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La Farsa

Family Matters: Utah’s La Farsa just say no to “sibling” rivalry

By Jeremy Asay
Posted // September 9,2009 -

Bands are like blood relatives. Bound by more than just a common name, they are required to spend a disproportionate amount of time together. They get to know each other well—sometimes too well.

Some groups are dysfunctional families. They may bicker and joke or compete for audience attention like siblings battling for parents’ attention. Similar to the adult children who only make occasional visits home and obligatory calls on Mother’s Day, bands often keep their lives separate and spend only the necessary rehearsal and gigging time together.

Not La Farsa. The local act’s two founding members, Erin Haley and Ryan Cron, share a house, and right around the corner their musical partners share an apartment. In the La Farsa commune, love and sharing are preeminent. If bands are families, La Farsa are as functional as they get.

This is by no accident. Mom and pop, Haley and Cron, recently came from a less functional affair.

La Farsa was once Haley, Cron, and three other dudes. Haley was the odd one out in the boys club, and her delicate voice couldn’t compete with their clamorous noise. Fed up, she and Cron dissolved the project and started from scratch with musicians from very different backgrounds who shared their vision: Flora Bernard on drums/occasional guitar, Val Gleason on electric violin and multi-instrumentalist Max Shetler fleshing things out on trumpet, bassist, cowbell player. He also serves as spokesman. Donning a colorful sports jacket and oversized sunglasses, he defines cool. He is to La Farsa what Joel Dion, spokesman of the revolution, was to Brian Jonestown Massacre.

La Farsa is doing something that few bands in Salt Lake City even try. They have somehow managed to merge rock opera with pop sensibilities and indie appeal with a focus unified under what Haley calls “free-market anarchy.” They make every effort not to limit themselves.

What’s more, they have a hoot of a time doing it. Onstage, they trade jokes with one another and with the audience. A live show might take the form of a small acoustic jam at Big Ed’s, where they demand audience participation, or a large masquerade ball at The Urban Lounge, painted and decked out in full Renaissance regalia.

Whatever the venue, they never take things so seriously as to diminish the aspect of fun. Internal feuds and drama are just not an option.

It helps that everyone is free to take center stage. Haley and Cron typically fill the spotlight, but Bernard often grabs an ax and leads the fireside through a bluesy number. Schetler steals the show galloping in place playing a rowdy cowbell solo, while Gleason lulls the audience into a waltz with her sweet melodies.

The band mantra, according to Haley is, “embrace your inner diva.”

So, what does a band of five people, each taking her advice, sound like?

Well, imagine if The Beatles, Beth Orton, and Andrew Lloyd Webber joined a band of gypsies and hijacked a bus full of musical instruments: La Farsa may well be the music project that results. They mix pop melodies with complex time signatures, layered vocal harmonies, and rock opera to make something unique to the local scene. Although La Farsa will bounce from pop to R&B to theatrical rock, there is one unifying principle in their music: experimentalism with no boundaries.

The Woodshed
60 E. 800 South
Saturday, Sept. 12
9 p.m.

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