Review: Illiterate Light w/ Kind Hearted Strangers

Indie-rock duo Illiterate Light illuminated The State Room stage on Wednesday night with an energetic show providing fans with a much-needed release after two years of isolation and uncertainty. They opened their set with “Wake Up Now,” a song from their album scheduled to drop in January. It did what its title promised. If anyone was sleeping, they woke up. The blasting guitar and provocative lyrics provided us with a cathartic release from the troubles of the past few years. I’m looking forward to hearing the recorded version. Appropriately enough, they followed with “Light Me Up,” another new song that signals a hopeful emergence from the darkness. Its breezy melody, made better by thunderous beats, resonates in your chest when you hear it performed live. “Growing Down” is a sleeper song from their 2019 EP Sweet Beast. Seeing it performed live illustrated the generational angst faced by young people today. The tune captures the frustration of doing all that you’re supposed to do. But, instead of growing up, you feel like you are growing down. Witnessing how the audience connected with the band’s thrashing energy, I appreciated why the tune connects with fans. It feels like a “Smells Like Team Spirit” for another generation.

Stepping into the spotlight at the edge of the stage, they slowed down a bit for a heartfelt acoustic rendition of “Sometimes Love Takes So Long.” That quiet moment didn’t last long. They soon refueled with a high-octane version of Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues.” They are resurrecting this obscure 1974 cult classic, a song about the demonic greed of corporations and kings who control fossil fuel, just in time. Nearly 50 years later the song is still relevant. Maybe someday we’ll wean away from fossil fuels and we can drive a final stake through the vampire’s heart. Maybe vampires really do die.

They ended with “Better Than I Used To.” Their winning formula of great songs and boundless energy make for a dynamic live show. I’ll add Illiterate Light to my list of dynamic duos I’ve seen in The State Room, like Little Hurricane and Shovels and Rope, whose music amounts to more than the sum of its parts. And, I will always want more of that. 

Colorado-based roots rockers Kind Hearted Strangers opened the show with “Redwood,’” a James McMurtry-styled slice of Americana. They introduced us to the beginning, middle, and new pieces of their growing sound. Their eight-song set delivered layers of American roots music and featured new material from an album due out early next year. Our sneak peek of this talented quartet featured a hard-edged, electric guitar-forward sound mixed with the same acoustic elements of their earlier work. Anchoring their progressive new music included their opus “Cerberus,” a dead-head type Americana jam with Allman Brothers’ influences that’s now available on streaming services. They ended their set with “Runnin’ Next to You,” their first single from 2018. This is a band distilling rock ‘n’ roll through a modernized filter to brew up music with a refreshingly familiar taste.  

The State Room crowd on November 18, 2022 got to experience the next generation of rockers cutting their own path in new and interesting ways. It felt great to be back at The State Room seeing up-and-coming acts as they enthusiastically showcase their music on the venue’s venerable stage.

Who: Illiterate Light w/ Kind Hearted Strangers

What: Indie-rock

Where: The State Room

When: November 18, 2022


John Nelson
John Nelson
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

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