If you are at all into electronic music or have been for the last 10 years, you would have heard the Scottish electronic phenomenon CHVRCHES (Pronounced “Churches”, but, spelled in the old Latin format), more than once. They kind of took the world by storm with a renewed sense of synth-pop for the next decade into the 2000s. They are heavily influenced by the greats, New Order, Depeche Mode, and Pet Shop Boys, all of whom are happy to pass the torch on to this new band.
CHVRCHES has played massive tours and headlined festivals, and after recording with, they burned bridges with the artist Marshmello over his collaboration with individuals involved in sexual assault and exploitation of minors. Yeah, they are all that, and quietly keeping our thoughts to ourselves is something we Scottish people have never been very good at. Lauren Mayberry the vocalist has a HUGE gay following and has stated repeatedly that she would not be where she is without all of her queer fans. With a large devoted following of gay fans and a loud penchant for leftist politics, there is a place for love and acceptance in the fandom of this great band.
CHVRCHES was scheduled to play a show in Salt Lake in December of 2021, but we were all climbing out of the lockdown hoping for shows to actually happen. I was on the guest list and excited to use some of my new gear. I arrived at the venue with a sign posted “CHVRCHES, CANCELLED”. DAMMIT, COVID struck. After a night of being let down, I saw the next morning that they got snowed in, and stuck in the mountains on the way in from Denver (Whew, at least it wasn’t COVID related). So, when they were on the calendar for a gig in September, my bet was this one was going to happen, not a flake of snow for miles. (Tips of the mountains maybe).
Event: CHVRCHES “Screen Violence” Tour
Venue: Ogden Amphitheater
CITY: Ogden, Utah
Date: September 22, 2022
Opening for CHVRCHES was a band called Cafune (it actually means physical intimacy), I would describe them as a not quite shoegazing version of Camera Obscura. They have a great vibe and got everyone dancing. This show had sold out months ago, and this was their first “Tour” and they did have a great sound. With a short set of 9 songs, they got everyone in the mood for the main act. I should expect to see them headlining here shortly. They talked about this being their first outdoor gig on the tour, and that they feel like they made it if they play an outdoor venue like this.
I was stationed right in front and had to “sit” on the little seats on the barricade. The stage is really low, and it was cramped in the pit for shooting. This was gonna be fun. I met a girl in the front row who had been on the tour for 17 dates so far, I get it, I’ve done that many for a band in one tour.
While the intro tape played the “Screen Violence” theme, the stage darkened, and out came the drummer who started off playing, then synth players Ian, and Martin took their positions, while they played and amped up the crowd, Lauren walked out to a very loud welcome from the fans. Wearing a tight almost latex-looking green dress, she spun around as if she was in a Cinderella gown.
They opened with “He Said She Said”, then “Forever” I was happily sitting in one place taking as many pics as I could, trying not to get in anyone’s way. I moved over one seat, and they played my fave CHVRCHES song of all time “Leave A Trace”. I was in the best seat in the house, taking photos, while they played my fave song. Yeah, it doesn’t get better than this. Even though, the way the venue is built, there is NO bad seat in the house. She opened her little monolog with what she says at every show “Hello, we’re a band called CHVRCHES” and it’s just adorable. Lauren is a tiny soprano, with a powerful voice.
I finished the photo set, and went over to the VIP section, to see an entire venue dancing to every word she sang.
It must have been “Queer Couples Night With Churches” because about half of the punters there were same-sex couples. There were so many, I mean, BEARS and BIKERS were there together, and everything in between on the spectrum. It was just a wonderful experience to see so many couples out there just being happy. I had to remind myself this is Utah.
There was an incredible light show, while Lauren changed outfits a couple of times. Martin and Ian would come down from their stands to play a guitar solo, while the lights flashed in sync with the meter of the music.
They went through some of the new albums “How Not To Drown” (Performed previously with Robert Smith from “The Cure”), “Violent Delights” and then the all-time classic “Science/Visions” just to keep the old and new mixed up. Then she started to banter with the fans for a few minutes. One fan held out a poster “Will you draw my tattoo?” Lauren was embarrassed and took the poster, and asked “What do you want me to draw?” The fan said “Anything” and with a pen, was trying to draw something. She explained how she can’t draw and chose performing arts over visual arts, while the band members goaded her through it. She was laughing and said, “Ok, shut up guys, I’m gonna make this person’s tattoo worse than it’s already going to be”. She ended up drawing the band logo and a mouse. A real sweetheart to do this, they love connecting with the audience. She mentioned having been snowed out last year and was glad to be back.
They played “Bury It”, “Miracle”, and “Night Sky”, all classics. While the other 3 in the band jammed on stage for a minute Lauren went offstage for a minute and came back in a t-shirt “Final Girl”. Now “Final Girl” is the idea of a woman who is at the pinnacle of her work, wondering what steps she should take to stay relevant, all wrapped up in horror film themes. Oh yeah, while there were tons of fans wearing “Final Girl” t-shirts, Lauren was covered in horror film fake blood. Kind of a morbid song to be honest, still performed well. Lauren noticed someone in the audience in a tiara, I am not sure if it was her bachelorette party or birthday, but Lauren was very appreciative of people coming to her shows on days like this.
They finished out this first part of the set with “Recover” and “Never Say Die”.
They came back for the encore of “Asking for a Friend” and their first single “The Mother We Share” as they feel it is more relevant now than when it was released almost 10 years ago. Then they finished the evening with “Clearest Blue”.
On the way out, the feeling was one of just happiness, and we had all seen an exceptional performance from a band with so much love and acceptance for the community. I have seen CHVRCHES many times over the last 10 years and they only get better every time. The only thing is that they have to rotate out the songs I loved from other tours, something that happens when a band gets bigger, and better with time.