Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vanzetti Crime's Last Gas

Utah's punk scene has a heart attack every winter. Never one single explanation for it all, some bands just call it quits. And at the end we either get some of the genre's best work from departing groups that will never be heard again live, or a bunch of pissed off kids who hate each other because they could get their act in gear to make a single EP. A few local punk groups (including another one of my favorites, The Explicit) announced their breakups in the past couple months. Leaving a void for other bands to fill, some of which will probably be going though the same process twelve months from now. But as the annual changing of the guard finishes up, we got one damn fine album out of the process.

SLC's own Vanzetti Crime have been keeping the scene alive for about a year and a half now. Putting on killer shows from The Outer Rim and the late Red Light Books, producing two EP's out of the DIY music handbook, and becoming one of the leading bands of the ever changing punk and ska scenes. The band formed in late 2007 out of the dismantling of another group that left bassist Austin Wood and drummer Trey Bird in search of a new formation, grabbing guitarist Mike Westbrook from a three year friendship and finding singer Erin Tooke through a mutual friend in an all acoustic project. They quickly started playing shows around the city and made a name for themselves amongst their peers.

So it came as quite a shock to the group's fans when they announced they'd be breaking up, due in large part to Mike being called to go on a mission. “We've known that Mike was going on a mission since before we even started to play together” says Trey. “But as time went by it became clearer on how soon it was actually going to happen. He received his call at the end of September for Mexico City, Mexico and leaves January 21st.” Normally a move like this would devastate any other ensemble and would force an immediate split or at least a change in the lineup. But instead the band pressed on with plans to do the exact opposite, record a full length album before his departure!

“We started work on the album the second week of December and finished everything up in three days” said Mike. “We recorded live, meaning the drums, guitar and bass were all recorded together, and then vocals were done separate.” For their last project the band went out in search for help to make the album the finest it could be, and found one of the best men they could have for the job. “We recorded with Andy Patterson, he was really easy to work with, and knows what he's doing. It was a really good experience, and was much easier than we had anticipated.”

When all was mixed and finished, the band came out with the eighteen song album “Unity.” A polished collection of almost everything the band had to offer. According to Trey, “We always knew that when we recorded we would record pretty much everything we had, since this will be our only album, it's almost like a discography of all the songs from the past year.” Featuring songs like “Communicating Through Bombs” and “Untitled” that call back to the feeling of early 80's punk along side bouncy tunes like “At Peace” and “Solidarity” that hit the ska sound at its core elements. The album itself is a great addition to the current Utah music scene, and a fitting
end chapter to the band's brief but loud memory.

The final hurrah for the group came to a packed crowd at Boing! Collective this past Friday night, playing along side up and coming acts like The Mooks, Talking Bombs and The Skaficionados.

“We all really love intimate shows, with no stage and a bunch of sweaty people bumping into you, it makes for a very fun and memorable experience and that's exactly what you get at Boing!” says Mike. “The Boing House has been a major part of our lives, not just as a band as people as well. It's great to go somewhere that sincerely cares about what's happening in community and the music scene.”

The crowd all knew the end was at hand and celebrated it for all it was worth, dancing, moshing and bouncing throughout the home. All topped off with in-house crowd surfing harking back to the early 90's venue days. Halfway into the set the crowd was asked to calm down as the floorboards to the home could be felt moving up and down. Which might have been an interesting moment, to see the group's final act of punk rock in Utah end up being their fans breaking Boing in half. Playing almost their entire album over the course of an hour, they closed up shop to a crowd singalong and a final thank you. No encore, no tears, no apologies.

As for a reflections on the band as a whole, Trey's says, “It's been a great experience. There's been a lot of good memories and we've met some really cool people along the way. We're sad to see it come to an end, but the past year has been one of the best years.”

“We've had some great moments, starting at Red Light Books and playing shows with local acts and touring bands as well” says Mike reflecting on their time performing.
”One thing we wish we could've done was tour out of Utah and get other people to hear our music. Overall though, it's been amazing.”
(Gavin Sheehan)


  1. How about giving credit to the record label Salt Hobo Records..... that would've been sweet

  2. Wait- you're going to take this little moment for the band and what they accomplished, and piss on it a little all because your label didn't get a name drop? Wow.

  3. Grr, i missed the second to last show and the last show. But this band is quite spectacular. My favorite song would have to be Cop Callers Cheats. GOod job, Vanzetti Crime, while you lasted!- A.T


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