Plenty of greenery adorns the space. Photo: @clancycoop

With the luscious growth of Salt Lake City comes the entrepreneurial buzz from ambitious and unrestrained self-starters. Within this valuable group of people are locals—and business owners—Jacob Hall, Chase WorthenFernando Lazalde and Michael Askerlund. On the weekend of Sept. 4–6, these gentlemen kicked off their journey opening Downtown Salt Lake City’s latest watering hole, Alibi Bar and Place.

Attending on the Sunday of that weekend, I was able to take part in the fruit of their labor. Located on the corner Main Street and Fourth South in a classic Downtown brick-and-mortar within the New Grand Hotel, the presence of classic metropolitan characteristics—such as exposed brick walls and large windows providing a backdrop of a bustling Main Street—enrich the aesthetic of Alibi. It doesn’t overwhelm the space, setting it apart from being “just another Downtown bar.” The branding is clear. The main theme in the driver’s seat of Alibi’s branding is a bright aqua color present in all of their social media and the physical bar. Alibi’s logo, design and overall branding (designed by The Young Jerks) is a combination of an Art Deco temperament, cool-colored tones, a regal mural/wall hangings with an overall oasis-like feel.

After standing in an electric cloud of people clustering in front of the bar, I was able to finally order a refreshing beverage. Concocted by the creative bartenders/owners is a limited list of craft cocktails such as “Roller Derby” (gin, lime, raspberry and sugar) and more of a traditional cocktail like the “Paloma(tequila, lime, grapefruit, sugar, spicy salt rim and Grapefruit Jarritos). Almost anyone can find what they are looking for with—in addition to house cocktails—Alibi’s satisfying collection of red and white wines, canned house sparkling rosé, bottled and draft beers and a small selection of bar snacks. And of course, they are environmentally conscious by providing compostable straws.

The bar is low enough that you can see all the materials the bartenders use to build your drink, creating a source of entertainment. Behind the group of bartenders whipping around their arms as they make drinks is an appealing, soft, baby blue tile backing to the bar in a rhombus shape. The seating opportunities for patrons seems like a challenge Alibi will overcome. Some people took turns sitting down, and others were animated about saving the seats they could find for their friends. Considering that it was the opening weekend, it’s very possible to imagine that on a less busy night, the bar would be a comfortable place to linger in conversation with friends with enough seating for all.

The social aspect and overall “vibe” of the space was welcoming and unassuming—it doesn’t feel like you had to be categorized as a particular type of person to fit in. With the small list, drinks cover a large spectrum of flavors (it is about quality not quantity), and one does not feel overwhelmed by too many options. It is a simple, open space ready to provide a service for customers wanting to treat themselves to a nice cocktail. It is a place where you can meet with friends to start off your night, with the option of a quick walk to places such as Quarters Arcade Bar or Green Pig Pub.

Down a dimly lit, deep-sapphire hallway at the east end of the bar are two doors. Each of them lead to an important aspect of every bar—the bathroom. Y’all know that’s a trendy, social media–driven responsibility to take cute-ass selfies in the bathroom with all your friends. Alibi gives patrons a lot to work with for the self-sponsored photoshoot. The contrast between the dark hallway and the well-lit, red-floral wall-papered restroom will knock you back. It’s like a door from Hollister leading to Target. Beneath the wall paper about halfway down the wall lies a powder-blue tile, each tile different sizes of rectangles, adding to the eye candy of the bathroom. It’s clever and well planned move on Alibi’s part.

Every element of Alibi brings patrons into a lush boozy nook in the heart of Downtown. Yes, there are a lot of bars popping up all over the city, which I see as a sign of a growing and thriving city excited to cater to the ever growing Salt Lake City nightlife. Alibi provides a different world within that and is worth adding to your Main Street bar-hopping list. You can follow Alibi’s spirited expedition through their Instagram at @alibislc and their Facebook page www.facebook.com/alibislc.

Click images for captions

The Coathangers | The Devil You Know |Suicide Squeeze Records

The Coathangers
The Devil You Know

Suicide Squeeze Records
Street: 03.08
The Coathangers = Sleater-Kinney + Babes of Toyland + Savages

The Coathangers are beloved and embraced by their fans for their frantic and piercing riot grrrl anthems. Coathangers hits are built by beat-driving bass lines, from bassist Meredith Franco (Minnie Coathanger), that swing heavy like an iron pendulum paired with tempestuous vocals and biting lyrics thrown on a platter by guitarist Julia Kugel (Crook Kid Coathanger) and drummer Stephanie Luke (Rusty Coathanger). Albums and songs like Suck My Shirt’s “Adderall,” released in 2014, and Nosebleed Weekend’s “Squeeki Tiki,” released in 2016, shoulder-checked us all, and if there is any way to describe what behavior The Coathangers incite in fans, it’s to be pissed off with smile on your face and a hearty squeal to match.

After a long tease of a wait, fans are able to add another Coathangers album to their collection and once again have more Coathangers lyrics to growl and chant in their car/shower/house party … whatever. On March 8, The Coathangers jump back into the rancorous narrative of modern-day punk rock with the album The Devil You Know. Before pressing “play” on the first song, “Bimbo,” I buckled up, and took a deep, metaphorical cigarette drag ready to rock back and forth to another tried-n-true Coathangers banger I was about to meet.

The two-and-a-half-minute song starts with, dare a say it, a taste of surf rock—I thought I was listening to Habibi (I love Habibi; I just didn’t expect the tremolo effect). Quickly, Rusty Coathanger comes in with her classic vocal “rust” and the guitar switches to a familiar, distorted effect for the chorus. The song ends with the lyrics “The world’s got other plans.” Oh boy, did The Coathangers have other plans for me with that song. Totally thrown off, but still enjoyable.

“5 Farms” comes in second to comfort me with their classic, panic-stricken bass and guitar lines with an anthem-like chorus. I was home with my girls again. “5 Farms” tells a narrative story with the verse lyrics reading, “His father’s dead / With the money in hand / There’s nothing for you / He kept all of his land / Sister over here / She steals your chair.” The chorus follows with a rally cry: “Can’t take it with you / Nobody gets out alive”. This song is like a high, and like all highs—it has a come-down. It ends with a slower and reverb-drenched citation of the first verse to finish us off.

“Crimson Telephone” comes in third and sounds like a slow, tired prowl that snowballs with speed and weight throughout. The song bears classic Coathangers elements but almost feels like a reverse sink into quicksand, as it flexes psych-rock influences mixed in. The following eight songs in this 11-song tracklist continue to have a sense of variety, and having clearly been heavily curated to encapsulate the range The Coathangers are capable of. Initially unwilling to accept the change, it was songs like “Step Back” with Crook Kid Coathanger’s siren-like vocals driving the chorus and “Stranger Danger” with the multi-layered, doomy chorus that coaxed me back into the trio’s trance. There is something about the way Luke and Kugel mumble, “Stranger danger what do you see / Stranger danger looking at me / Yeah you’ve faded and rotten / Yeah you’re something forgotten” that makes me feel like they are licking those words on the side of my face and it is fucking sexy.

Needless to say I am “hooked” on The Coathanger’s The Devil You Know. It got me like a Little Ceasar’s pizza—hot n’ ready for more. I can’t wait to see what this trajectory leads them to in upcoming albums—I’m buckled up! –Bianca Velasquez (March 7, Kilby Court)

(L–R) Artist Maddie Mekkelson FICE owner and Corey Bullough both believe in FICE’s monthly galleries as a way to support and celebrate local artists. Photo: John Barkiple

Nestled into downtown Salt Lake City’s vibrant nightlife hotspot, FICE Gallery (160 E. 200 South) has been humming along to the beat of SLC for 10 years now. Much like its neighbors Este Pizzeria Co, Bar X and Diabolical Records, FICE has become a Downtown staple that has helped cultivate the scene into what it is today. The area is bustling, active in arts and music, and supportive to the locals who, in turn, add more culture and texture to our downtown area. FICE Gallery has been part of this narrative since it has opened, providing a space for artists to debut and display their work, as well as opportunities to collaborate with FICE itself. Every month, FICE hosts an art show that changes the space into one that the featured artist envisions. This month, FICE hosts local artist February Filth (Madi Mekkelson), a mixed-media artist who focuses on the manipulation of photographs to convey her visions, which are inspired by fashion and street art.

Owner Corey Bullough finds that these monthly shows are a way to enhance the aesthetic range of FICE. He says, “In my mind, they are the aesthetic of the store.” In the beginning, the art shows were not locally based, but “it slowly evolved to more and more local artists, and it became better and better.” From that point, the variety of artists selected has been an attempt to cover all the sides of the multidimensional landscape that is the SLC art scene. “The one thing that is cool about it is that it can go from oil paintings to sculptures,” Bullough says about the scope of art shows that have been hosted at the store. So far, FICE has hosted well-known local artists like Sri Whipple and Trent Call.

On Feb. 22, February Filth hosted her first solo–art show opening at FICE. Mekkelson has had pop-ups in the past at Goldblood, Converge at Utah Arts Alliance and the Urban Arts Fest, however, this show is the first in which Mekkelson has had full freedom to manifest all of her ideas. February Filth’s opening show consisted of an art installation that was a projection of Mekkelson’s recent stop-motion videos, something she hasn’t been able to previously show. She pieced together videos with images that she took of the city, and glitter paint drips down throughout the video. Available at the show—and throughout the month of March—are large posters of stills from these videos, displayed to show how the movement developed through the video.

Other items available are prints, stickers, her first zine and a limited run of shirts that are a collaboration between Mekkelson and FICE. The shirt includes a design with one of Mekkelson’s popular images, a sculpture of a person’s head along with the word “FICE” at the bottom of the design. The design of the shirt features Mekkelson’s trademark glittery, bleeding eyes on the sculpture, a motif that’s present in most of her artwork.

“Before I lived Downtown, this was the first store [where] I could find cool streetwear … I’ve always wanted to do a show here [at FICE,] but I didn’t know how to go about it,” Mekkelson says. She knew that she wanted to host her show in February to keep on brand with her art moniker. She says, “I’m very inspired by street art and stuff like that, so I felt FICE has a streetwear, hip-hop vibe. I’ve always been inspired by hip-hop and hip-hop culture, and I feel it goes hand in hand with streetwear.” Although, she didn’t know how to take the steps toward making the show a reality. She says, “I reached out to Corey and he said, ‘Yeah let’s do it!’ and here we are.”

Mekkelson works at the local business Phötage, a start-up that creates re-stickable stickers of all sizes. With this connection, Mekkelson is able to use Phötage as a way to print her artwork, and will have this product available at FICE through the month of March.

Another tradition that FICE has maintained since they have opened is their active service to the street population. Twice a year, which FICE conducts sneaker drives where participants can bring lightly used shoes, which FICE collects and donates—along with their own contribution—to homeless shelters like the VOA. Last Christmas, FICE donated $4,000 worth of shoes. Other recipients of FICE’s donated shoes are local youth basketball teams, specifically Junior Jazz, and cycling groups like Aevolo. “You are always welcome to drop off shoes that have a life in them—we are always collecting them,” Bullough says.

Meeting Bullough and hearing about FICE’s past and present solidifies the role they play in our community. Being familiar with how Mekkelson’s artwork derives from street art and hip-hop culture and FICE’s penchant for streetwear, the two make for a good pair and inherently celebrate each other through the collaboration. While listening to Mekkelson speak about what drives and inspires her, I could see through Bullough’s demeanor that he agrees. FICE is open 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 12 p.m.–6 p.m. on Sundays. Stay updated with upcoming events and shows at ficegallery.com.

Behind The Bullet | Heidi Yewman | Photos courtesy of Big TIme PR

Behind the Bullet
Slamdance Film Festival

Director: Heidi Yewman

Behind The Bullet begins with a montage of news clips, narrated by a cluster of the unmistakable sound of news reporters announcing countless tales of gun violence. The mood that drapes over the introduction feels desensitized by the normalization of these tragedies. In the beginning of the film, as a viewer, one can assume that the stories Yewman assembles together are with the intention to educate audiences about the seriousness of gun violence. We soon learn that, in actuality, the film is about guilt and forgiveness. Behind the Bullet tells the stories of Christen McGinnes, Will Little, Kevin Leonard and Taylor Dwyer, four people who, throughout the film, tell us how they have lived with the consequences pulling the trigger.

From start to finish, the film cuts back and forth between the four characters as they unveil the details of their somber stories—some carry hope, some regret and all of them with the common denominator of desperation to forgive themselves and find peace. With the exception of Taylor, a teenager who shot and killed his brother by accident when he was 8. Taylor’s distance and disconnect from the obvious remorse his parents share (each in a completely different way) is unsettling. One soon learns that Taylor also plays drums in a Christian band, in which his father, Daron, is the frontman. Daron tells the details of their tragic story as Taylor remains on the stage, as his way of healing is leaning on “god’s will.” This scene sets a tone—it feels like there is a lack of accountability with statements like “It was his time” and “God knows best” when referring to Taylor’s brother’s (Matthew’s) death, instead of reflection of what could have been done to prevent the tragedy. This makes it difficult to feel sympathy in the same way a viewer does for the other three characters.

Taylor’s part is distracting from the other three stories, as Christen, Will and Kevin  actively work toward closure and redemption in a more obvious way. There’s a part where the film features aspects of Taylor’s Youtube channel, The Dynamo Bros, where he and his peers blow things up. The film’s intention could be to address Taylor’s healing process, through this creative outlet. However, it is almost sobering to watch scenes of teenagers violently blowing things up after scenes of  the other characters healing through support groups, surgeries and reflection. It seems while the film is trying to elicit sympathy for Taylor and his family, scenes like this feel ironic, as it goes to show that they are displacing the blame for gun violence and almost brush it off.

With the film’s narrative choice of moving from one character to another in short increments, it’s challenging to emotionally invest in Christen’s, Will’s, Kevin’s and Taylor’s stories as much as their experiences deserve. Each journey, however, does teach viewers about the consequences of gun violence, I believe this is what Yewman was aiming for with this documentary. Additionally, It is hard to figure out who the audience is supposed to be for this film. Where it was presumably meant to be educational, it falls short because all the issues in the film are answered with vague metaphors and spiritual beliefs that don’t bring tangible solutions, as is the case of Taylor. The film ends with a choir-like song, four statistics and no mention of a solution to gun violence—and does not suggest gun control. The ways gun violence could be prevented aside, the religious foundations the characters have is a big part of how they individually choose to cope. I believe the point is that all of the characters look for peace and closure in their own way. –Bianca Velasquez


Showtimes:

Jan. 29 // 5:45 PM // Ballroom

Aa salute to the last 30 years, SLUG Magazine is hosting a celebration to bring together all of those who have helped make SLUG the strapping, savings-account-owning 30-year-old it is today. Similar to most people’s 30th birthday, SLUG has decided to spend it reminiscing on all the major moments in SLUG’s history by throwing the SLUG Magazine Time Warp. Hosted at Urban Lounge and Rye Diner & Drinks, the SLUG Time Warp will be a cornucopia of live music, games, activities and opportunities to bask in old memories while creating new ones.

Turning 30—I’ve heard—is weird. There are these expectations of a mature, peaceful outlook on life that makes the rigorous nonsense of your 20s all worth it. I imagine all of these accomplishments are crammed into your 29th year, then the moment you turn 30, a raging desire to brew your own beer viciously awakens inside of you. However, SLUG’s journey to turning 30 has not been filled with cold-press juice cleanses and dabbling in microdosing, but it does have similarities to most millennials’ path to “adulthood.” SLUG was birthed by Gen-Xers and started its journey of self-identity through music, debuting as a punk rag in 1989. As the years have gone by, SLUG cultivated its love for local artists, athletes, chefs, self-starters, business owners, fashionistas and all the other characters who come together to make Salt Lake City (and beyond) a fountain of culture in the Utah desert.

Will Sartain, co-owner of Rye and Urban Lounge, finds a sentimental value in having the event hosted at Urban, the home of SLUG Magazine’s monthly, 17-year-running, local-musician showcase (with corresponding published features about the artists), SLUG Localized. Sartain says, “I love that we are both still here. We are very lucky to have a partner like SLUG. We feel honored to have the event at one of our venues.” Additionally, as a co-cultivator of art and music in Salt Lake City, Sartain says, “It has been nice to grow up with SLUG and really appreciate what it brings to our community. It is very easy to take an institution like this for granted. As time has passed, I now know just how rare it is for something to sustain for 30 years … let alone a [print] publication.” John Platt, SLUG’s Event Coordinator, echoes that sentiment, saying, “We are not just celebrating that SLUG has been around for 30 years. We are celebrating the fact that Salt Lake City has grown and changed during that time and that SLUG has been there to cover it and has been actively helping with growth and change through our community-building efforts.”

SLUG Mag’s Time Warp: 30th Anniversary Party! will be on Feb. 16, and the party will rage on from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., with doors opening at 8 p.m. and music starting at 9 p.m. Entrance will be $5 at the door, and you can collect a free T-shirt with your entry. It would be easy to assume that a SLUG party will entail music in the punk or rock n’ roll realm, since that is what old SLUG is remembered for. However, the night’s music will include a large variety, including DJ Finale Grand, Cool Banana and Durian Durian. This lineup was selected to cover a wide range of music, similar to the wide range of music that SLUG has covered over the years.

Platt says the night is expected to be “an opportunity to unwind and reflect on what SLUG means to you, and how it has affected the community over the years.” The “Time Warp” theme will be accompanied by Urban Lounge’s black-light-engulfed interior. Attendees will have the option to participate by decorating their free shirt and to have it live-screen-printed with our SLUG typewriter logo. Platt says, “People should wear white or neon. Wear something you’d like to customize or decorate with highlighter.”

On the Rye side, (just north of Urban Lounge), the event will carry a similar but more relaxed mood. Local musician and community member Adam Sherlock will be hosting a SLUG Magazine “Cover Bingo,” offering attendees an opportunity to win prizes while enjoying the evocative, nostalgic past SLUG covers. In addition to SLUG Bingo, attendees can participate in the ”Build Your Own SLUG Cover” station provided by Smilebooth.

As a co-owner of both Rye and Urban Lounge, Lance Saunders says, “Our relationship with SLUG will always be that of friendship and professionalism. SLUG Mag is (and always has been) a predominant staple in our community.” The SLUG Magazine Time Warp is more than a party—it is an opportunity for SLUG to thank its backbone, our community. Executive Editor Angela H. Brown says, “SLUG is a reflection of our community. Our contributors and readers define who we are. It’s important for SLUG to create events where these individuals can link, laugh, learn and love. This is what celebration is about—connection.” Come out and play on Feb. 16 at Urban Lounge and Rye—enjoy the embrace that SLUG wants to give to the city that has nurtured this publication for the last 30 years. – Bianca Velasquez

Diana Whitten moved to Salt Lake City in 2016 and soon after established the Utah chapter of Film Fatales. Photo: Tyler Measom

I was able to experience the emotional impact and ideas that a well-produced film can elicit while watching Vessel. It’s a film documented, directed and produced by Diana Whitten about Women on Waves, a project with the mission to provide safe, legal abortions and education about abortion for women who live in countries where it’s illegal. Vessel is one part of Whitten’s repertoire as a director, and she is also an influencer within the organization Film Fatales, whose Utah chapter she established. Whitten says, “[Film Fatales] chapters across the country, and now world, meet regularly to share resources, collaborate on projects and build an environment in which to make their films. It is a space where we can foster efforts that contribute to creating parity in film and TV, and with it a more diverse collective story.”

Who is telling the story in a film is important. The viewpoint coming from that person is influential on what we are consuming when watching a film. “Only 4 percent March 26, 2019 of the top-grossing films are entrusted to women directors—an abysmal statistic,” Whitten says. “Right now, the storyteller is overwhelmingly white, straight and male. It perpetuates an inaccurate reflection of who we are.” This contrast is disheartening and a problem. This is one of the issues that Film Fatales brings to light and actively works to overcome by creating a large network of female directors, producers, etc., to support each other across the country and world. An example of this is the way they construct their Film Fatales calendar to highlight other Film Fatales’ release shows in order to support each other. Whitten says, “When women direct, they not only bring new perspectives to this collective story, but it has been proven that they hire more women, more people of color, and more LGBTQ+ people in both department-head and pipeline positions.”

Whitten produced a phenomenal documentary on a real issue and Women on Waves’ fight against it in Vessel, which won the Audience Award and the Jury Award for Political Courage at SXSW 2014. Vessel connects to Film Fatales’ mission by shining a spotlight on the issues women face due to social and political restraints put on them and their bodies. Whitten’s work radiates this mission in Vessel and in other productions like An Unruly Faith, an upcoming film that documents LDS women and their fight to be ordained, for which she’s a consulting producer.

Originally from Massachusetts, Whitten worked in film and television in New York City, where she first used Film Fatales as a resource. Soon after Vessel, Whitten found herself on a road leading her to Utah. At Mountainfilm Aspen, Whitten met her now partner, Tyler Measom, a Utah native who brought her from New York in 2016. Whitten quickly discovered that there hadn’t yet been a local Film Fatales chapter established. Knowing that there was and is opportunity for Film Fatales to aid in the growth of other underrepresented female-identifying filmmakers here in Utah, she made it happen. Whitten says, “I didn’t yet know many people from the film community in Salt Lake, so I reached out to Virginia Pearce of the Utah Film Commission and Geralyn Dreyfous of the Utah Film Center, and they helped me put together a list of filmmakers.” After establishing the Utah chapter of Film Fatales, headlines began to read “Weinstein” and “#MeToo”. The concurrent #MeToo movement aided in Film Fatales’ traction. Whitten says, “One thing #MeToo highlighted is the validity of organizations like Film Fatales. Our local chapter was in place when #MeToo exploded, and as an entity, [it] was ready to participate in the local reckoning and in efforts to address the challenges [that #MeToo] exposed.”

The Film Fatales chapter that Whitten helped create offers Utah women a network that spans from Los Angeles to New York. Whitten’s initiative opens the door for many aspiring filmmakers who might not have the resources they are entitled to due to the societal restrictions of gender. “In an industry where who you know can get you jobs and access to professional opportunities, being part of a vast network is invaluable,” Whitten says.

With Film Fatales’ collaborations with Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Institute, IFP and San Francisco Film Society, the organization provides various opportunities for aspiring filmmakers exposure, such as increasing exposure of and promoting theatrical, festival and digital premieres and releases. Other benefits are invites to and participation in screenings, events, workshops and panels, and insertion on “recommendation lists” for grants and labs. Additionally, F.F. gives access discounts on film-festival entries and festival and conference badges, and affords female filmmakers more experiences.

Whitten has also worked in, children’s television and theater. She has consulted on feature films Roll Red Roll (2018) and Dying in Vein, The Opiate Generation (2017). Today, she’s working on a project with Film Fatale Carol Dalrymple in San Francisco. This project involves constructing a “virtual layer of augmented reality art on to the iconic Maestrapeace mural,” which celebrates the contributions women have made to the world. Whitten says, “It’s a complex project involving a collective of muralists, AR artists and local NGOs, and I’m excited to be learning about a new, groundbreaking medium.”

To become involved with Film Fatales as a female-identifying filmmaker, you can reach out to Whitten at slc@filmfatales.org. Film Fatales also welcomes filmmakers who are currently working on their first features as guests (space permitting). You can learn more about the Film Fatales organization at filmfatales.org. You can learn more about Whitten’s film, Vessel, at vesselthefilm.com and watch it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu and iTunes.

Tucker White likes to think of writing as sharing his journals with the public through a lens of a different character. Photo: LmSorensen.net

Tucker White—aka “Tuck White” or “Rubber Tucky,” to existing fans—is a difficult person to read, though not in an ominous, brooding or sketchy way. White is hard to read because his humor is layered so deeply with sarcasm, inside jokes (with himself) and “sincere insincerity,” as he puts it. The characters and scenarios White concocts in short stories that he writes depict this playfully mischievous side of White, especially in his first self-published book, The Magic Building. In the spring of this year, Tucker White published The Magic Building through his own label, Chthonic Records (the “ch” is silent), which White started with friend John Boula, who is currently in upstate New York, gardening (according to White). The Magic Building is a book consisting of three short stories: “Who’s Hungry? (The Escape Artist),” “What Happened When Ray and Ted Noticed They Had an Attic” and “The Magic Building.”

Tucker White writes his stories at a desk in his room, oftentimes not knowing what the story will be about until he is halfway through. Photo: LmSorensen.net
Tucker White writes his stories at a desk in his room, oftentimes not knowing what the story will be about until he is halfway through. Photo: LmSorensen.net

The first story is the flat-out silliest. Inspired by the prompt of the subtitle, “(The Escape Artist),” “Who’s Hungry” is about a man who woke up to find out that everyone in the world has been overcome with the insatiable need to eat him. White says, “I thought ‘The Escape Artist’ would be a good title for a story … I thought, ‘Ooh, it would be scary to escape from the whole world; the whole world just wants to eat you.’” The second story offers readers the reason why we weep—a secret that is uncovered by two friends when discovered they had an attic with an unexpected roommate—a little girl. “This one was a little more pre-thought. I was sitting in the backyard with my best friend and roommate, Tiffany. I noticed there was an attic up there, and how interesting it would be to go explore that,” White says. “The Magic Building,” the book’s titular story, is last. It tells a story about a man, one whom White previously wrote about in “An Untitled Excerpt.” In this story, the man discovers that he lives in a magic building and brings a cat back to life through an adventure with a young girl and group of witches.

This is the first book that Chthonic Records has put out, with the intention to encourage others to publish their writings through the label as well. Chthonic Records is known for putting out local releases like Baby Pink’s B Sides and local compilation It’s Halloween Time. White has released multiple music albums under the name Hoops through Chthonic, such as Imaginary Epiphanies 2 (a collaboration with Neil A.), Honeysuckles and The Knowledge Mastery Series. White’s voice in his music, writing and artwork is the spokesperson for the surreal, dreamlike world White’s thoughts and ideas live in. “It is hard for me to see definites, like things that are very concrete,” White says. “Things that are more fluid and dreamlike make more sense to me because they can morph into something else immediately without you wanting it to morph into anything else.” Chthonic provides White a comfortable podium to stretch his specific voice, wherever it goes.

The aim for White is not to become the traditional sense of a “writer,” but to sit down and unveil the story hidden in the nooks and crannies of his subconscious by writing through improvisation. White enjoys sitting down and surrendering himself to a blank page, with no plan, no creative constraints, just the desire to write. His intention is—in a way—to journal through the lens of an absurd character in an absurd reality. You can see this for yourself in his stories—each story has a sense of groundless unpredictability and mind-boggling twists and turns. For instance, in “Who’s Hungry,” the story begins by throwing the reader into sympathetic panic for the character running for their life, without information as to why everyone on earth wants to eat the character, and no plan in sight. Providing this first-person narrative to tell this story makes for vivid reading experience, stabilized by hidden jokes and underlying humor.

White’s preceding published works include “The Life of a Great Leader,” published in a zine put together by Brinley Froelich, and “An Untitled Excerpt” published in Moriah Glazier’s zine Open. These stories share the same cadence and tone White excercises in his book, The Magic Building. Each respective story might be set in a different reality, but you can find the same inquisitive setting in each read, making White’s writings a relishable and amusing collection.

You can find White’s book The Magic Building on chthonicrecords.bandcamp.com for an affordable $10. Although, White says, “Whoever wants it could just have it … I ordered a big box of them because there was a big deal, so I bought 30 and I have 10 left.” To find out more about White’s upcoming projects and other art ventures, follow his Instagram @greendayfan_420 or his Instagram for his artwork, @artist.extraordinaire.

(L–R) Bryan Wrigley, Scott Gardner, Sean Neves and Matt Pfohl (not pictured) will curate Congregation Spirits in the Euclid neighborhood. Photo: John Barkiple

There’s something new coming to the North Temple corridor—a place of meeting, community, food, drink and a pulpit to enrich minds with knowledge and culture. The Euclid neighborhood, known for Red Iguana 2, is a district that Sean Neves, Scott Gardner, Matt Pfohl (co-owners of Water Witch) and Bryan Wrigley (of Lotus Urban) are excited to highlight with their newest community-focused endeavor. Congregation Spirits, will be a property just under one acre, consisting of the Congregation distillery, a bar and grill—Standard Candle —and a beverage-production education center.

This team has had their ears to the pavement, waiting for an opportunity to implement their passion for community in this part of Salt Lake City. With zoning laws concerning Utah’s strict liquor restrictions having changed recently, the door has opened to bring this area an amenity it doesn’t currently have—a full community bar. With Wrigley having background in community development and Neves, Gardner and Pfohl having experience in creating and running bars, this team came together to harness potential in places like Fairpark, Poplar Grove, Glendale, Euclid and Rose Park. This was the setup via which Congregation Spirits is coming to fruition. Wrigley says, “[In these areas,] You have super loyal and dedicated neighbors … Though there’s nowhere to go for bloody marys, mimosas, Sunday brunch or beer after work.”

When discussing the development of Salt Lake City, the team’s vision is clear. The team’s intentions are not to “find the next new hip spot in town to open a bar,” but to listen to what this area needs and their individual skills provide it. Gardener says, “If we do our job right, we will provide a place for the neighborhood—a neighborhood watering hole.” The Congregation team presently aims mainly to hire people from the community that the establishment’s reside in, with plans to teach and train employees about everything they need to know.

The grand idea for Congregation Spirits poses many intricacies that could not be expressed in only one feature. The distillery will produce brandy, whiskey and gin. “The stills that we have were hand-hewn in France in the 1800s, made in Cognac,” Neves says. “They were stored in a barn during WWI—they were very rare pieces of metal for that era. These stills were brought to America by Huber Germain-Robin to open up his distillery. In fact, they have Germain-Robin’s family stamp.” The stills use direct fire, and the firewood comes from the trees that produce the fruit for the Standard Candle dishes. Applewood and cherrywood will be sourced locally, “root to fruit” they call it—no part of the tree goes to waste.

Standard Candle will be a wood-fire bar and grill. “For some reason, no one is working with live fire in Salt Lake City,” says Neves. They call the bar and grill “hyper-local.” “We are focused on organic, locally grown vegetables that touch the fire,” Wrigley says “We are focused on organic locally sourced meats that are touching the fire. Everything touches the fire.” The Spirit Garden (a biergarten) within Standard Candle will be another source for community gathering, about which the team says there will be more information in the future. What Wrigley can say now is, “There is so much that we plan with programing the Spirit Garden. I have never seen what we plan to do here in any other city in the country.” This is intended to be a gathering place for the neighborhood and West Side community that doesn’t involve getting a ride across town.

By remodeling a house on the Congregation property, the team will build a small school to teach neighboring residents about beverage production. Gardner has been bartending, managing beverage programs and educating about spirits for about 12 years. Working with places like Finca, HSL and Naked Fish, Gardner (along with the rest of the team) has the skills to spearhead the educational aspect of Congregation Spirits. “We are most focused on educating people on the basic craft, the technique, the ingredients,” says Neves. When hearing about having class at a distillery/bar, most are led to assume that they will be learning about how to make a lemon drop or the difference between whiskey and brandy. This program is deeper than that. “I think cocktail training is putting it into a box. The focus is on the actual raw ingredients that would go into a cocktail, rather than what goes into a drink,” Gardner says. “We can offer education on what is in your glass, from the time that it comes out of a field … fermentation, sorting, transport … We want to offer people a peek behind the curtain of alcohol production.” In addition to offering a place to learn and relax while doing it, Gardner says, “Every campus wants to have a bar and a place to get a bite,” making Congregation an ideal location because it has both the restaurant and bar on the same property.

In the fall of next year, Congregation Spirits will open their doors, and the Euclid, Rose Park, Fairpark and other local neighborhoods will be welcome to come together to take part of the service. Neves says, “It is a beverage-production campus … We are building an urban winery and brewery with extra equipment on it.” This is a simple way to express a grand idea with such a grand impact. A place to gather is essential for communities to cultivate ideas, and relationships, establish educational spaces and make local history. Congregation Spirits will truly be a well-spirited gathering place and, as they put it, “adult playground,”  (long overdue) for this community. Learn more about Congregation Spirits on their website, CongregationSpirits.com.

Josie Cordova created every element of To Space, Comrade! Teaching their self along the way, they constructed the game, music and storyline of the arcade game. Photo: LmSorenson.net

In an arduous journey through space, a group of queer-femme cosmonauts fight their way to Mars to establish a new colony. With a million humans in cryostasis, the human race is at risk of extinction, and only you can save it. As a cosmonaut on this mission, you and your comrades communicate together to dodge the space debris, comets and say “Give me your worst, galaxy”. As a cluster of ships, you work together to guide yourself through the unforgiving space landscape. This is the premise of To Space, Comrade!, an arcade game with a mission to encourage and establish progressive queer and communist themes in a ’80s 16-bit format. “I wanted to make the game as gay as possible and as femme-centric as possible.” says the captain and engineer, Josie Cordova, who built the game from scratch, teaching themselves how to do it along the way.

Before taking on the challenge of building an arcade, game Cordova faced creative obstacles that later led to their personal and artistic development. Cordova felt a creative block in tandem with their personal difficulty of coming out as trans. “It wasn’t until I came out that I could say ‘Yes, I did this and I put my heart into it,’” Cordova says. “It was then when I was able to actually start creating and building.” Cordova had the opportunity to express their identity when developing the game’s characters, “There are no dudes in this game—everyone is trans; everyone is queer; everyone is femme. If I’m going to make a game, I’m going to make it representative of the kind of shit I wish I would have seen as a kid. There was no trans representation when I was a kid,” Cordova says. “Little girls and non-boys have had to play a trillion games where they had to put themselves in the shoes of boys because everyone caters to boys by default.”

Cordova has always been drawn toward the mechanics of things—more specifically, building things such as drone synths and guitar pedals for their own music projects. From there, Cordova developed skills in coding, which eventually led to the budding of this now fully fleshed out arcade game. In the beginning stages of developing the game, Cordova used a method called cellular automata. The way they explain this method is using ants as an example: Ants have simple rules that govern their behavior—they eat, climb on stuff and carry things back to their colony. When using cellular automata, you put a collection of “ants” together in a system, and their behavior affects each other creating rich emergent behavior. “One of the things that has always been important to me as an artist is creating things that can create,” Cordova says. In the game, none of the outcomes are the same. The game is designed to behave at random and create unique outcomes that will never be repeated—Cordova built the system to turn out unpredictable output, making for a different experience every time. 

From here, Cordova had an aesthetic in mind. “I wanted it to be an arcade game—it seemed more appealing to me than just building a game online,” Cordova says. “I wanted it to be a retro, ‘80s, Cold War aesthetic.” With that in mind, Cordova moved on to creating the soundtrack and sound effects for the game. The music uses data that the game keeps track of, such as how many people are alive or how many pods crashed. They all are then translated into musical content. What happens in the game generates the music that is playing—it will never sound the same twice. Cordova says, “It sounds better than anything that I could have planned to make then execute … I think that is so fucking cool.”

The cabinet was made by repurposing an old arcade game. With the help of Cordova’s arcade mentor (and local musician), David Payne, Cordova was able to add the finishing touches to the game. Payne’s role in the development of the game is crucial. “Had I not met Dave, this game would not be in a cabinet right now,” Cordova says. Cordova met Payne through playing shows with him for their project Future Coochie at Twilite Lounge, the same place Cordova would later debut the game. Payne assisted in areas like financing the game, finding the cabinet, moving the game from place to place and fabrication for the custom controls.

The night that Cordova unveiled To Space, Comrade! I was sitting in the back of Twilite Lounge. A typical night out at the bar developed into an experience that both inspired and struck the audience. Cordova talked about their journey through the development of the game, the learning, the sacrifice, the successes and the challenges. They then shared with the audience that their grandfather had passed away that same morning, and such determination and conviction to still debut their game illustrated just how important this accomplishment is to Cordova. To Space, Comrade! currently resides at Diabolical Records and is predicted to float around from place to place in the future. You can learn more about Cordova’s first arcade game on their website mothbuilt.squarespace.com/to-space-comrade, and you can support their patreon at patreon.com/josiedrew.