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Music Matters

Why it's important to support local music


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A woman had fallen through the caving-in floor—that’s what we were told after the encore.

The floor over the orchestra pit at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn., couldn’t stand the weight of the sweaty, spinning mosh of funk-music lovers who were dancing to the soulful sounds of our premier local band, Gran Torino, on the night of their CD release show. I was right up front, doing my best 16-year-old white-kid impressions of James Brown, when security told us to dance our sweet selves away from the pit.

Back then, I had an unbridled love for Gran Torino. I was even on the street team, working for hours—unpaid—tacking up concert posters leading up to their shows. Most teenagers want relics and concert posters signed by their idols, usually rock gods—depending on your age, maybe it was Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, U2, My Morning Jacket, Justin Bieber, whatever. Not me. I wanted the signatures of the nine members of Gran Torino to proudly display on my wall. They represented all things good about music, in general and locally. They were “our” band: music makers to be proud of when they went on tour, and to celebrate when they played locally.

I didn’t realize then just how important talented local musicians are to the community—or the importance of supporting local music.

Now, as the music editor of City Weekly, I regularly get asked about the local music scene in Salt Lake City. It’s robust: 22 bands competed in the 2013 City Weekly Music Awards, only one of which had ever been in our competition before. The genres range from a hybrid of American-folk-meets-traditional-Chinese (Matteo) and sludge-metal (Eagle Twin) to Roma-inspired gypsy rock (Juana Ghani) and zombie-inspired nerd rock (Secret Abilities)—and everything in between. Utah’s local-music landscape is dynamic and constantly changing. It’s something to keep an eye on and, more importantly, to interact with.

Yes, Salt Lake City boasts a beehive of talented musicians and artists. But unless locals support their shows, whether by attending, buying a koozie from the merch table or actually paying for recorded music (what a novel idea!), then we might lose them to more fertile environments.

That sounds drastic, but there were four bands originally nominated to take part in the 2013 CWMA showcases that, it turned out, had moved or are in the process of moving to bigger music ponds and couldn’t participate. And it’s a sad day when we hear bands say that they “must” move—although we applaud their perseverance and lack of fear about jumping into a bigger pond.

But I want music to happen here, and at its highest level of quality, making our community richer and fuller. Art is a fundamental pillar of a vibrant community, and there’s little to no intimate relationship if it’s not local.

In this issue, we’re featuring 32 reasons to go out on the town at night: 22 bands, 10 DJs. We’ve combed through our library of local CDs, listened to hours of music and spent nights out at venues to decide which acts are worth your dime and time.

And this year’s music-award showcases certainly were. My favorite CWMA performance that I attended went down at Burt’s Tiki Lounge, when raucous folk-punk rockers Folk Hogan took the stage for an impassioned set that had the crowd throwing confetti, dancing and singing along. If I were a 16-year-old again and living in Salt Lake City, I’d be checking out the lively five-piece when they busk on street corners and add flair to farmers markets, putting up concert posters and crossing my fingers to get their autographs at an all-ages venue. Or maybe I’d be running after our Band of the Year, L’anarchiste. Whatever the band, I hope that bedroom musicians and garage rockers have some locals at whom they can look for inspiration, to help nurture their love of the art.

Next year’s CWMA bands are out there, practicing, making music, with their own dreams about making a difference and making it to the next step. And these burgeoning bands need support from the community to get to the showcases.

Speaking of community, we want to acknowledge the abundant folks who aren’t necessarily in bands but contribute to our local music scene. Unfortunately, we are limited by a certain amount of ink and number of pages. So, here, I’ll give a shout-out to a few—and wish it could be more.

When it comes to artists who create album covers and concert posters, it doesn’t get better than Travis Bone, of Furturtle, and his imaginative screen prints. A bevy of local bloggers who promote local musicians online have popped up in the past year; among my favorites is, which hosts audio interviews designed to inform emerging musicians and help them grow. We have the all-local Internet radio station to thank for sending the sounds of the Beehive State across the globe to outsiders’ ears. There are local record stores like Graywhale Entertainment, The Heavy Metal Shop and Raunch Records keeping the physical forms of music still available. Recording-studio owners and engineers like Mike Sasich (Man Vs. Music) and Scott Wiley (June Audio) give musicians a place to record locally that’s also a world-class environment that stands on its own nationally. We also can’t forget Utah’s instrument makers, venue owners, festivals and even the sound guys and bartenders at venues—all have their part.

No one fell through the floor at a CWMA showcase this year, but I hope some folks felt moved enough to care about locally made music. The bands I saw were incredible and enriching. I’ll let philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche close me out: “Without music, life would be an error.”

Twitter: @AustenDiamond