Tuesday, December 15, 2009

bulldooozers burning rubber

Grandpa Elliott, this is your second appearance on my blog. You represent everything that is good about music to me. Keep making me cry. Keep giving me hope that a growing community of individuals in our global village can make change; through art, through music, through unadulterated joy, through bright spirits, warm hearts, educated minds. Keep playing your harmonica like it's the pacemaker pushing warm blood through the old veins of The Big Easy and you're the ventilator, gently easing new breath into damaged lungs. Keep their buldooozers burning rubber. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

There's nothing quite like playing a bad show.

It crinkles you up into balls of the high school sketchbook paper you wrote your first lyrics on. 
I'm an awkward performer. I want to perform with joy. I feel Joy when I'm on stage, but it comes across as
a) Deadly Serious
b) Uncomfortably Out-Of-Synch 
c) Annoyingly Snarky
d) All of the above.
especially when I'm performing for a room of people that I feel like I have to win over. My shows in California were so unbelievably good (definitely set a new P.R. out there) because even though I didn't know lots of the people, most of them had heard my EP and were excited to see what I would do. The energy was there. I had fans. Tonight, I had a room full of people. Just people. Which is exactly what I'll keep having rooms full of as I start performing more often.
My only real aspiration is to make music for my entire life, play live music for my entire life, and to do it because people connect with what I'm making. I just want to connect with people. So it gets confusing when I'm up there, playing, and feeling like they're listening wrong. But I know they're not. I know that it's me who's not playing right. It's not nervousness though, so far it sounds like it could just be nervousness; It's a lack of something. Joy, or the successful expression of it. Lack of looseness. I was able to let go of something in California that I need to learn to let go of consistently. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Here's to stuff!!

Roots in the Sky has been active since March of '09, and I've written a measly 15 posts. 
Sorry, friends. 
If I'm going to keep a blog, I might as well use it, right?
Let's get to it.
I guess if you're reading this, you probably want to know a little bit about what I'm doing with my life, right? Glad you asked!

Getting to record with Julia is seriously one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to do, ever. I feel a huge sense of responsibility to get things sounding as good on the album as they do in our little studio. She'll seriously just nail her vocal takes, like, within the first ten tries. Simon could attest to the significance and probability of that, at least in lesser musicians like myself. So far, the tracks sound a little rough at the edges, and it's totally my fault, so I need to figure out how to clean them up. I wish I had more time, I want to explore sounds, percussion, etc. so that this record will sound amazing. She deserves that. I'm going to try.

A huge bonus to setting up the studio and recording with Julia is that I've also started recording my Dad's music, which is something we've wanted to do for a looooong time. I wish you could all hear his songs right now. Someday you will. I need to get that project moving as well.

Matteo's first show went really well. I think we all felt like we had something great going on during our rehearsals, but it's different when it really comes together in a performance and that greatness really translates to an audience. It's one of the first groups I've been in where you can really see synergy happening; the sound the group can make is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. (For those of you that don't know, Matteo is a group I'm in with Eric Chipman and his wife Brynne. Chip writes the music, sings, plays guitar. I play upright bass and guzheng. Brynne plays violin and erhu. Brynne? Brynn? Never spelled it before.)

I don't know what to call my project with James Miska... Somebody at Davey's party said we looked like brothers, so we joked that we were Don Giovanni and the Family Band. Camillo (our drummer) is obviously a second cousin of some sort. That project is really something else. The song we put together is a strange mishmash of parts that James and I wrote, but it works really well. I'm excited to see what happens when we record it, and I'm also excited to see what happens down the road with this new musical connection. I've said this to a lot of people, but I really feel like I'm sitting at the big kids' table when I'm with him and his friends, so it's fun to feel like he respects me musically.

Keileigh and I are figuring ourselves out. It's surely the strangest emotional space I've ever inhabited, but the bottom line is, I really love that girl. Every single diploid cell in her multicellular organism (those are the words she used after I went on what was surely an incredibly boring rant about how cool cells are. p.s. I love my biology class 100x more than I expected to.)

I have probably 4 or 5 half-written songs that I'm trying to finish. I wrote another verse to one I posted on here a while ago, and in the spirit of full disclosure, it's almost entirely lifted fragments from Paradise Lost, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the Bible:

Liquid light on the porous globe is tabula rasa

Clarity is useful now that I’m prone to wander

The humble shrub is last in line, and I on painted wings

Crumple, buckle, wonder, as the effervescent sing

But who wants to hear about MY music? Puh-leeze. Boring.
Here's a few musicians I've been into lately:

Esperanza Spalding. Good God, where did this lady come from? Thanks to Kimberlee for finding her. Just, no words at all for this. I dare you not to be captivated. (this video has a long intro, so unless you want to hear David Letterman talk about something or other, skip to 0:40)

Florence and the Machine. I think I'm pretty late on the bandwagon with these guys, their youtube videos have like millions of hits and stuff. I was given their new album by a friend. In spite of their apparent popularity, their music videos are really awful, like, almost to the point of ruining the music for me. So I'll just link to some music. The whole "Lungs" album is fantastic though.

And finally, here's a group I really can't get over. Pomplamoose. They're a boyfriend/girlfriend duo based out of Portland, and not only are they hilarious (check the end of every video), wonderful arrangers, and talented multi-instrumentalists, but I think Nataly (the girl singer) is completely gorgeous. Crush. So.. yep.
They do plenty of covers, but their original stuff is great too. Check out Le Commun des Mortels. 
EDIT: Blogger was cutting off the side of the Pomplamoose video when I tried to embed it, so just go here. Now!

School is impossibly great right now. Really really busy, but pretty wonderful.

Hopefully now I can post some smaller, more manageable stuff and not feel like I'm leaving anything out. 

Here's to stuff!!


Monday, October 19, 2009

A little drearier

A good portion of my waking hours are spent in Milton Bennion Hall. It is a rather dreary, poorly lit place, littered with amber and white 50s brickwork, lonely whiteboards, fake linoleum. But the redeeming feature of the interior, the element I have connected with since the day I started working here, has been the doors. Each was a unique pastel color, and these solid swatches of blues and greens and oranges used to cleave the otherwise horrible hallways. They were not tasteful; they were inexplicably and endearingly and serendipitously wonderful, like when you let your 4 year old dress herself. The paint was not peeling. Nothing else has been changed. I walked in this morning to find every door painted deep, cadmium red. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I got lucky. Just as the poetry/lyrics I'd been writing became inadequate in the expression of new feelings, I was introduced to two wonderful books of poetry. The first was actually a radical re-introduction to the poetry of the Old Testament (The Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, etc). The second was "The Dream of the Poem", which is a book of Hebrew poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, from around the turn of the 1st Century, translated into English by Peter Cole. Everything is changing for me, and those two books have singlehandedly (doublehandedly?) made it possible for my music to keep up with that change. Here's part of a song I'm working on:

My facial features, 
my dusty mannerisms, with
the emotional space I 
never understood
have been shaken, 
oil and
that never
Alloyed, ancestral 
sense abandoned, 
     I clothe myself 
in rainfall.

This is constantly changing as I write and modify the song. Still, it's a good example of what I see as a kind of mixture of the more narrative stuff I used to write and the really heavily image-based stuff I've been writing for the past year-ish. 
It's an uneasy, dramatic, confused, chaotic, uncontrollable, skittish, and very personal exploration. 
I'm standing near a line I remember drawing, safely, from the other side.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Giant Drums and Heavy Hearts

I think the best way to give an update on my life right now is to post the first couple verses of a song I'm working on right now:

I'm melting through my windshield
Up to hills that feel like wax
These giant drums tell heavy hearts
The way to best react

The golden wheat sees summer pass
And bows its head, bereft
It never looked so heavy
As it did the day we left

One more thing. Irish folk singer Dougie MacLean is a childhood hero of mine, musically.
Here's why:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Live Show: August 16th

I'll be playing solo, with my brothers, and with Julia, who is playing as well. 
It's really going to be great, and it's free!
Plus, I hear Haptic is playing the same night...? 
It's a possibility anyway. 
I don't know what time I'm actually going to play, but if I find out I'll let you know.
Constitution Park. 300 N 1300 W. See you there.


Monday, June 22, 2009

In Full Widescreen High-Definition Stereoscope Digital 3-D!!

...Probably not really though.

Behold the first music video from the EP!
Created by Sage Turk (Director/Editor),
Dave Moppert (Cinematographer/Editor),
and Garrett Plummer (Equipment Manager/Editor).
Time to plug: These three have all collaborated on projects from Fair Weather Productions,
and Sage and Dave are both members of the advertising company Letter 23 Creative.
Bottom line, 
they're really great people, 
and I had a wonderful time trespassing,
jumping through tiny holes,
and cutting up my feet with them.
We hope you love it.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Hurts

1st, This has been the most incredible Salt Lake City spring that I can remember, 
Sunny/warm mornings, 
cool/overcast transition period to: 
Thunder Storm!!
Every day. 
I went on a rainy bike ride up City Creek Canyon yesterday, and I can't say there's a better way I can think of to take advantage of this crazy, wonderful, unexpected, happy June weather.
Which brings me to,

2nd, New Bike!

purdy, ain't she?

3rd, New job. I'm doing assistant studio work for a Jeweler in Park City. last week I spent my time soldering, buffing, cleaning, and casting these:

And these:

(This is a stock image from their website, and it's pretty old. 
The ones I've been making have a sleeker, prettier design.)

It's the most rewarding work I've ever done. I'm really grateful for the opportunity, even though it means driving to Park City three times a week.

4th, prettiest flash game ever. Kudos to the artists that made this little gem. Side note, I'm playing said game and writing this blog while at my other job, which may give some insight into why it's so refreshing to be working with my hands and producing beautiful little things :)

5th, dilemma: U-lock vs. combination lock w/ chain. Any thoughts? I can't seem to make the scales show a decisive winner either way. 

6th, Jessica, I'm copying the format of  your last blog. Also, had a party at my apartment and everyone loved your pinecone. So thanks for both. Hope San Francisco is treating you wonderfully.

7th, New songs in the works, old songs being rediscovered. It's good time for music right now. 

8th, Tentative kickoff of my yet unnamed Summer 2009 Park Concert/Party Series this Wednesday. More details soon.

Love you all

Friday, May 8, 2009

Plans For This Summer

I haven't posted anything here in nearly a month. 
I've been focusing on school, but more importantly, 
I've been arranging my summer. 
I'll catalogue all the adventure here, but for now, 
here's something to celebrate the warm weather and the good times to come. 

Love, Luke

p.s. When I grow up I want to look like Grandpa Elliott.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

the nature of the collective

This past semester in my Environmental Literature class, we've been talking extensively about human nature and the way humans function in a society and as a community. Science has the ability and the genius to create a brand new age of sustainable technology. Science, however, isn't very good at changing people's minds, changing public perception, changing our deeply-implanted ideologies. The Arts, written, visual, visceral, audible, have that ability. The class has drawn ideas and themes from Freud's Civilization and it's Discontents, Don Delillo's White Noise, Jack Turner's Abstract Wild, Albert Camus' The Plague. Each of these books was chosen not just for its environmental rhetoric (or purposeful lack thereof) but for its commentary on the human condition, the human as a social animal, and the nature of the collective.

It's hard to read the material and participate in the class discussions and still feel hopeful. Most of it leans toward the inherent-flaw-in-our-hard-wiring sentiment, and most of the class can't help but agree. But amazingly, in the face of all these great philosophers and thinkers, I think Kacie Kinzer, a student at NYU, presents the perfect counter-argument. And it's a little robot with a cardboard body and a smiley face drawn on the front with a marker.

Kacie Kinzer created the tweenbot, a miniature cardboard-plated robot who can only move in one direction. Forward. He's dropped in New York City with only his destination and "Help Me!" written on a flag that sticks up from his .5 foot tall body. People have to stop and re-arrange him, help him over curbs and past barriers, and keep him from heading into traffic. Thus far, he's made it to every destination just fine (they've only posted one mission on their website, but an article on Gizmodo makes it sound like they've done this numerous times).

My first reaction to hearing about this was actually one of disgust. Why are people so willing to help this robot and so unwilling to help each other? But maybe that's exactly what's so beautiful about the tweenbot. In a world with so much evidence pointing toward humans being primarily cutthroat and greed-driven, this robot shows that maybe those traits are perhaps learned, and not inborn. We have been taught as humans to treat other humans terribly, without trust and without empathy. This has become our unspoken Ideology. But when faced with a non-human entity in need, we act. We are compassionate. We laugh, and we help. And if that is still there, inside of us, down underneath somewhere, then it is not lost, and we as artists can keep trying to shine our light on it, and we as people can keep trying help it find its way back into our subconscious.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hipster Musicians, You Have Been One-Upped.

Ever toured the west coast from Canada to Mexico towing your double-bass behind your bike in a rolling coffin-like-contraption? Blind Pilot has, twice. The story was on NPR this morning, and I happened to catch it as I was eating my Eggo waffles. (My last trip to the grocery store I stood in the cereal aisle for 3 or 4 minutes, gradually realizing that I didn't want anything there. I think this is an important step in the living-on-your-own transition. Overcoming food laziness. Branching out. I made eggs a couple mornings ago. Eggs!)

Back to Blind Pilot, their music is really good, or else I probably wouldn't bother blogging about them. My guess is they'll probably gain some moderate fame pretty soon; they're touring with The Decembrists this summer, they've got a lo-fi documentary about their bike tour coming out soon, and bottom line, they sound great. For all I know, everyone else already knows about them. If this is the case, I'd rather not know. It's not very often I'm the one discovering cool bands. Let me have this one.

Also, this is great for me, because I'm finally really starting to get serious about using a bike for most of my transportation, overcoming old fears, trying to find a bike that fits me, and so on, so this is currently making me happy.

You can listen to them on their Myspace page, and here's the trailer for their upcoming documentary:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


If you're anything like me, you've always wanted a slingshot. Preferably a wooden one, like from Zelda. Your mom maybe bought you one of those wrist-bracing-molded-plastic ones and they were hard to use and hurt your forearm and didn't make you look nearly as badass as you thought.
Well, now you can have one, free of charge, and it doesn't hurt and it DOES look badass! And it's a movie! And it's my good friend Davey's senior thesis.

(And it's not really a slingshot. April Fools.)

A Slingshot Out of the Valley is a beautifully produced documentary about local art in our very own Salt Lake City. It features three specific (and fantastic) artists, but its scope is far broader; it speaks to the way art is functioning in Salt Lake in this 21st Century, and it's spot-on. 
Also, if you like this, make sure to check out another Dada Factory documentary, Afterimage: The Art of 337. It's a full-length film all about the 337 project that's WAY more than worth the 15 dollars. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Voltron got promoted?

Back in 8th Grade my childhood-friend-turned-not-friends-in-elementary-school-turned-we're-in-the-same-junior-high-school-hooray!-friends-again-friend Michael was up to some classroom mischief as he usually was, drawing comic strips on the backs of worksheets, and single-handedly created Voltron: Dungeon Warrior, a figure who would follow us through the rest of High School. I'm pretty sure between Michael, Phillip, and I, Voltron's name was at the top of more assignments turned in to that establishment than some of the students (Adam...?). 

Anyway, this is just a little post to say that none of us could've ever imagined a greater future for our friend. Voltron is not just a Dungeon Warrior anymore. He is The Defender of the Universe
And also to say that I will be watching this instead of doing any of my homework tonight. Thanks a lot, Alec Baldwin.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Simon just turned me on to this
which is currently blowing me away.
What an incredible project.
My hat's off to you, Kutiman.

Now it's Davey's turn to say all the wonderful insightful stuff I'm thinking
about how great this is.

p.s.  is it just me, 
or does the bass player on the first video look a lot like Moby?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Everything has Changed

Music just punched me in the face with the most beautiful gift it could muster for one glorious weekend. 
As if a rebuttal and a re-affirmation of the previous post, Music broke down and rebuilt my understanding of her in two days.

Friday I wrote the Deep Musicality post and then went immediately to the Fictionist show at Velour in Provo.
I had vague expectations of a really good local show, mostly from the video on their website, but I had no idea I would be swept away into the most enthralling psychedelic indie rock I've ever heard. Really, these guys cover everything from Pink Floyd to Cold War Kids like it's nobody's business (their show was actually a lot better than Cold War Kids'...). Their sound is so full and wonderful, so many beautiful, weird noises and so much musicianship. Fantastic bass/drum synergy. Go see them if you ever get the chance.
I went home with a smile, couldn't sleep, hell-bent on making music for the rest of my life, but wanting more than anything to put together a band to create the kind of fullness and richness of sound that Fictionist gets with their six-member ensemble. Until...

Saturday I saw Bobby McFerrin (see last post) at Kingsbury and had every neural circuit in my brain completely re-wired. He is truly one of the great creative innovators of our time. And he does it all by himself, no band, no instruments, just his voice and his body. There is truly nothing like it. I came out of that show with more than a smile on my face. McFerrin burst me open with playfulness.
There is 
in his craft.
I went home and goofed around with my guitar and my voice until about 2 in the morning. And I was so happy.

Look forward to a very different live show coming from me in the future. I owe it to this weekend, and these two groups. I feel like they perfectly combined two diverging musical desires that I've had into a single attainable musical vision. And it feels so good.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Deep Musicality

I recently read Arne Naess' "Deep Ecology", an essay (and subsequent branch of philosophy) based on the idea that humans are intrinsically connected with ecology and vice-versa. For humans to flourish, everything else must flourish as well, and for the earth to flourish so must humans (although humans flourishing from a Deep Ecological standpoint may someday include not existing). The essay wasn't just about ecology and sustainability for me. It was about music.

Soul, raw humanity, earthiness, are all things I've been trying to get back to musically. Having finished the album, a work in most cases of my desire to showcase myself as best I could, I was told by a friend that I needed to rediscover what first drew me to live performance and translate that into my recording. I haven't performed in an embarrassingly long time.

I began thinking about what connects people to music. What makes music so human and humanity so musical. And so I began thinking about musicians who exemplify for me that humanity so essential to the very best raw live performances. The first that came to mind was Richie Havens' semi-improvised Woodstock performance of Freedom. Then I thought of John Martyn's May You Never. Both are wonderful examples of live performances which emanate humanity through some kind of raw connection that these performers have with what Music has to say.

The seminal example for me, however is this:
Background: Bach, in his time, was a rock star. He was cool. People, non-musicians, related to what he had to say. Today musicians study him, but his music isn't really palette-able to the general public anymore. I believe though, that because Bach had a real and deep connection to what Music had to say, that it is mostly a matter of the performance. Solo piano with no vocals is no longer palette-able to the general public.

Point: There is a way to make Bach cool. But it's not this. The use of electric guitar in classical music is replicated ad nauseum on youtube... and it hasn't stopped being annoying yet.
It's this
Bobby McFerrin has, through his connection to the practice of Deep Musicality, connected to an audience of 21st Century Americans through an improvisation on a Bach piece. And it's real. And it's beautiful.

Most people know Bobby McFerrin only through his single "Don't Worry, Be Happy," a song which is actually pretty cool considering it is still the only #1 Billboard Hit to be entirely a cappella, using only overdubs of his own vocals (take that Bjork). However, it's hardly his crowning achievement. He has taken the study of the voice to a transcendental level unheard of in modern music, and people connect to it. He possesses obvious virtuosity but it doesn't make his music inaccessible to the non-music-playing public. Because it's just plain awesome.

I'll post more about this later. Deep Musicality is something I plan to explore hopefully for the rest of my life. And the fact that I got through this whole thing without talking about live shows I've actually been to means this is definitely not over.


p.p.s. He's at Kingsbury tomorrow (Saturday March 7th, 2009). And I'm going.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Once every month or so 
I run into a song that I describe to people as unstoppable,
meaning mostly that it's just really really good,
but also that it transcends musical borders
and possesses infectiousness without resorting to catchiness.

One thing I plan to do with this blog is throw a lot of music out,
and so for my first post,
I'll point you to my latest unstoppable song,
British band Tunng's Bullets.
I'd recommend not watching the video though, 
as weird and great as the visuals are.
just close your eyes and listen.
And dance if you feel so inclined.