The Devil Whale
Subterranean at Slowtrain
with Matt Honus, David Williams
Sunday night was a lot of things. Ostensibly, it was The Devil Whale’s pre-release show. $20 got you a ticket to the show in Slowtrain’s newly de-renovated Subterranean basement space beneath the record store, a limited edition vinyl LP when it is released this fall, a free copy of the band’s latest EP, and the general feeling of goodwill that comes with supporting local music. But Sunday night had layers—layers that cut a broad swathe through the musical landscape of Salt Lake City and spoke to the interconnectivity between bands, fans, and a forward thinking record store at the center of this close-knit community. Sunday night was as much about Slowtrain as it was about The Devil Whale.
Rolling out the red shower curtains to the newly minted Subterranean, storeowners Chris and Anna Brozek played MC to a packed venue on a Sunday night. Slowtrain, which celebrated it’s fourth birthday that night, is also the genesis behind The Devil Whale’s latest album to be released on wax later this year. The Devil Whale is the first band signed to Chris and Anna’s recently launched Slowtrain Records. In many ways this was a celebration of the one-for-one relationship that Slowtrain has with its clientele, a relationship that has spurred Slowtrain into a position to go beyond being an outlet to buy local music and into the realm of offering their meager resources and well-established connections to the most success-worthy band in Salt Lake City.
Matt Honus, A.K.A Albino Father, A.K.A the new guy who works at Slowtrain, opened the show with a restrained blend of tuneful acoustic strummers. David Williams, a well-recognized and well-regarded voice in Salt Lake took the stage after Honus. It never ceases to amaze me how musicians who make a living playing music can still wring every ounce of emotion out of a song they have played hundreds of times. David Williams certainly did not hold back, filling every crevice of his structurally sparse songs with throat-tightening yelps and a steady, unadorned voice.
The Devil Whale’s EP Young Wives is a distinct move away from their musically tight and romantically weary 2008 release Like Paraders. On first blush the EP sounds incredibly loose, like it could fly apart at any given moment, but a dedicated listen finds the Devil Whale at their most architecturally sound, layering feedback and varied instrumentation over a steady backbone of hook-filled, classic rock-inspired Americana-pop. The Devil Whale sauntered through a couple of tracks off the EP, punctuating them with moments of gang-shouts, guitar solos, and distortion-conjuring breakdowns. The Devil Whale played loose, showcasing new band member Jamie Timm’s impressive guitar chops and keyboardist/auxiliary drummer Josh McCafferty’s church organ swells. After a round of songs off the new album (which sounded remarkably good), a few old favorites, and a cover of Velvet Underground’s “Ride Into The Sun” The Devil Whale retired for a brief intermission and the Subterranean dwellers shuffled upstairs for relief into the air-conditioned record store.
Round two found The Devil Whale revisiting a similar formula as their first set: hitting their highest notes on their busier, noisier, more experimental new tracks, and confidently playing to huge returns with their older, more well-known material. One highlight was a spontaneous, never-before-attempted, duet between frontman Brinton Jones and his younger sister Sarah during “Butter For Burns.” This expression of familial love brought the emotional depth of the song—piled atop of an already emotionally saturated night—to a head. Feelings were palpable, but reached their cathartic climax during another impromptu performance to close the show. Glade Sowards was called up from his comfortable position as spectator to perform “Beautiful Night“ with David Williams, Jesse Ellis and various Devil Whales as his backing band. That performance, coupled with the logistics that made this night possible, made apparent the democratic and altruistic connection between musicians, fans, and record label/record store that is in/around/ part of the Salt Lake City musical community—A beautiful night indeed.