EL TEN ELEVEN, THE URBAN LOUNGE, Saturday, 9 p.m., $14
It’s tough to come up with a label worthy of the mighty sound conjured by two-piece band El Ten Eleven. Some call their brand on intrumental rock “ambient,” others call it “post-rock,” some simply call it “experimental.” That’s probably the most accurate term, given the array of sounds that the bassist/guitarist Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty are able to create live on stage, without any laptops, click tracks or additional musicians necessary. If you’ve never seen them, you’ll be shocked it’s only two dudes on stage. The band’s latest release is an EP called For emily, and the title track is dedicated to a friend who died last year. Other new songs are similarly dedicated to people from the duo’s lives, and the set is a nice addition to an impressive catalog that is now five full-length albums deep. Bronze Whale opens the show.
Just when you think Utah County might actually be a part of Western Civilization, you read a story like this:
Last weekend, Judy Cox was shocked to see mildly racy T-shirts from the Visual by Van Styles line, displayed in the PacSun store window at University Mall in Orem. She determined they were “pornographic” and asked they be taken down—which didn’t happen.
“This is hard to police because of freedom of speech,” mall manager Rob Kallas, told the Provo Daily Herald.
So, Cox bought all the T-shirts at $27.50 a pop—a total of $567. That’ll teach ‘em.
And, yes, the T-shirts shown here are representative of the steamiest.
Cox says she considered destroying them, but instead, “I’ll let their corporate office figure out what to do with them when I return them on day 59 of a 60-day return policy.” (Does anyone want to predict a 20 percent-off sale on certified “infamous porn shirts”? Think what they’ll sell for on Ebay!).
Reports the Daily Herald: “Cox said she was so concerned about the promotion and the “pornographic” material that she has contacted two national organizations, Women for Decency and One Million Moms. Both organizations have had success in stopping the spread of indecent material and subject matter on TV, in movies and in print media.”
DIFFERENT=AMAZING, ROSE WAGNER PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, Saturday, Feb. 22, Noon, Free
When it comes to taking an anti-bullying message to Utah school kids via live theater, Plan-B Theatre Company is a natural fit. The company specializes in Utah-born and bred stories, and for this show that will tour 30 elementary schools over the next month or so, playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett drew on real bullying stories submitted by students at SLC’s Mountain View Elementary School, as well as his own childhood experiences from the playground, to create a two-person show full of anti-bullying scenes and monologues that will be delivered by actors Tyson Baker and Latoya Rhodes. Directed by Jerry Rapier, the 45-minute production will mostly be seen in schools in Salt Lake and Davis Counties, but it also includes free public performances in Salt Lake City this weekend, and at Ogden’s Good Theatre Company, 260 25th St., on March 1 at noon and March 3 at 7 p.m. While the public performances are free, they do require a ticket–available through the Plan-B website.
A motley gang of about 30 shivering people, many wrapped in blankets, were waiting for the summer Solstice sunrise. Let’s face it, four sections of concrete culvert scattered in the desert near the ghost town of Lucin is not all that impressive—let alone meaningful, when a freezing wind is whipping across the desert. Small wonder few Utahns have experienced it.
The group that dawn included a young family who had changed their surname to Gaia and a retired “desert rat” from Nevada. We watched in suspense as the daylight climbed a ridge behind us while the sun itself hid behind a mountain range to the east. Then suddenly the sun popped out and crawled atop a nipple-shaped peak. Its warming light streamed perfectly through the center of Holt’s tunnels. Just as it does, without fail, twice every year.
The bloody sky and solar disc were staggeringly beautiful, but that was the least of it. Revealed to the crowd was the clockwork intricacy of the cosmos. That the whirling stars, moon and sun foretell the seasons and set the pace of life is something our ancestors understood intimately, but it’s something we’ve mostly forgotten—we’ve been separated from it by technology, artificial light and vinyl siding.
Nancy Holt died last week, she was 75. It’s unfortunate that Holt is best known as the wife of Robert Smithson who created the Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake 40 miles south of her Sun Tunnels. (Smithson was killed in a plane crash in 1973 about the time Holt began Sun Tunnels.) Holt’s land art is equal her husband’s—and both are found in northern Utah. Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty require a serious journey to experience and both bring humans back, again and again, (it’s that spiral thing) into alignment with with nature and the awe-inspiring land around us.
Here’s what the Sun Tunnels look like to Google Map‘s eye in the sky.
Prepare for your trip to the Sun Tunnels by spending an afternoon at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts’ new exhibit that creatively explores the land that surrounds us. It includes Great Salt Lake Landscan by the Center for Land Use Interpretation and a new take on Smithson’s creativity by British artist Tacita Dean. The shows end May 4.
One of the most striking things about seeing the Pixies in 2014 is how vital and urgent the band’s old songs remain nearly three decades after their original release. And now that they’ve unleashed new music over the past few months that fits easily alongside the classics, there’s no reason to think the Pixies can’t find a new audience that will revere them as much as the old fans from the ’80s do.
Saturday night’s show at The Great Saltair was full of those older fans, to be sure, but there were also a surprising number of attendees who likely weren’t born when the Pixies released their last proper album, Trompe Le Monde, in 1991. (As I waited in line at Will Call to grab my tickets, three girls around 15 or 16 were trying to remember the words to “Monkey Gone to Heaven”–clearly they’ve been raised right.)
All on hand were treated to a blast through more than two dozen songs touching on all the band’s albums, including several of the new tunes recently released on EP1 and EP2. Black Francis’ voice–his growls, yelps, shouts and screams–remains one of the more singular sounds of any rock band. Combined with Joey Santiago’s surf-y guitar squalls, David Lovering’s creative drum work and touring bassist Paz Lenchantin’s driving playing, that voice led the Pixies through a set that turned the Saltair into a swarming hive of happy fans.
The opening blast of songs was a stunning run through some old favorites, including “Bone Machine,” “Wave of Mutilation,” “UMass,” the band’s cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On,” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven.” It was a thrilling way to get the evening started on the Pixies’ first visit to Salt Lake City since their original reunion tour a decade ago. It also immediately built up some good will for the new songs that many in attendance probably aren’t familiar with yet, although that could change given how great some of the new songs worked during the show.
“Magdalena” was one of the new songs to make an early appearance, and its insistent hooks made it one of the best performances of the night, especially of the new material. “Gouge Away” and “Planet of Sound” bookended another new one, “What Goes Boom,” while the driving new “Blue Eyed Hexe” led into “Crackity Jones” from 1989′s Doolittle.
As the show moved into its second half, older songs dominated. “Caribou” was brilliant, “Here Comes Your Man” led into a killer “La La Love You.” “Nimrod’s Son,” “Velouria,” “Broken Face” and “Debaser” were all excellent. Encores that included the iconic “Where Is My Mind?” and another strong performance of a new song, “Greens and Blues,” put a capper on a brilliant show overall.
There was little in the way of between-song banter from Black Francis; rather, he and the band let the music do all the work, along with a pretty stellar light show, and sound that was better than I expected for the warehouse venue by the Great Salt Lake. Surely some were bummed the band didn’t play its ode to the Saltair, “Palace of the Brine,” but that’s a pretty minor quibble. And while the bubbly on-stage presence of long-time bassist Kim Deal is missed, Lenchantin had no problem filling her spot vocally or on bass. If making her a full-time member of the band is an option, it’s one Francis, Santiago and Lovering should consider.
No matter what the future, Saturday’s gig sure seemed to show that the band has a bright one if it wants to continue. Black Francis has said he’s finished as a solo artist, preferring to work with the Pixies from here on out. Let’s hope that’s true. We can all use more shows like the one they delivered Saturday night.
LUCIUS, THE STATE ROOM, Friday, Feb. 14, 9 p.m., Sold out
If you’re a fan of classic pop and female vocalists harmonizing in clever ways, find yourself a way to get some tickets to this sold-out Lucius show Friday night. I’m late to the party on this band, and am SO happy to finally be clued in. Co-founders and vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig sing in unison, creating a remarkable–hell, unforgettable–sound in the process. Backed by multi-instrumentalists Andrew Burri, Peter Lalish and Dan Molad, Lucius collectively makes evocative music that both transports the listener to a golden era of pop, and showcases a modern twist on the form at that same time, via percussion-heavy nuggets just perfect for Valentine’s Day lovers out there. The band’s debut album, Wildewoman, arrived in October, and is well worth checking out for inspiration, as is the band’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert and KEXP performance. You Won’t opens the show.
THE PIXIES/BEST COAST, THE SALTAIR, Saturday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., $33 advance/$38 day of show
Here’s something to make you feel like you’re getting on in years—the Pixies have been together longer as a “reunion” than they were originally around as a band back in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
When the Boston quartet first got back together in 2004 after an 11-year breakup, they found themselves playing to rabid audiences hankering to hear the spacey, spazzy, utterly singular sound created by the collective talents of singer/guitarist Black Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and bassist Kim Deal.
That first reunion tour, including a mesmerizing show at Kingsbury Hall, was lucrative enough to inspire a number of old “alternative” bands to get back together for their own reunions. And it was musically satisfying enough for the member s of the Pixies to keep them trucking along through giant festival tours in the summer, theater jaunts in the winters, tours where they played entire albums like 1989 classic Doolittle, and any residual personality issues lurking from the old days.
That changed when the band decided they wanted to start making new music again and headed to England in the fall of 2012 to record with producer Gil Norton, the man they worked with on The Pixies’ Doolittle, Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde albums. Shortly after arriving, Deal told the other Pixies she was quitting and going home, leaving the remaining trio in the lurch.
To the chagrin of some long-time fans, the remaining Pixies decided to continue without Deal’s participation. And while it was hard to imagine The Pixies without her breath-y harmonies and grinning stage presence, the results of those recording sessions with Norton that have been released so far as EP1 and EP2—each including four songs—showcase a band with plenty of life remaining.
“We’ll always have that sonic signature,” said Santiago in an interview, describing the results of the band’s first batch of new songs—save a one-off release, “Bam Thwok” a few years back—in more than 20 years. “Nothing really changes.”
As much as Deal might be missed, listening to Black Francis’ howl, Santiago’s slithering guitar parts and Lovering’s intricate percussion helps one remember that the Pixies sound remains as distinct as ever. Despite inspiring countless bands with their so-called “loud-soft-loud” dynamic, no one else sounds like the Pixies. That’s as true on new songs like “Andro Queen,” “Blue Eyed Hexe” and “Magdalena” as it was on old ones like “Wave of Mutilation,” “Where Is My Mind?” and “UMass.”
One significant difference between Pixies Mach 2014 and the old days is that the band is putting out its new music on its own, rather than through a label. And releasing the music in small-batch EPs is a realization by the band that people just don’t consume music the same way they used to, even though, as Santiago notes, “the EP concept is an old concept. People used to just release singles.”
“It’s great because we can drop [the new music] out of the sky and not tell people when it’s going to get released,” Santiago said of the first two EPs, launched just a few months apart. There are still enough songs for at least one more EP to come from those 2012 sessions.
Still, Santiago admits that, as a fan, he prefers album-length releases—and having them come on actual vinyl.
“I’m a vinyl enthusiast,” Santiago said. “I’m pretty snobby. I want everything to be designed for a totally analog system. In that respect, I’m into the album as a piece of art. I like to hold it. I like the physical aspect of it.”
That’s part of the reason the vinyl versions of the new EPs, complete with killer cover art, are the best way to experience the new sounds. But The Pixies are covering their bases—you can find them for cheap digitally, and they’ve even made some videos for new songs.
Along with a massive North American tour to support the new music, this year The Pixies are touring in places they’ve never gone, including a number of spots in South America where, Santiago said, the fans online seem particularly “ravenous.”
Filling the bass spot for the tour is Paz Lenchatin, a remarkable multi-instrumentalist who has played bass in some stellar alt-rock bands with strong frontmen—A Perfect Circle with Maynard James Keenan and Zwan with Billy Corgan. She joins after Deal’s initial tour replacement for 2013, Kim Shattuck, was suddenly dismissed from band last fall. Santiago said Lenchatin slipped easily into the role when the band started rehearsals for this winter’s tour.
“The first practice we ever had with her, she knew every song,” Santiago said. “She learned 55 Pixies songs before we ever played with her.”
Those songs should come in handy as reviews of The Pixies shows so far this winter indicate gigs with up to 30 songs, including plenty of the new ones alongside the older favorites.
With Best Coast opening, and more than two hours on tap of some of the best modern rock ever created by Santiago and Co., expect a memorable Saturday night at The Saltair.