The turnout was great, and people came and went throughout the night to show support for their favorite bands and listen to new ones. Bar Deluxe was the perfect venue for the three bands that played, simultaneously catering to the dancing queens and the wallflowers on couches and sitting at tables and providing plenty of standing/dancing room.
The evening began with four-man college band YYBS, whom carved out their own niche just outside of the alt-rock realm, channeling Vampire Weekend and bringing something new to the table. The heavy instrumentals were balanced by a characteristically alternative vocal sound, which, instead of appearing recycled, created an unlikely combination that kept my attention. They knew how to get a crowd warmed up, too, by alternating between turning up the volume with guitarist Craig Murray and backing down to let the Tres Wilson's vocals shine. Despite a few glitchy sound issues towards the middle of the set, their energy was apparent in the bouncy, fun-lovin' beats that dominated their sound. Also refreshing was their confidence: “I'm not going to change and I hope you aren't, either,” a band member unapologetically announced to the crowd.
Though YYBS was a tough act to follow, The Suicycles took it to the next level and amped up the rock aspect of alternative rock. With a dark, hard-jamming presence that demanded the spotlight, they entertained with sinister lyrics with subtle undertones of jaded passion and no shortage of onstage antics. Led by frontman Camden Chamberlain, a sort of emo Alice-in-Wonderland scene came to mind, all black and red with two mood-enhancing sideshow dancers clad in black leotards, fishnets and bunny ears. They weren't the only ones with interesting outfits, either. A hamburger, hot dog, and french fries made an appearance in the audience around the time The Suicycles took the stage, and they were among the band's most excited fans. The show came to a climax when they played the crowd favorite, “SL, UT” with leading lady and keys player/vocalist Kellazor stealing the show.
The vibe simmered down towards the end of the night with Night Sweats, as they played a set of trance-like, surreal jams punctuated by monotone vocals and the occasional sigh or echoing shout. All the band members seemed to be in a world of their own, almost unaware that the sounds being made were mingling together so nicely, the combination of it all lending a pensive, brooding, air to the place a la Jim Morrison or The National. While the plodding steadiness of the band's sound was reasurring and relaxing at times, it might have been nice to see a greater vocal range at some point during the night. But there was also something attractive about Night Sweats' lack of expectation, and, perhaps, ambition. “We know we're not going to win tonight, but that's OK,” the lead vocalist plainly stated at the beginning of their set. It was clear that the band was playing for themselves, immune to any negative criticism in a way.
As a whole, the night fit together pretty darned well: YYBS leading up to a powerful performance by The Suicycles who slowly wound down to the Night Sweats -- a perfect parabola of talented local artists, and a great cross-section of the variation that can be found in Salt Lake City.
Photos by Meredith Newsome.