The Devil Makes Three tells why you should skip Sundance on Wednesday

Published January 22, 2014 10:44 am
Music • Bluegrass trio The Devil Makes Three headed to The Depot.
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Interestingly enough, there are things to do during the 10 days of the Sundance Film Festival that have little to nothing to do with the Sundance Film Festival.

One of the most alluring options is to catch a show by The Devil Makes Three at The Depot on Wednesday, Jan. 22. (If your excuse is that you need to catch that new Mitt Romney documentary instead, relax. It will start streaming on Netflix on Friday, Jan. 24.)

Pete Bernhard, Lucia Turino and Cooper McBean are the members of the acoustic trio. They got their start in Vermont and ascended to the top of many lists of favorite bands to see live when they scampered across the country to Santa Cruz, Calif. It would be too limiting to label them as bluegrass, because when they perform their hard-charging tunes you can hear the echoes of old-timey honky-tonk, ragtime and rockabilly. Squint your ears, and you might even hear the modern edge they sharpen in their songcraft.

Incidentally, the band shares the name of a 1952 film starring Gene Kelly, so I suppose there is a relationship to film, after all. Oh, well. It was worth a shot.

Bernhard, the band's guitarist, answered questions over email to talk about Vermont, Santa Cruz and why there is, alas, a real, bona-fide connection to Sundance.

What is it about the Brattleboro, Vt., community that propelled you to success?

Brattleboro is and was a great place to grow up. It's very supportive of the arts and music. We had encouragement from our families and our older friends as well. It's a small town but it has a lot to offer young musicians and artists. 

What are some of your memories of Utah?

Salt Lake City has always been a great stop for us on tour, from our first show at Burt's Tiki Lounge so long ago. We've met some great people there over the years, including everyone at The Tin Angel, which is our favorite place to eat when we come to town. They have provided us with many amazing meals and will always be on our guest list.

"I'm a Stranger Here," your New West Records debut, was produced by Buddy Miller, and recorded at Dan Auerbach's Nashville studio. How were you able to connect with some of the best names in music?

We met Buddy through our manager and got a few chances to see him play live before we decided to work with him. Buddy suggested we record at Dan's studio, and we went and checked it out and loved it. Buddy usually records at his house in Nashville, but for this record he wanted to work at Dan's place, and I think it was the right move. We are all pleased with the resulting album. 

How did you end up in Santa Cruz?

We ended up in Santa Cruz for many different reasons, and we stuck around for almost 10 years. We all consider Santa Cruz to be the spiritual home of our band. In times of trouble, we make a pilgrimage to Santa Cruz and seek advice from our drugged-out version of Yoda.

How did your hometown fare during Tropical Storm Irene?

Vermont and Brattleboro were both hit very hard by the storm. The damage cost Vermont millions, destroyed bridges, roads and some of our friends lost their homes. Some shops that have been open since I was a kid closed permanently. We set up a benefit to raise money for farm flood relief, as did other Vermont-based bands you might have heard of: Phish, Grace Potter and a few others. I think Vermont is doing a good job of recovering, but I hope it's 100 years before another flood like that. I would like to add that I believe global warming is 100 percent real, as do many of the residents of Vermont after the flood. Anyone who travels this country as much as we do can see that the weather patterns are changing. 

 What strikes you when you listen to your 2011 live album "Stomp and Smash" now?

We enjoyed making "Stomp and Smash." We are always working to improve our live show every tour, and hope that it is always a work in progress. On "I'm a Stranger Here," we took the approach of recording basically live and tried to capture the feel of a show, and I think we accomplished that more on this album than on any previous recording. We have always been a DIY band, and this is the first album we have made with a producer. The act of adding another musician and songwriter like Buddy to the mix was one we felt hesitant about at first, but it turned out taking a huge weight off our shoulders and allowed us to have fun making the album. 

Your show takes place smack-dab in the middle of the Sundance Film Festival. Will you get a minute to enjoy the festivities?

Actually, funny you should ask. We will be playing a short set at Sundance and yes, we are fans of the cinema. —

The Devil Makes Three with The Brothers Comatose

When • Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 8:30 p.m.

Where • The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $20 in advance, $25 day of, at SmithsTix



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