I have noted it in previous CWMA writing, but it’s worth mentioning again that Grey Fiction, the three-piece brothers band, drove from California in the middle of their first out-of-state tour on their day off to play this showcase. It's significant in that that excitement was easy to spot as they hammered out nearly 10 songs in 45 minutes, after driving 10 or so hours. As the Muusse brothers began their set, it was quickly apparent why and how they took home Velour’s winter Battle of the Bands a few months back: With a knack for engaging guitar leads backed by a jazzy rhythm section, they unfold quality jazzy-jam-rock tunes with fervor and grace (listen to “Warm Roses”). They played several tracks from the rough-around-the-edges The Light of the Sea EP. But, actually, I don’t think any of the bands on tonight’s line-up are well represented on their DIY recorded-in-home-studios albums: To see these bands live is to hear them at their best.
Grey Fiction shines in this respect, especially with juicy guitar licks courtesy of frontman Paul Muusse, who also sings every song, although at times his croon seems forced and unnatural. I was reminded of seeing Desert Noises at the 2010 CWMA showcase, because I have no doubt that Grey Fiction will mature, and, as they do, have unlimited room for upward mobility in Utah's music scene. This is the local band to look out for in the upcoming years -- mark my words. The set highlight was when Paul was ripping a solo on their last song and Joshua Payne--perhaps SLC’s most prominent guitar player--stood stage right looking on approvingly at the young guitarist’s chops. Additionally, Grey Fiction played several newer tracks, which, their merch guy told me, would be recorded this year on a forthcoming full-length.
And then David Williams took the stage. Minutes after Bill Frost and I agreed that Williams has probably played 30 CWMA showcases, the singer-songwriter clarified things to the crowd: “I’ve played about 100 of these … but it always feels nice to be nominated.” And the troubadour made a special occasion of this one, inviting the Joshua Payne Trio and David Payne on theremin to back him up. Drummer Dan Thomas later told me that this is a brand-new musical venture, and I think it totally works. Williams et al showcased his diversity, from painting vivid imagery on the mellow “Sunday Morning” to picking up the tempo the next song on “Rock N Roll.” Dressed to the nines in suits and ties, the band unfolded 45 minutes of evocative, re-imagined gems in an expert fashion that left no room for criticism, only allowing for reverence.
I took full advantage of the proximity of the two shows and hopped over to Bar Deluxe a few minutes before Williams’ set ended. And throughout the night, it was noticeable that many other CWMAers did the same thing. For a review of the Bar Deluxe showcase, go here. A cocktail of The Suicycles (and their go-go dancers), beer and poignant conversation kept me there longer than expected, so when I returned to The Woodshed, The Poorwills were already a few songs deep into their set.
This is a band that got its start on this very stage two years ago as an experiment for frontman Glade Sowards’ CWMA showcase. And despite rarely gigging because of wonky logistics (several of the band members are in the often-touring The Devil Whale), it was apparent that the four-piece has become a "band," rather than merely a "project." The other three members -- Jake Fish (bass), Wren Kennedy (guitar) and Joey Pedersen (drums) -- have all begun to share songwriting duties, and with the common thread of four-part harmonies, they strung together some beauts. The set also included several songs from the band’s 2011 debut, Drinks on the Wing. And as the name implies, these boys were thirsty. As the last-call whiskey shots began piling up (full disclosure: City Weekly provided one round), the last song became haggard, but with 40 minutes of solid work and playing into the wee hours of the evening, we can’t blame them. Salud! It was a fine evening of rootsy Americana, indeed.
Photos by Meredith Newsome.