Okay, the title to this post might be a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve been invited to two listening parties in the span of three weeks, but considering that before these I had been to zero listening parties, it feels like a lot.
So a bit of background. I was at work on a Thursday, minding my own business, like one does, you know the drill. And as I was reviewing a private placement memorandum for a company that I’m not really sure what they even produce or what service they provide (I’m really good at my job), I received an sms text message from a certain Michael Barrow.
Now for those of you familiar with with blog, you might be asking yourself, is this the very same Michael Barrow of Michael Barrow & the Tourists? Indeed, it was one and the very same. How delightful! To what do I owe the pleasure, I mused.
I opened the text, and to my delight, Mr. Barrow himself was extending an invitation to a shindig the following night not ten minutes from my house. He said they were allowed to only invite a few people and said that they liked me and would be ever so excited if I attended.
Of course, I accepted. Though to be perfectly honest, I was unsure what I had accepted to attend. The flyer was unclear and rather than be a reasonable human and ask some simple follow up questions, I ran off like Bilbo Baggins without a care in the world of what actually lie ahead of me on this journey. I was going on an adventure!
I was told I could invite a friend so I asked my three go-tos when it comes to music. None of them could go. It’s like people in their late 20s are busy and have lives or something and, unlike me, already have something planned on a Friday night. And I wasn’t going to invite someone that didn’t LOVE music.
So I strolled up to a massive house and saw a few people go around the side of the house and into the backyard. So I followed. AND I FOLLOWED THE WRONG GROUP OF PEOPLE INTO THE WRONG BACKYARD. Just kidding. But you have to admit, it was believable for a second.
No, fortunately I was in the right place and saw Michael Barrow immediately. After exchanging pleasantries, I finally asked what the hell this event was. Before, I had maybe thought it was a live music event, but there were so many artists on the flyer in only two hours, and when I went through the gate as if i was entering the secret garden or an alternate, non-wardrobe gateway into Narnia, I noticed the glaring absence of instruments and in their place a very large inflatable projector screen. Michael explained that this was a listening party, and everything made sense.
To be brief (after I spent so many words leading up to this point), it was, in the words of Michelangelo describing the Sistine Chapel after finishing it, “pretty freaking dope.”
Each artist that was invited to share had a slide that included their name, the song title, the song/album release, as well as where you could follow them on social media. They introduced themselves, said a little bit about the song they were going to share, and then shared the song.
I am in never ending awe at the level of talent that is in my backyard, figuratively, and in that backyard, literally. The Utah music scene is unique and diverse and really fucking good. No, we are not a big market, but that’s what makes it so crazy. I mean, there was this one girl, Detzany, who shared a rerelease of her song “Way Out,” and I got literal chills during it (this might have been because it was kind of chilly that night, but I’m chalking it up to the music).
I was introduced to many more acts that I had not heard of before. Between being stuck in law school and COVID, I have been a little out of the local scene a bit besides the usual players I already knew. The following are every artist that presented music at the event:
Michael Barrow & the Tourists
How or why is there so much musical talent literally in the middle of nowhere? Because, even as much as I’ve learned to love Utah, it really is in the middle of nowhere and far from a thriving metropolis.
(Marking a definite tonal shift here for everyone)
But this brings me to my next point. With how much talent is here, Utah should be a factory for producing a steady stream of great artists, but we haven’t. Roughly ten years ago, Utah produced Neon Trees and Imagine Dragons. Before and since, there have been a couple of success stories but nothing quite the same.
I lament at this fact because I am of the belief that the lack of recent success stories hasn’t been due to a lack of talent. I believe it is because Utah lacks the music infrastructure. Which is such a dumb reason. This lack of infrastructure only comes from a lack of investment; and we only have ourselves to blame. We have neglected to come together and invest in our community. Instead, once a band or an artist reaches their ceiling for what Utah can provide them, they go elsewhere, only to find that they are a very little fish in a very big pond.
But I am writing this to say that it shouldn’t have to be like this. Utah can become a rich, bastion of music in the west. I mean, for Christ’s sake, we have one of the largest international film festivals right in our backyard in Park City. We should be a beacon for all of the arts. But in order for this to happen it’s going to take the whole Utah music community to come together and work as a cohesive unit rather than the fractured tribes it’s been for so long.
Sure it starts with things like this event I attended: A group of mostly artists and producers coming together to support each other. I also had a similarly incredible opportunity during my third year of law school where i attended a dinner or former and current musicians, as well as others to talk about the music scene here. Both of these were great and awesome for networking but it’s going to take all of these different groups coming together to actually get something done and on top of it getting the venues involved to support local artists in ways they haven’t before.
Coming off of over a year-long pandemic, people are starving for live music. I know I definitely am. My September and October calendars are packed with concerts. We need to take advantage of this. Utah is at a crossroads with some very special talent that deserve to be heard not just by me or the hundred or so people at the listening party. They deserve to be heard by the world. And we should do everything in our power to put them and all future aspiring artists in Utah in a position to succeed.
I’m not really sure the solution to this (I am, however, open to suggestions). I do know it’s not going to be a quick process, but I think it’s a combination of so many things. Events like Fork Fest and the Kilby Court block party are great events that showcase our local talent, but we need more. I believe we need venues that will bring in bands from out of state and be committed to having local acts open for them. I believe we can set up resources for artists to receive funding even though they’re not yet signed to a label. I’m just one guy who writes about music (and in my day job, an attorney), and I’m sure there are people who know more who have been involved with the scene much longer than I have, but my point is we have something special here and I don’t want it to go to waste. The local scene has done so much for me, and I know it has for you, so it’s time to give back.
So, come here often?