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Music Review: A wealth and range of talent at Kilby Court, Gallivan

August 2nd, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Max Parker Dahl

SALT LAKE CITY—Reviews from unlikely venues that are exquisitely unique.

I will admit that I’m not cool. Incriminating evidence; my first concert in Kilby Court was Tuesday. I have seen concerts at every other Salt Lake/Utah County—starting at the Utah Fairgrounds at the 2004 Warped Tour.  Ex post facto, I should’ve been introduced to the scene at either Kilby Court or the Gallivan Center, two welcoming venues for curious but inexperienced concert goers.

Kilby Court is a quaint garage, in a dumpy area; the kind of dark, dream street that high school kids dream about moving into after graduation. Kids rave about Kilby Court, because it is like a tree-house where you see your first naked girl, smoke your first cigarette, or attend your first concert. Thinking about it, I probably witnessed first-hand all of those landmarks.

The garage has been cleared out and fitted with a stage where I can imagine the lawnmowers and power tools were wont to occupy. It reminds me of childhood further because of the swamp cooler blowing musty air from a hole in the ceiling, and the lighting is provided by a string of Christmas lights, doubled back on itself for double lamination. There is a fireplace outside and a few structures that serve as an entrance gate and merchandise dispensary/greenroom for artists.

Another damning fact to kill my cool; I still like music from four years ago. I went into a musical coma that lasted two years that started in 2007, and the last concert I attended before closing my ears was Scary Kids Scaring Kids with supporting acts Four Letter Lie, Pierce the Veil and The Dear Hunter. It was my first time seeing any of these particular acts, but I came with intent to rock out to the Dear Hunter. Being obsessed with The Dear Hunter after listening to their Act I and II end-to-end while saving pennies for my mission, I started a mosh-pit that bloodied a nose or two.

I was cool back then. I was turned to the band by the news that lead-singer Casey Crescenzo had left The Receiving End of Sirens. I was validated in my obsession by Alternative Press magazine, who named them one of the “100 Bands You Need to Know for 2007.” I was floored by their ambition to tackle styles and subjects with eloquence and excellent assonance.

Why does any of that matter? It doesn’t; but like indulging a senile senior, I appreciate the courtesy of being uninterrupted in recollecting my glory days. In short, I really like the sound and thought behind The Dear Hunter.

Recently, the band has recorded an EP for each color of the visible light spectrum—think of a rainbow, and add white and black—making nine in total. They range in emotion and intensity, and select representations have been dropped into The Color Spectrum album that was released June 14.

They are on tour with Naïve Thieves, O Brother, and Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground to support their latest album, and they happened to breeze into the back-alley that hides the Kilby Court Venue.

The musicians were unpretentious and spoke with anyone keen enough to recognize them throughout the evening. The entrance was barren—no security, no TSA pat down—just a cute girl collecting money and stamping hands. Spectators came and went as they pleased, in out and around the venue. Musicians schlepped their own instruments and equipment, sold their own merchandise, and were literally at arm’s reach the entire evening.

The acts were a splinter of the various musical styles that The Dear Hunter effortlessly embodies.

Naïve Thieves looked like the progression of man through the eyes of a razor company; bearded, trimmed, 5 o’clock shadow, and immaculately waxed mustache. Their music was light and reminded me of a modern mentality captured by the Beach Boys.

O Brother is a group from Atlanta with a haunting, long, heavy sound. “They are like the new Deftones,” said Dear Hunter bassist Nick Sollecito, who chatted with us for more than an hour.

Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground is the product of Gatsby’s American Dream’s dissolution, and their stage experience got the nervous crowd to shuffle their feet and self-consciously nod their heads.

The Dear Hunter showed sincere appreciation for the support, and took the opportunity to play many newer tracks from their Spectrum recordings.

I took opportunity to test the acoustics outside the barn, next to the fire pit, and was surprised to distinctly hear what was happening inside. Probably not a selling point for crotchety neighbors, but I found it a welcome break from the blare of the music and musty air.

The Gallivan Center is a tiny park space nestled between high-rises in downtown Salt Lake that is a better fit for the suited professionals. It is close to public transportation routes and familiar sites; Kilby is more like a fight club, where you have to know somebody who has been there before.

The acts that played at the Gallivan Center are rising stars on the musical map, a more mainstream folk feel: Jessica Lea Mayfield and The Avett Brothers.

Jessica Lea Mayfield possessed a meekness and sound quality that projected a “psychedelic-folk” sound. Her vibrant pink hair was less Nicki Minaj bubble gum, more punk rock—I’m picturing Chris Conley of Saves the Day, or a lawn flamingo. The echoing feedback of disconnected grunts of guitar work and industrial harmonies seemed brave, like putting Dolly Parton at the microphone at an Alice in Chains concert. They had a smattering of Americana, playing stereotypes out in their outfits and lyrics. It was admirable, without being memorable.

Mayfield has been celebrated as one of the hot ticket new artists, but I couldn’t get into the groove of her music; it is melancholy at best, depressing and reclusive at par.

The Avett Brothers were prompt in their entrance to the stage, and without much presumption. They took stage with faith that things were tuned and prepared. They played a majority of their 2009 I and Love and You, and blasted crowd pleasers from their prior efforts. The energy from the crowd, their dancing and singing and laughing, combined with the group on stage was enough to drive away the rain.

“I’m certain you brought the sunshine,” said Seth Avett. “It looks like afternoon out there,” he said as 9 p.m. rolled around.

There is a reason The Avett Brothers have three volumes of live performances, and people like me continue to buy them.

Brothers Seth and Scott have a raw quality in their performance, and an emotional core to their songs. They write songs about the things they see daily and how it influences them. There are many songs devoted to “Pretty Girl at the Airport” or “Pretty girl from Chile” or “…San Diego” or “…Annapolis” or “…Cedar Lane” or “Letter to a Pretty Girl.” Their personal experiences create songs fundamentally different from the Dear Hunter, and therefore draw a different energy.

With the strained voices from touring, energy from the content of their songs, involuntary movements, improvisational additions and having bassist Bob Crawford take a crack at verses in various songs, The Avett Brother frenzied the crowd with their ballads. It was wild to see.

The food vendors at the Gallivan Center sold artisan pizza and Mexican drafts, the space was open-aired and clean, security strewn throughout the venue regulated umbrellas and lawn-chairs provided a semblance of safety—although I couldn’t possible see an Avett fan going postal. Nothing of the sort was provided at Kilby Court, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

There were five or six moments of mind-numbing feedback, but the audio otherwise was excellent at the Gallivan Center. There are a few acoustical dead-spots in Kilby’s shed, but the sound technician was able to keep the audio from squealing uncontrollably.

The Gallivan has a diverse spread of talent, eager to tap every market. I’m amused at a venue holding events for Adele, Slightly Stoopid, and Willie Nelson in the same summer season. Kilby Court is less choosy with their talent, and my brother’s band will actually be playing later in the season.

Both venues attracted a crowd of practical and friendly folks who appreciated the music, and have not been corrupted with mob-mentality that prevails at larger venues. If you find yourself at either fringe of the listening spectrum between rising and falling popularity, both venues provide a unique and personalized synesthesia that acts as a gateway-drug to larger and more epic concert experiences.



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