and cycling community.

Participants are also welcome to volunteer before and after the tour, and anyone wishing to get a few of the remaining spots can register online. Tour de Brewtah is this Saturday, April 30. The first route pushes off at 10:30 a.m.

The moment the first Touché Amoré song kicked on, the entire room exploded into heavy thrashing—flash mobs could not have timed it better. Photo courtesy of Deathwish Inc.

Nothing can threaten the liveliness of an evening more than a sobering reminder of a beautiful life being taken from this world to soon—I’m refering to that of actor Paul Walker (She’s All That, The Fast and the Furious). On February 7, Drug Church played the first set of the evening, with songs from their latest album, titled Paul Walker. While some may have felt it was too soon to show any signs of jubilation in the middle of our country’s six-month mourning period, others decided to celebrate our departed angel by way of fist pumping and stage diving.

Drug Church is something of an anomaly to me. They have managed to tour with some of my favorite bands, yet have fully escaped my playlist for years. They almost continued to evade me once more, as they started while I was trying to figure out how I had managed to buy a $10 beer. I sat in the bar, watching them and waiting for a few friends. Opening bands have always had to compete for my attention with my phone and (not so) cheap booze. By the time they finished, I, at the very least, had made a mental note to give them a more committed effort when I got home.

As things switched over, I snuck outside to pollute my lungs. I noticed that half of the people doing the same didn’t look old enough to have bought cigarettes legally. I was trying to decide if I had an opinion on it when I heard Seahaven sound-checking and headed back in. Inside, the scene seemed to have changed completely. The audience took on a whole new image. It reminded me of the old nudie pens with pin-up girls who lost their blouses depending on which angle you viewed it. As Seahaven prepared to start, I hated them. I was sure by their clean-cut, smooth skin, perfectly dressed attitudes that I was going to be sick simply by them talking. They looked like the younger brothers of Calvin Klein models and I hated them for it. I like my artists to look like what they sing. The second they started playing, I found myself suddenly wishing I could contract anything they were willing to give me. I was hoping I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the eyes the next morning. While it was true that they didn’t appear to have the capacity to be the ones singing pessimistic sweet nothings to me, I could find no evidence of voice dubbing or an instrumental tape. Their song “Silhouette (Latin Skin)” sealed the deal for me. I vowed to pick up any merchandise I could get my grubby hands on. I even managed to talk myself into finding guitarist Michael Craver’s uncomfortable head bob endearing.

Enough about the mistress of the evening, though—my side chick quickly left the stage and the true reason for my arrival, mewithoutYou, entered. It was about this time that my suspicions of severely underage smokers were confirmed, as one of the members of security approached me and asked if my name was Amber. When I corrected him and explained my name was Andy, he gave me a confused look and asked, “Is your mom supposed to be picking you up out front?” No, no, she most certainly was not.

While Seahaven may be given the swoon award for the evening, true showmanship goes to mewithoutYou. Their opening song “My Exit” started with lead singer Aaron Weiss contorting like a schoolgirl singing aloud to Shakira in the mirror. Tugging at his jacket, eventually taking it off and putting it on several times through out their set further conveyed the eccentric mindset. After several songs there was pause for commentary to the audience. Weiss began by stating that in no way was mewithoutYou “endorsed by the taco stand just across the street,” and continued a short diatribe discussing the narcotics so easily found in Salt Lake. The correlation was irrelevant, but the message of staying sober and proliferating the consumption of tacos was followed by a chorus of “fuck yeah”s and wolf calls. The final three songs were preluded by a message of “kinship” between the band and Salt Lake with the song The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room and with Weiss proclaiming an “affinity for all manners of strange beliefs.”

Then there was Touché Amoré. I remembered Touché Amoré not only toured with but also collaboratively composed with one of my favorite bands La Dispute. I had moved myself back into the bar area before I made this realization, but I couldn’t have been more glad, because the scene that followed was perhaps more poetic from afar than being in the midst of it. As the night had continued, each band that left the stage equated to their niche following leaving or dispelling through out the venue. This resulted in the remaining audience to be 100% loyal and passionate Touché Amoré fans. The moment the first song kicked on, the entire room exploded into heavy thrashing—flash mobs could not have timed it better. I sat for the remainder, wishing I had the energy of my once-spry past self to join in. Instead, I got to enjoy the spectacle of true fandom transpire. Touché Amoré showcased songs from their latest album Is Survived By, which to me felt more hardcore than post-hardcore, but when it comes to genre splitting, I realized “It’s hard to write content.” Similar to Drug Church at the beginning of the night, the vocals were shot under the heavy instruments, but it never distracted from the momentum. I recognized the power of refusing to be bothered with what’s being said during a performance, and simply letting the song rip through me.

The night left me pumped for this year’s music scene in Salt Lake, and desperately needing to update my music folders. The tour will continue through March 6, 2014, and was a strong, promising start for Salt Lake City’s music year.

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Motoi Yamamoto’s saltworks are methodical and meditational processes that engage with the cultural and artistic influences of salt. Photo: Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities

The artist Motoi Yamamoto’s presence at Weber State University was observed through an unorthodox panel celebrating his medium—salt. Traditionally, lectures given on artists’ exhibits I’ve seen tend to follow a fairly standardized pattern of explaining the artist’s backstory, translating the emotions from the installment or piece and concluding with a personal impact statement. What happened at the panel was, instead, an avant-garde celebration for a substance I had never considered as anything more than a way to mask the actual taste of most foods I consume. The panel consisted of several professors from Weber State University and Westminster College, as well the acclaimed culinary leader on salt, Mark Bitterman.

The panel started with Bonnie K. Baxter, a Professor of Biology at Westminster College, explaining to the audience what a halophile was while pulling up a PowerPoint presentation with images of microcosmic pictures of salt compounds—and I got nervous. The idea of needing a short list of vocabulary terms before proceeding, almost terrified me. After all, science isn’t art, salt isn’t science—salt is salt, so I thought. The amount of time I spend thinking about salt daily is reduced to nothing more than my arm’s muscle memory at every meal. This night was dedicated to salt though, and I was completely unprepared for the massive amount of information I was about to receive. Baxter continued to share her vast knowledge on the biology of salt, primarily organisms that enjoy, want and need salt to survive—halophiles. Following suit with Baxter’s talk on the life in salt was Michelle Culumber, who spoke about the aforementioned halophiles’ role in genetic transfer (evolution) and element recycling. While Baxter’s presentation focused on the halophiles themselves, Culumber’s covered the complexity of salt and halophiles’ roles in the “Tree of Life.” She also, rather casually, threw a comment or two on pathogens surviving the brine of Great Salt Lake.

I’ve never consciously observed the relationship between the Great Salt Lake and the people of Utah. I would guess that this in part comes with the fact that I’m simply accustomed to its presence and have developed a certain clutter blindness to its assault on my senses while commuting. Dr. Carla Koons Trentelman shared the complexity of the Great Salt Lake’s relationship with the people of Utah with a certain amount of romanticism, ranging from its rooted history stemming from the Great Depression to the present anomalies such as property value on a salt lake vs. a fresh water lake.

Earlier in the night, moderator Paul Crow briefly shared Yamamoto’s story, and his simultaneously tedious, methodical and meditational process of creating his salt-masterpieces inspired by memories of his deceased sister. Hikmet Sydney Loe, an Art History professor at Westminster, shared examples of artists who also use salt to create their pieces, or have pieces depicting salt in part or as a whole. Robert Smithson, most known for his earthwork sculpture, Spiral Jetty, was discussed as well as artists Tacita Dean and Holly Simonsen. Deans anamorphic film JG was filmed on Utah’s saline landscapes as well as landscapes in Central California. Simonsens’ work is so closely tied to the Great Salt Lake that in 2010 she circumnavigated the shore, over a hundred miles, as part of her poetic journey.

I would have to say I couldn’t have been more pleased with speaker Angelika Pagels’ presentation on the seemingly modest household staple, the salt shaker. This historical presentation included the cultural significance of salt itself, beginning with extravagant vessels used to signify the status of the table head, and were presented in a manner that truly showed off the rarity of the salt. An example of such saltcellars is Benventuo Cellini’s “Saliera,” which is currently (and not so modestly) valued at $60 million. Pagels’ oration also explored colloquial idioms and a variety of superstitions involving salt, including an explanation as to why it’s bad to spill salt (an omen of betrayal or broken bargain) and why the remnants are to be thrown over the offender’s left shoulder. Blame that pesky shoulder-riding deity, the horned devil, which tends to show up on the left shoulder. She also shared pictures such as Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” which shows Judas spilling the saltshaker, and other historically relevant paintings that boasted saltcellars.

The final speaker of the evening was Bitterman, a man who literally wrote a manifesto for salt (Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral with Recipes). His passion started with a simply made steak in France. He has since traveled the world collecting various salts and opening a store that specializes in finishing salts. While Bittermans accomplishments in the culinary world are countless, I say, the highlight of his career is the luxury of being able to enthusiastically suck on a Himalayan salt block in a room full of people and still manage to be one of the most admired individuals present, with no one questioning his sanity. The evening closed with Bitterman discussing where to buy the finest salts in Utah—Tony Caputo’s Gourmet Food Market and Deli, he says—as well as providing the opportunity to taste a sampling from his own collection.

While the format of the evening was unconventional, I was tremendously enjoyed the overall atmosphere and flow. Beginning with the science and structure of salt as a component in the ecosystem allowed the audience to reconsider the significance of the substance. Revealing cultural and artistic ties with salt as the night progressed, I couldn’t help but recognize that salt isn’t just salt at all. The event provided a refreshing approach to dissecting an art installation with the focus on the literal medium—a topic that allowed the audience to revise ordinary, table-spice subject matter into something far more complex than ever imagined.

On April 12, starting at 10 a.m. the community is invited to gather up the salt used in Yamamotos’ exhibition and return it to the Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake.

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Brookyln’s Miniature Tigers played through April Fools’ equipment malfunctions, making a packed SLC crowd happy. Photo: Michael Busse

When I showed up to The Shred Shed, I could tell the night was going to be a tragic misrepresentation of Salt Lake’s music scene—I expected a much larger turn out. The few groups who had shown up by the time opening band Michael Gross & Statuettes were finishing up didn’t seem fully equipped to ‘rep’ the hospitality and energy I’m used to seeing at shows.

Flashlights loaded up and preceded with their sound check, no muss no fuss, and began ripping through their setlist without hesitation. It was perhaps the most confusing set of the evening—visually they looked bored and uninterested, though their sound was spot on and told a different story entirely. Songs about being an anxiety ridden twenty-something, that I could even relate to. An inability to work the crowd was perhaps the only downfall, but I remain convinced it wasn’t their fault they really did try. When singer Terry Caudill excitedly tried to announce the release of their new music video “Don’t Take Me Seriously,” the words “live-action-Pokémon’ left his mouth, bounced around the room, then fell alone among untied shoe laces. I at the very least was stoked about live-action-Pokémon themed anything. The last few songs, they picked up momentum and felt more comfortable on the stage. A steadier trickling of an audience started in, and it started to finally feel like I was at a show.

As Total Slacker began setting up, I became irreverently excited, they didn’t seem to be doing a sound check, so much as testing various parts of the stage to insure stability. At one point I couldn’t figure out if I had somehow missed their first song, it wasn’t until Tucker Rountree stopped spinning to say hello that I was able to figure out where they were in relation to their set list, the beginning, evidentially. Rountree took a very brief moment to get back to his roots, before plunging into their first song, saying, “Hey! From Brooklyn, originally born and raised in Utah, I love this place! 1-2-3-4.” Commence psychedelic 90s distortion. I couldn’t promise that he wasn’t ripped out of his mind, as the few sentences he managed to formulate may have very well been a series of “meows.”

The beautiful thing about Total Slacker is they couldn’t give two shits about where they are playing, and they certainly didn’t care about the sea of confused, immobile zombies staring blankly at them. The pop culture references weren’t lacking and I still wasn’t sure “Who Killed Kennedy,” maybe that’s why the crowed seemed so contemplative. By the time “Touch Yrself” started playing Rountree was literally drooling while doing what I could only assume was his best imitation of a crashing helicopter. With lyrics spouting “You’ve got to love your self; before you can love someone else,” it remains the only masturbatory song I’ve ever heard that makes me want to be a better person.

It was about this same time that someone ordered a pizza, Miniature Tigers arrived and a small scene of rubbernecking and whispers broke out in the back of the crowd. It was upsetting, that a headlining band standing doing literally nothing, was more interesting to the masses, than the tribute grunge-punk to happening 15 feet away. I don’t think anyone in the room understood—Total Slacker is interesting, in a mind-warped kind of way. The pizza was a pretty dick move, as the whole joint was fumigated with the smell of Big Daddy’s Pizza and every stomach protested its own discontent. As the set ended, the cheers and applause seemed rushed and falsely appreciative. It was in that moment I saw my first faked orgasm shared by over 30 people. The fact was that Total Slacker killed it, and the scene just didn’t match up that night.

I can’t pretend that anything positive health-wise comes from polluting your lungs with additives and emphazema, but it’s been my experience that if you talk to the sidewalk stranger you’ve coerced out of their cigarette for monetary gain, you’ll meet some cool fucks. I wandered outside after the Total Slackers set to begin the age-old practice of engaging in the trade-and-barter system. In my situation, my potential business partner happened to be the bass guitarist from Flashlights. The exchange was far more awkward on my end, as the moment I had realized who I had approached was far too late, I had to commit. After the cash exchange, we bantered for a moment, talking about Utah’s near dry policy on alcohol, SLC Punk and how his venue wrist-bands had been serving as some type of primitive calendar. He pulled up his hoodie sleeve to reveal more than a few neon colored trophies, “Its easier than taking them off everyday, and they help me know what day it is.” Our chat ended as he needed to take a piss, and I went in to watch Miniature Tigers sound check.

While Total Slackers gave a pre-game experience with their sound check, Miniatures Tigers’ was a whole production. After a solid 30 minutes of “more vocals” and “up-up-up,” they gave the thumbs up to Lighting and Sound, only to realize they were a man down. Charlie Brand, keyboard and vocals, gave a formal apology explaining, “That was a fake thumbs up, a thumbs up to tell you we’re going to give you a thumbs up, really, we’re missing a guy." Moments later, they broke out with their opening song, “Dino Damage.” It wasn’t until halfway through their second song that I started feeling a little hot in the face; it felt as though the band was undressing the crowd with their eyes. Were they flirting with an entire room of people? Brand kept referring to us all as “Babies”—yeah, he was definitely flirting. (I forgot to leave my number on the back of the bathroom door). Its not as though overly flirtatious and love-stricken is out of the loose confines of Miniature Tigers style, being an indie pop band comes with an expectation of this to a degree. After all, I was in an audience composed entirely out of couples, which through the night had begun melting together, forming two headed sentient extraterrestrials—if I was deaf I would have been able to see all to clearly that Miniature Tigers is for lovers. Anxiety ridden fairy tales set to catchy melodies are their specialty.

The set moved with panty-wetting caliber up until the universe remembered the date. No more than forty seconds into their song “Cleopatra,” Brand had an alarming announcement: “Shit, everything just turned off. Well, that’s the show everyone, April Fools! Thanks for coming out.” Unfortunately the technical errors weren’t coy pranks put on by the band, they did lead to the most engaging stage performance between the band and the crowd though. Their perfected sound check was ruined, but the cavalier attitude didn’t disappoint, they kicked back into “Cleopatra” at full velocity. They managed two songs with static riddled guitar and vocals, when there was a pause for apologies and an introduction to a new song, “ We Used To Be The Shit,” which quickly progressed to a “No, its not. My guitars broken,” from Brand, and Rick Schaier expressing his discontent, “This needs a new cord… It sounds like a constant fart.” The only alarming part about the situation is how aware Schaier was of what never ending flatulence sounded like.

Despite the multitude of electronic hiccups, which is understandable when the music is emanating every 80s synthesizer simultaneously, no one seemed terribly panicked. The band bantered with the audience and didn’t bat an eye as the poor sound tech ran frantically from one end of the venue to the next. Ultimately they were able to play “ We Used to Be the Shit,” one of the funniest and truest songs I have ever heard—it’s a genuine love song, which ends in shit. The room finally hit its full potential—anyone with a pulse started doing the vertical worm. It was nice to finally see the crowd fully pumped and impressed. Brand thanked everyone for coming out, and once again apologized for the brief intermissions, but with out fail put his own charming optimism into the situation, saying, “At least this is an authentic and real experience.” I couldn’t have pretended to word it better. The set ended with two of my personal favorites, “Sex on the Regular” and “Cannibal Queen” which are the embodiment of all things Miniature Tigers—smashing disco-funk with cleverly fun romantic lyricism, they’re a guilty pleasure I’m not afraid to boast about. The applause and cat-calls, lasted long into the set clearing, a sure sign of an overall great show.

Miniature Tigers’ new album, Cool Runnings, which will include “We Used to Be the Shit” and their single “ Swimming Pool Blues,” releases in May.

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