Folking Facemelting | Music | Salt Lake City Weekly

Folking Facemelting 

Pixie and the Partygrass Boys' release a new album and some pent-up pandemic energy.

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One of the singles off of Pixie and the Partygrass Boys' new album commands only that you dance. With a backdrop of strings that rush by like a wild mountain stream, Katia "Pixie" Racine sings with her spirited, slightly raspy but unmistakable voice, asking that we all "howl into the moon," "stand on a mountaintop" and, of course, "dance, dance, darling, just be free!" The message is one of simple joy, exploded into the world like a wildflower meadow erupting in spring blooms. While the record it's on, Snake Creek, was recorded before the pandemic, it and all the other songs on the album speak to a certain kind of bright hope and excitement that we definitely need in this continually-shifting world.

Pixie and the Partygrass Boys are undoubtedly one of the most popular bands in Salt Lake City: They sell out shows consistently, and people can't seem to get enough. This despite the fact that on paper, they only have a few releases, by way of a bunch of singles, their 2018 EP Utah Made and their gentle album for the Municipal Ballet Co., The River Speaks Plainly. But on Aug. 13, with their new album Snake Creek, they show just how much all that practice pays off. The album is classic Pixie et al, bursting with vim, vigor and deftly plucked strings. "I think they're all just face-melters," says fiddler Amanda Grapes.

Mandolinist and co-singer Ben Weiss adds, "We definitely recorded everything on this album, like, way too fucking fast. Everything is just so high energy, so fast. And the subject matter of [these] songs is all over the place; there's some love songs, there's some shit-kicking songs, one of them is about Zach's dog."

Examples are the "fuck you" break-up song "California," the romantic and warm-hearted "Paint You a Face," and of course, "Ballad Of A Thin Dog," where Racine sings playfully, "This song's about my dog, I wrote it so you'd ask me to see his pictures on my phone" and declares definitively "dogs number one / cats zero fun." Bassist (and dog owner) Zach Downes points out that they feel more like themselves than ever on this album. "I think with this new album we really managed to capture our sound a lot better," he says. "We recorded most of the rhythm stuff live."

At 14 tracks, it's the rare long album that doesn't drag on, because Pixie and the Partygrass Boys effortlessly and distinctively combine traditional folk stylings with contemporary themes and humor—doubtless a big part of their appeal. With songs like the murder-ballad-ish "Bear Shark," where someone dies by beast because they skipped brunch, this is the charismatic kind of group anyone would want to have a drink or two with.

Despite this, though, they were not immune to the trials of the pandemic. Snake Creek was near completion in February 2020, so the year that followed obviously disrupted the subsequent roll-out. "It was this really fiery, chomping-at-the-bit, about-to-go-on-tour [work.] 'Cause we had our biggest tour of our career scheduled," says Weiss, a fact made all the more significant because all of the band members (including guitarist Andrew Nelson) have had their experiences with tour burnout, and therefore are wary of over-committing to big trips. So upon listening back to the ripping album during the pandemic, Weiss remembers thinking, "Who the hell are these people?" And Grapes mused, "Why do they play so fast?" Out of that roaring bunch, one pandemic-era song did get tacked on, though—"Be Kind" is an earnest plea for compassion to thy neighbor.

They also stopped playing live indoors. "We put the brakes on the band performing because our whole ethos is whisky, chickens and fun, gathering huge groups of people in small spaces, getting all sweaty and having a shit-kicking good time," explains Weiss. But they found a new, "chill" home at outdoor shows that they almost now prefer at places like The Urban Lounge. "S&S, those dudes really went the extra mile during the pandemic to make shit happen, to adapt to this new environment," Weiss says. "A lot of venues were just like, 'just come play at our bar' and we were like, 'no, we're not going to do that.'"

"It's funny how here we are, a year later and everybody's—I say everybody because everybody I know is vaccinated—kind of resuming activities like concerts, and now there's a lot of super high, fiery energy. During the pandemic I was like 'is [Snake Creek] gonna fall flat?'" Weiss says. "But now we're back around to the summer and ... it's perfect."

They've got some trips planned, like out to Colorado, their home away from home. There they'll be playing one show where vaccines or negative PCR tests will be required, a trend that seems to be settling in for shows around the country because of the Delta variant. Closer to home, they're headlining at the Utah Arts Festival, opening for Lake Street Dive at the Twilight Concert Series and debuting Snake Creek this Saturday, Aug. 14 at their backyard Urban Lounge release show. Visit for tickets and info, and keep up with Pixie and the Partygrass Boys on Instagram at @partygrassmusic.

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Erin Moore

Erin Moore

Erin Moore is City Weekly's music editor. Email tips to:

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