Written by: Mikala Lugen | Photo(s) by: Ben Allen
Creativity, Community & Connection: How SLC’s Syndicate Series Brings Music, Art, & Collectives Together
Among Salt Lake City’s thriving music scene, the plethora of live events and curated experiences can get quite overwhelming. With an option to see live music nearly every night of the week, how can we make going out hold more meaning all the while connecting to the communities around us on a deeper level?
Pushing those boundaries in SLC’s live music scene is none other than Syndicate. After an introduction to the transformational culture and burner-inspired community that makes up Envision Festival in Costa Rica, Salt Lake City-based event producer Adam St. Simons decided to seek that out and help cultivate the growing scene here in Salt Lake City. With Burning Man taking place in the neighboring state of Nevada, and as the culture surrounding burn events gains more popularity around the world, it wasn’t hard to find that community in Utah.
“After living in Costa Rica for a couple of years, working with and participating in Envision Festival, I moved to Salt Lake City to work with Live Nite Events,” St. Simons said. “I quickly got introduced to the local underground warehouse scene and developed a love for these thoughtfully curated late-night events full of fire performances, aerialists, art installations, live painting, and, of course, all the amazing music that acts as the soundtrack, along with the beautiful and eccentric community of creatives that comprise them. I saw an opportunity to hold a space for the scene and work to advance the culture of this incredibly creative and expressive community.”
Named after its dictionary definition, “a group of individuals or organizations combined to promote some common interest,” the event series connects SLC’s underground communities and collectives for a monthly celebration centered around the ethos of co-creation, creative expression, community, and connection.
One of Syndicate’s represented communities includes SLC-based co-creative art collective, Ellipsis Collective. Specializing in multi-genre, ephemeral, interactive music and art events, the group has been an integral part of shaping and influencing Syndicate’s vision over the past several years, being more inclusive and representative of the event’s vision as a whole.
“Ellipsis Collective was born out of the original HIVE collective, with a vision to host really cool immersive, multi-medium art and music concept parties full of transcendent experiences. Hosting an event can get expensive, and we’re really grateful that Soundwell and Syndicate share a common vision with us to make such events more accessible to the community at large,” Ellipsis Collective founder Mike Farr told Volume. “There’s a lot of overlap with our communities and it’s been a great outlet for more people to experience these types of events on an elevated scale.”
Just a couple days away from wrapping up its third year, Syndicate continues to grow and expand upon the creative communities and luminaries found throughout Salt Lake City. Since its inception in June 2018, Syndicate has hosted dozens of world-renowned DJs, performers, and artists. Placing an emphasis on world bass music, while recently attempting to highlight the growing ritual house scene, Syndicate has brought the sounds of An-Ten-Nae, Atyya, Desert Dwellers, Dimond Saints, Frameworks, Goopsteppa, ill.Gates, KR3TURE, Late Night Radio, Marvel Years, The Human Experience, The Funk Hunters, saQi, Stickybuds, and more to Soundwell’s stage. The series has also incorporated a live music element to its production, booking the local livetronica act Moodlite three times.
“Syndicate represents a collaboration of different art, bringing a complex and variety of artists to represent the scene,” Moodlite’s Evan Fleming said. “Each event summons a collective, community frequency, a shared energy from the music, vendors, live painters, and the community themselves. Moodlite has played at Syndicate events a couple times and its always bridging the electronic scene with our live instrumentation. It’s engaging and helps solidify the tight-knit community that Syndicate brings together.”
While this year’s four-part series (curtailed due to COVID) has seen performances from Daily Bread, Plantrae, SWAYLÓ, and Desert Dwellers, December’s final celebration will ensure the series goes out with a bang. Soundwell will transform into a “Nightmare Before Christmas-themed juxtaposition of winter wonderland and deep frozen fantasy” for Syndicate’s end-of-year annual party, The Abominable Snow Bunny Ball, and will feature a headlining set from bass wave curator ill.Gates, along with local favorites Dekai and Syn.Aesthetic.
In addition to consistently producing appealing music lineups, Syndicate prides itself on bolstering the local creative culture via art and performance. Syndicate’s art director, Emma Goldgar, is an accomplished and well-known Salt Lake City artist who both live-paints at, and coordinates the curation of an assemblage of live painters and artisans for, each month’s installment. Using lights to illuminate the easels, a usually dim and dark Soundwell transforms into a light, airy, and colorful atmosphere lit up by localized artisans.
“The creation of the Syndicate series was an absolutely pivotal moment for me in my work as an artist in Salt Lake City. An informal club setting gives us the chance to make connections in a much more casual way, and having an audience can serve as a motivator for artistic growth: I know I am personally more likely to take risks and lean into intuition if I know it will be compelling to those watching,” Goldgar explains.
“Although so many people become die-hard regulars at Syndicate shows, and aren’t surprised to see us, it has always been gratifying to see the reaction from new attendees when they realize that the show has an additional visual art component. The truth is, no one expects it. With the exception of advertising, social media, and mass-produced merchandise, visual art is something that has to be intentionally sought out and because of the price tag on fine art, younger generations are increasingly reluctant to do so. Syndicate provides a rich experience where guests are exposed to not only finished pieces alongside their inspiration or narrative, but the process of creation itself. I’ve observed through my own experience that even a small opportunity for the viewer and the artist to connect tends to make art a far more satisfying and personal experience for both parties.”
While St. Simons has helped guide the direction and development of Syndicate, working to maintain certain stylistic elements that can be seen as hallmarks of the event, he’s quick to remind everyone that it wouldn’t be what it is today without the creative support, inspiration, and participation of everyone involved.
“Most of the underground collectives and creatives of SLC have been a part of Syndicate in some way or another at this point – there are literally too many to mention without feeling like I would accidentally leave someone out. There are also the teams at Live Nite Events and Soundwell who have been critical to the ongoing development and success of the event. Most importantly, however, it’s this beautiful community of colorful, creative, and expressive individuals that continue to show up each month that truly make Syndicate something special. It’s this kind of energy that differentiates a community from a scene, and it’s something that I’m honored to be a part of.”
Tickets to December’s Abominable Snow Bunny Ball with ill.Gates on December 11th can be found here. For more information, visit Syndicate on socials below.