- Samantha Madnick
With the nights coming on sooner, and the days reaching the fever pitch of August heat, why not have a beer about it? At City Weekly's own Utah Beer Festival, you can enjoy a vast selection of beers and local music. But if even that isn't enough entertainment? Get a ticket for one of the festival's after-parties, and cap your day off with the music of locals Royal Bliss on Saturday, Aug. 17, and Jagertown on Sunday, Aug. 18. As the sun sets over the desert, and your fine drinks settle warmly in your body, let these tried and true acts wind you back up.
Salt Lake locals Royal Bliss fit right in at an event where drinking and having a good time are the focus. They've long dealt in the kind of rock music that seeks a wily audience to rage along to their tortured-yet-defiant, tough-but-tender-guy music that picked up speed in the late '90s and early aughts. The first track of their 2019 self-titled album, "Hard and Loud" starts with frontman Neil Middleton's bold proclamation, alongside electrifying guitar riffs from guitarist Taylor Richards that almost step over into classic metal territory: "Whiskey/ Women/ Rock and Roll/ I like it hard/ loud/ out of control."
Active for more than 20 years, this classic rock vibe has been their bread and butter over that long stretch of time, throughout their albums, life and label changes. They began releasing music in 1998, and continued until the successful response to their 2006 album After the Chaos II garnered them a signing with Capitol Records, who assisted them in releasing their first major label album, Life In-Between in 2009.
Fusing sounds of alt-rock, Southern rock, metal and post-grunge, the band has held true to their particular sound over the years, right up to their new self-titled 2019 release. "This album was made very casually," Richards tells City Weekly. "We started actually jamming again in our little rehearsal space like the old days of being a band. Then once a few song ideas came of it we would go into the studio, and just crank out a song or two as we wrote them. After about a year, we released a good batch of them."
When asked how this summer has treated them, he says it's been an easygoing summer of having fun and playing music. "But also, having a single back on the radio charts is pretty amazing, too," he adds. "We hit the top 30 [on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs chart] this week with our new single 'Pain.' First time in 10 years since we had a single crack the top 30."
Their devotion to their music hasn't changed, nor has their status as proud Utahns. Not satisfied with being hometown heroes, they opened their own venue—fittingly named The Royal—a few years back, and the space has served as one of Salt Lake's better spots for catching big acts since then. Make sure not to miss this storied band before they head out on a tour that includes dates with Hinder, and a cruise-ship stint with the one and only Kiss. Tour dates and music can be found at royalbliss.com
Both after-party nights at the festival feature bands who know what it means to sit back with some friends and drink a cold beer. Any country-loving Sunday festival-goers can get excited about the headliner of the night, Jagertown (yes, like the booze).
Made up of members Preston Creed (who's worked with the likes of Pink), seasoned fiddlest Liz Anderson, country-styled bassist Jesse Brooks, drummer Demitri "Meter" Mannos, and lead guitarist Scott Dixon—a man who has gotten around in the country world by touring with artists like Neal McCoy and Jo Dee Messina—Jagertown is possibly Utah's premier country band. Since their first album, 2012's Sleepin' With My Boots On, they've released four other full-lengths, inserting themselves with ease into the modern country genre.
Their fifth album, Blacktop, recorded by Grammy-nominated producer Matt McClure, has climbed the country charts with the single "Rearview," the kind of forlorn, wrestling-with-love song that has always been at the heart of country. "Working with Matt really drew the best out of us," frontman Creed says. "After that release, we had a chance to go back to Nashville and co-write with some hit writers. What we've got coming is going to take us further than we've even come to this point."
Creed credits the band's fans for this growth, and for their longevity. "I think the fact that we're pushing to take our brand of country on a national level is something that everyone here has really gotten behind and is a huge part of why we've had the success we've had so far. The ultimate goal is to put Utah on the map but for country music."
Come out to this show before Jagertown's name is in every town in America; you can brag to your friends about it later. Find their tour dates and music at jagertown.com.