SONG OF THE DAY: July 13th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

This post marks the beginning of a new feature here at Rhombus: the song of the day. In an effort to bring you great music, both local and otherwise, and fulfill our goal of helping you expand your musical horizons to include the best artists available, we will pass along one Rhombus-approved song each and every day for your listening pleasure (barring global catastrophe.) These entries will be shorter than our normal articles, but we will do our best to provide you with the context and reasoning behind why we feel the included song is worthwhile and/or relevant to you. That being said, we hope you come back every day to check out a new song and enjoy reading Rhombus as much as we enjoy writing it.

Bon Iver, “Woods”

If you attended last Thursday’s Twilight Concert Series show at the Gallivan Center, you were treated to a phenomenal performance from Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s favorite sons, Bon Iver. The band’s beautifully sad sound pulls you in and holds you tight, enrapturing your mind and heart. “Woods” is probably not the most representative song to use in introducing the band to our readers, but I chose to use it anyway.

This song sounds different from every other Bon Iver song in the fact that it uses AutoTune software (see also: T-Pain) heavily. Normally, Justin Vernon and company eschew any technological enhancement, instead opting to play spare, stripped down folk songs with an unarguably organic feel. This is why “Woods” fascinates me so much: to hear such an anti-AutoTune band indulge in the practice so completely and use the resultant robo-vocals to create such a rich, layered feel is truly fantastic to me. If AutoTune should ever be used, Bon Iver should be the only ones allowed to do so. Some may hate this track on principle, but I hope you’ll at least give it a chance. I promise it can (and hopefully will) temporarily redeem AutoTune for the briefest of moments.

CONCERT REVIEW: RuRu, Desert Noises, Code Hero

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Wednesday night saw the return of Graywhale Entertainment’s biweekly Local Artist Series with a prolific performance by headliner RuRu.

To be honest, Graywhale’s University Mall store is not the ideal venue for a live show. The acoustics aren’t the best and the sound system is middling. In short, it’s a record store, not a live venue. Almost every set I have ever seen performed at the store has been sub-par, not necessarily as a fault of the artist, but because the sonic element of the space often contributes negatively to the overall sound. That being said, the fact that Graywhale is willing to open its doors and book great artists for free is amazing and, despite the venue’s shortcomings, deserves to be supported. After all, you’re not paying for it. Graywhale is one of the few independent record stores we have around here and Utah Valley music fiends need to support them in any way we can, especially considering the state of the record industry today.

That being said, Wednesday night was not RuRu’s best set ever, mostly due to the venue. However, when you’re Isaac Russell, one of your weaker shows is still better than a lot of bands’ strongest effort. Russell completely eschewed his traditional acoustic guitar for his eight song set, instead opting for the fuller sound of a Gibson hollowbody electric. The setlist was split almost evenly between new songs and older material from his 2008 album, Elizabeth.

While old favorites like “Why” and “Excuse” will never get stale for Russell fans, the show’s most interesting moments came when the artist debuted his most recent songwriting exploits. Opening with a newly completed, untitled song, Russell provided a glimpse into the future direction of his writing. More rocking than usual, his new songs hew closer to the more rock-oriented sounds of Conor Oberst than the alt-country feel of Ryan Adams. The set’s second song, “Be Honest,” wouldn’t have felt out of place on some of Oberst’s later Bright Eyes records, featuring the singer constantly fluctuating between a whisper and a scream over a single guitar.

However, the night’s highlight came in the form of Americana-tinged rocker “The Light At The End Of The Tunnel.” With beautiful guitar work and a comparably awesome keyboard part to boot, the song embodies everything that is great about Russell’s brand of folk-rock: the simple, but infectious melodies, the tight musicianship and the penetrating insights on topics well beyond the intellectual and emotional range of most 17-year-olds. When the frontman contemplates which supernatural force controls death and comes to the conclusion that “it all depends on who you like,” it represents not only a young poet wise beyond his years, but also a stark assessment of the nature of religion in modern society. This, my friends, is what great music sounds like.

The show opened with performances by Code Hero and Desert Noises. As previously stated, almost nobody sounds great at Graywhale, so this wasn’t exactly Woodstock. However, both bands turned in solid performances — or at least as solid as the venue would permit. I look forward to seeing both bands play again outside the walls of a record store in hopes of experiencing their respective live shows at their full potential.

To hear tracks from these artists, please visit their respective MySpace pages here: RuRu, Desert Noises and Code Hero.

PHOTOS:

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MUSIC: Bon Iver, Jenny Lewis Kick Off Twilight Concert Series Tonight

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Our prayers have been answered: the music gods have looked upon Salt Lake City and they have blessed it – abundantly.

Thursday evening marks the first show of the Twilight Concert Series at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake, which will feature the excellent indie-folk group Bon Iver and opener Jenny Lewis. The free concert series has become increasingly relevant in recent years by recruiting top-notch national acts, including Nada Surf, the Roots, Andrew Bird, Broken Social Scene, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Neko Case, among others. However, the Salt Lake City Arts Council (the series’ host) has really upped its game for 2009. In addition to Bon Iver and Lewis, Salt Lake City will welcome a plethora of talented artists to town this summer, including the Black Keys, M. Ward, Sonic Youth, Iron & Wine, Okkerville River and Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears. This excellent line-up should have downtown rocking every Thursday night all summer long.

Thursday’s headliner, Bon Iver, took the music world by storm in 2008 with its sparse, aching debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago. Crafted in a secluded Wisconsin cabin by frontman Justin Vernon, the album and its recording process instantly reached mythical status amongst critics and fans alike. The album ended up on virtually every critic’s “Top Ten” list for 2008 and propelled Bon Iver onto the national stage. Since then the group has released an excellent EP, been featured on multiple television shows and toured the world. Not half bad for a couple guys from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

You may remember Jenny Lewis, who will open Thursday’s show, from her childhood role as the young lead character in the 1989 movie Troop Beverley Hills. If you were fortunate enough to miss that flick, you may also recognize her as the frontwoman of beloved indie band Rilo Kiley. Lewis’ first solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, received critical praise following its release in 2006 and her latest full-length effort, Acid Tongue, has continued in its predecessor’s worthy footsteps. If you like sweet folk melodies and angelic vocals, Jenny Lewis is your girl.

If you’ve ever lamented the (previously) sad state of Utah’s concert scene (or even if you haven’t and you just like great music), you should be at the Gallivan Center every Thursday night for the next two months. Nowhere else in the country will you be able to see this caliber of artist for free. This type of cultural opportunity doesn’t happen often in Utah. Take advantage of it while you can.

Bon Iver and Jenny Lewis will play tonight (Thursday, July 9th) at the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City. The show starts at 7:00 p.m. and admission is free. To hear tracks by these artists, check out the songs included below.

MUSIC: RuRu, Desert Noises, Code Hero At Graywhale Tonight

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Graywhale Entertainment, located at University Mall in Provo, presents the next entry in their biweekly Local Artist Showcase tonight at 7:00 p.m., featuring a killer line-up of Provo musicians.

RuRu, the stage name of local folk wunderkind Isaac Russell, will headline the evening with a full band set that is sure to please. If you happened to catch his spare, acoustic-driven set at the Vibrant Sound’s CD Release party in June, you are in for a treat. As excellent as young Russell is all by his lonesome, RuRu is an altogether different beast when drums, pedal steel and electric guitar are fully featured. Furthermore, the artist has promised new material for tonight’s show, which should be enough to whet your appetite, considering Russell’s considerable songwriting ability. Do yourself a favor and amble over to Graywhale for a bit tonight. You won’t regret it.

The show will also feature local boys and RuRu labelmates (over at Joshua James and McKay Stevens’ Northplatte Records) Desert Noises, as well as Code Hero. Desert Noises recently released their first EP, chock-full of folk-rock songs that resemble some kind of lovechild created by Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes. I first stumbled onto Code Hero at last year’s Sego Festival during their set on the main stage and remember being significantly impressed. We’ll see if my memory serves me correctly tonight.

The show starts tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. at Graywhale Entertainment, located next to the food court at University Mall. Admission is free, so you really have no monetary excuse for not being there. Rhombus promises an evening of great local music for the optimal (non-)price. We hope to see you there.

To hear tracks from each of tonight’s featured artists, please visit their respective MySpace pages here: RuRu, Desert Noises and Code Hero.

CONCERT REVIEW: Stadium Of Fire

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Something I would never have envisioned myself saying: I paid money to spend my 4th of July with the Jonas Brothers and Glenn Beck.

Unfortunately, this travesty has now come to pass — and it wasn’t all that bad.

The annual Stadium of Fire celebration at BYU is the very definition of harmless, Mormon-approved and, by extension, bland popular music, mixed with a extra-heavy dose of flag-waving, jet-flying, externally displayed patriotism. The show always leans hard on big dramatic gestures and the same 10 “America” songs they’ve undoubtedly been using since at least the mid-1980s. (Big props to the SOF crew for resisting the temptation of Neil Diamond’s awfully cliched “America” during the fireworks montage. Nice show of restraint.) With these criteria in mind, I dare you to find me a more perfect match for the event than the offense-free pop of the Jonas Brothers and the waterworks and political melodrama of borderline psycho Glenn Beck. Throw in a Mormon country group, lots of American flags of varying sizes, a couple F-16 flyovers and a huge fireworks show that probably ripped its own hole in the ozone layer and you’ve got one rip-roaring 4th of July bash — or at least as ripping and/or roaring as such an event can get when hosted by a conservative pundit, played by prepubescent teenagers and attended by middle-aged Mormons and their preteen daughters.

Before we launch into the meat of the evening, just remember that I braved all this for you, dear readers. All to be your eyes and ears in that strange cultural event. And also because I was bored. But mostly for you.

ANYWAY, the evening began with the usual business of presenting the colors, singing the national anthem multiple times, watching young girls in surprisingly revealing (by BYU standards) uniforms dance around a football field in complex formations with colorful flags. You know, the usual. Nothing super spectacular. That was until the Music Man showed up.

Glenn Beck’s first appearance on-stage came in characteristically excruciating fashion: with full choir in tow, Beck ambled up to the mic sporting a red bowtie and a straw hat, then proceeded to do some poorly received Music Man-related shtick with the choir and really accomplished little except making me want to punch him in the face more than usual. Let’s be honest: I loathe the man more than is probably necessary for an individual to loathe a television personality — and that’s when he’s wearing regular clothes. His ridiculous outfit and accompanying smarm only served to aggravate my hate for the person he chooses to be. Fortunately for all involved, Beck’s words were scripted and relatively brief, a smart move on BYU’s part because you never know what asinine things will escape that man’s mouth when given a microphone. Even more fortunately, Beck was dressed as a regular person when he reappeared for his second monologue, not like Bozo the Clown. Small victories, people. Small victories.

To be honest, the whole ramp-up of the evening was fairly blase. Utah-based country group SHeDAISY played a six-song set and no one really cared. Sure, no one’s really cared about SHeDAISY for 10 years or so, but the sentiment was incredibly apparent in the apathetic silence of the crowd. They were all there for one reason and everyone knew it. They’d painted it on their homemade t-shirts, on their posterboard marriage proposals, on their acne-riddled faces and who knows where else. (There is undoubtedly some kind of Jonas Brothers graffiti, freshly fashioned with a glitter gel pen, in a Dairy Queen bathroom somewhere in Provo at this very moment.) Some might have thought this was Stadium of Fire, but let’s be honest: it was, first and foremost, a Jonas Brothers concert with fireworks.

I think I became 50% deaf when the teenage girl next to me got her first glimpse of Joe Jonas stepping onto the stage, her shrieks of delight completely melting my right eardrum. (To be fair, she did warn me of this possibility before the show.) Unfortunately for me, that was only the beginning of the screamfest that is a Jonas Brothers concert. As Nick and Kevin (though it appears the latter is significantly less popular for some reason) subsequently appeared and the boys launched into the up-tempo “Paranoid,” the noise level grew to the point where I lost my other eardrum and my face began to melt like the Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The 1o-year-old girl two rows behind me must be the world record holder for greatest lung capacity in the preteen girl division. I was betting that she would lose her voice after a few songs, but I was sorely mistaken. She screamed every single lyric for the full 55-minute set. It was both impressive and ear-splitting.

You might wonder why I am taking such pains to describe the nature of JoBros fans, and I promise you there is a point. The entire conflict over the brothers — Are they good? Do they suck? Is Joe’s voice too whiny? Is everyone too cynical to appreciate solid pop music? — should, in theory, be able to reach some kind of resolution in their live show. There is no greater measure of musicianship than live performance. Anyone can make something sound decent with enough takes in the studio, but the replication of that sound on-stage is the true test of a band’s mettle.

I wish I could say whether or not the JoBros passed that test, but I can’t. For me to say that the group delivered on Saturday night would require me to also be able to say that I actually heard a significant portion of the performance. In all reality, I maybe heard 40% JoBros, 60% screaming girls. Perhaps this is why there has been no definitive answer to the Jonas debate by fair-minded individuals: no one knows what they actually sound like live.

To analyze the situation as best as possible given the circumstances, the following seems to be true: a) the JoBros are very good at what they do, b) that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s much intrinsic value to what they do, c) Joe Jonas’ nasal croon is an aphrodisiac to young girls, d) no one knows what’s going through Kevin Jonas’ mind 98% of the time, and e) Nick Jonas’ prepubescent yelp sounds like a dying chihuahua. To be honest, there are worse things in the world than the Jonas Brothers. If my hypothetical daughters wanted to listen to the JoBros, I would prefer that to most of the other crap on Top 40 radio these days. No, they’re not Radiohead — and they’re not supposed to be. They’re teenage heartthrobs who actually (semi-)play their own instruments and write their own deceptively catchy and melodic pop songs. And that’s okay: America doesn’t need the Jonas Brothers to be anything more or less than the “It” boys of the moment.

The one thing that is most refreshing about the brothers is how unassuming they come off. You know they don’t believe they’re making “important” music; you know they realize all their records are bought exclusively by ravenous 10-year-old girls; you know they’re just a couple kids who wrote some catchy melodies, lucked into a sweet gig and fully intend to enjoy the ride. These things are okay. In a strange way, they actually represent the American dream. Sure, the Jonases aren’t timeless bulwarks of originality or ingenuity (they’re actually quite formulaic), but they represent a highly-stylized version of the familiar “regular guy(s) make good” narrative that this country lives for. If American popular culture needs a teen idol for every generation, I’m fine with the Jonas Brothers winning this round. At least they’re not Aaron Carter.

Steve Pierce is co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He cheered loudly for Kevin Jonas, mostly because he feels the oldest Jonas gets the raw end of the deal from those heartless 10-year-old girls.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Special 4th Of July Edition

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Welcome back to the second edition of Rhombus’ Weekend Update. (Much thanks to Lorne Michaels and the folks at SNL for not suing me for copyright infringement yet.) This week we’ll tell you all the do’s and don’ts for your holiday festivities. We’ll tell you the events going down in Utah Valley and you get to figure the rest out on your own — just try not to set anything too large on fire.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Special 4th of July Edition

The Good:

America’s Freedom Festival: Balloon Fest | Saturday, 6:30 a.m., Provo High School (1125 N. University Ave., Provo)
There’s a lot of weird crap that people do on the Fourth that you don’t get to see very often otherwise. A massive launching of hot air balloons at 6:30 a.m. would be one of those things. I don’t think I’ve seen a hot air balloon since I was 10-years-old and, to be honest, I don’t even know where I’d begin to look. Fortunately, they happen to be bringing them into our backyard. So if you like big colorful, floating spheres and can stomach the early wake-up call, here’s a way to start your holiday off right.

America’s Freedom Festival: Grand Parade | Saturday, 9:00 a.m., University Avenue (Provo)
I’ve never been one for parades. I don’t really understand the people who must watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every single year and if, for some unfortunate reason, they are busy at the time of its airing, they TiVo it. I don’t get that. (Maybe it’s the floats: they have no power over me.) Provo’s annual parade will have significantly less glitz than its big city counterpart, but it always receives rave reviews. People literally started camping out for spots along the parade route a few days ago. I don’t understand this, but I believe this must say something about the parade. Who knows — I could end up horribly disappointed. But at least I’ll know I satisfied my curiosity. I pray I do not lead you astray.

The Vibrant Sound | Saturday, 5:30 p.m., Tabernacle Stage (University Ave. and Center St., Provo), Free
I know, I know: we stumped for the Vibrant Sound last week as well. And while I promise that Rhombus is not becoming the band’s personal propaganda arm, I will say this: if you haven’t read our review for last weekend’s release party, do so. Then, come to the show. It’s for your own good really. If you missed out on Saturday’s awesome performance, you now have a second chance and — even better news — it’s free! The band’s blend of hip-hop, soul, R&B and funk defines what summer music should be. I can’t think of any better way to enjoy your early evening.

The In-Between:

Stadium of Fire: The Jonas Brothers | Saturday, 8 p.m., LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo)
I’m very ambivalent about this event’s status. Positive: huge fireworks display. Intriguing: the cultural phenomenon of the Jonas Brothers. Less intriguing: the music of the Jonas Brothers. Equivalent to the black plague: Glenn Beck. Between these conflicting factors, it is difficult to make a cut-and-dried judgment of the intrinsic or extrinsic worth of this event. In the end, it probably comes down to price. Tons of tickets are still available for this year’s show (unlike when music goddess Miley Cyrus came last year), which means scalpers are going to be getting real antsy just before showtime. If you can get a cheap ticket, it might (might!) be worth checking out. If not, just sit outside and watch the fireworks. Hopefully you won’t be able to hear the bellowing of the great Beck — it would probably be wise to retain as many brain cells as possible.

The Bad:

Truman | Saturday, 2:00 p.m., Tabernacle Stage (University Ave. and Center St., Provo), Free
There’s a fine line between the highly original and clever music made by the Vibrant Sound and the — I’ll say this nicely — distasteful, Maroon 5-cover-band-esque sound of Truman. If you really have nothing to do at 2:00 p.m., go listen to Songs About Jane a couple more times. I promise that it will sound the same — only better and with less smugness. The problem with the Truman brothers (sons of Diamond Rio keyboardist, Dan Truman) is not that they make Provo’s worst music (they don’t — I saw a guy literally playing a saw last week), but that they seem so impressed with their own mediocrity. Having the right connections is a great blessing in the music industry and I have no doubt that Truman could some day end up being “big stars,” due to said connections. But great record sales and a famous last name do not good music make — just ask the Jonas Brothers.

“Disco Night” | Saturday, 9:00 p.m., Classic Fun Center (250 S. State, Orem), $6
Let’s just be honest: disco was never cool. Even when disco was “cool,” it wasn’t cool. I realize college students have a penchant for doing otherwise stupid, ghastly things in the name of “humor” and “ironicism,” but please — my dear friends — please abstain from trying to resurrect disco. It wasn’t cool in the 70s and it won’t be cool now. A benevolent God won’t allow it.

Happy 4th of July from everyone at Rhombus!

CONCERT REVIEW: The Vibrant Sound (6/27)

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

It’s hard to neatly box up the music of the Vibrant Sound into one cut-and-dried genre, but that didn’t matter much to the packed crowd that attended the band’s album release party at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo on Saturday evening.

Marley and Hayley Hernandez opened the show with their brand of quiet acoustic pop. The duo’s set of original tunes called to mind the music of Colbie Caillat, only with more brains and better harmonies. (What happened to her anyway? Did she die or something?) While both Hernandezes may or may not take issue with such a broad characterization of their music, the fact remains that their catchy melodies and ethereal voices were the perfect way to ease into a night’s worth of great music.

RuRu, the stage name for 17-year-old singer-songwriter Isaac Russell, filled in the middle portion of the bill with a truly stunning performance. Eschewing the drums, pedal steel and electric guitar of his usual full band set-up, Russell took the stage armed with only an acoustic guitar and a remarkably plush-looking armchair. With a sparse backing band, comprised of only a keyboard and bass guitar, the young folk phenom enraptured the audience with a slew of stripped-down versions of tracks from his 2008 album, Elizabeth, as well as some new cuts that showed a possible glimpse of Russell’s future progression as an artist.

While his usual bombast and intensely emotional stagecraft were significantly reined in by the more subdued setting, Russell still managed to wring every last emotional and musical drop from his material. The understated arrangements placed more emphasis on the songs’ beautiful composition and dense lyricism, often delving into poetic discussions of love, loss and death. One of the set’s many highlights came when Russell invited his older brother, Spencer, and Caitlin Duncan (both of local indie-eclectic band Mudbison) onstage to provide backing vocals on the aching ballad, “Excuse.” With the crowd in the palm of his hand, Russell masterfully spun his tale of sickness, heartache and death over a cascade of shimmering “oohs” and “ahhs” from his guests. The moment perfectly encapsulated the talent and potential possessed by the young songwriter, and undoubtedly resulted in a couple sold copies of Elizabeth at the merchandise table.

Following the laid-bare folk of Russell is no easy task, let alone if your music sounds like that of the Vibrant Sound. Mixing a plethora of influences, including hip-hop, soul, R&B, funk and rock, McKay Stevens and Company certainly kicked the show’s energy up a notch from their very first note. From the moment the band launched into bouncy opener “Summertime” with Stevens’ spot-on rendition of Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song, the audience was ready to dance and it was immediately clear who they had come to see.

The band tore through a nine song set featuring numerous guests, including Provo’s favorite son, Joshua James, on keys, and comprised mostly of material off their newly released debut album, Downtown. While they also threw in a re-imagined cover or two — including a straight-up filthy (and that’s a good thing) cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” complete with Stevens laying down original rhymes, and a slow-burning version of the 80s pop classic “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” featuring Scott Shepard of The New Nervous on lead vocals — the Vibrant Sound shined brightest on their original material.

The political overtones of “The Industrial Revolution” and “The Proletariat” were not lost on the ears of the crowd, regardless of their minds’ acceptance (or lack thereof) of the messages. The mostly white audience — this is Provo after all — even responded enthusiastically to the black history anthem “Abolitionist Newspaper,” which prominently features Stevens rapping about African-American liberation over snippets of Martin Luther King speeches.

If there was ever a place to find a cultural disconnect, this would be it — but there was none to be found. It is often said that music can bridge cultures and races, and span creeds and ideologies. It seems the Vibrant Sound have discovered how to do just that — and make you dance and sing along at the same time.

Steve Pierce is the co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He generally thinks hip-hop is dead, but the Vibrant Sound gives him hope. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/steve_pierce.

WEEKEND UPDATE: June 26th & 27th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Film, Music

It’s the weekend and, as such, the next two nights will undoubtedly be marked by thousands of college students sitting in their apartments, repeating the same tired refrain: “There’s nothing to do in Provo.”

While Provo isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis of nightlife, it certainly isn’t dead. There are cool things going on — you just need to know where to look. This is where we at Rhombus want to step in and offer you some advice. We’ve included below a list of some awesome, Rhombus-approved activities going down in the Provo/Orem/SLC area this weekend, as well as some must-avoid schlock that will do nothing but turn your nubile, young brains to mush.

So please peruse our merry list and check back next week for more delectable weekend exploits. And remember — if you still find yourself sitting on the couch this weekend, it’s not our fault.

WEEKEND UPDATE: June 26th & 27th

MUSIC

The Good:
Chris Merritt | Friday, 8:00 p.m., Velour Live Music Gallery (135 N. University Ave., Provo), $7
Contrary to popular opinion, Chris Merritt isn’t god in human form. The Merritt worship in Provo seems to have reached a record high in recent years and unnecessarily so. Don’t get me wrong: he’s a fine artist and certainly better than most alternatives. But the fact remains that his entire shtick is a shameless aping of Ben Folds. Given young Mormons’ natural proclivities for piano-based pop songs, the match was inevitable. However, regardless of the hype, Merritt is a legitimate artist with some great songs. (I challenge anyone to try and listen to “Dance Karate” without shaking their groove thing.) His Friday night show at Velour was especially booked by the venue’s owner, Corey Fox, as a rare solo show, featuring just the artist and his piano. Merritt billed the performance as an “intimate, sit-down, storyteller-type show” on his blog. As such, it won’t be a regular, standing-room-only show. There will only be about 150 seats available so, if you choose to attend, go early.

The Vibrant Sound (with RuRu and Marlee & Hayley Hernandez) | Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Velour Live Music Gallery, $7
This may very well be the local concert of the summer. Serving as the album release party for the Vibrant Sound’s new disc, Downtown, the show is sure to be packed with good tunes and fun times. To take it up even another notch (as if the much-anticipated VS disc wasn’t enough), folk phenom Isaac Russell, a.k.a. RuRu, will also be playing and — I’m not exaggerating here — you need to be there. Your musical salvation depends on it. Big things have been happening for young Isaac recently and the kid is going places, so take the opportunity to see him for pennies while you can. McKay Stevens has put together a top-notch lineup for his band’s long-awaited album release and Velour will undoubtedly be rocking all night. If you do only one thing this weekend, this should be it!

The Bad:
The Cab | Friday, 7:00 p.m., Kilby Court, $12
I can only imagine two things worse than seeing the Cab perform live: a) seeing Boys Like Girls perform live (July 7th! Oh no!), or b) being slowly beaten to death with my own arms. Enough said. Stay far, far away.

FILM

The Good:

Away We Go | Broadway Centre Cinemas (111 E. Broadway, SLC), Rated R
Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O’Hara
Directed by Sam Mendes | Written by Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida
Good independent films don’t come to Utah very often. Just a few weeks ago, I was bemoaning the fact that Away We Go wasn’t playing anywhere in the state on its opening weekend. My prayers were answered. This heartfelt indie flick has been receiving rave reviews and it’s easy to see why, given the ingredients. Mastermind Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) is in the director’s chair, working from the first original screenplay penned by perhaps the finest writer of our generation, Dave Eggers. Throw in a dynamite cast of outstanding actors and it’s easy to see why Away We Go has myself (and others) so excited.

The Bad:
Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen | All Theatres, Rated PG-13
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Robots, Explosions, etc.
Directed by Michael Bay | Written by Ehren Kruger & Roberto Orci
I will confess that I haven’t seen the second installation of Transformers yet and have no intent to do so. If the first Transformers film weren’t bad enough to convince you of the sequel’s complete and utter stupidity, just soak in what our good friend Roger Ebert (not the most discerning of critics) had to say about this monstrosity:

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.

Yikes. But really, what else did you expect? It is Michael Bay…

IN MEMORIAM: Michael Jackson, 1958-2009

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Michael Jackson

As you undoubtedly know, music legend and cultural icon Michael Jackson passed away this afternoon at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., after suffering cardiac arrest. The singer was 50 years old and is survived by his three sons.

America has had a strange relationship with Jackson over the past few years. A literal shell of the cultural phenomenon he once represented, the King of Pop had become little more than a living embodiment of weirdness during his final years, his legacy overshadowed by his eccentric nature and extensive legal troubles. A significant portion of the population will remember him primarily as a “freak,” and that is unfortunate.

Michael Jackson earned his crown as the King of Pop. For an unparalleled stretch in the 70s and 80s, he owned the charts and sold records in numbers that will never be duplicated. He kick-started America’s pop culture obsession and almost single-handedly made MTV with his masterful music videos that now define the art form. Yet, even more so than his commercial success, Jackson should be remembered for one simple fact: the man made great music. Beginning with his Jackson 5 work at the mere age of 10 and continuing through his successful solo career, Michael Jackson provided the soundtrack for an entire generation. Those who grew up listening to him — or those, like myself, who were fortunate enough to discover his music later, despite the ongoing media circus — should consider themselves truly lucky to have been blessed with the presence of a legend.

While Michael Jackson may be gone, he will never disappear — the 28 million copies sold of his Thriller album refuse to be ignored. The negativity of his late public persona will fade with time, but his legacy will continue to live on through his art, to move and inspire future generations.

Steve Pierce is the co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He still gets giddy every time he watches “Thriller.”

NEWS: Modest Mouse To Visit SLC In September

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Isaac Brock and Company, known to the world as popular indie band Modest Mouse, are coming to Utah. Take a minute to catch your breath.

The band announced the details of their upcoming North American tour on Tuesday and — surprise! — will make a stop at Salt Lake City’s In The Venue on September 1st. Considering the state of Utah’s general concert depression for the last x number of years, this is a boon — and one I really don’t understand.

For years it has seemed that good artists avoided Salt Lake City like the plague. No one would come near it and, if they did, it was only once every five years. Sure, we got the Gwen Stefanis of the world, but very few acts that didn’t completely suck.

Then (miraculously) the heavens opened and 2009 became the year of great concerts in Utah: the Twilight Summer Concert Series stocked up in a big way (Bon Iver, Jenny Lewis, the Black Keys, Sonic Youth, M. Ward, Iron & Wine, Okkerville River — all for free!) and the shows, big and small, have been pouring in ever since. Conor Oberst is playing a benefit at Library Square. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart will be rocking the tight confines of Kilby Court. The Killers will grace the E Center (but, to be fair, they do come every year.)

In years past, the aforementioned shows would constitute the all-time greatest summer concert line-up ever. Yet, in 2009, they serve only as an introduction, with so many great show slated for the coming months that I can’t even begin to name them all.

I’m not completely sure how to handle this, so I will simply fall to the earth and praise the Music Gods for blessing northern Utah in ways that we have not even begun to fully realize — but soon will.