CONOR OBERST, RED BUTTE GARDEN, Sunday, Sept. 14, 6:30 p.m., $40
Considering the ridiculous comparisons and expectations heaped on Conor Oberst since he was a teenager leading Omaha band Bright Eyes, it’s remarkable that he’s continued creating must-hear music well into adulthood. I mean, how would YOU like to be compared to Bob Dylan when you’re just figuring out your musical voice? Still only 34, Oberst has two decades of remarkable music already tucked away in his back catalog, as leader of Bright Eyes and Desaparecidos and the Mystic Valley Band, as well as a member of Monsters of Folk with Jim James, Mike Mogis and M. Ward. His third solo album, Upside Down Mountain, came out earlier this year, and offers more evidence that Oberst is a voice with a lot to say musically. He’s also a winning live performer, capable of leading huge ensembles or playing solo sets, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. As a season-capper at Red Butte Garden, he’s a fine choice. Jonathan Wilson opens the show.
Jane Lynch for New Year’s Eve? Cool. Marcia Ball and Elvin Bishop for Valentine’s Day? Pretty sweet. Sam Bush any day you can book him? You betcha.
The Park City Institute announced its lineup for this fall and winter, and it’s easy to see why PCI’s executive director Teri Orr called it the “most ambitious” slate in PCI’s history. The mix of music, dance and spoken word has a little something for all tastes, with shows running from November through April at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets go on sale to PCI members Monday, and to the general public Sept. 22. There’s more information on how to get tickets, prices, etc., below, but first, this season’s stellar lineup:
Nov. 1–Witness Uganda, an award-winning musical headed to Broadway in 2015
Dec. 6–Disney’s Choo Choo Soul “with Genevieve!” is a music-based performance geared toward four- and five-year-olds, who will learn while they are entertained.
Dec. 20–Parsons Dance Company is one of the hottest tickets in contemporary dance, with remarkable athleticism and fluid movements sure to thrill.
Dec. 30–Cirque Mechanics Pedal Punk is basically an on-stage circus, completely on wheels.
Dec. 31–Jane Lynch You know her for her comedic acting roles in Glee or The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but she can sing, too, making this night of comedy and cabaret a sure bet for New Year’s Eve.
Jan. 3–Keb’ Mo’ brings his smooth blues to town.
Jan. 10–Green River Ordinance is a Texas-based quintet playing with classic pop-rock sounds.
Jan. 17–Aoife O’Donovan is the leader of bluegrass band Crooked Still, and she’s performed with the likes of Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile and Yo-Yo Ma.
Feb. 7–MOMIX “Dreamcatcher” is the latest effort to combine dance and illusion from the noted dance troupe.
Feb. 14–Marcia Ball and Elvin Bishop will bring a dash of sultry blues for a romantic night out.
Feb. 21–Lucia Micarelli is a remarkable violinist capable of tackling any genre of music over the course of a show.
Feb. 28–Sam Bush is simply a musical tour de force, a mandolin player who is hard to top whether he’s playing traditional bluegrass or delving into rock.
March 8–L.A. Theatre Works “In the Heat of the Night” brings a classic American story to the Eccles stage.
March 21–Suzanne Vega brings her blend of urbane edge and folk sounds to town for the first time in years.
April 4–Mummenschanz has brought its unique blend of mime and dance to audiences for 40 years.
April 11–Hot Sardines bring the jazz sounds of 1920s Paris to life.
April 18–An Evening with Neil Gaiman features the noteworthy author telling tells and inspiring artists in the audience.
April 25–Alonzo King LINES Ballet brings a mixed repertory of performances to town to cap off the season.
Tickets and Season Punch Cards go on sales to Park City Institute members on September 8 and to the general public on September 22. Tickets may be purchased by calling 435-655-3114, online at www.EcclesCenter.org or at the box office, which is located within The Eccles Center (1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City). Box Office hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; the Box Office is open from noon through show time on the day of a performance.
SYLVAN ESSO, KILBY COURT, Friday, Aug. 29, 7 p.m., $12
Electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso are one of the buzz bands of the year so far, thanks to the strength of a self-titled debut that showcases a savvy way with melody from Amelia Meath and an ornate array of sounds from her partner and producer Nick Sanborn. The set is all the more impressive considering the duo put the songs together in a Durham, North Carolina, bedroom. The multi-layered sounds and lyrics tackling multiple aspects of love and loss make songs like “Hey Mami” and “Play It Right” immediately stand out in a cluttered music landscape. Listening to Sylvan Esso’s set now makes their spring tour opening for like-minded genre-masher tUnEyArDs make a lot of sense. I missed that one–I suggest you make a point of seeing them in the cozy confines of Kilby. Dana Buoy of Akron/Family opens the show.
THE HEAD AND THE HEART, PIONEER PARK, Thursday, Aug. 28, 7 p.m., $5
For Seattle folk-rockers The Head and the Heart, the past five years have been a remarkable blur. And even though the band has grown from an ad hoc collective playing open mic nights into a band capable of headlining for thousands of people at events like the Twilight Concert Series, one has the sense that there is still plenty of exciting things to come from the group. The Head and the Heart recorded their first album before they had a record deal, selling them in handmade denim CD sleeves at shows and at local Seattle record stores. Soon, the stores couldn’t keep them in stock, their shows started drawing huge crowds and a bunch of record labels came calling in hopes of signing the band. They ultimately decided to sign with Seattle label SubPop Records, and their debut was released nationally in 2011. They toured nearly non-stop for almost two years, headlining clubs and opening for the likes of My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists and Vampire Weekend. When they opened for the Dave Matthews Band here in Utah, they added a late-night show at the Urban Lounge after playing at the Usana Amphitheatre in West Valley City, and that not-so-secret gig was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. They should be a fine choice for the finale of this year’s Twilight Concert Series. San Fermin open the show.
If any of the animosity that led Dave Alvin to leave his brother Phil and their old band The Blasters behind back in the ’80s still exists, it was nowhere to be found at the brothers’ incredible show Friday night at The State Room.
Instead, both took turns praising the other–Dave much more often, as Phil saved his voice largely for his killer lead vocals–as the duo tackled songs from their recent collaboration paying homage to blues dude Big Bill Broonzy, Common Ground, as well as plenty of Blasters tunes, songs from Dave Alvin’s lengthy solo career and other covers.
Common Ground is the duo’s first recording together in about 30 years, and the set was full of the Broonzy covers that brought the Alvins back together. That doesn’t mean the music lacked diversity due to its reliance on songs recorded between the 1920s and 1950s. Quite the contrary, the Alvins did excellent work showcasing the wide range of sounds that can fall under the label of “the blues”–even when the songs all come from one artist. Clearly Broonzy was an incredible talent, and he couldn’t find any better advocates than the Alvins to showcase his legacy.
They opened with the first song on the Broonzy set, “All By Myself,” and it was immediately clear that Phil Alvin is in fine voice at 61, while “little brother” Dave, 58, remains a guitar-hero of the roots-rock scene, able to play any style, acoustic or electric, and bring songs to incredible life.
Dave Alvin did the vast majority of the talking between songs, educating the crowd about Broonzy’s influence on he and his brother, and talking about the different styles of music the man incorporated into his music way back when. Phil plays a pretty mean guitar himself, picking at his acoustic with incredibly long fingers when he’s not blasting on a harmonica, as he did on follow-up “Key to the Highway.” In introducing “Saturday Night Rub,” a vibrant instrumental of Broonzy’s, Dave Alvin informed the crowd that “you’re going to hear a lot of different blues in a lot of different styles,” and he wasn’t lying. The Alvins and the Guilty Ones ultimately played more than two hours.
The first non-Broonzy song was a cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Never No More Blues,” a song the Blasters did on their debut album; on Friday, Phil proved a remarkably spry yodeler on its live version. Dave’s “King of California” followed before it was back to more Broonzy as Dave Alvin switched from acoustic guitar to electric for the first time–and stayed there.
“I Feel So Good” and “You’ve Changed” were both excellent, as was “Southern Flood Blues.” The Blasters’ “Border Radio” was easily one of the show’s highlights, in no small part because Dave Alvin told of a Blasters show at the Utah State Fairpark in 1982 that got so crazy, the band jumped in their van after and drove straight back to California rather than spend the night in Utah–“there might have been felonies.”
After telling the crowd the band was going to play extra-long since this was the last tour date for the brothers for a month or so, they ripped through an incredible batch of songs. Phil’s voice stayed true, and Dave’s electric solos just got better and better through songs like “The Stuff They Call Money,” “Truckin’ Little Woman” and “One Bad Stud.”
The encore included a couple of must-plays in “Marie, Marie” and “4th of July,” and the packed venue didn’t seem to lose many fans over the course of the lengthy show. Not only were those on hand treated to an incredible performance–they also got the Alvin brothers to say they plan to make another new album together. That might have been the best thing I heard all night.
THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, THE DEPOT, Friday, July 22, 9 p.m., $20
I never would have thought 20 or so years ago that the Presidents of the United States of America would still be touring in 2014. Even though the Seattle band was massively successful when they burst on the scene with their self-titled debut, their catchy singles like “Lump,” “Peaches” and “Kitty” seemed like they would be most remembered for their quirky videos and subject matter, rather than as the calling cards of a long-running band that has found a new lease on the life the past few years. After spending the better part of a decade apart, the Presidents reformed for sporadic gigs in their hometown before slowly expanding to full-blown U.S. tours. Earlier this year, they released an album of new material, Kudos to You, that captures the trio’s power-pop chops in fine form–just like the old days. July Talk opens the show.
DE LA SOUL, PIONEER PARK, Thursday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m., $5
This has been a big year for the Twilight Concert Series and legendary hip-hop crews. The Wu-Tang Clan came through a few weeks back to deliver their tales of hardened street life. Now comes their stylistic opposites in De La Soul, a trio that helped pioneer a jazz-inflected brand of hip-hop back in the late ’80s that stood out from their pack of peers on Yo! MTV Raps! Originally formed in New York in 1987, the group’s debut album, 3 Feet High & Rising, introduced the world to a visually striking crew who loved bright colors and crazy samples, courtesy of producer Prince Paul. And while that album got more attention that the releases De La Soul have put out since, the trio is consistently one of the most creative hip-hop acts, and a top-notch live attraction as well. They should make for a fine headliner at the Twilight Concert Series. Rapsody and 9th Wonder open the show.