When I showed up to The Shred Shed, I could tell the night was going to be a tragic misrepresentation of Salt Lake’s music scene—I expected a much larger turn out. The few groups who had shown up by the time opening band Michael Gross & Statuettes were finishing up didn’t seem fully equipped to ‘rep’ the hospitality and energy I’m used to seeing at shows.
Flashlights loaded up and preceded with their sound check, no muss no fuss, and began ripping through their setlist without hesitation. It was perhaps the most confusing set of the evening—visually they looked bored and uninterested, though their sound was spot on and told a different story entirely. Songs about being an anxiety ridden twenty-something, that I could even relate to. An inability to work the crowd was perhaps the only downfall, but I remain convinced it wasn’t their fault they really did try. When singer Terry Caudill excitedly tried to announce the release of their new music video “Don’t Take Me Seriously,” the words “live-action-Pokémon’ left his mouth, bounced around the room, then fell alone among untied shoe laces. I at the very least was stoked about live-action-Pokémon themed anything. The last few songs, they picked up momentum and felt more comfortable on the stage. A steadier trickling of an audience started in, and it started to finally feel like I was at a show.
As Total Slacker began setting up, I became irreverently excited, they didn’t seem to be doing a sound check, so much as testing various parts of the stage to insure stability. At one point I couldn’t figure out if I had somehow missed their first song, it wasn’t until Tucker Rountree stopped spinning to say hello that I was able to figure out where they were in relation to their set list, the beginning, evidentially. Rountree took a very brief moment to get back to his roots, before plunging into their first song, saying, “Hey! From Brooklyn, originally born and raised in Utah, I love this place! 1-2-3-4.” Commence psychedelic 90s distortion. I couldn’t promise that he wasn’t ripped out of his mind, as the few sentences he managed to formulate may have very well been a series of “meows.”
The beautiful thing about Total Slacker is they couldn’t give two shits about where they are playing, and they certainly didn’t care about the sea of confused, immobile zombies staring blankly at them. The pop culture references weren’t lacking and I still wasn’t sure “Who Killed Kennedy,” maybe that’s why the crowed seemed so contemplative. By the time “Touch Yrself” started playing Rountree was literally drooling while doing what I could only assume was his best imitation of a crashing helicopter. With lyrics spouting “You’ve got to love your self; before you can love someone else,” it remains the only masturbatory song I’ve ever heard that makes me want to be a better person.
It was about this same time that someone ordered a pizza, Miniature Tigers arrived and a small scene of rubbernecking and whispers broke out in the back of the crowd. It was upsetting, that a headlining band standing doing literally nothing, was more interesting to the masses, than the tribute grunge-punk to happening 15 feet away. I don’t think anyone in the room understood—Total Slacker is interesting, in a mind-warped kind of way. The pizza was a pretty dick move, as the whole joint was fumigated with the smell of Big Daddy’s Pizza and every stomach protested its own discontent. As the set ended, the cheers and applause seemed rushed and falsely appreciative. It was in that moment I saw my first faked orgasm shared by over 30 people. The fact was that Total Slacker killed it, and the scene just didn’t match up that night.
I can’t pretend that anything positive health-wise comes from polluting your lungs with additives and emphazema, but it’s been my experience that if you talk to the sidewalk stranger you’ve coerced out of their cigarette for monetary gain, you’ll meet some cool fucks. I wandered outside after the Total Slackers set to begin the age-old practice of engaging in the trade-and-barter system. In my situation, my potential business partner happened to be the bass guitarist from Flashlights. The exchange was far more awkward on my end, as the moment I had realized who I had approached was far too late, I had to commit. After the cash exchange, we bantered for a moment, talking about Utah’s near dry policy on alcohol, SLC Punk and how his venue wrist-bands had been serving as some type of primitive calendar. He pulled up his hoodie sleeve to reveal more than a few neon colored trophies, “Its easier than taking them off everyday, and they help me know what day it is.” Our chat ended as he needed to take a piss, and I went in to watch Miniature Tigers sound check.
While Total Slackers gave a pre-game experience with their sound check, Miniatures Tigers’ was a whole production. After a solid 30 minutes of “more vocals” and “up-up-up,” they gave the thumbs up to Lighting and Sound, only to realize they were a man down. Charlie Brand, keyboard and vocals, gave a formal apology explaining, “That was a fake thumbs up, a thumbs up to tell you we’re going to give you a thumbs up, really, we’re missing a guy." Moments later, they broke out with their opening song, “Dino Damage.” It wasn’t until halfway through their second song that I started feeling a little hot in the face; it felt as though the band was undressing the crowd with their eyes. Were they flirting with an entire room of people? Brand kept referring to us all as “Babies”—yeah, he was definitely flirting. (I forgot to leave my number on the back of the bathroom door). Its not as though overly flirtatious and love-stricken is out of the loose confines of Miniature Tigers style, being an indie pop band comes with an expectation of this to a degree. After all, I was in an audience composed entirely out of couples, which through the night had begun melting together, forming two headed sentient extraterrestrials—if I was deaf I would have been able to see all to clearly that Miniature Tigers is for lovers. Anxiety ridden fairy tales set to catchy melodies are their specialty.
The set moved with panty-wetting caliber up until the universe remembered the date. No more than forty seconds into their song “Cleopatra,” Brand had an alarming announcement: “Shit, everything just turned off. Well, that’s the show everyone, April Fools! Thanks for coming out.” Unfortunately the technical errors weren’t coy pranks put on by the band, they did lead to the most engaging stage performance between the band and the crowd though. Their perfected sound check was ruined, but the cavalier attitude didn’t disappoint, they kicked back into “Cleopatra” at full velocity. They managed two songs with static riddled guitar and vocals, when there was a pause for apologies and an introduction to a new song, “ We Used To Be The Shit,” which quickly progressed to a “No, its not. My guitars broken,” from Brand, and Rick Schaier expressing his discontent, “This needs a new cord… It sounds like a constant fart.” The only alarming part about the situation is how aware Schaier was of what never ending flatulence sounded like.
Despite the multitude of electronic hiccups, which is understandable when the music is emanating every 80s synthesizer simultaneously, no one seemed terribly panicked. The band bantered with the audience and didn’t bat an eye as the poor sound tech ran frantically from one end of the venue to the next. Ultimately they were able to play “ We Used to Be the Shit,” one of the funniest and truest songs I have ever heard—it’s a genuine love song, which ends in shit. The room finally hit its full potential—anyone with a pulse started doing the vertical worm. It was nice to finally see the crowd fully pumped and impressed. Brand thanked everyone for coming out, and once again apologized for the brief intermissions, but with out fail put his own charming optimism into the situation, saying, “At least this is an authentic and real experience.” I couldn’t have pretended to word it better. The set ended with two of my personal favorites, “Sex on the Regular” and “Cannibal Queen” which are the embodiment of all things Miniature Tigers—smashing disco-funk with cleverly fun romantic lyricism, they’re a guilty pleasure I’m not afraid to boast about. The applause and cat-calls, lasted long into the set clearing, a sure sign of an overall great show.
Miniature Tigers’ new album, Cool Runnings, which will include “We Used to Be the Shit” and their single “ Swimming Pool Blues,” releases in May.