A conversation about the political event with Crook & The Bluff's Kirk Dath
At The State Room last April, psych-western-blues band Crook & The Bluff—along with Candy’s River House and Pig Eon—staged Ménage à Trois. The show opened with the band’s frontmen (Kirk Dath, Jordan Matthew Young and Sam Smith, respectively), playing side-by-side before all three bands came onstage at once, trading songs in a lengthier second act followed by a spectacular third where everyone played at once and aerialist dancers dangled from the ceiling. It was a unique and thrilling local music event, the likes of which Salt Lake City had never seen.
The concept originated with The Bluff , who are known for their imaginative, theatrical performances. Dath speculated at the time that he might do more events like it if it got people to come support local music. Now he’s recruited The Arvos and Green River Blues for a new three-band event called This Machine Kills Fascists. The “non-political, non-partisan” event–named for the slogan scrawled on Woody Guthrie’s guitar—is aimed at raising awareness of social justice issues and is emceed by Alex Cragun, Executive Director of the Utah Democratic Party. Attendees will receive a raffle ticket at the door, which they can use to assign their $10 cover charge to one of four charities including Alliance for A Better Utah and the Utah chapters of The Sierra Club, The League of Women Voters and The Wounded Warrior Project.
City Weekly caught up with Dath via email to discuss the event.
Why did you decide to host an event like this?
The idea was to throw a rock ‘n’ roll show in protest ofsocial injustice by performing both original and cover songs [about] inequality, war and revolution. As this is a non-political, non-partisan event in nature; Alex will be participating in the show as public servant, providing information on voter registration, community involvement, charitable work, et cetera, but not specifically as a representative of the Democratic Party. He’ll make announcements in between bands. During performances, Alex will be occupying a booth where audience members can sign petitions, [join] mailing lists, register to vote and obtain information on how and where they can involve themselves locally. And audience members will have the opportunity to engage in their emboldened civic duty by donating their entrance fee (a raffle-ticket) to the charity of their choice.
The idea came about after the white nationalist rally in August [in Virginia]. That day at our rehearsal, the band was talking about how we couldn’t believe that this fascist mentality still runs so deeply in our country. Thinking on how or what we could do to get more people out of their comfort zone and be more politically involved, we settled on the idea of having a protest show. We’re not by any means a strictly political band, however we do have strong opinions about how our country should treat one another. We thought, “Well, let’s do what we do and play some rock ’n’ roll and hopefully inspire some people and remind them what civic duty is all about.” By doing so, hopefully we can raise some money to help these local organizations do what they do best, which is to organize and fight the good fight.
It’s important that we all involve ourselves politically, even if it’s a little every day, week, month or year. Together we can chip away at this system, and sculpt a society that we’re all proud to be a part.
You’ve shown, with The Bluff and with these themed bills like Ménage à Trois, a knack for coming up with interesting ways to present local music. What are you hearing from crowds after these shows?
I suppose we’ll see what people say after this Saturday’s show, but I will say everyone we’ve talked to about the Ménage à Trois was quite pleased with the concept and performance. When the energy on stage is wild and crazy, the crowd follows suit, and vice-versa. That night was an extreme example of that powerful symbiotic relationship. It’s easy to fall into the trap of showing up, doing what you do, leaving and entirely forgetting about the meaning of the word “show.” I believe that once in a while it’s important to put forth the effort and host a show that challenges everyone involved, the audience, the bands and the venue. Creating a “show” is especially important for us local bands, because playing these same or similar sets (especially with as many shows as we play) can get old—and hell, variety is the spice of life right? It’s hard work and challenging, but the reward is ever so sweet and makes for an invigorating evening.
Why are you staging TMKF during Sundance? Do you hope to attract some non-local attention?
This date actually has nothing to do with Sundance; that’s just a coincidence. We specifically chose the 20th of January as it’s the one-year anniversary of the inauguration. It seemed fitting that if we were going to hold a show in protest of the issues we’re focusing on, that it be on this date. However I will say, non-local attention is always welcomed, but we’re doing this for our Utah peeps.
Of course, there’s a lot of good that an event like this can do to raise awareness of social justice issues locally. SLC is woke—but it’s still SLC. What can we do better as a city regarding social justice?
Get involved. Everyone seems quick to voice their opinions via Facebook or other social media platforms, but if you don’t take your grievances beyond this hollow medium, nothing is going to happen. It all starts at your local government, and there are such amazing organizations right here in SLC that will help guide you and teach you the steps to take so that you—yes, you—are actually involved and making a difference on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. We feel honored to have partnered with these particular local organizations. It doesn’t take much if we all chip away to carve out a better system, but it’s our responsibility as citizens of the world to fight to make our communities stronger, healthier and safer. We unfortunately don’t have the luxury to sit back and hope that our representatives are serving our best interests. We need to show them what our best interests are by shoving them down their throats.
How did you choose these bands to go with this theme?
Green River Blues and The Arvos are both kickass SLC bands and good friends of ours. They know a thing or two about rock ’n’ roll, I might add. And what better way to get people riled up and inspired than a good ol’ fashioned rock ’n’ roll show?
What else do you have up your sleeve? Is Ménage 2 still possible?
The Bluff always has a few tricks up their sleeves, in fact the pot is boiling over with new ideas we’ve got stewing. And yes, Ménage à Trois Deux is coming, you can bet your sweet ass on that. Upon return from our European tour, priority number one is to hustle up some dough and finish this long awaited album. After that puppy is ready to drop we’ll start talkin’ three-ways. CW
This Machine Kills Fascists
w/ Crook & The Bluff, The Arvos, Green River Blues
Friday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m. (doors)
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East