Until I started touring, Utah was a land in league with Wyoming and Nebraska: A destination valuable as a piece of American frontier history but lacking any stigma for visitation. This changed, almost exclusively, because of a soft-spoken Utah based singer-songwriter by the name of David Williams. On one of our early D.I.Y. tours, we contacted David about being local support on a bill in Salt Lake City but, as he explained in his slow, rural drawl, he was actually based out of a tiny southern Utah town called Torrey and, while he wouldn't be much help in SLC, could book us a show there. So, with little more than a venue name and David's recommendation we headed to Torrey following a show in Denver.
Upon arrival, Torrey will take your breath away with its sweeping vistas of the jagged red rock cliffs and formations but what's even more breath taking is how, as Portlanders, we feel right at home in the tiny town. Like David, most residents of Torrey are disenfranchised transplants, looking for reprieve from the hustle and bustle of normal life but still displaying the characteristics of their former homes. On any of the town's five street corners, one is likely to find an out-of-work musician penning lyrics, a painter suddenly inspired enough to pull the car over and set up an easel or a writer, laptop barred, overcoming writer's block through the inspiration of the area's natural beauty. For these reasons, as well as the area's rich archeological legacy, we planned a return visit for this tour, allotting two full days for archeological investigations and camping culminating with a performance at The Rimrock Resort's outdoor patio. Besides a hurricane-esque downpour while we were tromping through a slot canyon, our outdoor excursions went off without a hitch and the show drew nearly the entire population of Torrey (which could easily cram into Mississippi Studios). While shows in music Meccas like Austin and New York have their place, nothing beats a rowdy bar crowd in a small town. There are, however, a few drawbacks to small town shows, namely the pervading loneliness amongst the locals that ultimately results in hours of inescapable conversation when a solid night's sleep is the only thing separating tonight from another long drive.
We awoke the next day, well past the complementary hotel room's 12 pm checkout, and made our way up for a show at Muse Music in Provo. Our expectations for local support are generally non-existent so a truly talented opener can turn an ordinary show into a memorable experience. Provo's John-Ross Kegans Boyce did just that. If Tom Waits was 25, loved Johnny Cash and grew up Mormon only to abandon his faith for the bottle, he would be JR. His set was a delight to watch as he ambled his way through a catalogue of unpracticed songs, laden with seasoned hostility towards organized religion and youthful excitement over his recently found freedom. We retired to JR's favorite dive bar where we drank low-alcohol content beer until closing time and headed to Salt Lake.
Before we left, we invited JR to do a few songs at The Woodshed in SLC and we were delighted when he actually showed up. Salt Lake has an unpredictable music scene to put it warmly, yet our Friday night show seemed more like a Portland house show, complete with familiar faces from the night before that had, in the course of 24 hours, become our new Utah family.