The Bittersweets / Ryan Auffenberg / The Idaho Falls
Hotel Utah
May 28, 2005

Review by Jon Fojtik

It didn’t take any arm twisting to convince a small cadre of folks to meet up at The Hotel Utah when this bill was posted. Each act boasted talented songwriting, and the Utah is one of the city's coolest places to belly up to the bar and drink all night. The bar's history is reason enough to want to show up and soak it in. Tonight, though, there were a couple of bands that had been on my short list of must see Americana acts. The Idaho Falls, whose roster is made up of heavy hitting musicians from bands like Cake, Mojave 3, and The Black Eyed Peas (that one confused me), opened the show with their blend of country and psychedelic rock. With a love for the pedal steel guitar and a fun and jangly approach to boy/girl harmonies, Idaho Falls captured that new traditionalism, like the so-called noise that Farrar, Tweedy, and Gram Parsons (hell, even Johnny Cash to some degree) would make and mixed it in with Bakersfield sound. Reverbed, dreamy/woozy psychedelic indie pop rock that had banjoes, pedal steel and Nashville session progressions that flipped its fingerand saluted all things western. Idaho Falls, inshort, made me want a whiskey and made me wanna stay.

The second act was singer/songwriter, Ryan Auffenberg, who is a markedly good songwriter with dead on good-looks. He’s young, yet, but his presence is comfortable. At first, it kinda seemed like the crowd wasn’t ready to give him a chance, but once he got to singing, it was sweet. With simple wording and a lazy delivery, he had the crowd wound around hispinky like he was successor to the Ryan Adams’ crown. With his straight-ahead MOR attack, I was surprised at how much everyone liked it, but I guess we all have some guilty pleasures. This kid deserves a chance, though, and when he gets one, he’s gonna be on the radio.

Finally, The Bittersweets, hit the stage and my expectations were met and then some. This band sings that high lonesome sound, and does it until neither lead nor harmony can be distinguished from the other. These two intertwine until all you get is that sweet and that right spot; that money gunshot. It’s on the KPIG playlist, and its definitely folkey, and I practically cried in my beer when I heard male vocalist Chris Meyers singing his “Shooting out the Sky.” I was listening to a local boy with a voice somewhere between John Wesley Harding and Robbie Fulks. Hailing from the Midwest, Meyers recruited his singing partner, Hannah Prater, after his migration to the west coast. Since their debut in 2004, they have recorded with a slew of some of our local talented working musicians and have a full length record dueout in the fall. Check the website for any news: