Author: Benjamin J Tilton

Sam Page
The Slog In Uncertainty
Self-Released
Street: 05.01
Sam Page = Pixies + Placebo + The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The blind passion and talent for melody that came out of the early ’90s summarizes this album completely. The fact that it’s the brainchild of a Utahn just makes my music geek heart sing. “Naked” starts out the album and is a solid example of rock/pop almost echoing Jesus Jones. On the second track, Sam Page gets into a funky realm with “I Don’t Not Love You.” Finally, on the third track, we get into dark pop glory with “Doubt.” This trend continues, and the tracks flow like a who’s who of the alternative ‘90s. There’s something for everyone here, and not just old guys. Sam Page shows a thorough understanding of this genre and fits with current times like The Cure did before they got weird. Bravo, Sam Page. –Benjamin Tilton

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The Ghost Wolves
Man, Woman, Beast
Plowboy Records
Street: 05.27
The Ghost Wolves = Highasakite + Blood Orange + The White Stripes

Punk infused blues/rock has never sounded sexier than it has on The Ghost Wolves first full length album, Man, Woman, Beast. The Austin TX based duo first started wandering around the mainstream back in 2013 and were crowd favorites at the SXSW that same year. One year later the husband and wife team started working on this project at Arlyn Studios (Where Ray Charles and Willie Nelson have also taped) and churned out 13 grizzly garage rock tracks. Man, Woman, Beast will have you laughing, crying and potentially smashing some shit, too. The second track, Gonna Live, is probably the best and most complete example of what this band is. With 500 plus shows under their belt so far I would highly suggest checking out their charismatic stage performances on YouTube. This is a very solid debut with more hopefully to come. –Benjamin Tilton

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The Moth & the Flame
&
Hidden Records
Street: 10.29.13
TM&TF = Beck + Snow Patrol + Radiohead
Producer Joey Waronker (drummer for Beck) has melded together this artistic vision with unconventional and wonderfully complex rhythms. This EP thumps in its catchy haunt and one can’t help but to close their eyes and listen. Brandon Robbins’ lyrics and guitar strums desire the kind of sadness that can only make you hope for more. Mark Garbett’s keyboard paints the atmosphere with an echoing melody that drummer Andrew Tolman marches you through. The album’s lead single, “Sorry,” welcomes you to this world, but “How We Woke Up” defines it. This is a solid follow-up from a band that is clever enough to be experimental in a head-nodding sort of way. I look forward to more. –Benjamin J. Tilton

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Cymbals

The Age of Fracture

Tough Love Records

Street: 01.27

Cymbals = Empire of the Sun + The Cure + David Bowie

Care was taken with each track on the Cymbals’ progressive new album. From start to finish, Jack Cleverly’s (singer/guitarist) thought process can be felt in this non-concept-like album. The songs on this record stand as individuals, each one unique with no connection to its surroundings. On tracks like “The Natural World” (from the prior EP), the band really shows off its indie-disco roots, and you get the feel that this eclectic sound comes very easy to them. The Age of Fracture comes from academic Daniel Rodgers’ idea that collective meanings have become uncertain. The album flows exceedingly well, despite its unique format, and is enjoyable in its entirety. –Benjamin J. Tilton
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mouse guard

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Volume 3
Creator: David Peterson
Contributors: Becky Cloonan, Skottie Young, Dustin Nguyen

IDW
Street: 12.01

For those not familiar with the Mouse Territories it’s really quite simple. The world of Mouse Guard is one centered around talking mice during the Renaissance period. Mind you, I said simple, not plausible. These mice engage each other much like humans would have back in those days of yore. There are maidens, evil beasties and shady gray characters we’re not too sure about yet. The heroes, much like our own fairy tales, are unlikely but chock full of character. These Mouse Territories have been mapped out by brave quests, fallen soldiers and an odd bit of luck so each comic unfolds a whole new turn of events. This fantastic collection of graphic novels—brought to us by a slew of accomplished artists—is fun, endearing and just darn stinking adorable. We are now on the third volume in this series and we are really starting to see the world of Mouse Guard come into focus.

 

The setting for these tales is June Alley Inn, where patrons are given the opportunity to settle their unpaid tabs if they can tell the best story. The patrons are ordinary town folk and they tell each story as if it might be true. This is where legend comes into the graphic novel’s title and all that hear these tales are left to discern the truth for themselves. There are stories of dancing weasels, heroic blacksmiths and a fever that once saved a town. Some of these stories were long and some were short but each story did have a message. A few mice told their stories and paid their debt anyway; they knew their story wasn’t the best but still felt it should be heard.

 

Now, as an adult I was initially worried about these stories being too childish. The Wind in the Willows kept popping into my head and I kept expecting to see an extravagant frog pull up to the inn in a Model T. However, no frogs appeared and I found myself enjoying the graphic novel the way I would a high caliber animation film. Much of animation IS for children, but a good plot and fun characters will hook just about anyone. Mouse Guard makes great use of its colorful characters to the point where I was trying to find myself in one of them (until he was eaten).

 

Mouse Guard’s illustrated artwork varies with each artist and story but the overall artistic theme is beautiful and quaint. It reminded me of those old Richard Scarry books and seeing where the animals lived, while kind of wanting to live there yourself. The artwork is one of the stars in this series and it’s exciting to see all the different talents these graphic novels attract. Each story within Mouse Guard feels fresh because each story has a new set of people behind it. This is an incredibly clever concept and I look forward to seeing what this series does with that in the future.

 

Being that this was my first step into the Mouse Territories, I was pretty hesitant about shoveling praise on these comics. Since diving into this world, though, I’ve found that much praise is due because everything about this project is so carefully laid together. It’s a simple, beautiful and enjoyable yarn. So the next time you’re in the mood for fairy tales but are tired of the old English ones that Disney has beaten to death, perhaps consider a new world with smaller heroes and less evil stepmothers. Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Volume 3 is a big thumbs up.

Bamboo ski poles + booze + art = Bamboozle! Photo: Kevin Arthofer

The beginning of winter sports has finally crept around the summer haze in our valley and on Saturday, Nov. 2, RAMP Sports (Riders Artists Musicians Project) in Park City escorted all things snow to the forefront of our thoughts. The Bamboozle, as it’s called, is an eclectic mix of art, music, food and delicious red, red wine (with beer sprinkled in for color). The event featured a gigantic Yeti (think Bigfoot) at the entrance so any excuse for not finding it wouldn’t fool anyone. The gentleman from Soul Poles (Matt Hundhammer) was the first encounter of the experience and his information about the bamboo ski poles was so friendly and inviting that I found myself budgeting for the biodegradable shafts before he finished talking (2 Soul Poles = 2 month Top Ramen diet … roughly).

Inside RAMP Sports was a different experience altogether. Not to say it wasn’t friendly (Rachel happened to be a wonderful greeter) but the happy thump of the Codi Jordan Band gave a progressive spin to all things artsy and outdoors. It’s not often you get to confuse artistic expression with rock concerts but everyone was nodding so Bamboozle was clearly pulling it off. Various booths were scattered about displaying the 20-something artists and their collections therein. (All the art pieces were made from RAMP scrap material from their manufacturing.) IanZaneWelding displayed Zane Dekoff’s excellent craftsmanship in all things metal (with photography, drawing and sculpting to boot) while Design to Grow (Kevin Arthofer) made architectural objects more aesthetically appealing than the actual landscapes they were modeling.

Around the corner and several booths later they were serving booze, so the opportunity to enhance my artistic negligence (however appreciated) was presented and inviting in its wonderful boozey sort of way. An eager partaker named Roger informed me that these events are “totally fucking cool” and that he couldn’t wait to carve the mountains up like a turkey. I asked him if he intended to carve any actual turkeys later this month and he just looked at me confusedly—apparently, tofu requires little carving. He was flanked by an attractive brunette who was representing the Summit Land Conservancy. She was promoting their efforts in conserving Park City’s agricultural lands and was being very convincing in ways not connected to her looks at all (which is true and also a complete lie).

The crowd around the band was growing so I made ill attempts at dancing to thin out their numbers. This, however, did not work and I received several thumbs up from the kind and exceedingly tolerant crowd. Everyone had polite spirits about them and I felt very connected throughout the artistic event. Bamboozle, though odd in name, was a brilliant success and smiles were shared all around. The artists took time with everyone and it was impressive to see them so engaged with their fan base. One competition snowboarder named Chris was almost a tour guide for my experience and made sure I met everyone. In my hour experience with Chris I was back-slapped and greeted more thoroughly then any family event I’ve attended (like … ever). The atmosphere created by Bamboozle was its biggest selling point. The employees from RAMP Sports embraced this attitude and I completely fell in love with their factory where they product skis made from bamboo. I’m actually headed back there next weekend (I committed to the Top Ramen diet) and I suggest you do the same. Happy winter snow days, Utah!

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Cold War Kids and the crowd at their performance at The Depot in SLC. Photo: Logan Sorenson (LmSorenson.net)

By the time Nathan, Dann, Matt and other Matt take the stage, two things are going through my head: 1. Stop screaming like a girl; 2. Just accept screaming like a girl. The Cold War Kids started their progression into indie rock stardom in 2004, but my groupie self hit the bandwagon in 2009. “Hang Me Out to Dry” was chewing up my MP3 player during most failed morning workouts back then, so seeing them face to face was quite the experience. I would have started running in place, but the Jag weed (an early ’90s term that I’m not entirely clear on but seems to fit) in front of me was dancing and splashing beer all over the floor. I determined not running with such haphazard indulgences was effective.

Safety hazards aside, the Kids launched into “Lost that Easy” which threw a brilliant curve ball to trendy drunk bastards as they wallowed in obscure ambient glory with echoing guitar solos till they realized this fantastic exercise in non-radio indulgence is what made this band simply … incredible. The Kids have singles, but when you see them in concert, they play all those songs you’ve said to yourself, “This is way better than the one on the radio.” Which is accurate: The band picks the set list, old white men pick the singles.

This is the band that created “Sensitive Kid,” so honesty and humility blend in a foot-tapping way that this concert hall could hardly hold; however, The Depot did its best and the former House of Blues sound system thumped pleasantly with tappings and noddings of all sorts. “Bulldozer” is a subtle metaphor for the types of emotions felt in these situations, but hearing it live added a level of hope to being run over completely and the lyrics became real in a way you could only appreciate by closing your eyes.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts (their new album, released in April of this year) was the focus of the night, and while “Miracle Mile” and “Jailbirds” did their job in traditional Cold War Kids style, nothing holds a candle to “Broken Open” from their prior album, Mine is Yours. No words I can use could give this song its due. I used to sing this song to my son at night, and this night, I finally had someone sing it to me.

The euphoric kick a proper concert provides is a necessary therapy I lovingly embrace. As the Cold War Kids belted out at the end, “Bring your buckets by the dozens, bring your nieces and your cousins, come put out the fire on us,” we were properly extinguished. Salt Lake City welcomes such release. Cold War Kids, please come again soon—we love to be sung to in such ways.

Check out more of SLUG’s photos from the show here.

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Duud, the Norse god of parties. Photo courtesy of Save Our Canyons

Two Norse gods were in Salt Lake City on the night of November 9, 2013. One was Urrl, the god of snow, at the Urrl Ball Save Our Canyons Benefit party and the other, a movie featuring some boring gentleman with a hammer. The Garage on Beck hosted the benefit and SLUG was completely honored (way stoked) to be invited. The price of a ticket was $25 if you purchased early and $30 the day of the event. The idea of the benefit was to pray for snow; the purpose of the event was to protect the beauty and wildness of the Wasatch canyons, mountains and foothills.

The Citizens Committee to Save Our Canyons is a non-profit organization that has been around since 1972. Save Our Canyons depends on the support of individual members, local businesses and volunteers, so events such as these are important, but also a good way to network with people and get involved. If you missed the ball but still enjoy the serenity of getting lost in the outdoors, I suggest supporting this organization.

Many means of enjoying adventure and serenity were in attendance on that evening. Beer was on behalf of Uinta Brewing. They happen to brew an Anniversary Barley Wine Ale that is a lovely bit of indulgence that this writer enjoys. The 10.4 % ABV says more about me than it should; however, after one, I simply don’t care. I am the son of a brewer and spent my childhood in Germany—I exist as such.

Voile (pronounced vo-lay), was also there in attendance, as they sponsored the event. Voile is one of Utah’s own, and manufactures innovative backcountry wonders like the Splitboard. The Voile Artisan Splitboard is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and for powder and packed snow it has a splash of amazingness added in too. Apparently, you’ve been able to walk uphill in powder since 1991. Voile made snowshoes you can actually snowboard in. The means of this James Bond–ish gadget requires the snowboard to be unlatched in half with a 90-degree binding turn and then fitted with climbing skins and, voila, you’re ready. That process allows you to walk uphill, called touring, and the opposite of that would be to reassemble and snowboard down. Seeing this blows your mind, so here’s an educational film for further reference. 

Triggers and Slips played some bluegrass-rock in their wonderfully unique way, and David Williams strummed incredibly adorable acoustic songs in favor of the environment. Both were impressive in the cheers they produced, and the Garage’s patio with a fire pit really set the environment off. Music flowed through conversations and the atmosphere was perfect for a ball. The benefit became a surging energy that evening and everyone was enjoying themselves.

In all the commotion I almost forgot the very reason SLUG was invited. I still hadn’t prayed for snow. So I hurried to a nice, quiet place and quickly prayed this very prayer:

“Oh Norse god of snow,
Sweet, precious god of snow and all things wintry,
Please, dear god,
Could you just …
Make it snow, so we all can hit the frickin’ slopes!
Amen.”

Then, five days later:

I walk out to my snow-covered car and realize I hadn’t purchased a snow scraper yet. Then it dawns on me: It’s snowing! Mission accomplished. I should pray more often.

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The Expendables

Generally when you to talk a member of band with at least four pot references per song, you don’t expect much in the realm of fresh intellectual “know-how.” When I spoke to Ryan DeMars, the bassist from California–based The Expendables, I tried to keep my questions simple and avoid words exceeding four syllables and topics of foods described as, “soooo good.” This is for my own benefit, too, because I only know like, three big words, and I’m pretty sure they only exist in the Star Wars universe.

So, I started this interview expecting responses based around catch phrases from Keanu Reeves movies and was almost upset when I found DeMars to be intelligent (apparently he took the blue pill), fun, light-hearted and, well … you’ll see. Don’t miss them at Park City Live in Salt Lake, January 30.

SLUG: Why have you guys “Gone Soft” recently?
DeMars: Throughout our whole career, people have thought it would be cool if we’d go acoustic, and recently we acquired our own warehouse for recording so we had the time and the place to be creative—so we just went for it.

SLUG: Is there any new material in the works?
DeMars: Actually, we just finished a new full-length album before this tour, so that should be coming out soon.
SLUG: Can you give us the title of it?
DeMars: Ehhh … no. We’re not even supposed to be talking about it, but we’ve been posting on Facebook and Instagram about recording, so rumors are starting to get out.

SLUG: Does this new album start where Prove It left off, or does it get into new ground?
DeMars: We haven’t even decided what songs are going on the album yet, but we have about 20 recorded: four are rock songs, two are acoustic and the rest are kind of reggae/hybrid rock. We’ll be on tour testing out our new songs so it will give us a feel for what we want to put on the album. We’re just really excited. Having the warehouse has given us a lot of extra time for recording.

SLUG: This upcoming Winter Blackout Tour has been going on since 2010. What are you guys bringing this year? How is it gonna be different than before?
DeMars: We’ll be bringing Stick Finger and Seedless out with us, and we’ve never toured with them so that’s gonna be a new show that people haven’t seen yet. We’re also really trying to follow our set list this time and play some old songs we’ve messed around with, and about four new songs to keep things going and exciting.

SLUG: I know you guys have like, 40 tour dates in less than two months. I mean, how do you keep the energy up each night?
DeMars: Having a tour bus really helps a lot. We pretty much spent all our money on the bus and as long as we’ve been doing this, we pretty much feel getting good sleep, good food and being able to relax has a lot to do with how the show will come out.
SLUG: Yeah, I noticed at your last tour with Iration at The Depot, you guys came out to the merchant stand, spent time with your fans and bonded. You really don’t see that anymore.
DeMars: I guess it’s just our way in looking at seriously and treating it like a job. I mean, we’re always out there promoting and promoting. We want to keep playing music and not have real jobs so that’s what we feel we need to do

SLUG: How many of you guys have mustaches right now?
DeMars: [Laughs] I think just Geoff Weers [vocals, guitarist] right now. It just depends on how late we are to shave or not. We just like to have fun and somehow, that just caught on. Weers never meant for that to be a thing, that’s just how he grows facial hair; real thick in the upper lip region and not so much everywhere else.

SLUG: So do you guys only smoke in Washington, Colorado and medicinally in California?
DeMars: [Laughs] Yeah man, totally.
SLUG: Yeah, I’m from Colorado. I get that.
DeMars: We’re always smoking weed at our shows.

SLUG: So back on topic: If you were all characters in the Star Wars universe, which one of you would be Jar Jar?
DeMars: [Laughs] Probably drunk Raul Bianchi [guitarist], because he’s the kookiest when he gets buzzed.

SLUG: Is there anything you’d like to tell your Utah fans before the show?
DeMars: Just come out looking to have a good time and we hope to see you all there.

You can catch The Expendables in Salt Lake City at Park City Live on January 30. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram to keep an eye out on the new, secret album!

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Daniel Zott and Josh Epstein of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. made SLC move and shake. Photo: Frank Maddocks

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. wandered onto the music scene in 2010. Four years later, on a Friday night, they wandered into Salt Lake City. However, co-lead singer Joshua Epstein was quick to remind everyone that Friday that this was their second visit. Last year, they played at Kilby Court for over 20 people. This year they returned to The State Room for a crowd several times that size.

The exciting thing about Salt Lake City is that it’s the dancingest thing this side of the Mississippi. The concerts in this town get an added splash of flare from its attendants because the people here love to twirl in public. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and opener Chad Valley are dance bands (not a genre—just a reaction) so I nestled into my church pew and braced for entertainment. Chad Valley was the first performer and he played more like a headliner than an opening act. He performed more than six songs and managed to get a third of the audience around him doing what they do best. Chad Valley would be lumped next to The xx and Phantogram except, unlike those bands, Chad, the male portion of the female/male singing duo, can actually sing. It was entertaining just to watch him juggle all the different microphones and keyboard accessories. His set was a tribute to multitasking and he pulled it off flawlessly.

After 20 minutes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. snuck onstage, and the audience barely had a chance to clap. It seemed almost intentional as they quickly went into songs, almost like they wanted to catch the audience off guard. The audience battled back though, and 30 of Salt Lake’s finest rhythm specialists took to the floor. Jr. Jr. bopped and jumped and Salt Lake City shook and waved. No matter how amazing the songs sounded from the stage, the audience just swayed about, taking everything the band had.

A massive white ball took the center of the stage, and halfway through the show, a face was projected on it. The face would turn to look at whatever part of the band was being featured at that moment, and became a series of cartoons. This was distracting, because now there were too many fun things to look at. The audience was clearly winning in enthusiasm and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. was rocking an almost surprising performance. With the addition of cartoons, I was bouncing like a cat in front of a fish tank.

If all the additional stimuli weren’t enough, Jr. Jr. launched into one of my favorite songs from over three years ago and played the dickens out of “Skeletons” (with thrashing guitar closing). In between songs, Epstein would offer informative tidbits about the band and his co-singing partner, Daniel Zott, would remind him to “just play the music” if he ever went on too long. All of this created a warm and open environment that a quick turn of the head could affirm. Everyone was enjoying themselves, and by the end of the night, even some of the older patrons had gone down to the dance floor. I could almost picture my parents heading down there, which is a good thing and a lousy picture, but that’s how open and friendly the night had become.

A while back, a friend was discussing the merits of the bar/club scene and how there is excitement in the unknown. I, being a concert kid for a decade and a half now, would offer him a night like this concert in reply. There is plenty of excitement in the known. Everyone sharing in a similar interest is brilliant camaraderie. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. had everyone singing and dancing on a Friday night—it was like watching 4-year-olds in front of a Disney movie after half a gallon of soda. As my date and I walked away from the show, we both remarked on how surprised we were that we had that much fun. The indie electro pop market right now is flush with talent and is, unfortunately, redundant. It was nice to see a little fresh air and energy revive that beaten horse. Maybe next time Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. come to town, they can play at In The Venue or The Complex and continue their deserved growth. Maybe, next time, I’ll dance … maybe.

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