It’s time we talk about the band Listener. Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, the self labeled “band of best friends” brought their music to our little big city of Salt Lake, specifically, to The Loading Dock, a tiny venue behind several buildings and a nightclub. It was, literally, a loading dock, making it long and narrow with a stage that barely fit the touring four.
Listener is usually just three, Dan Smith on bass and lead vocals, Jon Terrey on guitar, and Kris Rochelle on drums. On this particular 2017 tour, they were joined by Tim Stickrod of Cryptic studios, a design and screen printing studio he operates out of Oregon. These four were a powerful mix, creating enticing music for all to enjoy.
When Listener first took the stage, I noticed the drummer, Kris, had a single pedal attached to his kick drum. I pointed this out to the friend I was with, Ella. She asked me, “what does that mean?” I answered, “it’ll be a different sound than what we’ve heard all night.” We had heard two, very loud, very metal local bands play before Listener. They were each good, but as I said, they were very loud. As a drummer myself, I understand that one kick pedal means that the heavy choruses and breakdowns metal so often showcases will be incredibly challenging for this drummer. Doing it with one leg is trying and difficult. If this was simialar to the music we had been hearing, he would need a double pedal. I was correct of the less-heavy sound. Listener was a refreshing departure from the other performers.
As soon as the lead singer, Dan, had taken off his shoes, the show began. The lights of the venue were turned off, replaced by the fluorescent sticks arranged on stage. They shook hands with each other and wished their fellow bandmates a good show. Their music reminded me a lot of The Beastie Boys. Heavy guitars with vocals that were somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle of spoken word, rap, and singing. The band’s website, (linked below) describes it as “their brand of Talk Music”. It was such an interesting twist on the punk idea, and something, though vaguely reminiscent of music gone by, is completely unique in our current climate.
The lyrics are nothing short of poetry. Raw emotions not only show, but provoke vulnerability to the willing audience. Some songs, like the song It Will All Happen the Way it Should from the most recent album Time is a Machine, are directed to the Listener listener; They make you feel related to, but somehow out of reach to those of us with a basic understanding of our own emotions. Some songs are more of a story. The have a makeshift plotline to them, showcasing experience, be it fictional or not, to the point of believing it was your own.
The performance itself left nothing to want for. The band left themselves on the tiny stage. The audience was enthralled with every move they made, never wanting it to end. The lights behind them, mixed with the energetic music, and the tiny warm venue created a beautiful atmosphere that felt absolutely safe. It was a bubble of music that only the best live music can create. The audience became a part of the Listener Family Band that night. They made the most of the small venue, creating playful banter between themselves, letting the audience in on the joke. They played with the crowd, dedicating a song to me because I cheered for Marie Curie, one of my favorite women of history. They knew the balance of speaking and playing, letting us enjoy their music with them, while feeling like we were making friends of our own.
To me, the best part of seeing Listener that night was meeting them after the show. Ella and I discovered that, not only are they talented musicians with a unique style, they are also wonderfully nice people. We got to speak with them for a short while as Ella and I were the only audience members in the merch room at the time. They seemed so genuinely appreciative of our presence and support at their small show. Knowing a band is made up of good people makes it so much easier to become a fan. It’s even easier knowing that you are a genuinely appreciated fan.
Listener is a family band to whomever is the current listener, be it a live show or a blaring record. They have the ability to bring something beautiful to this world for anyone willing to listen.
(All Listener puns brought to you by the fact that they were obvious to make).