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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Egos and Sellouts

Steven Foster is our guest writer today. Check out what he has to say!

What the hell happened to playing music for the sake of playing music?

Seriously you all know what I am talking about!!!

Now to be honest, I am usually a fan of sticking it to people. I dream of a world where we can purchase guns, knives and medieval weapons at a drive through window and use them all by the time we get home. Basically anything that helps get rid of other people is OK with me.

But seriously, a local band wanting to up the cover charge to one of their concerts is insanity. It is hard enough for me as it is to shell out 5 bones to see a couple of bands that I may or may not enjoy (likely not enjoy. Have you heard the crap they are passing off as folk music in this town??). I was at a concert recently where the headlining band (a somewhat well known band within the area, but nobodies outside of Utah Valley) wanted to charge $10 to see them and the seven dwarves play a small crappy venue with no existing sound system. Really?!? 10 bucks?? I am hard pressed to pay that for a band that I actually like and one that is not just made up of friends and family members.

Now let me make this clear, I am not against a band making some money for their efforts. It is hard to put tons of hours and a fair amount of cash into a project without recouping at least some of that. I have been in that band and I know what it is like. What I have a problem with is the desire to make money becoming the focus. Or the desire for power, or prestige, or influence. These are all cancerous sores on any local music scene as well as on a band. It bugs the crap out of me when your fans become a means to an end as opposed to the end itself.

To all of you bands who subconsciously (or consciously) seek the destruction of a good local music scene: Quit taking yourself so damn seriously! You are not Bono and you do not play in U2 or with Justin Bieber or whoever else is a big deal these days. Just take a minute and remember why you started to play music in the first place. I would hope that it is because you love making music (for those of you who started to make money, get girls, etcetera: I’ll see you in playing your guitar at a coffee house in Hell) for yourself, and for others to enjoy. There are so many talented people in the area, lets just get together and have a good time. When people play music for the love of music it starts to attract other music lovers. If you have ever wondered why the local music scene appears to be dead, look at bands that turn off typical music lovers with their idiotic narcissism.

As a final note, a concert performed by real music lovers to other music lovers is a truly magical thing. It is one of the greatest tools of our society to make things better. For a split second you can motivate discontent, motion, change and improvement in our world. It is about working together and enjoying the differences in opinion, style and viewpoint of those you encounter. Be part of the unity that makes our music scene better. Only you musicians on an individual level can create the necessary change. Love the music and stop loving yourself.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Velour's Battle and This Weekend

So, thanks to the hours of work I put into my final projects last week, I was not able to make it to nights 4 and 5 of Velour's Battle of the Bands. And due to a performance on BYU campus Saturday night, I missed most of the finals. But I'll review what I know.

Holy Water Buffalo won the Battle. I missed most of their performance this time around, but I did have to opportunity to see them play with Empirates, Archie Crisanto, and Follow the Earth a couple months back. They are a very tight band who put on a great show. They write and play good music. It's pretty straight up rock & roll. If they were to get in a time machine and play in the late 1970s, nobody back then would bat an eye to their style. Personally, I think if you're in a rock band and too many people over 40 like what you play, then you're doing it wrong. But they're good and I don't mind them winning at all.

I can't really say much else about the finals (due to another kind of finals). I missed most of it. Jenn Blosil's sound was off Saturday night which sucks because she rules, but whatever. It happens to everyone.

So the other thing I'm up for writing about are the shows this weekend. We are going to be seeing quite a divide. Velour is hosting what a friend of mine called an "All-Star Open Mic". Basically, it's lots of solo acts, picked from Cory's favorite indie folk bands. It's both Friday and Saturday night, and includes basically every single singer/songwriter that has played at Velour at least twice in the past year. While I'm sure it will be intimate and lovely, I have little desire to be there. I hit some point recently where I can't take much acoustic music anymore. For awhile there, I listened to lots of Iron & Wine and Nick Drake and all sorts of folky stuff, but now I need my layers and my energy and my rock because it's all starting to sound exactly the same. (No offense to anyone performing this weekend. You guys are wonderful.) Not all of the artists this weekend play in folk bands. In fact, many of them rock pretty hard. But, as far as I know, thanks to the short sets, it will mostly be one person with an acoustic guitar, and that's basically what a lot of folk is. I know that many of my own songs become this way when I play solo sets.

Meanwhile, Muse Music, back with its AMAZING CAFE PLEASE GO GET A TURKEY PESTO REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU DO THIS WEEKEND, has a Punk show and an Indie Rock show. Friday we'll be treated to an actual punk show, something I've never seen in Provo unless you count the Compound, and I will definitely be there. Baby Ghosts, Problem Daughter, Storming Stages and Stereos, and Good Manor will be playing some music to dance to, to mosh to. And this Saturday, my band Wild Apples will be playing with The Lunatic, D9, and Minus Mark (formerly Dawson). I really recommend that you go to that show, but that's because we play a lot better when the audience is big and dancing. If the folky stylings of Velour aren't your thing, please go to Muse and have some fun. Dancing around is wonderful stress relief after finals week. Of course, if a relaxing seat and chilling with your favorite local artists' is what you're into, then head to Velour.

Remember that thing I said about a "divide"? I don't mean Velour Vs. Muse. It's something else. Soft vs. Hard, maybe? The thing is, Provo is full of BYU kids and other Mormon folk (and yes, I am one of them), and these are the kind of people that like light music. I read something about the new Archer's Apple album in Slug the other day. It said that Provo wants to be Oklahoma. I think that Omaha is more accurate, but basically we have this midwest folk thing going on and it's all that gets noticed anymore. I've been told that it's Corey Fox's favorite music so I imagine that has a lot to do with it (and let's not forget that Muse's Jake Haws plays in the very folky Adding Machines), but it's really a Utah problem. While most of Utah is busy trying to be California, those of us who like to go to shows want so bad to be Nebraska (think about that for a second). We have little identity of our own and just want to make a clean cut, Mormon version of someone else's.

It's not all like that. Most bands still have a lot of energy. I don't know what it is exactly. I would just like to see more originality. You can take almost any local band, regardless of style, and find the famous band that they are ripping off. It's not bad to be influenced by and learn from others, but when we take one or two artists and directly copy them  - whether consciously or subconsciously (mostly the later) - we're denying that truly creative part of ourselves to participate in art. It's not a problem with Provo - you see this everywhere in the States and the world (and not just with music). But can't we actively strive to do something new? We shouldn't ignore the music that inspires us, but we need to make sure we're not blatantly plagiarizing the creations of others. The Beatles played, night after night, the hits of the day before they got famous. They learned them up and down. When it finally came time for them to write music, they were so proficient in performing and knew so much about so many different artists and styles, that they succeeded in creating something brand new.

The biggest compliment someone can give my music isn't that they loved it or liked it or thought we were good, but it's when someone says "It's not what I expected" or "It was... different". I know that my band and I have a very long way to go, but I write these things so I don't fall into complacency with myself.

There is a ton of good music in this town, otherwise I would not have started this blog. I love Velour and I love Muse and I love many bands in this town that play folk, indie, rock, jazz, or something else. Please keep in mind that this is an extremely subjective blog and is based entirely on my own opinions, which is why I'm always encouraging others to contribute. If you have something you'd like to write, even if it completely disagrees with me, send an e-mail my way and it will be posted.

Please leave a comment, positive or negative. Both are good.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Velour Battle of the Bands Nights TWO & THREE

Night Two

Tighty Willis  -

Tighty Willis works best with Velour's sound system. They played a really great, upbeat show and I have no complaints. They knew how to be gentle and how to rock hard. Colin's voice was spot on too and they have some great vocal melodies. I've talked about them before, but this time they really did a fantastic job. If you're into danceable indie rock like Bloc Party, check them out.

Victoria -

Victoria doesn't really play my style, but they do a great job of what they do. It's pretty straight up rock and roll and the guys are fine instrumentalists with a tight sound. I will admit to having been backstage during their set so I listened but didn't watch, making this review fairly barebones.

Jennifer Blosil -

I have been blown away twice in the past few months at local shows. The other time was the first time I caught The Lunatic. Jenn Blosil did it again. She plays piano and sings what I would call "Indie Jazz". Having some extremely talented friends play as her backup band helped a lot. Chase, Tyler, and Jesse managed to add a lot to her sound and gave us something extraordinary. She's the Provo Norah Jones, and you should all know that I love Norah Jones. Check her out this Saturday. They're great.

Archie Crisanto & the Travelling Salesmen -

This was us. We've sounded better. Never donate blood and play a show in the same day because it is exhausting. We had a lot of fun though with the inclusion of Travis White on lead guitar. You all would have to tell us how we did. If only Blosil's fans had stayed after she finished!

To the surprise of nobody, Jennifer Blosil won. She deserved it.

Night Three


I know I've said some negative things about Foxheart in the past, mostly upset at them beating us in Muse's Battle of the Bands. I thought the sound was sloppy without energy, but I did say they've gotten better with each show and that I think I would like them eventually. Fortunately, "eventually" came a lot sooner than expected. I only caught the last couple songs, but the sound was solid and they did something really great with Chris Wiltsie's songs. The whole band played well together, and they benefited a lot from Velour's sound system. I recant my previous statements.

Ryan Innes -

Ryan Innes can sing. He can sing well. Having a band of professional musicians may have helped him out, but they deserve it. A friend of mine commented that he didn't like how little the band moved around, but these are serious musicians and they concentrate completely on their instrument. Innes plays a very funky, loud jazz rock, somewhat similar to Jennifer Blosil's music (both bands have Chase Baker on rhythm guitar too). Look for Ryan in the future.

Street Legal

These guys are an ironic throwback to late 90s/early 00s VH1 rock. Influenced by the likes of Nickelback, Creed, and Matchbox 20, they manage to completely and successfully imitate the melodrama and pure cheese of "corporate" rock. They even dress the part, with bandanas and tight-fitting t-shirts to show off their muscles. They are very talented musicians with a great singer, and they use their gifts for irony! I say congratulations, Street Legal, on perfectly pulling off ridiculous.

The Lunatic

I've talked about the Lunatic before, so you know I love them. Their levels were all jacked up last night though. The guitars were way too quiet and I couldn't understand the vocals. I talked about how Foxheart benefited from Velour's sound, well the Lunatic is best at Muse. Check them out at Muse on December 18 with Wild Apples, D9, and Minus Mark! It's going to be a fantastic show.

Well that's where we are right now in the Battle. I ventured back and forth between Velour and Muse last night, and I caught the lovely Taylor Olson playing some very classic smooth jazz and lots of Christmas songs. Lovecapades also played a solid set, and Bearcats finished the night with some good ol' fashioned Indie Rock. Everyone was inappropriately sitting down for their set so it killed the energy. Maybe next time, fellows.

m lewis barker

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Velour Battle of the Bands Night ONE

Velour's Battle of the Bands is this week. Unfortunately, I missed last night's show. Luckily I received an e-mail from one Eliot Rosewater. Eliot, your review isn't nearly pretentious enough for this blog, but it's still a good one:

2010 Velour Winter Battle of the Bands was began in style with four of the finest bands in Utah County battling it out for dominance.

1.  The Crylics
The Crylics kicked off the competition with their brand of spiky synth-punk. They played a tight, energy filled set.  They played a handful of hook filled songs and finished up with an anthemic tune called Empires of Love.  I could tell that they really enjoyed playing their music.  I think that’s what I like most about them.  The rhythm guitar player was dancing like a broken  robot the whole time.  It was brilliant.

2.  Father Time
If you’re familiar with the seminal Provo legends known as Return to Sender, then you know 66% of Father Time.  Chad Reynolds and Scott Miller are back to reclaim the scene they captivated during their high school years.  Father Time’s performance at Battle of the Bands was loud, moving, and emotional.  Smoke machine fog and the purple-red glow of Velour shrouded the trio as they submitted their musical manifesto.  Chad Reynolds spit out words of acid over jagged guitar lines.  The drummer, Scott Miller, played with admirable speed and accuracy.  Although the overall sound of the band was reminiscent of Return to Sender, it was definitely apparent that this definitely is a different band.  

3.  Prince of Whales
I love these guys.  They’ve only been around for a few months but as soon as this six piece super-folk band got on stage, I knew I was in for a treat. Singer-guitarist Scott Dastrup opened up the set by notifying us that the first tune would be a lullaby and that the audience should prepare themselves accordingly.  This announcement was followed by one of the most beautiful and original songs I’ve heard in a long time.  The rest of the set, although short, was equally tremendous.

4.  90s Television
Finally, a band in Provo for the fans of modern psychedelic rock.  This is the band I came to see.  90s Television came armed with a wah-wah pedal and a glowing  Nintendo 64 sign.  Josh Brown sang through a BOSS sampler which gave his vocals an interesting echoing tone.  They played a set jam packed with danceable hits that evoked memories of a better time - The 90’s.

In my opinion, any of the bands that played could have emerged victorious, but there was only one…

The Winner of Monday night’s winner is Prince of Whales.  They are very deserving of the title and I can’t wait to see them again on Saturday. 

An award should also be given to the Velour sound guy, Nate Pyfer.  He does a fabulous job.

Thanks Eliot for helping out this humble blog! Tomorrow I'll write a review of tonight's show which was fabulous even if we didn't win.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rock & Roll is alive at the Compound

Hidden in downtown Provo, tucked away down a long driveway, a passerby might hear the sound of a small crowd. As they get closer, the smell of cigarettes and sweat grows stronger. A van sits outside a small house where people unload instruments into the living room. Everyone is chatting cheerfully, excited to see one another and enjoy music together. A few hold cans of beer or bottles of vodka, a rare sight in Utah County. A vase sits on a table by the entrance where people can put in however much money they want as payment, but generally it should be $3 or more to help the touring band. This place feels like it was lifted from some other city.

This is the Compound.

It's just a small house where a couple guys named Joey and Bryan live. Joey books the shows and Bryan draws the flyers. The flyers give off a very late 80s/early 90s feel, recalling the animation of Beavis & Butthead or the more recent Superjail. You already know what kind of show you're in for the second you see one of Bryan's drawings. Dozens of them are on the walls of the living room - a history of Provo rock shows.

Tonight, I finally had the opportunity of going to a show there. I first heard about it a few months ago from SLFM's Jessica Davis and have been wanting to attend a show there since. Tonight the bands were Baby GhostsBurnt Reynolds & His Hot Bonesthe Broken Spells (Joey's band), and King Louie's Missing Monuments from New Orleans. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it for the beginning of the show and missed the first two bands. But I managed to catch Broken Spells and Missing Monuments. It was an experience.

The energy at the Compound tonight was something I've never seen at Velour or Muse. Everyone was crowded together, standing attentively. The bands played at one edge of the living room with the kitchen as a backdrop (a sharp contrast to the curtains and stained glass windows at Velour or the brick painting of the Clash's London Calling at Muse). Both bands I saw played pretty straight foward 80's punk rock, reminiscent of the Minutemen, Mission of Burma, and Dinosaur Jr. There was yelling. There were guitar solos.

And there was moshing.

Moshpits are a rarity here in P-town. I think I've maybe seen one at Muse and then sort of half a mosh pit at Velour one time. But at the Compound, a venue for everyone else, people actually move to the music. People celebrate. There's nothing boring about it. The majority of the time everyone just looks so BORED at shows, sitting down and lazily listening to the band. But not at the Compound. The band and the audience are together, yelling and dancing and moving and playing rock and roll the way it should be played. Pretensions are thrown out the window. It's just... fun.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Muse and Velour, despite what you may think. Lots of great bands play on University Ave. They help expose people to local musicians in a way no one else can. They give musicians an opportunity to showcase their songs to friends and strangers. They have a wide variety of styles playing, but mostly safer indie folk rock (Provo's favorite music). The Compound is pretty concentrated on garage/punk, as far as I can tell. It doesn't have shows nearly as often and isn't in any kind of competition with Provo's venues.What makes it so necessary is that it can be very hard to see those kinds of bands play at Velour/Muse. And even if they did, few people would get it and even fewer would actually dance to it. (A punk show is happening at Muse on Dec 17, but I'll be convincing you to go the next night.)

I encourage you, if you're into Rock & Roll, real Rock & Roll, to add The Compound on Facebook to get updates about when they next have shows, and I'll do my best to keep everyone updated on here too. I know that I'll be going back every chance I get.

m. lewis barker

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The importance of house shows

Now that last week's Battle of the Bands and my first CD review are out of the way, I'd like to get into some actual blogging. This page is dedicated to really anything that has to do with Provo's music scene or local scenes in general. So feel free to send me an e-mail if you have an article you'd like posted.

Tonight (instead of doing homework) I'd like to talk about house shows. Provo has a bit of a problem, and it's that we only have two venues, one of which is difficult for new bands to perform in. I love both Muse Music CafĂ© and Velour, but Utah County has a lot of bands, many of which are very good, and they are often left without somewhere to perform. Plus the grand majority of people in Provo are not the type to go to pay $5-7 to see local bands, and don't know those venues.

But both of our beloved venues are relatively new, having opened around 5 years ago. Where did bands play before then? Was there just no scene here whatsoever? Well then where in the world did the Used come from? Did they just practice at home and then start playing big venues in major cities? No, Provo used to have a house scene. That was the only way bands could play. I grew up in a town without venues, and the bands would find anywhere to put on shows, usually with 5+ bands playing at each.

Let's also remember that Muse and Velour cater to only a small portion of music. On any given weekend, there's a very good chance you'll be watching an indie folk band (especially at Velour) if you're hanging between 1st and 2nd north and University Avenue. Lots of people don't feel like spending the cost of a meal to stand around and watch a band that may or may not be good.

Well before all that, there was the house show.

House shows have bad sound. House shows are crowded. But they're free, and they're fun. When you get rid of the stage and the lights and the pretension, you're left with friends enjoying music. People dance and eat and have fun. The first house show I attended was Johan the Angel, and it was an experience. The band was amazing, the crowd loved it, and best of all, it was free! I may have never listened to that band otherwise. The casual environment brings the music closer to the listener, and fans are made.

A couple weeks ago I, dressed in my Link garb, watched Tighty Willis play a Halloween party at a house called the Fort. All of us packed into that tiny room, I saw a lot of friends I know would never be at Velour on a Saturday night. But here they were, enjoying a band all dressed as variations of David Bowie, and having fun. House shows blur that line between concert and party. A band like Tighty Willis, who are great fun, benefit a lot from playing to a dancing crowd as opposed to people sitting around Muse's couches.

It can be very hard for local bands to get a widespread audience. There are thousands of college and high school kids in this county who love good music but have never gone to a show. But by bringing the bands to them, in their friends' homes, we get to enjoy each other's music. If it's a small, intimate, acoustic show, we get closer to the artist, sitting comfortably on a couch watching. If it's a bigger rock and roll show, we get to move and dance around, much less reserved about what others may think of us. Yes, the sound sucks, but does anyone care?

The house scene has been dwindling in Provo. With the exception of the Compound (a house venue that showcases some fantastic garage bands, but is rather infrequent in its shows), where can we go? Well, a lot of us have been talking about playing more house shows, and we'll be playing one this Saturday at 200 N 300 E. It's got Wild Apples, Archie Crisanto & the Travelling Salesmen, and Sariah Burdge. You can see the details on the Facebook event page here. There are great shows at Muse, Velour, and the Pig Pen (Pleasant Grove High) this Saturday too, but if you want to enjoy a house show, come see us play.

We're just trying to bring the music as close to you as possible. And we're just looking to have some fun. Let's resurrect the house scene and showcase some great bands. Then all that practice can translate to even better shows at our University Ave venues.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Bearcats - This Wildfire Magic EP (Review)

By M. Lewis Barker

Writer's note: This is the first record I've reviewed in 7 years so it may not be particularly thorough.

Bearcats are an indie rock band. They play catchy pop music with distorted guitars. Since they are already playing my style of music, one of two things will happen: I am going to be extra positive because they do a good job of it, or I'm going to extra negative because they've disgraced the genre. Don't worry, friends of Bearcats, it's the former.

This Wildfire Magic doesn't break a lot of new ground, but it is still a very well done 6-song record. The production values and mixing are clean which can be a big struggle for small bands. A lot of time and patience went into recording. (Although I'm sure local producer Travis White's magically sensitive ears would find problems with the production.) Each song has distinct melodies, but Bearcats never strays too far from a specific style. I would not be surprised to hear any of these songs playing in a television show soundtrack, thanks to both the production value and the high quality of the songs themselves.

And oh, my friends, these are well written songs. But they're not the sort of songs you would want to hear one guy with an acoustic guitar play at an open mic show. They work thanks to the instrumental arrangement. It doesn't ever stray from guitar/guitar/bass/drums, but each has its place and the sound never feels cluttered. They remind me of the New Pornographers, Apples in Stereo, and especially American Analog Set. Bearcats doesn't sound exactly like any indie band, but they are most assuredly the same genre.

The EP is upbeat. It's neither angry nor sad. It feels complacent, as if the band were happy with the songs they wrote. There's not a lot of energy in the vocal performance. I wouldn't call it tired or lazy at all, but it is very poppy and produced, lacking that human element that carries the weight of the words. They are another instrument, kept in tune and adding a layer to the music. The guitars are all distorted, but not too distorted. The drums keep such a solid yet light rhythm that I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they used a drum machine.

The fuzzed guitar and multi-layered vocals unify the album, but perhaps a bit too much. There is not a great deal of variation throughout the record. The transition from "Mineshaft" to "On/Off" might make you initially think you've put "Mineshaft" on repeat. But for the most part it works, and This Wildfire Magic isn't long enough for it to really matter. Plus the inclusion of the slower "This Will" helps to break any monotony and `really adds a lot to the end of the record. The EP would benefit by having something softer in the middle, but "This Will" works best as the epilogue.

I would listen to this album in my free time. That's the best compliment I can give it. It doesn't move me, emotionally, but it's good. I'm excited to see Bearcats when they next play in Provo.

You can purchase the record at for only $5. I suggest that you like classic indie rock.

M. Lewis Barker

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My faith is restored.

Last night were the Battle of the Bands finals. Muse Music was absolutely packed with people, more than I'd ever seen there before. Six bands competed for money and studio time.

Xan & Chase played first. I only caught their last two songs, but they actually put on a very energetic performance. I still didn't like it because they play (as a friend of mine put it) "Disney Pop". The crowd enjoyed them and they did a fine job of whatever it is they do. They can appeal to Provo's pop loving crowd I suppose.

The Crylics are just okay. I really wouldn't go out of my way to listen to them, but I'm also still a little peeved that they beat the much superior Kite Theory and  Ring of Scribes Thursday night. We caught them at the incredibly underwhelming Man Expo in Salt Lake earlier that day. I haven't paid enough attention to them to make a firm decision on what it is I don't like about their band, but it's probably just that they're still young and inexperienced. It's no worse than anything I did at that age.

We were up next. For the first time in all the many performances I've done, I felt kind of like a rock star. The room was absolutely packed and everyone cheered us on. Archie, JJ, Matt, and I played our hearts out. One nice thing about playing bass is I could make mistakes and no one noticed since I was being so energetic about it! I was actually enjoying listening to the performance as much as being in it that I kept wanting to clap after each song. I think we may have become a punk band last night with how fast we went through the set.

Foxheart (who I keep accidentally calling "Foxtrot" all week), once again brought a lot of fans. For how new they are, I really have no idea how they have such a fan base already. They are so close to being good, but something is off and I just don't enjoy listening to it at all. An electric guitar would really help, but I just don't really like the songs. More power to them though for somehow getting all those people to like them. I just have no idea how.

White Elephant is actually a very good band. I just hadn't seen enough of the set on Friday to properly judge them. They had a couple songs that I didn't like, but for the most part it was a solid performance, thanks in large part to Marina's fantastic voice. (I want to steal her for Wild Apples so very much right now.) I think you'll hear more of them in the future.

Last, but most definitely not least, was The Lunatic. While I don't care for their band name, they really blew me away once again. I already talked about them extensively yesterday, and all those points still stand. I wouldn't have been very upset if they beat us.

We waited nervously as the judges cast their votes. Archie was especially jittery. He had all but given up on local music before Wednesday, opting instead to just play bass in Wild Apples and Empirates. Now he was finally seeing a payoff to all the work he, and we, have put in this past year. It took a long time for Jake Haws to get on the stage and announce the winners, but he finally did.

Third place, $50 and 2 hours of studio time, went to The Lunatic.

Second place, $100 and 5 hours of studio time, went to White Elephant.

First place, $150 and 10 hours of studio time, went to Archie Crisanto & the Travelling Salesmen.

Suddenly all was right in the world. Personally, I would have chosen The Lunatic over White Elephant, but I'm just really glad that these are the three bands that placed. The other three were just OK at best, but I wouldn't listen to their music in my free time. But they have their audience, and it's just not me.

Thanks to everyone who came and supported us. I don't know when we'll be playing again as the Salesmen, but Wild Apples, a very similar band except more indie/alt, has some shows coming up. So check it out.

M. Lewis barker

Saturday, November 13, 2010

FINALS TONIGHT! and an explanation

Come check out the BotB Finals tonight at 8pm! Xan & Baker, Foxheart, Archie Crisanto, the Crylics, White Elephant, and The Lunatic will all be competing for $$ and studio time! Your participation matters.

Also, I've been hearing that a few people are disliking what I've written on this blog. First thing: The Lovecapades thing was a gag. They really are awesome people. Second, I'd like all of you to read this quote from Teddy Roosevelt (manliest man of all time) that has been on my Facebook profile for months now:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

What I say on here really doesn't matter at all. I'm actually really surprised at how many people have come across this blog in so short a period of time. I'm just one guy, who is a huge music snob, with my own opinions. If I say something negative about your band, don't get offended. I would absolutely LOVE for someone to actually give me some criticism on my music. The problem is, everybody is afraid to speak their mind. I started this blog to vent a little, and I realize that I went about it all wrong. But I will continue to post and I will continue to say what I think, whether it's good or bad.

I realize I should be more careful and constructive in my criticism. I see a lot of potential in these bands, including the ones I maybe lashed out against. If something I say hurts a little, maybe that's an aspect you need to improve. I know what it's like to receive criticism, but it helps us and that's all I want to do. But I'm just one guy, and you have absolutely every right to ignore what I say. But don't run around getting angry at the things I've written because that results in attacking me as a person when all I do is talk about your music.

Go to shows. Enjoy bands. That's what it's all about. But that doesn't mean we can't talk about what we really think, even if someone gets hurt.


M. Lewis Barker

BotB Night 5

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Night 5 brought some surprises.

White Elephant played what seemed to be only covers. Despite the fact that they had a really good guitarist and everyone was more than competent, they just weren't very good. They seemed young so inexperience is the most likely cause. A whole pack of high school kids came to see them play. Even though the performance was mediocre, I can say I like the singer's voice. Marina Tijerino is that rare breed of alto that rarely fronts bands. Just write some good songs guys then practice them a lot. You'll get better.

My good friend Nate Baldwin and his band, the Sound (Grace LaBass, Robbie McGuire, and Archie Crisanto), put on an excellent show. Nate writes good, catchy songs. A couple of his tunes wouldn't be out of place as the theme song to a 90s sitcom. I've seen him perform enough times now to be familiar with them too, and that always makes a show more enjoyable. He puts a lot of raw energy and emotion into his sets. He'd benefit from a solid lead guitarist though, like he used to have, but it's not necessary. My only complaint (and yeah Nate, I know you're reading this) is that he sings too much from his nose, which always reminds me too much of New Found Glory who are so very awful. It's more of a psychological problem on my end than anything.

Third last night was the horribly dressed and even worse-mannered Lovecapades, fronted by everyone's favorite Puerto Rican Englishman, Colin Rivera (who really should have tucked his shirt in). I've seen them play a number of times over the past few months, and they've really improved. The Lovecapades are very catchy and very pop. A djembe is enough for percussion and fits the sound well, while Steve Foster's lead guitar keeps them from being too boring or generic. It's too bad they're all such jerks. (I kid. They are awesome folks.)

About 30 seconds into the fourth band, and I was right at the front of the stage watching them play, mesmerized. The Lunatic is an alternative, shoe-gazing yet energetic 6-piece. It's rare to see a band brave enough for three guitarists, but they pull it off. They are reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine or Yo La Tengo. They use a lot of two to four part vocal harmonies, and it works every time. Despite the fact that the use three guitars, a synth, bass, and drums, the sound never feels overly cluttered and each serves its purpose quite fine. Honestly, it was my favorite performance all week. It's not that they were the best musicians and maybe not even the best band, but they play the kind of music that appeals to me and that's a rare thing in this town of acoustic folk and generic pop/rock.

Due to some issues with the counting system, White Elephant and The Lunatic "tied" and will both be playing tonight in the finals. So it'll be six bands instead of five, and only two of those six are worth watching, but definitely come, because they are really worth watching.

Friday, November 12, 2010

BotB Night 4

Kite Theory writes some of the best music in Provo. I'm not too huge on the singer/songwriter thing, but Taylor Beckstead knows what he is doing with his voice and an acoustic guitar. Having Steve Mortensen on the keyboard and Michael Killian on the drums really helps the sound come alive. They manage to do more as a trio than most bands can with twice that many people. If you haven't seen them yet, I recommend you go to their next show and just sit and listen to what they're doing.

They lost last night to The Crylics, but we left to get food after a couple songs and came back later. At this point, I'm 80% certain that Archie Crisanto will be winning this Saturday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Muse's Battle of the Bands, Night 3

Last night was the third night of Muse's Battle of the Bands, and so far it was the night with the most consistently good bands. I actually enjoyed this show immensely completely from an audience perspective.

The first band was Mad Diving Barons, an acoustic folk trio with a very cool sound. Their songs were well written and well performed. The vocal harmonies between Chad Gibson and Chris Vidmar helped stand this band out from the usual local folk music. Personally, their song style would benefit from a couple more band members to fill out the sound, but I'm a sucker for big bands. They were great.

Up second was Tighty Willis. TW is a rock band, through and through. They have pop sensibilities but play them well. Their lead guitarist pulls off a mean solo. Their sound could be a lot tighter (hypocritical words coming from me, I know). They're a band that works best when playing in a tight room, packed with dancing people. I first saw them a couple weeks ago on Oct 30, and that show felt a lot more right to me than last night's, even if I couldn't dance much with a sword and shield strapped to my back. I look forward to seeing them in the future.

Archie Crisanto & the Travelling Salesmen played a terrific set next. I will admit that I am biased - Archie is my bassist and I've played in his own band more than anyone. When I'm in the audience, I just look like their biggest fan because I know all the words and parts of the songs. Travis White of Empirates filled in on bass. My singular complaint of Crisanto's music is that his songs are too long. We played a seven song set Tuesday night but my songs usually don't hit the 4 minute mark. Archie & the Salesmen can play that many songs and take 10 minutes longer. (Don't worry. I'm not being passive-aggressive by posting this on the internet as I often say this to his face.) Crisanto plays a rather unique blend of 70s rock with a very modern and punkesque sensibility. He said that last night would be his last show as he is fed up with the music scene. Those opinions he has are what helped lead me to make this blog. People need to actually say what they're feeling before too much resentment kicks in.

Last (but most certainly least) was Just For the Record. They describe themselves as Post-Hardcore. They are a band from Lindon with 2000+ fans on their Facebook page. I will admit right here: I hate hardcore. I hate it hate it hate it. As a teenager in southeastern Ohio, 90% of local bands became hardcore in 2003. And they were bad at it. I listen to a lot of amusical, weird post-modern music, but hardcore is "amusical" in all the wrong ways. It and its sister genre of emo can go jump off a cliff for all I care. I hated this stuff the moment I heard it.

That said, JFTR wasn't awful. I really enjoyed their use of a synthesizer. They know the genre and they play it well, but they belong to 7 years ago when people cared. They managed to bring a lot of fans, and we were sure they'd win.

Then they counted the votes. And I don't know how, but JFTR lost by THREE votes to Archie Crisanto & the Travelling Salesmen. Archie, who had all but given up on music, was ecstatic. I guess someone owes me a first born because I will be at the show this Saturday, with bass in my hand.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Muse's Battle of the Bands

I thought I'd get this blog kicking with content as early as possible. The introductory post is below this one, please read it.

This week Muse Music is hosting its semi-annual Battle of the Bands. Twenty bands are competing for money and studio time. Four bands play each night of the week with the five winners, chosen by audience vote, performing this Saturday for judges. Six bands have already been eliminated. Muse has a difficult time competing against Velour, and this BotB is a perfect opportunity to help support the venue. Each band does its best to bring friends to the show who will vote for them so they can win.

Do you see the problem? From a business standpoint, it's great for Muse. But from a musician's shoes, it's painful. The majority of the bands that perform are new bands without an established fanbase, so only the friends of the performers will go. It becomes nothing more than a "bring the most friends" contest. Sure, on Saturday, actual judges will decide who wins overall, but the bands they choose from may very well not be the pick of the litter. But let me reiterate, it's great for business because it allows Muse to get hundreds of patrons in only a week.

I complain because my band (Wild Apples) lost last night. Yes, it's a personal grudge, but it goes much deeper than last night's show. And now, treat all the rest of that like an intro and now I am going to start...


(These pictures were all shamelessly stolen from Facebook pages.)
First up last night was LUCID 8, a classic rock band. I can't get into much detail because we weren't able to see much of the show, but they had a solid rock sound. They seem like guys who have fun with what they do. They're the kind of band you would expect to see in a bar. They brought a lot of friends and family to the show who voted for them then immediately left (extremely common at all local shows). It was generic, but well played.

Soft Castle played second. Their sound is distinctly Funk Rock, reminiscent of Mark Broussard. One might call them a gimmick band, friends and musicians playing together to have fun. They played a few covers in their set, but the addition of a horn section really brightened up the sound. They were easily the most enjoyable band that I watched last night. Just pure fun. They only brought a few friends to the show, more concerned with having fun than anything else. I wouldn't mind seeing them in the future.

And now we come to Foxheart, the brainchild of one Chris Wiltsie. I'll preface this paragraph by saying that Chris is a very friendly and great guy with excellent taste in music. This is the third time I've seen him, and each time is an improvement. I first caught him at an open mic night last month, playing solo. The whole night was a rather painful experience. The only act I enjoyed at all was that of Empirates' Travis White. Wiltsie's performance, sad to say, did nothing to relieve me. Later I saw him perform with a whole band a few weeks later at Muse. It was much better. But still, it was pretty generic singer/songwriter poprock.

Wiltsie's music was much better last night with the addiction of Grace LaBass on keyboard. Grace is a friend of mine and very talented singer/musician who plays with Nate Baldwin & the Sound (whose current bassist is my own). She stood out from the rest of the band. All that said, I will paraphrase the words of a friend of mine: "If I pay another five dollars, can I take votes away from them?" They weren't that bad, but they were still the worst band of the night. And I mean that in terms of musicality, unity, and just the songs themselves. But Foxheart, possibly based on Wiltsie's friendly personality or the fact that there are like, 8 of them, managed to bring a lot more people than everyone else. I knew we were doomed. They had the most votes before they even performed. They have a cello though so they must be deep as balls.

Once they finished, we hurried to set up and get started. Unfortunately, as quick as we were, Foxheart's friends were much quicker to leave. We played our brand of punkish indie rock to 20-30 people. Those who actually stayed (which did not include members of LUCID 8 or Soft Castle which is a very awful thing to do when performing) really enjoyed the show. We had a few friends there who had never seen us before and that means a lot to me. Some guy gave me a card for his friend's recording studio and Wiltsie complimented my playing. Honestly it was one of the best shows we've put on in awhile and we had a lot of fun. It's still far from what I want to ultimately do, musically, but I have no complaints.

Honestly, the whole ordeal wouldn't bug me as much if the same thing hadn't happened the night before. Foxheart will be competing against Xan & Chase this Saturday. X&C are a sister and brother who play a genre I can only call "local pop". Xan is an excellent singer and Chase is a great guitarist, and they are backed by competent musicians. But they completely lack any melody which wouldn't be a problem if they weren't trying their damndest to be a pop/rock band. To be fair to them, I already hate that sort of music, but they do absolutely nothing to change my opinion of it. While I only managed to catch the end of Ghost in a Jar's set, but it was very good and did something different than many bands. They had few votes. X&C were far from the best band that night, but they'll be in the finals this Saturday.

Foxheart has a lot of potential. An electric guitar might help because face it, they're not Ferocious Oaks. But you can bet your first born that I won't be attending the finals this Saturday.

Brand new stuff

For a few months now, I've wanted to make a blog about the local scene here in Utah County. While Salt Lake has a couple independent magazines for their scene, the quaint and conservative town of Provo (and all its surrounding cities) has a regrettable lack of written discussion. Well I think it's time that we change that! As far as I know, this will be the first blog dedicated completely to the Utah Valley Music Scene.

For an introduction, my name is M. Lewis Barker. I've only been an active participant in the local scene for over a year now. I've been back in Provo since my mission since January 2009, but it took a few months to really get into the local scene. Back in high school, I was at 2-4 shows a month out in Ohio and I wrote articles for the local zine. I got quite a few angry responses to my articles because I would point out how boring a local band's album was or write a very scathing article on the growing but increasingly awful local hardcore scene. Currently, I play guitar and sing in the band Wild Apples, and I have played guitar and bass for Archie Crisanto & the Travelling Salesmen during the past year. I'm at Muse and/or Velour every weekend now doing my best to support the local scene.

I will say this as a disclaimer right now: when it comes to music, I am very opinionated. My firm opinion is that the majority of everything is crap. But I also respect crappy originality a lot more than competent predictability. All that said, if by some stroke of good fortune this blog becomes well known, please don't be offended if I say something negative about your or your friend's band. Remember that these are only one man's opinions.

I appreciate you reading that intro, and I will get to the good stuff later today when we discuss Muse Music's Battle of the Bands happening this week. Feel free to leave angry comments!