Everything you need to know about this year’s Twilight Concert Series lineup

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By Alex Sousa, Managing Editor, @TwoFistedSousa


The day has finally come that—for me, at least—marks the true beginning of the summer concert season here in Utah.  Yep, it’s that time of year when the Salt Lake City Arts Council announces the lineup for the Twilight Concert Series. It’s almost like Christmas morning, but better, because no one has ever given me a concert for Christmas.




I’ll go ahead and give you the details. As for the full lineup, we’ve got:


Thurs, July 18: Belle and Sebastian with Blitzen Trapper
Thurs, July 25: The Flaming Lips
Thurs, August 1: The National with Sharon Van Etten
Wed, August 7: Grizzly Bear with Youth Lagoon
Thurs, August 8: Erykah Badu
Thurs, August 15: TBD
Thurs, August 22: Kid Cudi
Thurs, August 29: Empire of the Sun
Thurs, September 5: MGMT


As usual, the lineup isn’t entirely finalized with a handful of supporting acts to be released and one date still completely empty. But this year does mark a change; for the first time there will be special back-to-back shows on August 7 and 8—a break in norm for the concert series which has laid claim to the Thursday night music scene for a lot of years.


After the announcement of the lineup, I’m always left feeling excited for the bands that I know and then I put myself to work listening up on the artists I don’t. It’s something I know a lot of you do too. And while the artists’ names are progressively becoming better-known as the concert series grows, I still wanted to give you my take on the lineup, tell you what you might expect, and—for anybody less familiar— give you a good jumping-off point for the artists.


We’ve done the research, and so here’s your guide to this year’s Twilight Concert Series lineup:


Belle & Sebastian (July 18)
Let’s be clear up front, this is not a duo group. Belle & Sebastian hail from Glasgow, Scotland and they’ve been cutting albums since the mid-90’s. And while critics love them, they’ve only had limited commercial success. That being said though, the current band has been together for over a decade, they’ve sold more than 3 million albums, and played countless sold-out shows around the world. Plus, we’re lucky to have them coming here to Salt Lake after they recently canceled a number of June concert dates throughout Europe.


This is going to be a great show to kick off the concert series. Belle & Sebastian are just good, classic indie pop. They’ve got presence and depth to their live performances and a solid track record. It’s going to be fun to watch them because they’re a band that seems to genuinely enjoy what they do. There won’t be theatrics, there won’t be dancing, there might not even be a lot of movement; it’s going to be a band and their music—which is sometimes just the way it should be.


What should I listen to?
Try out their highly-acclaimed sophomore effort “If You’re Feeling Sinister.” My favorite track from the album is probably “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying” so you can pay some special attention to that one. And also check out some tracks from “Dear Catastrophe Waitress.” The 2003 release ushered in their more wistful pop sound that’s carried them for the last ten years. Take special notice of the fan favorites “Piazza, New York Catcher” and also “If She Wants Me.” Belle & Sebastian are also set to release a collection of rarities and B-sides in June which might lead to us hearing a good mix of some lesser-known stuff. With eight studio albums though, the group has plenty of back catalogue for you to catch up on before July 18.


Blitzen Trapper (July 18)
The experimental folk-rock quintet hails from Portland and has released six LPs to date. Their plucking banjos and wailing harmonicas cry out for nostalgia while their use of synthesizers reaches out for something new and intriguing. Their slide guitars are dirty and untamed. The lyrics are insightful and emotive. They are everything good that comes out of the Portland music scene, in my opinion.


Again, these guys are first-and-foremost musicians so expect to see the five of them up on stage with their instruments playing their songs. It’s exactly the treatment their music needs, foregoing any pomp and circumstance and just getting right to the nitty-gritty of why we’re all there. But don’t think that it’s going to be low energy show; you should definitely be prepared for some boot-stomping Americana.


What should I listen to?
Be sure to check out their 2008 album “Furr,” the eponymous track is definitely one to listen to—and arguably their most popular song—but, don’t miss out on “Black River Killer” which is a somber, hillbilly romp. Go ahead and listen to the album while taking a long drive through the mountains or the back roads—it’s perfect for this warm weather and rugged landscape. You’ll also want to give their 2010 release “Destroyer of the Void” a listen. Again, the song of the same name and also “The Man Who Would Speak True” are two of my favorite highlights from the LP.


The Flaming Lips (July 25)
The proverbial shark was jumped for those who keep a close eye on the Salt Lake music scene when Pollstar let it slip that The Flaming Lips were on their way. Of course, that doesn’t make this any less awesome. The Flaming Lips, with psychedelic rock arrangements and lyrics that reach out into the cosmos, are definitely an exercise in the strange. And I couldn’t be more excited to see them, especially after missing out on their 2011 concert at Saltair. And for anybody who was there, The Flaming Lips are reaching new levels of experimentation and their shows are increasingly flamboyant, so expect something new from them.


Their live shows are the stuff of legend, and they’re definitely an artist that must be experienced live at least once. Now, I don’t know what we’ll see since the venue at Pioneer Park is more temporary than others, but the Flaming Lips are known for their theatrics. I’m hoping they’ll still pull out all the stops for us, with costumes, puppets, giant hands, and (fingers-crossed) frontman Wayne Coyne’s signature man-sized plastic bubble. It’s going to be a trip no matter what though.


What should I listen to?
Their forays into space rock are as strange and ethereal as their shows, so just dive in anywhere. Truly. You might feel like you’re drowning at first, but just relax and stop fighting the waves of psychedelia that are crashing all around you. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” is probably their most well-known album, so you can get cozy with that one. Don’t just get stuck listening to their big hit “Do You Realize??” (although you can watch the music video for a taste of all the over-the-top weirdness that translates into their live shows) and be sure to give other songs on the album a try, like parts 1 and 2 of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and “Fight Test.” We also just got a new album from them in April, “The Terror.” Plan to hear songs from that release as they’re touring to promote it.


The National (August 1)
Full disclosure, this is probably the show I’m most excited about. When Casey Jarman announced it, I was smiling like an idiot. And why is that? Because The National is a musical knife that cuts right to the bone.


While constantly searching for what they deem musically interesting, The National has danced through sounds of melancholy lullabies that reach deep and sometimes disturbing levels of humanity. The quintet from Cincinnati, now based in Brooklyn, are known for their dark lyrics left up to interpretation, so don’t take the poetry lightly.


For as somber as their music is, these guys are pretty funny and fun to watch. There won’t be anybody jumping across the stage, but expect an ocean of audience members actively listening and bobbing their heads in time with the music, as if agreeing with everything frontman Matt Berninger is singing to us. Know this though, The National is a group that knows how to rock and that’s expressed fully in their live shows.




What should I listen to?
My personal favorite from The National is still the critically-acclaimed “High Violet.” With songs like “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “Lemonworld,” “Conversation 16,” and (my personal favorite) “Anyone’s Ghost,” I’m still powerless against the sweeping brilliance of that album. But, that’s not to detract from the excellence that is the rest of their back catalogue. Be sure to listen to “Alligator,” their 2005 release which includes “Mr. November,” their now-legendary encore. I won’t forget to mention “Boxer” from 2007 which features the dark melancholy that made The National what they are.


Of course, they’ve got an upcoming release on May 20 titled “Trouble Will Find Me.” They just released the video for their first single “Demons” in April, so check that out. And if you really like what you hear you should definitely check out their debut, self-titled LP for a bar-soaked descent into meaninglessness.


Sharon Van Etten (August 1)
Sharon Van Etten is a seductress of sound with music that teases folk but is something all its own and original. Her lyrics weave poetic tapestries of meaning without being overly earnest. And her voice—oh, her voice—is a cocktail of rasp and longing that give her songs a depth that other artists lack. When she sings you know that she’s “been there” and so you believe every word that dances through her lips.


The native New Jerseyan is an accomplished musician who plays the guitar, piano, and percussion, along with the harmonium and omnichord.  Her debut album, “Because I Was In Love,” released in 2009 was stripped down and the arrangements minimal, which serve her voice and style perfectly.


It’s going to be a somber show, that’s for sure. Etten has toured fairly extensively with The National so it will be nice to see them together. Get ready for a lot of poetic lyrics with simple delivery and also a lot of instrument changes from Etten since she doesn’t just rock the guitar.


What should I listen to?
The nice thing here is that since Sharon Van Etten is relatively new to the scene, there’s really no reason not to explore her whole catalogue. I think her 2012 album “Tramp” is her strongest release, with songs like the mournful “Warsaw” and jaded “Serpents,” so I would definitely give that one a listen. If you like that album, then check out her earlier releases “Epic” and “Because I Was in Love.”


Grizzly Bear (August 7)
Grizzly Bear isn’t in any hurry. But the time that they take translates to the quality of their music. It’s beautifully crafted and well-rounded. Dabbling in experimental and psychedelic pop-folk-rock, their songs are strong in vocal harmonies and excellent mixing. The Brooklyn quartet spent time opening for Radiohead during their 2008 summer tour, a band that had a deep influence on the sound of Grizzly Bear in their formative years.


These are guys that feel their music as they play it and the audience will respond to that. They’ll keep it light and casual, but they’re there to play music and that’s a serious thing for them. Expect low lights to match the synth-folk mood of the music.


What should I listen to?
“Two Weeks” is still one of their most popular songs. And if you don’t watch the music video all the way to the enlightening finish, then you’re really doing yourself a disservice. That song comes from “Veckatimest,” their 2009 album that you’ll want to listen to. Of course, Grizzly Bear has had a boom of success with their recent 2012 release “Shields.” My favorite track so far is “Sleeping Ute” (and might be a nice shout-out to their upcoming Utah audience) and “Yet Again” is another one to listen for during their set.


Youth Lagoon (August 7)
Trevor Powers—who is Youth Lagoon—hit the music scene with sounds and songs of hypnotic ambience in 2010 with the album “The Year of Hibernation.” Now, with the sophomore release “Wondrous Bughouse,” Powers is finally getting his due recognition—even if that is coming a year and a half after the LP’s initial release from Fat Possum Records. With a newer sound—that I don’t want to call “more mature,” but definitely seems less limited or naïve—Powers has cracked the music scene with songs of introspection and imagination.


Youth Lagoon is nothing if not hypnotic. I’ve not yet had the chance to catch a live performance, but judging from their showing at SXSW we’re in for a set of mellow, somber songs with an almost spiritual resonance. Powers’ vocals might turn some people off—with his nasally, Billy Corgan falsetto—but I find it engaging or sometimes even haunting.


What should you listen to?
You’re probably going to want to familiarize yourself with a lot from “Wonderous Bughouse.” Take some time to listen to “Dropla” and “Mute,” we’re probably going to hear those. Be sure to check out “Afternoon” and “17” from “The Year of Hibernation” too.


What I’d really recommend—and I’d say this for any album, but especially with the kind of music here—take some time and listen to the albums in their entirety. Music, especially the kind heard with Youth Lagoon, is meant to be an experience. This is the kind of sound that a person can really invest in; it works for casual listening, but you can find a whole lot of depth if you put time aside to let the music wash over you.


Erykah Badu (August 8)
Erykah Badu is the queen of nu-soul and she’s as much of a philosopher as she is a musician. Her 1997 album, “Baduizm” went triple-platinum and earned Erykah an Grammy the following year. She’s made her mark in the music scene wither intelligent fusion of R&B and 90’s era hip-hop.


So, I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of Erykah Badu. I’ve tried, I’ve really given her a chance but I just haven’t been able to connect with her music. That moment of revelation came to me while watching her perform with My Morning Jacket during their Todd Haynes-directed YouTube special event. Lots of people, including myself, expected her to show up for the band’s “Tyrone” cover, but she stuck around for four songs. Halfway through the second song I just wanted her to leave because she was infringing on the burgeoning man-crush I have on Jim James.


That being said, she is an amazing performer and we’re in for a good, methinks. And, it might even get a little surreal looking at some of the directions she’s taken with her music. This might just be the perfect chance for me to give her another try, because she is a talented artist and she deserves at least that much.


What should you listen to?
“Baduizm” earned her a lot of points in the music world, especially with “On & On,” so you’ll definitely want to check that out. Her most recent studio albums have been the two part “New Amerykah” series, so take a look at “New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)” and “New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)” to get a taste for her more recent ventures. Not to mention, “Window Seat,” a single from “Return of the Ankh” got some notoriety for the controversy that the music video caused. Apparently people took offense to someone stripping nude down the streets of Dallas and then feigning a gunshot to the head at the site of JFK’s assassination.


Kid Cudi (August 22)
Kid Cudi (or should I say KiD CuDi, because apparently that’s a thing we do now) caught the attention of Mr. Kanye West in 2008 with his guerrilla mixtape “A Kid Named Cudi” before he went on to capture the attention of a wider audience.


I’m not always as familiar with the more urban offerings that we get at the Twilight concerts, but I’m actually fairly familiar with Kid Cudi. Between being heralded as Kanye’s “favorite living artist,” Cudi’s pairing with MGMT, and having a friend who frequently listened to “Man on the Moon: The End Of Day” while treating his glaucoma, I’m actually pretty aware of the scene this time. And because of that, I’m kind of interested to see the show he puts on even though I’m not a huge hip-hop fan (don’t be fooled by all my talk about Kanye here).


What should I listen to?
Like I said, I’m a little out of my strike zone, but let me tell you what I know. “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” is a pretty sadface album, so check that out because it’s a big landmark in Cudi’s career,  but be prepared for it to drag you down. That one also includes “Pursuit of Happiness” which features MGMT.


The follow up, “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager” is a little more upbeat and more fully realized that his previous album. It also includes the song “Erase Me” which is one of Cudi’s bigger songs and one that he sometimes plays guitar on, so I’ve got to give him some kudos for that.


In April, Cudi just released the album “Indicud,” so that’s probably going to get a lot of play in his setlist.


Empire of the Sun (August 9)
Here’s one of Australia’s most interesting musical inventions. Empire of the Sun is an electro-glam-pop duo who writes mythological narratives with catchy instrumentals to go along with it. Sound crazy enough yet? They also have a taste for theatricality and have some of the most epic album covers since Meatloaf came raging on like a bat out of hell.


I’ve never seen these guys live, but I am intrigued to watch somebody jam out while wearing some sort of feathery, Mayan bodysuit costume. Right? It’s going to be an active show with lots of theatricality, fog, lights, and probably a couple girls in bee-catcher costumes playing giant cardboard guitars. Because, of course they will.


What should I listen to?
Because of the narrative lyrical style, I’d say again that you should just listen to the whole album. Go ahead and grab a copy of “Walking On A Dream,” their 2008 release, and just lay in bed and let the Empire of the Sun take you somewhere you’ve never been. Also, just stare at the album artwork while you listen to it. Seriously.


MGMT (September 5)
I thought they were called “Management” when they first popped up on my radar in the early 00’s. But, as you may know, that’s wrong. It’s M-G-M-T. Glad that’s out of the way.


MGMT was a band that just sort of became something organically. Its founding members never set out to create a band; they just made music after being drawn together by their mutual love of mystic paganism. Their experimentation lead to dabbling in electronica and noise rock and eventually settled into what has been labeled “shape-shifting psychedelic pop.”


Their live shows have a flair for the theatrical, but it never takes main stage like some of the other acts we’re going to see at the Twilight series this year. It’ll be cosmic, it’ll be ethereal, it’ll be fun. For all the strangeness that’s behind the music, it’s still going to be four guys playing their instruments and loving every minute of it.


What should I listen to?
“Oracular Spectacular” has yet to be dethroned as my favorite album of theirs.  “Time to Pretend” and “Weekend Wars” are the best ways to start that album because they suck the listener in and teach how to listen to the rest of the album. It works all the way through the ethereal finale with “The Handshake” and “Future Reflections.” Their 2010 release “Congratulations” is also a perfect summer album for those long, fun, warm summer nights—even here in the desert.


That’s the lineup, as far as we have it now. Have any thoughts? Sound off in the comments below. Check back to see what we have to say at the Salt Lake City Arts Council fills the gaps in the lineup, and of course, see what we have to say about the concerts when they finally arrive.


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