Heart Pharmacy @ Bar Deluxe 09.17

Posted September 22, 2011 in ,

On Sept. 17 Ali Sarijlou’s one-man show known as Heart Pharmacy stopped at Bar Deluxe. Although Sarijlou  is currently based out of San Diego, he has Salt Lake City roots and a big local following of Ali and his music.  Toss in the Dignitaries out of Ogden and Long Distance Operator out of SLC and by the end of the night I was feeling pretty good about our humble city nestled between the Wasatch Front and the Great Salt Lake.

The Dignitaries started the evening with one of the most epic sound checks ever.  They had a royal jam session that left me wondering if they had just decided to start their set without a word to the growing crowd in the bar.  Guitarist, Jacob IsBell played quickly and precisely as he hammered out a stream of notes while bassist Ian Cox and drummer Erich Rausch played equally complex and upbeat music.  After their intense warm up and a brief break to grab some beers they started their set.  The Dignitaries brought a reggae sound that varied in pace as they added their own flare to covers of Black Sabbath, Rage Against the Machine and the song “House of the Rising Sun”  (credited to Bob Dylan, even though he didn’t write it).  Although the group’s members were prone to playing numerous solos, they didn’t get into overly long sessions that dragged on and on, instead they were short and sweet and left me feeling good.  The Dignitaries also brought out several original songs that maintained the same energy and their jazzy reggae punk blend created a distinct enough sound that there was a consistent flow between their originals and the covers. Toward the end of their set it did begin to appear that they had maybe overexerted themselves with their extreme warm up, because their energy started to dwindle—although they did pull it together for their last original song, which featured a bonus mid-song cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” 

Long Distance Operator started out loud and energized with songs that brought the crowd close to the stage and made them move like frenzied maniacs.  Randon Ostlund and bassist Chris Wadsworth belted out in unison as they sang the choruses of LDO’s songs, which created a frantic and electric tone while lead guitarist Josh West and rhythm guitarist Whil McCutchan found a syncopated sound that flexed and bent in unison.   LDO does loud energy really well, but when they would approach more of their ballad sound their strong energy seemed to dip and the music was a little less engaging.  It’s understandable needing to tone it down every couple songs to recharge after making such an investment of force, but it felt like too dramatic a change. 

As I stated before, Heart Pharmacy consists of Ali Sarijlou, who has been bouncing around the west strumming his acoustic guitar and singing his songs.  Sarijlou started his set out by warmly introducing himself and explaining that he is going to bring a completely different flavor to this already diverse line-up.  Sarijlou  plays multiple guitar loops that are layered and layered and layered, and I honestly have no idea how he keeps track of exactly what he is doing.  The multi-layering is effective and strong as I felt myself and those around me become entranced by the complex and warm sound.  Sarijlou’s guitar, coupled with his lyrical style, is similar to what you might hear from Jose Gonzalez or Eliot Smith, and his lyrics are intimate and reflective. Sarijlou was outgoing and funny as he engaged the crowd between songs. It was surprising after hearing a melodic song to have him break out with “We’re getting fucking wasted after this!  Yeah!”.  Sarijlou does have a small local following of ladies who knew his songs and swooned for him along the front of the stage, Sarijlou even bravely invited one of the ladies to accompany him on stage, which unfortunately had painful results.  Booze might make us brave, but it does not give us talent.  Despite the pain inducing interlude, Heart Pharmacy wrapped up a strong set well enough to allow everyone to forget what had just taken place and get fucking wasted.