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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