Salt Lake City’s five-piece outfit The Folka Dots (pictured above) started the evening off with their “old-time feeling” country-blues music. The band features beautiful three-part female harmonies, guitar, banjo, stand-up bass, violin and a washboard, several of the instruments being rotated in and out with each song. I don’t think I would classify the band as a folk band, but rather straight-up Southern country, complete with cowboy boots and that country twang. Comparisons in my mind floated toward Swedish sisters First Aid Kit, but after The Folka Dots performance, I have to admit I heard the name Dixie Chicks being thrown around a little in the crowd. The band played a solid set, and the audience gave the band polite, positive feedback. However, it was the band’s first time playing at Velour so I think the crowd treated them like any opening band they’re unfamiliar with: Some people were really into it and helped the band along with occasional clapping and full-out cheers when the bass player sang a few lines in his deep vocals, but for the entire set I was distracted by how loud the background talking was.
I’m going to give it away right here and say that The Mighty Sequoyah’s performance was the highlight of the evening for me. This was my first time seeing the band play live. I had watched several videos online (my favorite being a live studio recording of their song “Medicine Man”), but I had never seen them play in person. They started with said song blowing my mind by how amazing it sounded live. It was the perfect way to start their set, and the audience responded with explosive applause. The Mighty Sequoyah’s male-female harmonies are intense and emotional, at times very controlled and other times loud and yelling, and frontman Caleb Darger’s somewhat raspy voice fits perfect with the band’s folk rock sound. The Mighty Sequoyah’s lyrics are great, and there was a lot of singing along from fans in the crowd and, much to my surprise, the few occasional fist pumps. I was glued to the band for the entire set and desperately wanted more after it was over. This is one band you’re going to want make a trip down to Utah County to see soon.
I’ve been an Isaac Russell fan for years, dating back to the time he went by Ruru. The first time I saw him perform “Elizabeth” at a show opening for Joshua James, I was hooked. Goosebumps rose up and down my arms, and I think a tear or two probably rolled down my cheek. I played his debut album over and over and thought the songwriting and musicianship incredible, especially since he was only like 14 when it was released. He signed with Columbia Records a couple of years ago and last night’s performance was the first time I’d seen him play in years. I’m happy to report that he’s still got that ability to capture an audience’s attention and keep listeners hooked on his every word throughout his entire set. He played by himself, switching off between acoustic and electric guitars. He started with a Ray Charles cover and then played a mix of some newer songs, as well as older, crowd favorites like “Elizabeth” and “House of Cards.” He explained the meanings behind each song that he played, giving the evening an almost “MTV Unplugged” feel, but what amazed me most about his performance was how silent the audience became the moment he stepped on the stage. Aside from people (myself included) singing along quietly, it was completely silent. I could hear each click of the camera shutter with each picture my friend took.
I know I’m extremely late in the game, but this was my first time seeing The Moth & the Flame play live. I’ve seen videos and seen other bands the guys have played in, but this was my first time experiencing what all the hype here has been about. Looking around, I could tell the band had some hardcore fans present, knowing exactly when to bang their heads and knowing when each moment in each song would come. The band’s alternative, experimental sound works perfectly with the fog and the strobe lights cleverly cued at just the right moments. They have some pretty amazing harmonies, as well (obviously a theme from the night) and singer Brandon Robbins's voice is a perfect fit for the genre they dabble in. It’s calm and pretty at moments yet can shift and become chaotic and frantic at other times, matching perfectly with the equally shifting dynamic in the music. I was awestruck at how beautiful and frail the music was at times, with just the notes of a piano playing, and then how it could shift so drastically with experimental guitar riffs and shouting and orderly chaos a moment later. The juxtaposition of the two different emotions is amazing and probably my favorite thing about the band’s live performance. Robbins announced that the band would play a song requested by fans that they weren’t originally going to play, but I’m glad they did. I recognized “Lullaby II” as the song they performed in their Occidental Saloon video. The Moth & the Flame were a great end to an incredible night. I wouldn’t be surprised if several of Saturday night’s performers make it to the final round.