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Mike Massé and Jeff Hall are Utah attorneys familiar with the wheels of justice. They're also musicians interested in doing justice to songs by Pink Floyd, U2 and Tom Petty.
The two longtime friends represent opposing sides in the criminal justice system Massé is a Salt Lake County public defender, and Hall is a Salt Lake County deputy district attorney yet they team up monthly to weave tight harmonies at the The Pie Pizzeria.
Set aside the members' educational backgrounds, and the duo is much more than just another cover band. Using skills as a recording engineer that he learned in college, Massé has posted nearly 80 videos on YouTube that are brilliantly recorded and superior in sound and video quality.
The videos recently amassed more than 2 million hits, earning the Utah duo national and international fans.
"A guy last week asked when we're going to tour," said Hall, 40, of Sandy. "Another guy asked when we're coming to Poland."
"We are more appreciated by people out of state than locals," said Massé, 41, of West Jordan.
Singing covers, and hearing reality • Hall and Massé met as undergraduates at Brigham Young University, when they formed a cover band. As graduation neared, reality set in.
"We both individually came to the decision that we needed real jobs," said Massé, who was studying music with a sound recording emphasis and singing with the BYU Singers.
"I didn't want to rely on music as a way to make a buck," said Hall, who earned a humanities degree with an emphasis in music. Hall, who can whistle all nine Beethoven symphonies, had acquired the rare skill of being able to build an organ, but realized that even in organ-rich Utah, that job "was a sure-fire way to poverty."
So both went to law school, and Hall went on to become a law clerk for Pat B. Brian, the late district judge in Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties. He eventually ended up working for the district attorney's office from 2000 to 2007, then returned to the office after the election of Sim Gill.
In contrast, Massé became a trial attorney working for the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association.
Sounding off • Massé is a musical nut who began playing acoustic guitar at The Pie in 1993 as an outlet for creativity. Hall joined him on bass several years later.
They didn't expect much from the gig, except a chance to relive their days as a cover band. Their only pay is tips and pizza slices.
But Massé, using his skills as a recording engineer, began recording their performances and posting them on YouTube. The videos caught on, attracting dozens of hits, then hundreds, thousands and now millions.
"The beauty of YouTube is that we have performed for the equivalent of Rice-Eccles Stadium from The Pie," Hall said.
Playing for the world, from The Pie • Among the duo's devoted fans are Jerry and Sherlyn Snapp, from Momence, Ill., population 3,300. Jerry found the videos on YouTube and showed them to his wife. "She was equally as impressed as I was. We began watching more and more. What I liked best initially about Mike and Jeff on YouTube was it wasn't just another cover band. You could feel the music they delivered, and it made you believe."
As the couple's 25th anniversary approached, Jerry, 48, did something special. "I decided to surprise my wife with airline tickets to Salt Lake City to go see Mike and Jeff at The Pie Pizzeria," he said, admitting he had never been on a plane before. "We were both so captivated by the music it made for the best concert ever. They were two very nice gentlemen who gave us the anniversary celebration of a lifetime. There were times we were moved to tears throughout the set."
New Yorker Stephen Matthews came across Massé's videos while searching for some Grateful Dead tunes. "Mike has a very unique sound and an incredible voice, [and] the harmonies with Jeff are phenomenal I am from the East Coast and love that Jeff is always in New York Yankees garb," Matthews wrote in an e-mail. "To top it off, these guys are playing in a pizza joint."
Matthews' company, Alembic Global Advisors, was planning a conference in Deer Valley, and he shared the videos with his colleagues. "The first thing I thought was hiring these guys," Matthews said. "They are even better in person. Mike brings song lists for the audience to make requests from, which I thought was brilliant, especially at a corporate gig." Now he's looking forward to hearing the pair play at The Pie as well as at the company's next annual conference.
The videos also have a global reach, according to Richard Drew, of Australia. He came across a Massé-Hall video while searching for Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." "I was blown away by the clarity, the simplicity and emotion and the quality of the performance," Drew wrote in an e-mail.
Drew had never traveled to the United States. "I was so impressed being a fellow musician I said to myself, 'Damn, I'm going to Salt Lake City to sit in the pizzeria with a beer and soak up the superb talent.' And I did, approximately three weeks later, and it was worth every cent."
The Australian expresses such passion for the music that he sounds as if he should be appointed as one of the state's economic-development advisers. "Everyone in Salt Lake City and beyond should be proud of this modest and extremely talented duo," Drew wrote. "They complement each other perfectly, have a ball in doing what they do best, and give us all the opportunity to experience something extremely special. I will be back and will bring more Aussies with me!"
Stepping out, musically • Massé has been encouraged by fans all over the world to finance and produce his first album of original songs.
"It's a big step for me, because if the project is successfully funded, it'll mean my audience of supporters is interested in more than just hearing me reproduce the work of others," Massé said. "It'll demonstrate that there's interest in hearing what I can do with my own material. I'm excited to see what happens."
In the meantime, every first Monday of the month, he and Hall will be strumming their guitars and harmonizing at The Pie, playing to whoever will listen. And even if there is no one in the audience that night, the duo knows a global audience awaits.
Watch Massé and Hall's YouTube videos:
The Salt Lake attorneys and musicians play on the first Monday of the month from 7-10 p.m. at The Pie Pizzeria, 1320 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City.
The duo's harmonies and technologically crisp videos have earned more than 2 million page views on YouTube. Here's a sampling of cover tunes:
Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" • http://bit.ly/9RaJAH
U2's "One" • http://bit.ly/cqhRpC
Tom Petty's "Free Fallin' " • http://bit.ly/cKUNUk
Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" • http://bit.ly/eWuq4v