Phoebe Bridgers made a guest appearance singing backing vocals for several of Harrison Whitford’s songs. Photo: Matthew Hunter

Her first show after a two-week tour break, Phoebe Bridgers played to a sold-out crowd at Kilby Court on Wednesday night. Bridgers and her band seemed to be right at home onstage at Kilby, reminiscing about SLC Punk and getting “rock-ognized” at the Trolley Square Whole Foods. Bridgers even recalled her friend Conor (presumably Conor Oberst) telling her that he once slept at Kilby, only to be informed by a member of the audience that some of the houses around the venue are owned by the folks that own Kilby. “He made it sound really punk rock, but he probably had a bed!”

As for the music, Bridgers and her four-piece band were spot on. Harrison Whitford, who Phoebe referred to as her best friend before a performance of the heartbreaking song “Funeral,” opened the show with support from the rest of the band, including Bridgers, who took the stage to sing backing vocals several times throughout the set. Whitford’s songs were honest and emotional, with a certain Neil Young quality that was most apparent during tunes like “Part Time Heart” and “Both of My Friends.”

Bridgers and her band reemerged after a wardrobe change and took the stage clad in black suits. Bridgers, bearing an acoustic guitar and standing behind a microphone stand wrapped with a string of Christmas lights, opened her set with “Smoke Signals,” the powerful first song on her debut album. Bridgers transitioned back and forth between emotional anthems like “Demi Moore” or “Funeral” and more upbeat, folk-influenced tunes like “Motion Sickness” seamlessly throughout the night, even covering Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out” with precision in honor of his passing last year. “This is my favorite Tom Petty song,” she said, “because it’s the saddest.”

Each song was followed by raucous applause and cheering and a faint smile from Bridgers as she tuned her guitar or swapped instruments. When the applause died down, the crowd fell mostly silent. Bridgers had the sold-out crowd hanging onto her every move all night, right up to the moment she concluded her set. After a quiet and powerful performance of Mark Kozelek’s “You Missed My Heart,” the crowd slowly and somberly shuffled out of the venue.


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Dr. Dog ending the show with a bang. Photo: Matthew Hunter

Coming off the release of their critically acclaimed 10th studio album, Critical Equation, earlier this year, Dr. Dog stopped off at The Depot last Monday courtesy of the fine folks at KRCL. The night was one for the books, due largely to the finely tuned set of music performed by the show’s headliners. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention the show’s opener, Sandy (Alex G).

Sandy (Alex G) has been having quite a moment since his 2017 release, Rocket, which cropped up on a plethora of best-of lists from the likes of Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound. The publicity undoubtedly catapulted him into the indie-verse spotlight and cemented his place in indie-rock stardom, but Sandy (Alex G) decided to capitalize on weirdness rather than talent on Monday. Some highlights from the set included a walk out to Rascal Flatts’ “Life is a Highway,” a one-and-a-half minute speed metal tune (screamed vocals and guitar solos not withstanding) and a booze-fueled open-mouth kiss with violinist Molly, who Sandy (Alex G) continually insisted was his sister but who, I later learned, thanks to a bit of Googling, is actually his girlfriend. For those familiar with the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, the set might have been par for the course. For the rest of us though, it was a wild and unsettling 45–60 minutes. And I still don’t know which name to call him.

Dr. Dog, on the other hand, delivered exactly what everyone came for. The band spent the better part of 90 minutes performing hits from their extensive 10-LP catalog, calling on songs from records all the way back to their 2003 release, Toothbrush. For an album support tour, their set was anything but predictable (as my girlfriend can attest, after hearing me botch a prediction about the encore). Tracks from Critical Equation were peppered in flawlessly among tracks like “The Breeze” from their 2008 LP, Fate, and a number of popular tunes from their 2012 LP, Be The Void. And where many bands might choose to perform a predetermined choice of songs for their encore, Dr. Dog returned to the stage and casually took requests from the audience (hence my botched encore prediction). It’s rare that a touring band brings so fresh an energy to a weeknight show, but Dr. Dog seem to have it down to a science. (Insert Critical Equation joke here.)


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Tweaking knobs on the Pocket Piano. Photo: Matthew Hunter

Monday night saw the long awaited return of David Longstreth and his indie project, Dirty Projectors, to both the city of Salt Lake and to the Stage—capital “S”—as part of a promo tour for their forthcoming album, Lamp Lit Prose. Monday’s show was a stop on the band’s first tour in five years, and their only since the release of last year’s self-titled album, consequently drawing a crowd from Utah and the surrounding states that were not bestowed with tour stops. There was plenty of room to breathe, but the dedicated fans that turned out filled Urban Lounge with a palpable energy that seemed to surprise even Longstreth himself and certainly helped to loosen things up after the first few songs.

For those familiar with the band’s earlier work, Monday’s show may not have been exactly the return they were expecting. The band felt far more casual and loose than their catalog of tightly woven, complex music would imply, allowing for charming bits of imperfections and interspersed space for improvisation. That’s not to say that the band wasn’t tight. The stage was packed from edge to edge with enough musical prowess for just as many bands, and they felt flawlessly in sync with one another, even when they ventured far into the weeds of obscure, idiosyncratic rhythms and melodies. Songs began and ended perfectly in time with little more than a shared look between Longstreth and his band, and four-part harmonies seemed to fall effortlessly into place. It was surprising, I thought, for a band who had just come off of a five-year tour hiatus. But a passing comment about a 2003 Kilby Court performance shed light on just how much experience Longstreth has. And that experience, as evidenced on Monday night, is not easily worn away.


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Jenn Wasner backing Madeline during a solid opening set. Photo: Matthew Hunter

Wednesday night at Metro Music Hall saw an appearance by 10-year tour vets Wye Oak, performing songs from their new album, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. The new album, released in April of this year, is the sixth full-length record released by the trio in just over a decade and builds on the foundation they’ve laid with past albums like Shriek and Tween. Of course, a group that has been together as long as Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack will naturally evolve and progress over time, but the noticeable sheen of their live performance on Wednesday night, compared to past years’ performances, might be due in part to the addition of bassist William Hackney. For as long as Wasner and Stack have been performing together, they’ve been doing so as a duo, with Stack playing drums with one hand and operating loops or playing various synthesizers with the other, and Wasner crooning folksy, complex melody lines over guitar, bass and keys. This tour, however, has come with the addition of a third bandmate who, on Wednesday night at least, freed up Wasner to contribute new sonic layers to old songs or to spend more time interacting with the audience.

The crowd was in high spirits, too, despite the unusually hot climate inside the venue. In a rare moment of silence between songs, Wasner commented on the positive energy—“You guys take your woos very seriously around here”—which, in turn, elicited even more cheering. The crowd didn’t seem to be bothered much by the lack of any semblance of cool air either, as a large portion of them showed up early for Madeline Kenney’s opening performance and stuck around to the last notes of Wye Oak’s set. Overall, it was a fun and fresh performance that made for an idyllic summer show.


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Diplo addressing the crowd.

There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding this year’s Twilight Concert Series. After the announcement in February that the Arts Council had
partnered with Broadway Media and Salt Lake Community College to put on the events and not much was revealed about series as a whole until June—less than two months before the premiere event. Personally speaking, this was enough to temper expectations, but the major success of past years’ events provoked a healthy amount of optimism for most others. The lineup, released on June 21, was as diverse as it was star-studded. Festival favorites Moon Taxi adorn the list, alongside Robert Delong and stand-out performer Snoop Dogg. Opening night responsibilities, however, belonged to Diplo.

Sold-out posters hung on every panel of fence that separated Gallivan Plaza from the hustle and bustle of Main Street on Aug. 16. Upwards of seven-thousand people turned out for the first night of the series and were treated to ideal weather, plentiful libations, and a lineup dense with high energy DJs, graced with (arguably) electronic music’s most prolific name, all performing under open air. The main stage was rarely vacant for the four-plus hours that the gates were open, but music flooded the space from all directions with local DJs performing to queues of people waiting for food and speakers blasting ambient noise to concertgoers waiting for drinks or playing giant beer pong. When Diplo took the stage around 9 pm, the nooks and crannies of Gallivan emptied out and the crowd spilled over the lawn onto the terraces and up to the back wall, with nearly everyone dancing or raising their hands or singing loudly from their friends’ shoulders.

Diplo’s performance truly was a treat to the senses, and it overflowed from Gallivan Plaza’s border both sonically (you could literally feel the bass
from outside the gates) and energetically. After the show, fans poured into the city, sweaty and tired and in high spirits.


Moon Taxi owning the stage at Night Three of the Twilight Concert Series.

The third installment of Salt Lake City’s Twilight Concert Series on Aug. 30 saw a delightful set from Nashville indie-rock band Moon Taxi with support from DJ Jarvicious and local rock band Brogan Kelby. Brogan and his band played an enthusiastic set of original music to a small crowd, but it was a crowd full of dedicated fans who were singing melodies right back to the band. Even for those unfamiliar with the band’s music, it was hard not to get swept up in the energy and positivity of the show. Concert-goers killed time between sets by playing giant beer pong or patronizing CupBop to the tunes of DJ Jarvicious. The night was relatively low key compared to past nights’ performances from Diplo and Robert DeLong. Fans on the lawn had a little more breathing room, and lines for beer were noticeably shorter, but things picked up when the sun went down and Moon Taxi took the stage.

Fans pressed against the railing and sang the bands lyrics back to them with outstretched arms. It was a real, holistic rock n’ roll show led by a group of tried-and-true indie musicians. Fans flooded the streets after the show buzzing with energy and headed home on scooters, Green Bikes, Lyft, and Trax, excited for next week’s installment.

 

King Princess and her band on stage at Gallivan Plaza.

Sept. 13 was the last of 2018’s Salt Lake Twilight Concert Series. The last installment boasted a double bill, featuring husband-and-wife duo Flora Cash and New York singer-songwriter King Princess, and drew a notably younger crowd than previous shows. The energy, however, was just as high as ever. Local DJs underscored the night including DJ Suzy who provided a high-energy soundtrack between bands. Local band EIXO opened up the stage for the night’s headliners with a vibrant set. The group drew an excitable crowd of their own and got everyone else pumped for the main acts.

Flora Cash took the stage at sundown and performed a low key set of music defined by acoustic guitar and dreamy electronic soundscapes. The husband and wife duo from Stockholm received a warm welcome from the Gallivan Plaza crowd, which easily doubled in size after the sun went down. The music bled into the transition as DJ Suzy mixed some crowd favorites and prompted singalong after singalong.

King Princess took the stage to raucous applause and cheering and launched right into a few crowd favorites. Mikaela Straus (birth name of King Princess) forged a tangible connection with the crowd from the get go and spent the majority of her set smiling, laughing and shooting flirty glances to her fans, eliciting shrieks of joy from the folks on the receiving end. Energy was high to the very end of the night and sent concert-goers out in high-spirits. Overall, it was a fitting end to this year’s Twilight Concert Series.

Zauner ditching the guitar and owning the stage with mic in hand.

Sept. 22 wasn’t Michelle Zauner’s first visit to Salt Lake, or even her first time performing at Kilby Court. Far from it, actually. Taking the stage to a sold out crowd, Zauner alluded to her five previous performances on that very stage and probed the audience for anyone that had attended any of those shows. A few cheers arose from various pockets of the crowd inside the venue as well as from the handful of people who had spilled out into the courtyard. In general though, one got the impression that Zauner’s fans in attendance on Saturday were relatively new to her music.

That’s not terribly surprising when you stop to consider that Zauner has only been performing under the monicker Japanese Breakfast since early 2016. She released her first full-length studio album Psychopomp in April of that year and it was well received by fans of Zauner (she performed in several other bands before making the jump to solo work) and critics alike. Just over a year later, Japanese Breakfast released their second studio album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet. The album received universal acclaim and sort of nudged Zauner and her band into the soft edges of the indie-verse spotlight. Songs like “Road Head,” “Boyish” and “Diving Woman” garnered millions of plays each on Spotify (“Road Head” is currently has just over seven million) and Japanese Breakfast found themselves the subject of articles from Pitchfork, Spin, NPR, and even Vogue (Zauner is a notoriously snappy dresser on stage).

Despite the rapid rise to popularity that Zauner and her band have experienced over the past years, their performance on the modest Kilby Court stage on Saturday night was everything one could want or expect from a band as young as them. Zauner was reserved and colloquial between songs, but expressive and energetic behind the microphone. The band’s shimmery performance was enough to make everyone in the sold-out crowd forget the emotionally melancholy subject matter of the songs they were performing. If Zauner’s sixth Salt Lake performance was any indicator—it’s no doubt that her seventh will be on a much bigger stage.


Garret Clark Borns sporting a custom Nike track suit.

Pop acts Twin Shadow and BORNS performed to a sold out crowd on Monday, Oct. 15. Anything below a shout was inaudible over the screams of the crowd, even between sets. The crowd filled in from wall to wall early enough to catch a killer set from opener Twin Shadow and frontman George Lewis Jr. was all smiles and thank-you’s in response. Between ’80s ballads and face-melting guitar solos, Lewis was eager to express his gratitude to the crowd and—as it seems to be the theme with Salt Lake shows—declare his surprise at their enthusiasm. To those unfamiliar with Twin Shadow’s recent history, Monday’s show might have seemed par for the course. But understanding Lewis’s journey—the bus accident that led to reconstructive hand surgery, the depression spiral and the eventual return to the stage in April—adds some context to his gracious spirit. Lewis rounded out his set with a crowd favorite and laid some solid groundwork for the main act.

When BORNS took the stage, it was to deafening cheers from a rowdy crowd. His set was packed full of crowd pleasers from his two studio albums and nearly every song was backed by a 2500 person chorus. When he left the stage, chants for his return started up almost immediately and his return was met with screams somehow louder than when he took the stage the first time. There wasn’t much left to choose from in the BORNS catalog for an encore, but instead of original tunes, BORNS sat down at the piano and rewarded the crowd with three very unexpected covers: Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Needless to say, the crowd went nuts. From there, BORNS launched into his final track of the night: his breakout single “Electric Love.” Hearing the song performed live from start to finish was doubly satisfying for some (speaking for myself here) who may have caught BORNS’s set at Bonanza earlier this year. A power outage left him finishing the song a-cappella back then (ironic, I know), but his set on Monday finished at full power.

A shared moment with Tatum and Kallman.

The marquee above the bar at RYE was marked with a warm greeting for our visitors from the south on Saturday, Nov. 3. “Welcome Wild Nothing” adorned the sign and anyone that egressed from the bar around 7:30 was greeted with a block-long line next door. Wild Nothing and openers, Men I Trust, drove a rowdy crowd to Urban Lounge and though the show didn’t quite reach sold-out status, the newly renovated space—which seemed to have more standing room—felt like it might burst at the seams.

Canadian indie-dance group Men I Trust opened the night’s entertainment to raucous applause. Emmanuelle Proulx, Men I Trust’s lead singer, could barely squeak out a “thank you” loud enough to be heard over the cheering between songs. The dichotomy of the group’s gentle, driving music, delicately delivered vocals and the crowd’s untamed energy was incredibly stark, and though the band performed a flawless and confident set of music, the crowd seemed much more attuned to the night’s headliner.

Jack Tatum and his band took the stage and launched right in to a set full of singalong-able hits and channeled the crowd’s vigor with their driving rhythms and dreamy, swirling guitar riffs. It was easy work winning over an audience like the one in attendance on Saturday, but if there was anyone hesitant to buy in to Wild Nothing’s performance, keyboardist, Matt Kallman won them over as soon as he picked up the saxophone. Arguably the most understated performer in the group, Kallman drew everyone’s attention as soon as he picked up his sax and held it until the moment he put it down. Wild Nothing returned to the stage for an encore featuring a handful of tried and true fan favorites and, of course, more sax solos.