Archive | October, 2012

It’s a Zombie Apocalypse in Lehi!!

11 Oct

Everyone loves visiting haunted houses this time of year, and Robert Scott is no exception. Last year, for example, he went to several of them in Utah. While they were entertaining and relatively scary for the most part, he felt the bar could be raised. Now, he’s taken it to a whole new level.

Scott is the mastermind behind the Zombie Apocalypse Haunted House inside the XSI Factory in Lehi. It provides an amusement-park level haunted house experience of the whole family, inside a completely climatized 18,000 square foot venue.

This is Scott’s first venture into the haunted house business, but he came into the “industry” with plenty of ideas.

“We wanted to create a total-immersion experience for people, so that’s what we did,” he said. “We wrote and produced an original comic book that prefaces vignettes people will encounter first-hand once they are inside. The storyline is carefully directed and participants become part of the action. These are not just random ‘fright’ rooms that people pass through—attendees will get a beginning-to-end, action-packed experience that is guaranteed to both frighten and entertain.”

Scott said he saw a lot of the same “spooks and gags” at all of the haunted houses he visited. He wanted his to be truly different, to center on a theme; and zombies, as you should know, are definitely “in” right now. Built in partnership with Scenic Solutions, the Zombie Apocalypse cast is made up of 60 individuals  (70 on weekends, when Scott adds “more zombies”) who spend nearly two hours each night getting into their costumes and makeup. Counting support staff, there are about 100 individuals working to put this together.

“Fans will receive an experience unparalleled in Utah,” said show producer Mario Hipol. “This venue contains over $250,000 in props, designed by award-winning artists, and was built as a professional movie set.” It includes a zombie circus, zombie graveyard, zombie prison and zombie city. Oh, and did I mention a ton of zombies?

Visitors beware—there are also some very hair-raising visual effects, and other surprises such as a rotating floor, a claustrophobia room, drop away walls and more. So far, the reaction has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Scott said. “I think those who’ve visited really enjoy the difference we’ve brought to this genre.”

Tonight (October 11), Scott’s zombies will be working together for a very good cause. For anyone who wears any pink when they visit the Zombie Apocalypse at XSI Factory, $1 will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to support breast cancer research and treatment. Scott is excited to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October by giving visitors a chance to support a great cause.

“All they have to do is wear something pink, anything pink, and we’ll donate $1 to the cause,” Scott said. “I think it’s important for the community to be aware of this deadly disease and help become a part of the cure.”

The Zombie Apocalypse Haunted House is open Monday through Thursday from 7 to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight, closed Sundays. It’s located at XSI Factory, 4425 North Thanksgiving Point Way in Lehi (right off of I-15). For ticket information, group discounts and more, visit the website at www.zombieutah.com. The Zombie Apocalypse also has a Facebook page.

 

–Tom Haraldsen

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Falk: Country music’s rising stars

9 Oct

Nashville songwriter/producer Jason Deere has worked with some of the biggest acts in country music—names like Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, LeAnn Rimes, Jim Brickman, SHeDAISY, and even Jessica Simpson. Still, even he was floored the first time he heard sisters Alexa and Natalee Falk perform. After all, they were both under 10 years old.

So it wasn’t a surprise that Deere began writing songs with Alexa, eventually creating a Disney-style pop album called “Girl Talk.” When Deere submitted a whole catalog of the sisters’ songs to Brazilian pop artist Wanessa Camango, she recorded them all. By time Alexa was 12 and Natalee was 10, they already had five PLATINUM hits in Brazil, three of which rose to #1 on the charts.

Since then, the Falks have sung and performed in almost every genre of music, coming full circle to where they are today–returning to their country music roots. But it was a decade-long journey, with both professional and personal challenge and triumph along the way. With their new album “The Ride,” produced by Deere and being introduced via single-releases on iTunes over a period of dates, their latest journey promises to be a very long and successful one. And it’s a journey THEY are firmly in control of.

“After Nat and I came to a realization that we needed to do music our way, we knew it was time to reestablish ourselves as a country duo,” Alexa said during an interview for ON AND BEYOND. “We decided to go with everything that we love, and the songs we’re singing speak for us—they represent who we are and what we’ve gone through.”

Their songs incorporate an unorthodox relationship to their music and lyrics. They are both lead singers, both sing harmony, both play acoustic guitar. And they’ve channeled their music not only to give pleasure to their legends of fans, but also to give comfort to many of them.

In her mid-teens, Alexa began what she calls a path of self-destruction, developing an eating disorder. Though she won control over the disorder, she never forgets the struggle, and empathizes with others who fight it.

“I wrote the song ‘Deadly Beauty’ to help heal myself,” she said. “I needed a way to just create something that wasn’t filtered or criticized.” That song, which is among the three Falk releases currently available on iTunes, won a nationwide songwriting competition years ago sponsored by “Cosmo Girl” magazine. It also won them national acclaim (and still is, as you’ll read later), but their longed-for recording contract never materialized. Undaunted, they graduated from high school early (at the ages of 16 and 17) and subsequently earned degrees from Utah State University. They finished college with something just as valuable as those degrees—a lesson on the importance of listening to themselves.

“We’re doing it now for the enjoyment of it—not to fit into someone else’s mold of what they thought we should be,” Natalee said. “We’re creating our own songs and our own paths, and country music especially has freed us up a lot, because by its nature, there are lots of generations and genres that all blend into one. Country (music) is so great in that way.”

Though stardom in their teen years evaded them, both feel it was meant to happen that way—and that the disappointments were in fact a blessing.

“We’ve been able to create exactly what we want with the learning that took place,” Natalee said. “Alexa’s writing has gotten stronger and our playing has improved. We are creators of our world, and certainly of our music.”

“You can always find the positive and something to be grateful for,” Alexa said. “That’s how we choose to look at our journey. It’s about the music and connecting with people.”

“For me, I just want our music to reach as many people as possible,” Natalee added. “It’s not about fame. The most amazing part of our journey is seeing the difference our music can make. That positive difference is what drives us.”

In that regard, the Falks have become ambassadors for NEDA—the National Eating Disorders Association. They have flown across the country to participate in NEDA fundraising walks (the latest was Oct. 7 in New York City), and performed “Deadly Beauty” at the association’s national conferences for two years (including this year’s conference to be held in St. Petersburg, Florida, Oct. 11-13). They’ve received hundreds of letters and emails from those who’ve been touched by the sentiment of its music and lyrics. Natalee said she’s heard accounts of “countless tears that have been shed” by those hearing the song for the first time. Deere has been so impressed with the Falks that he has maintained his working relationship with them for over 15 years, flying from Nashville to Utah to work with them on songs for “The Ride.”

“The girls really needed time to find out who they were as musicians,” Deere is quoted in a release from the Falks. “What I’m most excited about is they want to make the best version of the music they can make right now.”

“Jason was the first producer who believed in us, in our potential and our talent,” Natalee said.  “He has brought it all together—he said he saw something big for us in country music.”

The first three singles from “The Ride”—“Deadly Beauty,” “Chase Me” and “Will You Catch Me,” are available on iTunes on the Falk’s website, at falk-music.com. A fourth single will be released later this fall, with more to come—much more from these two talented sisters on their way to stardom.

 

–Tom Haraldsen