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South Salt Lake Journal

Folk punk artist brings his American Dream to South Salt Lake

Aug 07, 2022 08:16PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

By Jesse M. Gonzalez | [email protected]

With an acoustic guitar and a canorously bellowing voice, musician Bryan McPherson stopped by Tailgate Tavern in South Salt Lake as part of his tour to help promote his new album, “How to Draw Everything.”

Originating from Boston, Massachusetts and then moving to California before migrating to Montana to seek inspiration and clarity, McPherson has traveled throughout the United States and the United Kingdom to share his musical skills with zeal and spunk, and eventually becoming revered by music producers, critics and bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly.

Usually coming to Utah once or twice a year to perform, McPherson ultimately decided on choosing Tailgate Tavern as his next venue. “They’re supporters of original music,” McPherson said. “So I reached out and they got right back to me and we were able to set it up.”

So, on July 8, locals came by, trickling through the door as openers, Mike Ornery and George Nelson, both folk punk artists, took the stage before making way for Bryan McPherson—fit with a harmonica holder around his neck, guitar, mic and a stage presence that could allure even the most captious of folk punk critics.

“It’s like the Southern version of the West—there’s a lot of counter-culture here. Punk is not as hardcore as it was in the ’90s but it’s definitely still here, and I think a lot of scenes are still here,” said Steve Harwood, a South Salt Lake City local who attended the show to support Ornery, his longtime friend. “There’s a lot of angst bubbling beneath the surface here. There’s a lot of religious autocracy here, and there’s a lot of pent-up energy, a lot of duality, and I think that’s why bands love to come here—because they feel that.”

Harwood admitted he is not partial to a lot of folk punk music; however, it is the energy and the captivation of the environment that brought him to see the musicians perform. The crowd inside the tavern was diverse, from fans in punk rock attire to those, like Harwood, wearing newsboy hats and flannels. Regardless of the crowd and their individual particular interests in music, it was the energy that drew locals to the event.

McPherson sung one of the premier songs, of his new album, called “American Dream,” in which he sings into the mic “I was flying down I-80, to the Great Salt Lake from Laramie—I had a two-night stand at The Garage on Beck—I thank a Utah Phillips!”—a nod to the late protest singer-songwriter who fought for open housing laws in Utah in the early ’60s and who also held a job at the Migrant Council.

To be inside such a place as Tailgate Tavern on July 8, one can feel the “pent-up energy” that Harwood had been referring to. There was a sort of tension, frustration with a sense of hope, of freedom, of the fulfilment of dreams to accomplish anything, to change repression into liberty, whether it be on a personal, individual scale or a grand, governmental one.

“I always hope to give them [my fans] an experience that helps them feel better, whether it’s identifying with a song or going to a show to feel better and they have some sort of shift. On a good day, that’s what I’m aiming for, is to be of service to help other human beings. People get relief from it, or whatever, and that’s great,” McPherson said.

“How to Draw Everything” has come to be McPherson’s least political record as he felt the need to take a break from the more aggressive, angsty sound that he had become synonymous with, especially in a country that has seemingly become more and more divisive. 

“I wrote a bunch of songs that that were not angry or political, so I’m like ‘Oh, let’s put them all together in their own record.’ Everyone’s so angry and fighting all the time, and I don’t really want to be angry and fighting everyone right now,” McPherson said.

All in all, McPherson has given a deeper sense of peace and well-being to the foundational nature of punk rock and folk fusion, to let listeners understand that it’s OK to not be angry all the time.

McPherson’s music can be found on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.