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.