Guitarist and frontman Daniel Sheron stepped onto the stage, eyes sparkling, his signature walrus mustache failing to hide the beaming grin underneath. He was flanked by three equally radiant band mates, bassist Ben (Bronco) Mower, guitarist Carl Osterlof, and drummer Seth Mower. For the Mower brothers, this was a hometown show, a reunion of old friends, fans, and family. For Sheron, it was another opportunity to put his brainchild on display and bare his soul to the unsuspecting occupants of Salt Lake City’s State Room.
On this rare, rainy Monday night in Salt Lake City, a diverse group of the city’s alternatives had congregated to get their groove on: middle-aged rockers sporting band tees, college students with long, brightly-dyed hair and leather jackets, moms, dads, and pretty young couples alike came together for some heartwarming boot-stomping. Balto, which hails from L.A., didn’t bat an eye at this hodgepodge, small-town turnout. Instead, they gave it their all and more.
Gazing proudly upon the fans still trickling in, Balto counted off for their first song and immediately launched into a fiery, high-tempo, rock n’ roll tune. Sheron’s soulful vocal style was accompanied by tight, roaring instrumentals and an unmissable onstage chemistry that did not falter throughout the evening.
Over the course of the next hour, Balto delivered an action-packed set full of unwavering enthusiasm, passion, and fierce indie riffs. Each member’s joy was absolutely tangible throughout the show, and they performed with all the spirit of a sold-out arena. The excitement was contagious, and the crowd quickly became a lively mess of bobbing heads, bad dancers, and sweaty bliss. Both Osterlof and Bronco fired off ferocious solos at different points in the show, highlighting each of their talents as well as their stage presence.
The band interacted like brothers or at least like great friends, perfectly comfortable in each others’ physical and musical presence. Between origin stories, jokes, and assorted banter, the band’s intricate instrumentals and beautifully crafted lyrics complemented each other without competing for the spotlight. Each musician provided a special touch of passion and personality that came to fruition in each of their songs. Their final tune, “Black Snake, Mojave Blues,” was the perfect conclusion, an upbeat indie rock number that foreshadowed Balto’s newer, more seasoned sounds to come. At the same time it was a tribute to their Southwestern roots, complete with a touch of blues for the end of the evening.
Balto’s sound is familiar yet unique, a diverse blend of classic rock sounds and persona with indie and Southwestern influences. Sheron’s songwriting is emotional and complex, accentuated by his gently powerful vocal sound. Instrumentals are sophisticated and carefully constructed, each note placed with intent and delivered flawlessly in their live show. With a mix of new and old sounds and experiences, Balto served up a refreshing dose of good, solid, rock n’ roll with a sweet, fresh new twist.