It’s Back! (And it never should have left.)
Back, long ago in radio time (like two or three years) 97.5 The Blaze had a tag line that was plastered all over everything. Coming out of the flames of their logo artwork were the words “You can’t kill a revolution.” When they went through that unfortunate switch to “rock hits” last year (which is the last time it will ever be spoken of) this local activist was like “well, apparently you can kill a revolution.”
No. You can’t.
I know this because I was at Gallivan Plaza on Saturday, along with thousands of others, screaming my lungs out to the likes of Royal Bliss, Ed Kowalczyk, and Fuel. I’m still getting my voice and my hearing back.
It was a perfect day in downtown Salt Lake. I think I’ve typed this for every single review of a Blaze supported show that I’ve written. The music gods smile down on these guys for a reason, and Saturday they were having as much fun as we were.
I arrived in time to see Split Lid take the stage. (Sorry to the earlier performers, but I have seen some of you guys before and you’re awesome.) Having seen Split Lid at past concerts, I knew what they were capable of and they more than lived up to past expectations. There is an energy that comes along with bands that have the “it” factor and Split Lid has it. Every member of the band is able to command their part of the stage while working in concert with the front man and it comes together in a perfect mix of hard rock and good times.
It was, however, my first introduction to Hour 13 and their show was enough to make me head over to the merch table and pick up a CD. Being completely unfamiliar with their music, it was nice to just let the new sounds wash over me. This is one of the reasons I love the Blaze: their support of local music gives me a chance to really be proud of what is out there in our community. I hear all the time that Salt Lake has a crappy music scene. I don’t know what people are talking about. So, when I finally take the Ed Kowalczyk album off repeat, I’ll be giving Hour 13’s a listen.
One of the great things about Viva is that it hasn’t always been about the hard rock. In past years, Spencer Nielsen has performed on stage and between acts. This year, The Codi Jordan Band had their own slot and it didn’t take long before everyone was up off their comfy, grassy seats and dancing. It’s what reggae is all about, people! And dance we did like the party this was. Come on, a reggae band from Utah? How awesome is that?
But then came the religious experience that is Utah’s love affair with Royal Bliss. At times I think it is unfair for nationally known artists to have to follow Royal Bliss on stage. Even with acts as beloved as Ed Kowalczyk and Fuel, there comes a point when you have to just let the egos step back and let Royal Bliss close a show.
You haven’t been a part of a Utah musical experience until you’ve stood, pressed into the masses, screaming along with We Did Nothing Wrong and swaying to Devils and Angels. What I said before about Split Lid having that “it” factor? Royal Bliss gave birth to it and they know how to milk a crowd that loves them as much as they love the crowd. Afterward, I looked over at my girlfriend who had come with me. It was her first Royal Bliss show and she had tears stains on her cheeks. “Wow.” Was all she could muster.
But, as exhausted as we all were after the power of Royal Bliss, the night was Not. Over. And for me, it was the one show I’d come to see more than any of the others. Even as much as I love Royal Bliss, I’ve seen them. I thought I’d missed my chance to ever see Live perform. And while it was not Live but the lead singer, Ed Kowalczyk and his new solo project, any good former front man heading into solo territory knows to bring a mix of the old band’s music to the stage. From The Dolphin’s Cry to Lighting Crashes to The Beauty of Gray, Ed’s unabashed spirituality and belief in the power of Something washed over the crowd, baptizing us with his words. The songs he performed from his solo project were unmistakably Ed – toned down a bit from the days with Live, but still Ed. Full of philosophy and belief that This is not all there is (but he never places a name on This, which is great.) As I write this review, I am listening to his new album (which I also picked up at Viva) and it was worth every penny.
The night came to a flashy but slightly anti-climatic ending with a hard rocking performance from Fuel. The band took the stage to face an exhausted crowd and it took them a couple of songs to really warm up. In a short show, that tends to be an issue. But they toughed it out and soon the crowd was singing along with them. The night ended with Hemorrhage, which was fitting considering how we were all hemorrhaging energy.
As great as it all was, Viva was not without its issues. Feedback was a problem for most of the bands and seemed to get worse as the night went on. I also wonder if there weren’t too many bands packed into the schedule. Taking one band off the rotation gives the headliners another few minutes on stage. An hour is so short a time to get in all the songs the fans come to hear. In addition, I would have loved to have seen more local vendors show up to support the local music scene. Where was SpyHop Records? Where were the local guitar shops?
Viva is back and it was great. Let me offer up a word of advice to people who like free stuff and cheap tickets: keep showing up. The Blaze can put on concerts and bring great music to town, but it’s up to us as people in the community to get involved. If this is the radio station that actually speaks for what people in Salt Lake, not suits in Los Angeles, want then we have to show up and participate. We have to rock just as hard as they do. Otherwise they are just a bunch of dorks standing around on stage and we’re a bunch of idiots stuck listening to “rock hits” on the radio and paying way too much money for concert tickets.