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SLCene Suggests: Artful Afternoon at Utah Museum of Fine Arts

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ARTFUL AFTERNOON: ART AT 100, UTAH MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, Saturday, July 19, 1 p.m.-4 p.m., Free

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is in the midst of a year-long celebration of its 100th year on the University of Utah campus, and the party extends to its regular Artful Afternoon programming. Artful Afternoons are a twice-yearly family-focused day-time party that lets old and young explore all the museum has to offer while getting their own hands dirty in creating some artwork themselves. The activities on Saturday will fill the galleries as well as the museum patio, gift shop and auditorium, and will include story time at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., film screenings at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., “highlights of the collection” tours every half-hour, as well as fingerprint art, chalk drawing and treasure hunts. Consider it a primo opportunity to introduce kids and friends to one of Salt Lake City’s cultural gems, while having a free and fun afternoon, too.

Concert review: Jurassic 5 at The Complex

(left to right) Chali 2Na, Zaakir, Marc 7 and Akil of Jurassic 5

(left to right) Chali 2Na, Zaakir, Marc 7 and Akil of Jurassic 5

Fans of L.A. hip-hop crew Jurassic 5 probably didn’t realize the group was celebrating their 20th anniversary on their current tour across the states. The fact the original sextet was reuniting for the first time since splitting in 2007 was the only reason needed to party for the group’s return.

Salt Lake City has always seemed to have an affinity for the group. During the original run of the band from the late ’90s into the mid-’00s, the collective made up of rappers Chali 2Na, Akil, Zaakir and Marc 7 and DJs Cut Chemist and Nu Mark played to progressively bigger audiences here in Zion, moving from Warped Tour daytime sets on small stages to clubs and then theaters like Kingsbury Hall.

The room they played at The Complex Tuesday night might be the biggest they’ve done yet in SLC, and they needed every inch of the space for the folks nearly filling the place for the Word of Mouth tour that also featured Dilated Peoples, Beat Junkies and MC Supernatural–a rerun of sort of a 2000 tour that also stopped in Utah.

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The energy of the fans Tuesday was undeniable, but the cavernous space didn’t do the sound any favors. A major appeal of Jurassic 5 is the vocal interplay between the four rappers, including some honest-to-God harmonizing rarely heard in their peers, but much of the vocal dexterity on display on stage was lost in the sound mix.

That was definitely a bummer, but the fans knew the words to old favorites like “After School Special,” “Quality Control” and “I Am Somebody,” and they chanted along in unison with the men on stage while they waved their arms and bobbed their heads to the beats dropped by Cut Chemist and Nu Mark.

As always, the two world-class turntablists were given ample opportunity to show off their skills in building some crazy sounds out of all manner of equipment. “Desk (Hip Hop History)” featured Nu Mark turning an old high school desk into a live instrument, pounding out beats on the wired metal-and-wood chair. Later, the two strapped turntables around their necks like they were guitars for a musical duel at center stage while the rappers took a break, before turning the seemingly decorative giant J5 record on stage into a massive working turntable useful for scratching.

Chali 2Na gave the Utah audience props for the enthusiasm, and it was a constant as Jurassic 5 ripped through a slew of songs, moving from one to the next quickly and rarely taking a breath between. “Concrete Schoolyard,” “High Fidelity,” “Freedom” and “The Influence” were all highlights, despite the booming sound often washing out the rappers’ lyrics.

It was a good time despite the audio issues, and hopefully the reunion is an ongoing project for the members of Jurassic 5. I, for one, would love the chance to see them again in a venue where the sound can match the skills on stage.

Concert review: The Hold Steady at The Urban Lounge

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Let’s start it with a positive jam.

Always a good idea, and even more so when one of your band’s most popular songs among old-school fans is, yes, “Positive Jam.”

The Hold Steady, being no dummies, launched their show on a Monday night in Salt Lake City–historically no easy sell, no matter the band–with a clarion call of “Positive Jam,” “Stuck Between  Stations” and “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You,” a strong mix of old and new from the New York-based crew.

If you weren’t completely on board by the end of that three-song blast to start the show, then you probably were in the wrong place Monday night. The Hold Steady delivered a show at The Urban Lounge that was inspiring for modern-music cynics and a reminder of what killer, straightforward rock and roll is capable of in the right hands.

Frontman Craig Finn and his cohorts in The Hold Steady certainly qualify as “the right hands.” Consummate pros in rocking a crowd, The Hold Steady boys delved into all aspects of their decade-long existence over the course of about two dozen songs. The crowd, surprisingly not a sell-out, ate it up gladly, singing along throughout and waving their drinks in the air in time to the riffs of “You Can Make Him Like You,” “The Swish,” “Sequestered in Memphis” and “Rock and Roll Problems.”

Just look at this shot of the crowd around mid-show mid-show:

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That frenzied scene in front of the stage was pretty much the norm as Finn jerked around the space like the powerful music was giving him seizures. He had a smile on his face all night, and for good reason–the crowd on hand was feeding off his energy and giving it back ten-fold.

The band ripped through a stellar set of favorites, from new songs like “Spinners” and “The Ambassador” from their most recent album, Teeth Dreams, to older fare like “Chips Ahoy,” “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” and the appropriately epic “Massive Nights.”

Finn was in primo rock-evangelist form, exhorting the crowd to sing along and leading his charges through a genuinely thrilling set. He acknowledged the giant posse in the audience wearing home-made t-shirts decorated with Hold Steady lyrics, and delivered on all fronts as a band leader, singer and circus ringleader.

Stretching nearly two hours after their opening notes, the band tackled songs like “Southtown Girls,” “Stay Positive” and “Killer Parties” as they worked their way through a fiery encore as energetic as the main set.

Killer show from beginning to end, courtesy of a band seemingly incapable of putting in a boring night’s work.

SLCene Suggests: Jurassic 5 at The Complex

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JURASSIC 5, THE COMPLEX, Tuesday, July 15, 7 p.m., $30

There was a period of a couple years back in the early ’00s when LA hip-hoppers Jurassic 5 were probably one of my favorite few artists. The four rappers in the group were adept at trading vocals and rocking a crowd–particularly the towering, deep-voiced Chali 2Na–but it was the two DJs who really drew me in. Watching Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark trading beats from their respective turntables was amazing, and they were superstars as transfixing as the men out front–2Na, Akil, Zaakir and Marc 7. They had a stretch around the release of their 2000 gem Quality Control when they came through town regularly, playing everywhere from Kingsbury Hall to Harry O’s (now Park City Live) to the Warped Tour at the fair grounds, and I went end saw them at every opportunity. My only trip to the Coachella music fest was driven largely Jurassic 5’s presence on the bill (as well as solo tent sets by the two DJs). After making a couple more albums in the mid-’00s, the sextet split until a Coachella reunion set in 2013. This summer, they are on the road with the same crew of like-minded rap veterans as they toured with in 2000–Dilated Peoples, Beat Junkies and MC Supernatural. I believe this lineup was at In The Venue on that tour, if memory serves. This gig at The Complex should make for a killer night of old-school skills.

 

SLCene Suggests: The Hold Steady at The Urban Lounge

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THE HOLD STEADY, THE URBAN LOUNGE, Monday, July 14, 9 p.m., $22

Few bands are as revered in my household as this crew. I even have an autographed poster from a long-ago show in Montana hanging on the wall of my living room. For the past decade, The Hold Steady’s straightforward rock sound and frontman Craig Finn’s incredible ways with lyrical narratives have combined to make them critical favorites and one of the best live bands working today. The band formed in 2003, and my own fandom started in 2006 when the Brooklyn crew released their album Boys and Girls in America.  It was a brilliant collection of songs that referenced everything from Jack Kerouac to rock festival medical tents to Finn’s Catholic upbringing. Seeing the band play live the first time was an eye-opening experience, as Finn channeled Bruce Springsteen’s rock and roll evangelist stage persona at an indie-rock, club-sized level.  Now entering their second decade as a band, The Hold Steady released a new album earlier this year called Teeth Dreams, the band’s sixth overall. It’s a more guitar-oriented, raucous affair than the band’s past few efforts, at that’s a good thing. Cheap Girls open the show.

Concert review: Avett Brothers at Red Butte Garden

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Everything about the Avett Brothers has gotten bigger since I last saw them at their rain-soaked Gallivan Center show in 2011, and that was obvious watching their sold-out gig at Red Butte Garden Wednesday night.

The band’s set was super-sized, reaching nearly 30 songs by show’s end. Their sound has expanded beyond their acoustic roots into even more bombastic, electrified rock (at times). And that increasingly epic sound is made possible by the addition of three extra musicians to the core Avett Brothers four of Seth and Scott Avett, bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon.

The inclusion of a full-time drummer, fiddler and pianist/organ player to the touring Avett Brothers lineup allowed Seth and Scott to inhabit their co-frontmen roles to the nth degree Wednesday night. The Avetts have always been an insanely energetic live show, and that energy feeds a frenzied fanbase that has also increased in size dramatically the past few years. Now, with seven musicians on stage and a large catalog to draw from, Seth and Scott reveled in dancing around the stage, exhorting the crowd to sing along and goading their backing musicians to let their own showmanship shine.

Wednesday’s show built from an acoustic foundation early on–via show opener “Live and Die” and songs like “Paronia i n B Major,” “Go to Sleep” and “Down with the Shine”–into a cacophonous ending of songs like old fave “Kick Drum Heart” before the band even reached the encore.

Sidenote: the rain held off through the entire show, literally until the band left the stage just before the encore. I was packing and running for the exit when the band’s first encore song offered one of the best surprises of the night–a cover of Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in Line (Shake Shake, Senora),” a tune Danny Elfman joyfully adapted for the Beetlejuice soundtrack. Another fun surprise was a verse of The Jeffersons theme song when opener Nicole Atkins joined the Avetts on stage toward show’s end.

The Avett Brothers don’t spend a lot of time chatting up the crowd, aside from the requisite “thank you” and “we’re glad to be back” kind of stuff, but that certainly doesn’t detract from their shows–all the more time for music. The crowd was rapturous from the start, staying on its feet as the band veered from delicate balladry to roadhouse stompers, touching on a range of genres along the way.

The highlights were numerous. “Pretty Girl from Chile” early on was beautifully done. “Paul Newman vs. The Demons” got the band into full “rock” mode for the first time. “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” from the band’s I and Love and You album was a epic performance, as always. “When I Drink,” “I Killed Sally’s Lover,” “Love Like the Movies” and “Slight Figure of Speech” all killed.

Things got a bit sloppy at show’s end, both on stage and among the drunken crowd suddenly facing a rainstorm. But there’s no denying both band and fans walked away happy from what is sure to be remembered among Utah Avett Brothers as probably their best show here to date.  It was definitely the “biggest,” in myriad ways.

 

SLCene Suggests: Bob Weir & Ratdog at Red Butte Garden

Photograph by Ashley Jordan Gordon, copyrighted

BOB WEIR & RATDOG, RED BUTTE GARDEN, Thursday, July 10, 6:30 p.m., $55

You don’t need to be a Grateful Dead fan to appreciate the scene that has supported that band and its members’ various side projects. When Jerry Garcia died, those projects became the primary means for the surviving members to keep playing music, and for the fans to keep their connection to the Dead alive. For singer/songwriter/guitarist Bob Weir, the primary outlet has been Ratdog, a remarkably skilled clan of players who join Weir for songs old and new, including some mean cover tunes. Suffice to say, Red Butte Garden will be a serious party zone Thursday night when Weir and Ratdog take over for a full night under the stars–no opener necessary.

 

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