The first impressions I got of Lydia Loveless were from writers trying to describe the sound of the 23-year-old Ohio songwriter’s new Somewhere Else album, and most of them dropped names like The Replacements and the Pretenders, Springsteen and Stevie Nicks in their efforts. Naturally, I was intrigued enough to get a copy of Somewhere Else, and I can safely say I’ll be shocked if the set doesn’t end up on my list of fave 2014 releases. It’s her fourth album, and her sonic palette has already expanded dramatically from the honky-tonk vibes of the older releases I delved into after falling for Somewhere Else. The chemistry with long-time band members Ben Lamb (bass) and Todd May (guitar/vocals) is readily evident, and new drummer Nick German fits right in as Loveless and Co. tackle an array of roots and rock moves. There are two great options for seeing Loveless on Wednesday, either at a free in-store gig at The Heavy Metal Shop at 5 p.m., or a few hours later at The Garage.
One of the major components of the Utah summer concert scene revealed a slate that runs the gamut of musical styles, and includes genuinely thrilling headliners Punch Brothers and Muscle Shoals Live with Lisa Fischer (recently seen stealing the spotlight in the Oscar-winning doc Twenty Feet from Stardom.
Park City Institute’s St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights shows at Deer Valley typically are some of the best concert experiences one can have in Utah. The beautiful setting, the coolers-friendly guest policy and consistently diverse lineups have to thrill Park City locals, and are certainly a draw for SLC dwellers as a fine way to get out of the heat in the valley. This year, the acts run from country and bluegrass to pop and rock, and there is still one more yet to be announced.
Tickets for this summer’s shows go on sale to members of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation on Wednesday, April 9, and to the public on Wednesday, April 16. Visit the organization’s site to buy a membership and for more information on the shows.
Here’s the lineup for 2014:
The Bacon Brothers, June 28, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Punch Brothers (pictured), July 6, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Dierks Bentley, July 24, $65-$85 reserved/ $45 lawn
Kix Brooks, July 31, $65-$85 reserved/ $45 lawn
Muscle Shoals Live and Lisa Fischer, Aug. 3, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Five for Fighting, Aug. 16, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Trampled by Turtles, Aug. 19, $55-$75 reserved/$40 lawn
Nashville Cafe, Aug. 23, $65-$85 reserved/ $45 lawn
Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers, Aug. 30, $65-$85 reserved/ $45 lawn
BLUE MAN GROUP, KINGSBURY HALL, Tuesday, April 1-Sunday, April 6, various times, $32.50-$69.50 (depending on show time)
There’s a tendency to think that if you’ve seen one Blue Man Group show, you’ve seen them all. And there are certainly common themes that run through different shows and tours of the group through the years–the inherent innocence of the three painted men on stage, their naivete when it comes to the technology we see as commonplace, the percussion-as-language approach to their performances. Even so, it’s impossible to feel like what you’re witnessing on stage is anything but fresh and exciting. That was certainly my feeling watching opening night of the Blue Man Group’s current Salt Lake City visit, running through Sunday and including matinees on the weekend. The combination of flying paint, intricate lights and electronic effects and the trio’s stage movements made for a riveting 100 or so minutes of live performance. At times it felt like a rock concert, at others a late-night dance club or a sci-fi jazz joint of the future. Interactivity with the audience is a must at a Blue Man Group show, and it was no different at Kingsbury Hall thanks to segments of the show dedicated to “Digital Age Brain Building Exercises” or “modern plumbing.” A couple different audience members were pulled to the stage to join the fray, and the Blue Men often wandered out into the audience. At various points, you could hear both children and adults yelling requests toward the stage–yes, this is a “show for all ages.” And one well worth checking out in the cozy confines of Kingsbury. (Photos by Paul Kolnik)
Playwright Ira Levin’s Deathtrap has a bit of everything. Humor. Action. A mystery that genuinely leaves the audience guessing more than once along the way of its two acts.
In the hands of Pioneer Theatre Company and director May Adrales, it also has the benefit of a production that holds up its end of the bargain with the thriller’s witty script. Taking full advantage of Pioneer’s sprawling stage to create the study of writer Sidney Bruhl’s Connecticut home, the story unfolds with a winning combination of lighting effects and music, an array of murderous props and characters who are engaging from beginning to end.
I’ll avoid all spoilers here, but the essential set-up of the plot is this: Sidney Bruhl (Thom Sesma) and Myra Bruhl (Gayton Scott) are living in the Connecticut house as Sidney struggles to recapture his past success as a playwright best known for penning thrillers. Out of the blue, a young writer named Clifford Anderson (Devin Norik), who once took a seminar from Sidney, has sent the elder playwright a script for a thriller so good that the Bruhls start to joke about murdering the young man and taking credit for his work.
Or were they joking?
That’s one of the big questions lurking as Anderson comes to visit the Connecticut home, ostensibly to workshop his script with his mentor. Watching things unfold from there is a lot of fun–it’s easy to understand why Levin’s play was a critical and commercial hit in the early ’80s, running on Broadway for four years and being adapted into a 1982 feature film.
Pioneer’s Deathtrap moves along at a pleasingly rapid clip, and it works on a lot of levels–that’s as true now as it was more than 30 years ago.
As a commentary on the desperation of struggling artists, it’s pretty hilarious. As a example of the kind of thriller Anderson and Bruhl are intent on creating, it’s full of startling revelations and winning plot twists. And as simply a fine night of entertainment at the theater.
Pioneer Theatre Company’s Deathtrap runs through April 12. Visit the Pioneer website for showtimes, tickets and more information. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Theatre Company.
STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS, THE URBAN LOUNGE, Thursday, April 3, 9 p.m., $25 at the door
To those of us of a certain ilk, Stephen Malkmus has a lifetime pass as indie-rock royalty. The esteem in which he’s held by Pavement lovers is such that his post-Pavement career has been overlooked and underappreciated in many ways. I’m part of that problem myself–I always make a point of listening to anything Malkmus puts out, but I still spin to my Pavement albums WAY more than I listen to Malkmus’s later work, as much as I dig his self-titled 2001 set, and 2008′s Real Emotional Trash. His latest release with backing band The Jicks, Wig Out at Jagbags, is yet another collection of tasty guitar jams and engaging (and often funny) lyrics, and you can expect to hear a heavy dose of the album Thursday at The Urban Lounge. And while you might not necessarily be listening to Jagbags 10 years from now as you do Slanted and Enchanted or Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, you should still take the time to see Malkmus throw down songs old and new when he comes to town. Speedy Ortiz opens the show.
That’s the first word that comes to mind after witnessing St. Vincent’s headlining show at The Depot Friday night.
The sonic experimentation marking the evolution from her older music toward the sounds filling her excellent new self-titled set, as well as her Love This Giant collaboration with David Byrne a couple years back, indicated that her current “Digital Witness Tour” would be an altogether different live experience.
It certainly is that, and then some. As much theater or performance art as rock show, on Friday Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) combined choreography designed by Annie-b Parson (who worked with her and Byrne on their tour) with her stunning voice-and-guitar stylings into a cohesive, visually stunning show that risked being off-putting, but easily avoided that fate through how damn entertaining the whole thing was.
Backed by a sparse three-piece band that included synth player/guitarist Toko Yasuda, keyboardist Daniel Minsteris and drummer Matt Johnson, St. Vincent entered the relatively bare stage in a sort of robotic trance, launching into the throbbing opener on St. Vincent, “Rattlesnake.”
Roughly two-thirds through that song, a guitar seemingly appearing out of nowhere led to the first of several stunning solos that allowed the audience to remember that underneath the carefully cultivated performance, a living, breathing rock star exists. Clark is a passionate player, and those moments were the easiest points for the audience to connect with the artist on stage.
Elsewhere, it was easy to simply get sucked into the spectacle as Clark rolled across a small pyramid-type structure on stage, or danced with Yasuda.
The show included most of St. Vincent‘s songs, as well as some older cuts like “Cheerleader,” “Northern Lights” and the title track from Strange Mercy. Throughout, the music was on point, never getting swallowed by the spectacle. Clark is an artist who knows how to pull a show together, and it’s hard to imagine she’ll ever deliver a boring gig in her life.
Friday night’s show convinced me that I’ll never miss one if I can help it.
As the final production in Plan-B Theatre Company’s “season of Eric,” dedicated to several works by playwright Eric Samuelsen, 3 comes with heightened expectations after the overwhelmingly winning previous shows–Nothing Personal, Radio Hour: Fairyana, and Clearing Bombs.
Taken as a whole, the works have showcased an obviously skilled playwright, one capable of penning works that delve into history and modern life, comedy and drama, with equal effectiveness.
3 might be the most personal of the lot for Samuelsen–a collection of three short plays (Bar & Kell, Community Standard, Duets) revolving around Mormon women dealing with a variety of issues sure to ring true to both active LDS church members and those who simply are familiar with Mormon culture.
Samuelsen, an active member of the church, has created a series of characters who are utterly believable in these three stories, from the busybody ladies trying to “improve” a new young woman who just moved into the neighborhood (Bar & Kell), to the housewife coming to grips with how her husband views her (Community Standard), to the truly kindhearted choir members trying to understand the troubles a friend is having with her husband behind closed doors (Duets).
I’ll admit that as a non-LDS audience member, some moments and dialogue went over my head. But the emotional wallop contained in each of the stories resound with anyone thanks to Samuelsen’s ability to develop fully sketched characters within brief half-hour one-act plays. Even if you don’t understand the ins and outs of ward life, you will understand and empathize with several of the characters on stage.
Besides the script, credit for that goes to the three actresses taking on the challenge of playing multiple roles, often in the same play. Teresa Sanderson, so brilliant in Plan-B’s Eric(a) last season, remains so across these stories, particularly as the overbearing Bar and anti-Mormon Aunt Dot in Bar & Kell. Christy Summerhays shines brightest as Sondra the conflicted wife with a troubled home life in Duets. And Stephanie Howell’s Janeal is devastating in Community Standard, playing a woman coming to terms with her perceived value to her husband and community at large.
All three do solid work bouncing between roles and keeping up with Samuelsen’s dialogue-heavy script. It’s a testament to the playwright, performers and production staff how well-paced and smooth the entire production of 3 is. And after a whole season of Eric, 3 will actually leave the audience wanting more of Samuelsen’s work on the Plan-B stage, and soon.
3 runs Thursdays through Sundays through April 6 at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Check the Plan-B website here for showtimes, tickets and more information. Photo by Rick Pollock.