A mix of Salt Lake’s best egos – SLUG Magazine
If you had asked me a year ago what I thought about Boxcar Kids, I probably would have made a condescending face and walked away – I didn’t like them at all. Then I heard them play. Ask me now and I’ll tell you, hands down, the best band in Salt Lake City. I hear a lot of bullshit about Kids and it’s almost always the same: “oh, Boxcar Kids this, Boxcar Kids that, blah blah blah!” Maybe the reason Boxcar Kids are so popular is that they are good. I think so. When I first met Jon shuman (singer, guitarist, songwriter), I was very intimidated. However, I respected him; he told me they were good, and I believed him.
Boxcar Kids is best known for its ego. After 18 months of criticism about it, they finally started using it to their advantage. If you’ve seen their Pabst Blue Ribbons t-shirt take off, they claim to be a mix of Salt Lake’s best egos. They also named their self-produced tape demo Leggo-My-Ego. Boxcar Kids has set itself high standards that it respects. These high standards put them where they are now.
Things weren’t always this smooth for Boxcar Kids. John Shuman says their time so far has been their comeuppance, or, as he likes to call it, their “Hamburg years”. Their only problem is that they must have spent those years in Salt Lake …The Beatles lucky (ha, ha).
In the summer of 87, Jon Shuman returned from California and decided he needed to start a new band. He called all his old buddies, and they debuted at Cinema in your face in October of the same year. At the time, the line-up included Jon Shuman (vocals, guitar), Jamie shuman (voice, percussion), Phil miller (saxophone), Brendan Walsh (bass, vocals), Chris Camberlango (guitar), Chris Moor (guitar) and Pierre Yanowitz (drums & percussions). Shortly after, Chris Moor left the group to return when Camber and Jamie quit. When Camber and Jamie stepped down, Chris Moor’s guitar playing made the group much stronger. They are still a five-piece with the power and energy of ten.
Getting concerts wasn’t easy for the Kids at first. The group would not learn covers and the clubs would not touch them. During this time, Word, Race track cafe and the cinema were packed every time they played. At one point, however, the clubs started to book them and soon the kids were playing. Bar & Grill, The foundation, that of Theo (To Ogden, their favorite) and even tacky clubs like Z-Place and The Zephyr. Kids are starting to get tired of playing on the club scene and much prefer playing in underground hot spots because the people who go there are there to see them play, not to swallow brewskies and rip off the girls.
Boxcar Kids has made a real change in our upside down city; their determination to play original music in clubs enabled other bands in the city to perform their original music. Card castle, Skin “n” Bones, Dinosaur bone are just a few of them. The Kids have helped to break into the underground scene of traditional clubs a bit. The Boxcar Kids big draw kept The Word open early on. People didn’t always go out to see most of the groups in town. There was, however, a large, responsive audience whenever the Kids came up to play. In fact, it was Boxcar Kids’ idea for the 88 Sabbathon that saved The Word in September; Pete even got home early to watch the show. They are relatively successful at making ends meet playing these days. But you will never hear them turn down a chance to participate in a charity or charity event.
The Boxcar Kids will definitely put you on your feet. However, they’re still considered a funk band, and that’s not their only musical style. When I asked Jon and Chris to define or categorize their music, they both quickly declined. The band has the largest music format I’ve ever seen in a band. With traces of Chili peppers, X, Sly and the family stone, To Pistols & Roses, the group covers all the bases. I think of it as a concept of balls on the wall, anything goes – they will try just about anything. With various musical backgrounds. it’s like a big melting pot. God only knows what they will try next. I took a friend with me once to watch them play, and he said “this song sounds like an X tune I heard once”. I asked Jon about it. He made a very interesting point; he said “People have to get out of the myth that all music is original music because there isn’t.” The Boxcar Kids have all kinds of musical influences to found their group
I’ve been watching Boxcar Kids play since January ’88 and only missed a few shows. They only get better. With Stench and Overview putting Salt Lake on the national music map, I’d love to see the Kids show the rest of the nation exactly what Salt Lake has to offer. With a great demo tape available and discussions of a West Coast tour in the works, Boxcar Kids just might get the exposure needed to get the ball rolling. Chris says, all they need is a reliable pickup truck and a good roadie and they are out of here.
Be sure to see them August 23-24 at the Bar & Grill and once again when they headline the 1989 Sabbath at “Starship” Word (401s 400w) on Sunday August 27th. The flagship event of the month will be Friday. the 18 at the Speedway Cafe when they are having fun with the TarBabies. Check them out and grab a tape, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.