The Friday night City Weekly Music Awards showcase had a lot of what you'd expect of a gig at Burt's Tiki Lounge, including some excellent rootsy rock, a perpetual shortage of PBR and a wee bit of drama.
Thankfully, the sets by The Trappers and Bronco made for an overwhelmingly positive evening, despite the decision by the showcase's planned third act, Pablo Blaqk, to not play a set.
The Trappers got things off to a rollicking start, filling Burt's with fans of their brand of whiskey-soaked roots-rock one night after opening a sold-out show for Alabama Shakes at The State Room. The band's self-titled album released last year was one of my favorite local offerings, and seeing them two nights in a row showed me that this is one Salt Lake City band ready for bigger things. Singer/guitarist Dan Buehner has a voice that easily evokes the country-rock blend of The Band or Gram Parsons, but he's also able to lead the band into harder, bluesier territory. And I can't get enough of the band's judicious use of a pedal-steel guitar. Songs like "Bloodshot Bill" and "Waterloo" are among the best I've heard from a Utah band in quite a while.
I'm more familiar with Bronco—full disclosure: singer/guitarist Tyler Anderson is a friend—but they've rarely been better than during the band's set at Burt's Friday, despite some dicey sound issues early on that, fortunately, were quickly dispatched. The band's 2011 release Painting Pictures of a Perfect Life was another fave of mine, and they delivered several songs from it Friday, from opener "Sutter's Mill" to the raucous "Don't Slow Me Down," and a cover of The Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" was a welcome capper toward show's end.
As for the drama, well, Pablo Blaqk successfully turned himself into a catch phrase City Weekly will be using to describe any future self-absorbed ass clowns we deal with, as in, "Can you believe this guy? We have another Pablo Blaqk on our hands."
First, Blaqk showed up late for when the band's were asked to check in and set up, then bitched out a member of the City Weekly marketing team when he was told he'd have to play last. And then when he got the middle spot in the bill, he decided not to play his set at all, instead sending up a series of other people to play in his place, effectively clearing out about half the crowd who had enjoyed The Trappers and no doubt would have liked Bronco. [Editor's note: Blaqk did play one song himself during his allotted hour, and one song after his time was up, after he was asked to stop so Bronco could get set up—a request he ignored.]
Here's an email we got from one of the people on hand to witness Blaqk's buffoonery:
"After pitching a screaming hissy fit about when they were scheduled to go on at Burt's, Pablo Blaqk instead turned his/their (who knows?) set into an open-mic night of musical hacks. Thanks for wasting everybody's time."
Couldn't say it better myself. Blaqk showed no regard for the other bands on the bill (who were more than willing to change their time slots to whatever we asked) in an effort to satisfy his ego. The Trappers didn't whine about playing their set an hour earlier than had been advertised, and Bronco was ready to move their set, too. Both these bands showed far more class and professionalism than Blaqk did.
Blaqk will no doubt claim he was making some sort of statement about music not being a competition—don't buy it. He spent the days leading up to his showcase bitching about the venue where we scheduled him to play, and rallying people to vote for him online. Too bad all those votes were wasted—you don't play a set, you're disqualified from the CWMAs, simple as that.
And if Blaqk really thought the CWMAs were a competition unworthy of him, he could have said "no" when we asked him to play, leaving the spot available for another artist. But no, he wanted to make a spectacle of himself. Guess that's what you have to do if you don't have faith that your music is worth hearing.
All photos by Dom Darling.