Saturday, February 5, 2011

CWMAs: Cory Mon & Starlight Gospel, Sam Smith Band, King Niko

Posted By on February 5, 2011, 12:32 PM

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The first 2011 CWMA showcase at Avalon Theater went off in a roots-blues-pop explosion (in that order).---

The barefoot bandit of Utah County roots-rook, Cory Mon, sung and strummed with the passion of playing to a sold out venue. However, 7 p.m. is a hard time to get folks out—even to an all-ages venue—so Mon, backed by the Starlight Gospel, played for a crowd that slowly petered in throughout the night. Pulling from the 2010 release Turn Coats, Mon stomped around the stage to numbers like “Lover,” “Broken Train” and “3 Step” to start the set. Breaking into “40 Days,” the band demonstrated how powerful, charismatic and soulful they can be. As represented on Turn Coats, the band’s set showed off versatility in a clean sound that’s easily accessible and could have national appeal. That is, so as long as they modify or stray away from their weak points: two- and three-part harmonies that more often than not come up short of impactful and cheezy songs like “Dr. Pleasure MD.” As Mon and company played “Gypsy,” two fans broke the venue’s stillness to dance fervently in front of the stage—an affectionate gesture the band welcomed. They ended with slow, soulful belting on “River.”

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The Sam Smith Band left an impression on City Weekly staff after owning the 1st Annual Beerfest’s stage; if you can rock out a bunch of angry daytime drunks, you can rock out anyone. Well...with only soft drinks and juice to be consumed, it just didn’t seem right so see their rough-around-the-edges blues-rock at the Avalon. And, of course, they had to start their set with a song called “Whiskey.” Conjuring the fist-pumping energy of early-’90s rock, Smith belted and howled as he cranked his Gibson SG in any way he could on “Picture” and “Knockin,’” among others. Just before singing, Smith would approach the mic like a puma about to playfully bat its prey. However, he didn’t go for the kill. The nine songs, with minimal variation between them, bled together with nothing distinct to grasp on to, except for maybe the Beatles cover “Eleanor Rigby.” It’s worth noting that the Sam Smith Band is a party band, and to catch them in their element is to love them (perhaps with Smith wearing a sexy kimono like at his birthday show at Bar Deluxe).

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The spirit of dancing was contagious as King Niko’s multitude of merry-making fans were joined bit-by-bit by the legions of the previous acts. The newer-on-the-scene dance-rock quartet, led by frontman Ransom Wydner, only needed two songs to sell the remaining crowd on their sound. The band’s business casual dress code came across as bravado and confidence, in all the right ways, with a set that included “Kink,” “Wildfire” and the radio-friendly “Tippy Toes.” The boys always play at full blast, so on “Soul Sister”—a song dedicated to the many ladies in the room—the smoothness of Wydner’s voice and his sassy lyrics came through over the bouncy synth. “French Accent” from the 2009 EP of the same name, was followed by “The Comedown” and the set’s climax and end, “Katrina.” As promised—because they were in “a good kinda mood, a rock ‘n’ roll kinda mood”—King Niko adorned their fans with free copies of the new “Gorgeous and Gory.”

Afterwards, it was time to head to Burt’s Tiki Lounge for a beer (finally) and to catch another showcase. Read Dan Nailen’s review of that here.

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