Saturday, February 7, 2009

Urban Verbs

By the City Weekly Music Awards showcase’s second week, the competitive component comes into sharper relief, yet is heavily blurred at the Urban Lounge. That’s because the three bands playing tonight all share members; not too uncommon in the musically incestuous Salt Lake music scene.

The Future of the Ghost begins the evening, a trio fronted by Kilby Court’s new proprietor Will Sartain. They start off with some urgency, a minimal post-punk sound that recalls Steve Shelly and the Buzzcocks. Lyrics are urgent too: “if you’re gonna take it all off, take it off with me!” Future of the Ghost is the tightest band in town, but it takes a little while before they reach full intensity. Frustration echoes too, “why have I accepted this as my life?”

There is a slow, snarling piece ala Steven Malkmus, another musical touchstone, then a disco number and finally, a little politics: “I hate your $200 jeans and designer hair while we’re paying to fight this war!” And even more: “Who do you hate? Who do you kill? Freakout, freakout!” It took while for Sartain & co. to reach full throttle, but this performance is more intense than previous outings that were perhaps a little too tightly controlled.

Tolchock Trio takes the stage next, on the heels of a year that saw them open for Weezer and release a critically-acclaimed solo album. This is were band lineups commingle, as FoG bassist Tommy Nguyen straps on the Strat to play guitar in this deceptively-names foursome.

The Tolchocks make full use of their two-guitar attack with lots of guitar solos that added another dimension to their songs. “I Don’t Wanna Be In Your Factory” got the full distortion/wawa treatment ala Dinosaur Jr. Ryan Fedor sings in a clear, almost matter-of-fact voice on his songs about fishing, and that serves to heighten the instrumental onslaught. Duel vocals with Fedor and Oliver Lewis also add layers to their music effectively. They started methodically, and by the end of their created a kind of controlled chaos.

Then the Red Bennies, in some ways the most legendary local ‘indie rock’ band. Tolchocks‘ Dan Thomas remains at the drummer‘s seat. This is a vastly different Bennies than in years hence. When did they become a boogie band, in the 70s hard rock sense? They are still heavy, but in exchange for their old edge and rawness, they have a more polished sound. Even Dave Payne’s vocals lack the rasp they once have, and without it he has a pretty astonishing singing voice.

They get into an almost bluesy groove, with an incandescent classic rock style guitar solo by Payne. My god, have they turned into Led Zeppelin? With Terrence Warburton (also in Purr Bats, Vile Blue Shades & who knows what other groups) on keyboards and bassist Scott Selfridge splitting the John Paul Jones roles, Payne is taking on the parts of both Plant and Page, without the vocal histrionics of Plant. They finish on a piece of electric piano pop, “take a look at that face/I’d give you everything you want,” Payne croons, nary a hint of the old Bennies’ sarcasm. This isn’t your father’s Red Bennies, but it’s still one of the most musically gifted combos around.

Don’t forget to vote!
(Brian Staker)

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