By Zach Collier
Tonight was full of disappointing, last-minute cancellations, and because of this was probably the most disappointing night of the week as far as the number of quality performances goes. Luckily, it was saved by two undeniably great performances on the back end of the bill. Plus, I got to kick it all night with the members of Eminent Sol, so that was fun. Very cool dudes.
Anyway. Here we go.
We will be brief when covering Melting Rain, since they had an unfortunate last minute cancellation that disqualified them from the competition. But they deserve mention, since Brendan Blackham of Melting Rain put on a stellar solo performance in place of the rest of his band. I’ve seen Melting Rain once before at Muse Music – probably about six or seven months ago – and I’m impressed by Brenden’s growth. This kid is a triple threat. The regular drummer for Melting Rain, he’s also a dang good guitarist and vocalist in his own right. Only a senior in high school, he has talent beyond his years. Part of me wants him to launch a solo project with him in the spotlight. I have no complaints at all regarding Brenden’s performance. He’s a superb songwriter, capable of crafting truly catchy melodies. It’s a shame Melting Rain didn’t show up tonight. I would’ve liked to have seen them, and think they would have had a shot.
The first official act of the night was Salt Lake City Hip Hop/R&B group, New Connection. The group narrowly avoided disqualification due to cancellation after Ryan Isles, one half of the duo, had his flight delayed and was unable to make it to Utah in time. The duo’s vocalist, Justin Cooper, was able to put together a set with the help of his friend ASAP Lion, who acted as MC/Hypeman. Unfortunately they took a noticeable hit to their energy. Even though Cooper’s vocals were as perfect as ever (seriously, his range and vocal runs are some of the most impressive I’ve ever heard in my life) it wasn’t enough to make for a truly moving show. The audience remained largely uninvolved, and it was clear that New Connection didn’t have much of a draw. They were committed to their performance from start to finish, but given the circumstances, unfortunately I feel like they were irreparably hampered from the start and prevented from winning because of Isles’ absence.
While we are speaking for our publication here and not on behalf of Velour in any way, here’s what you should learn from the first two acts: When you have an obligation to a venue to provide entertainment for the night, fulfill it. When you don’t fulfill your obligations, it can damage your relationship with a venue and doesn’t leave a good impression on an audience. It’s really unprofessional. If there is any question as to whether or not you’ll be in town the day of a gig, don’t book it. If you have booked a gig, unless you’re projectile vomiting or there’s a death in the family, you either better be there or provide the venue with adequate notice beforehand so they can find a replacement for the night. We’re talking like a week’s notice. Please listen to us. If you let your band down, bold members like Cooper and Blackham have to pick up your slack. And unfortunately, most times when that happens the performances don’t go NEARLY as well as they did last night. When you let the venue owners down, they’re out money. It’s incredibly inconsiderate. We assure you, a successful future in the music industry depends on proper performance etiquette. Learn it early on.
Kitfox was third. From the very first beat of their 3-part a capella opener, you knew their entire set was going to be sonic gold. The entire performance was locked tight. Kitfox works SO well together as a unit. Their music can be best described as ethereal, synth infused folk. Emilee Holgate’s voice is truly unique and unequalled. They couldn’t have a better lead singer for the music they’re making. “As a band, we really try to evoke a feeling of nostalgia,” Holgate told the audience. To that I say: No. No you don’t, Kitfox. You don’t TRY to evoke feelings of nostalgia. You Do evoke feelings of nostalgia. You succeed gloriously. The perfectly blended textures, the harmonies, the dramatic dynamic swells, the brilliant songwriting, the rumbling toms that lend gravity to their music and somehow manage to capture a feeling of deep regret, and above all the total sincerity of their performance – it was nothing short of magical. Kitfox is transcendent, and they were in a league of their own last night.
Sea Elephant closed out the final round of preliminaries. These guys were undeniably fun. High energy, they were friendly and definitely approachable. Having never heard them before, I was immediately drawn to them. Their first song was particularly memorable. They managed to get the entire crowd moving and clapping spontaneously. It was full of funky riffs and featured fantastic guitar solos. What I particularly liked was their ability to handle dramatic tempo changes and to use them for emotional effect. Their show was full of humor, including one song dedicated specifically to people who have been punched in the face. Despite the energy and the humor, Sea Elephant didn’t use that as a crutch. Lead vocalist/bassist Hayden Berg has an incredibly soulful voice with an impressive range, and both guitarists showed off their soloing chops throughout the night, proving that they are technically skilled guitarists. Drummer Nathan Jones stole the show, laying down powerful, consistent grooves peppered with wildly impressive fills. While undeniably a fun set full of a great blend of pop rock songs and straight rock jams, I couldn’t help but feel that Kitfox was still the superior band. They were just tighter all around, played a more professional set. They had better transitions, less frequent tuning and sound adjustment breaks. In fact, Kitfox had no sound adjustments after their initial. Because of this they had a much more powerful emotional impact. That being said, I’m a Sea Elephant fan. They are all stellar musicians in their own right, they know how to craft a good song, and as a unit they function very well, with no noticeable flubs or mishaps of any kind. I was thoroughly impressed. It’s always nice to discover a great new band.
In the end, the judges sent Kitfox on to the finals. They’ll join Pändo, Moody Pulp, MMEND, and Motion Coaster tonight at Velour Live Music Gallery. Doors open at 8PM. Tickets are $7 at the door (cash only). Be there. You can check out “Nightfall” by Kitfox below.