photo by Adam Dorobiala
Wren Kennedy – vocals, guitar
Joey Pedersen – vocals, guitar
Cathy Foy – percussion
Glade Sowards – Bass
Andrew Shaw – keyboard, noise
During SLUG’s western-themed open house party, Wren Kennedy drank entirely too much. At the afterparty, puking in an alleyway outside of FICE and dressed like a hipster who’d mugged a cowboy, it’s safe to say Kennedy had seen better days. As he passed Nobrow Coffee (his day job) on the long stumble home, he was arrested for public intoxication. The police teased him for his outfit and Kennedy had a wicked case of word-vomit going. Apparently he hurt their feelings. By the time they made it to Metro, “I was . . . being charged with second-degree felony assault on a police officer ,” he says, “Just something small, you know. I got out eight days later on five mil– thousand dollars bail.”
Kennedy and fellow vocalist/guitarist Joey Pedersen have jammed and skated together since high school, but after Kennedy went a few rounds with Salt Lake’s finest boys in blue, he moved in with Pedersen out of broke-ass necessity. It was during this period when, like some sort of hungover phoenix, Bluebird Radio rose from the ashes of Kennedy’s drunken incarceration.
Pedersen and Kennedy write BBR’s songs, often alone and acoustically, “and these guys make ‘em sweeter,” Kennedy says, motioning to current members Glade Sowards, Cathy Foy and Andrew Shaw. Although they opened Localized last year for Cub Country and Band of Annuals, that BBR was much more subdued, folksy and acoustic than the four songs they played for me during the interview. Smashed into Pedersen’s 8x12 basement, requisite Pabst in hand, with headshots of The Beatles staring down at me from the sewage pipe I racked my head on coming in, Bluebird Radio’s loud, urgent, electric sound necessitated earplugs. What sounded, honestly, like mediocre acoustic warbling on their Myspace page has since matured into bitchin’ indie rock n’ roll with a splash of psychedelia. The louder rock sound brings dual guitar work to the forefront and goes well with Kennedy and Pedersen’s harmonized vocals. All of their songs sound better for the change.
Bluebird Radio’s main focus these days (besides rocking your face crooked on the 21, of course) is taking the next year to record an album. They have an album’s worth of songs prepared, and once they’ve had a few more practices with newly-added bassist Glade Sowards, only the funding will stand in the way.
Bluebird Radio has been around just shy of two years, and in its current incarnation for one year. It’s clear, however, that these musicians are far from inexperienced. “It’s funny,” Sowards says, “. . . I bet with everybody in this band we’ve practically played with everybody [in Salt Lake] in one way or another––if not formally in the band, we’ve sat in for somebody.” And it’s basically true. A little taste of the history of BBR’s members in our local music scene might go something like this: Kennedy and Pedersen played with Dead Horse Point. Trevor Hadley from Band of Annuals is a past member of BBR. Drummer Cathy Foy is also the drummer for The Future of the Ghost. Another of Foy’s projects, Sea Monster, includes David Payne, guitarist/vocalist for Red Bennies. Both Kennedy and Sowards released solo albums for last month’s Record Store Day. The list just goes on, but I won’t bore you. Oh, did I mention Wren Kennedy is Princess Kennedy’s nephew? That has to count for something. The point is, “We’ve been around . . . to say the least. It’s a wholesome polygamy standpoint,” Kennedy says, smiling. “We’re all kind of incestuous,” Glade says, “in a wholesome, Utah kind of way.” Well, I guess if there has to be incest, at least it’s musical in nature. Hopefully.
Libbie Linton - guitar/vocals
Be honest: when you hear about a show going on at a venue you frequent, then you hear that the artist is an acoustic solo act, singer/songwriter type, do you groan a little? Me too – it’s an all-too-common response these days. It’s like we’re so jaded that we cannot imagine one person with a guitar and a microphone being able to elicit a reaction or an emotion from us unless they’re Nick Drake or Bob Dylan. Truthfully, though, such a mindset does nothing but close us off from possibilities. Truthfully, such a mindset is fucking sad. I don’t know where to point my blame-finger on this one, but individual expression is practically the founding tenet of every other type of art, and it ought to still be valid in music too. Sure, there’s a slew, a scad, a plethora of solo artists in music today, but you don’t have to worry about that: We’ve already waded into the mucky sludge of them for this month’s Localized, and we came back out with Libbie Linton.
Hailing from Logan, Linton creates folk-inspired music that is somber, sparing and beautiful. She’s been compared to various and diverse artists, but I’m going to go with Markéta Irglová from The Swell Season and the movie Once. Her voice has that same quality that manages to be both timorous and confident – conveying emotion while maintaining conviction. Her full-length album Bird Wings in the Bleak was released in April 2009. Besides being one of my favorite album titles in some time, its twelve tracks showcase serious songwriting talent. Linton may or may not have backup musicians on stage with her for Localized, but the album itself has a careful musical complexity: You can pick out banjo, ukulele, harmonica, as well as bass and percussion. Although she writes and often performs her songs alone, she says, “My ideal music situation would certainly be more collaborative than playing solo. I’ve had incredibly positive experiences working with other people, but also really awful ones. Recording Bird Wings in the Bleak with the boys of Fictionist was the nearest to my ideal collaborative setting that I’ve yet to experience.” The album is available online, on iTunes, and at Slowtrain.
Linton has had a life-long passion for music. “When I was little, I would ride my bicycle in circles around our neighborhood and sing little songs that I would make up.” But the self-described “soft-spoken . . . shy as hell” Linton struggled to begin performing for an audience. “What it came down to is that I got bored of myself having a desire to be a performer but not having the courage to actually try . . . I would literally have nightmares about performing,” she says. “With the nerves, I remember I played everything extra fast . . . People [were] so nice and complimentary . . . I thought that maybe I could be good at this.” But don’t worry, we’re just fleshing out a character here. These days Linton has performing down pat. “With enough experience, you stop worrying about it as much,” she says.
From an awkward girl with cold feet, Linton has carved herself into a vocal stage presence that can’t be denied. On top of her musical successes, she’s just weeks away from receiving a Master of Science from Utah State University. But which of her passions takes precedent is an easy question for her to answer. “Biological Engineering has its moments,” she says, “but in all my years of doing research in a lab I’ve never felt the same kind of jolt that I get from making music.”
Respectable career opportunities may await her upon graduation, but hey, who ever said scientist and musician have to be mutually exclusive. “I love music. I’ve always loved music,” Linton says. “Music is something that I will always have a deep appreciation for because of its ability to drum up feelings in a way that nothing else can.”
This sense of music’s ability to elicit emotion isn’t a distant ideal of hers. It’s a personal maxim that brings forth an honesty and a sometimes- startlingly intimacy in both her songwriting and her performances. “I won’t write a song that doesn’t mean anything to me,” Linton says, “I am not great at pretending conviction. I can’t sing like I mean the words of a song if I don’t.”
Come to Localized on May 21 for a staunch reminder that singer/songwriter doesn’t have to mean ‘lonely-emo-boy-with-an-acoustic-guitar.’