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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sorry what?

Why are you still coming to this site? Head on over to for the real deal. We've been there for a couple months now updating regularly!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New server, new site, new look.

Blogger has been absolutely wonderful, but I'm turning this blog into a proper online magazine, and the first step is making the switch to WordPress. Now if you go to, you will see our brand new site. We'd never be at this point if all of you didn't help make this blog so damn popular.


Mike L. Barker

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Arcade Fire with Local Natives at UVU

"They heard me singing and they told me to stop. 'Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.'"

The first time I heard Arcade Fire was over six years ago. My friend Nick Cline sent me a link, over MSN, to a video of them playing "Laika" on Conan. I wasn't blown away, but I loved the setup they had, with a string duo, accordion, and two guys wearing motorcycle helmets as percussion. I was especially intrigued by the frontman, Win Butler, as he played a Fender Jaguar, the same guitar that I owned (and still play in every show to this day). Arcade Fire was the band that I had wanted so badly to make for years. But I was only 17 at the time so they easily beat me to the punch.

Nick sent me a few of their songs. I still had a hard time getting past Butler's voice, but I really enjoyed it overall. I downloaded their entire discography. (Only the self-titled EP and Funeral at that point.) After I graduated high school, I spent much of Summer 2005 lazily hanging around my parents' house in Los Alamos, New Mexico. For my 18th birthday, I received an iPod. I mostly used it when walking my dogs, and Arcade Fire quickly became the number one band for me to listen to. Songs like "I'm Sleeping in a Submarine" and "Crown of Love" constantly bounced around in my head. I hadn't fallen so in love with a band since first discovering Sonic Youth some three years before that.

When I moved to Provo that August to attend BYU, I even started the "Arcade Fire group" for BYU students back in Facebook's early days. (I don't think it ever got past 60 members at its peak.) I was just completely enamored by them and must have listened to Funeral dozens of times that year. They were the band that I wanted to start, and they did it a thousand times better than I could have ever imagined. I thought that as soon as this band had a few albums under their belt, they would be my favorite band.

I wanted to see them live so bad, but they never came anywhere close to me. I left for my mission in 2006, only to discover (to my chagrin) on my return that Arcade Fire played at Thanksgiving Point in 2007. "Oh well," I thought, "they will come back to Utah shortly." Two years went by, and it seemed that they only played dates in Europe and big cities along coasts. Was I doomed to never see my favorite band? It was killing me. But then, fresh off the success of winning the Grammy for Best Album, they announced a new tour. And they were playing in Orem! I didn't even have to drive an hour to Salt Lake - only the ten minutes to Utah Valley University! I purchased my ticket as soon as possible, and anxiously awaited for a month and a half for April 11 to arrive.

Ladies and gentlemen, my life may be complete and I can finally die in peace. I have seen Arcade Fire, my favorite band, live, and it was magnificent. I have never been to such a big concert before, packed tightly like an anchovy in a tin box, but Arcade Fire has become the biggest Alternative Rock band in the world and the crowd inside the UCCU Center proved that. I knew so many people around me at the show, like it was a culmination of all my show-going over the past couple years. People I've reviewed in this blog like Jenn Blosil, Cody Taylor, and even the guys from The Angel Murkurker were up in the front with me. The Brothers Cisneros, who have done so much to help Muse Music, were against the stage. Former and current bandmates of mine, members of Shark Speed, Jacket Weather, and Fictionist, and so many other friends all came to the show. And we were all there to enjoy the world's greatest band.

Local Natives, from LA, opened for Arcade Fire. They only played for half an hour but they really blew the audience away. I hadn't heard them before, but my friends told me they were good and now I respect their opinions even more. Their mix of noises, vocal harmonies, and great energy were a wonderful way to pump up the audience. They most definitely made at least one new fan last night.

Once they finished, the insufferable pushing began. People who don't hang out in line for an hour and half before going in prefer to fight their way to the front, but what happens is a lot of rather aggressive pushing back and forth that becomes impossible to control. It wasn't too bad for me, but we had a lot of rather small young women in our group who were getting crushed. These people came so close to completely ruining the entire concert, and they are everything that is wrong with humanity and should be punched in the face.

When Arcade Fire came to the stage, things only got worse. And they started with "Month of May", the hardest song in their entire catalogue. An audience full of hipsters don't know how to mosh though, so it just turned into a lot of passive-aggressive pushing. I was singing along to every single word, but I had gotten completely separated from my friends and was basically forcing myself to enjoy the show. The highlight of the beginning of the show was when they played "Rococo". It's a great song, but it's also one of my least favorites from The Suburbs. The song is about hipsters, and the repeated chorus of the word "Rococo" is about how they "use big words that they don't understand". The grand majority of the audience was not singing along to the verses, but everyone was singing that word over and over, and I wonder if that's a joke on Arcade Fire's part. Much of The Suburbs is them digging at the sort of people that listen to them because it's "cool", and they crafted a song that would go over the heads of anyone not paying enough attention. Win Butler kept smiling during the chorus, and I wondered if that was because he understood the irony or if he just enjoyed having people sing his song. I loved it either way, as smug as that makes me. I got to laugh to myself as I hated every single person around me.

But then suddenly, the anger stopped, and we were were all just enjoying this wonderful band together. The audience was one. The pushing and crowding continued, but smiles replaced frowns. People were holding each other and singing together. If you haven't chanted the chorus of "Wake Up" in an arena of thousands, you have missed out on a vital experience of life. During "Haiti", I may have been the only person in the audience who knew every word (including the French ones) because as I was singing along, Régine was looking right at me, which melted my heart. We had a duet. They played so many of my favorite songs... songs that I've listened to dozens if not hundreds of times. The band was just happy to be playing music, always smiling and just glad that so many people enjoy their hard work.

They played a three song encore: "Ready to Start", "Keep the Car Running", and "The Sprawl II". All fantastic songs, the second was my favorite from Neon Bible and I was so happy when Win pulled out the mandolin. They ended "Sprawl II" with Régine's big ribbons, like she did on Saturday Night Live. It was this wonderful celebration of music and life. We were all disgusting and sweaty and thirsty and hungry and bruised and broken and no one cared. They could have played for another hour. They left the stage, and I've never seen an audience so blown away. Everyone I talked to said the same thing: "That was the best concert ever."

And it was. I have seen the world's greatest band live and up close. They are an inspiration to artists of any kind everywhere.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Review of Sugar Ray at Riverwoods

My ward (yes I am one of the many, many Mormons in Provo) had its Winter Semester Closing Social last night, and I was in charge of the talent show. By the time we finally got out of there, most of the local shows were underway and I wasn't planning on spending any money. The only thing left was Sugar Ray at the Riverwoods. It was free and they used to be one of America's biggest bands, so I hopped in a car with some friends to check it out.

Guess again.
A few thousand people were there, all with the same idea as me. I'm sure there were some hardcore Sugar Ray fans in the audience, perhaps the last of their kind. But for the most part, it was full of the zoobiest zoobies that ever zoobed.* Suddenly I was hit with the grand realization that I don't fit in with these people at all. It's something I've often thought about, but it had been a very long time since I was in a group of zoobies so large. When did backwards baseball caps become cool again? Oh, that's right: never.

This guy, a douchebag? No way!
Sugar Ray was already up on the stage and "performing" by the time we got there. First, I must give it up to the actual band, who did a wonderful job playing and are some fine musicians. But Mark McGrath decided to spend the whole time talking into the mic while some morning radio DJ played sound bites from Will Ferrell movies. It did not feel like a concert at all. It definitely felt like a party, but not the kind of party that I like to attend. Mark McGrath's slicked back hair and sunglasses made me question if it was actually him or just some imposter. Bring back the spiky hair, dude! At least he gets me props for hosting VH1's 100 Most Shocking Moments in Rock & Roll back in the day.

Though I must say, when they finished the set with "Fly", the 11 year old in me suddenly came back and I was singing along. It was a wonderful pop song back in a more innocent day, just as boy bands were beginning to roam the Earth. So, thanks for that, Sugar Ray.

*Urban Dictionary defines "zoobie" as the following:
A zoobie is a derogatory term for a certain genre of people who attend BYU. The term evolved from the word zoo, which was a common nickname for the university in the 80's. Possible explanations for this nickname may include the chaotic, often carnival-like atmosphere of raging hormones and desperate hunting for mates.
A zoobie is the quintessential BYU student. A zoobie is just a member of the flock of sheep. Zoobies don't think for themselves, they are the oblivious morons who roam BYU campus in droves.
You can't tell a zoobie by appearance only, although there is certainly a stereotyped look. Preppy sweater boys and plastic girls are often associated with zoobiehood.
"DUDE!! Did you see that hot girl walk by?"
"Yeah, she's a zoobie."
"Oh, f**k that!!"

Friday, April 8, 2011

Great Local Food Joints

First off, shows this weekend:
Friday April 8
Saturday April 9
This is a music blog, but I would like to take some time out to discuss some places in Provo that have been doing a lot to support culture in Provo.

The Parlor

For the past few months, The Parlor has been my number one pizzeria. I can barely remember what other pizza even tastes like. Located at 80 West Center St. in Provo, the Parlor often goes unnoticed as it is wedged between different Asian restaurants. But it has the best pizza in town, and it's affordable for poor college students like me. They have a variety of great specialty pizzas, like (my favorite) the meat-lover's Aleman or the delicious buffalo chicken Boyer. Plus they have the best buffalo wings around, along with many great desserts. I know this whole paragraph sounds like an ad for the Parlor, but trust me, I'm not getting paid to do this. I just really like the pizza and want you to go.

Marie Heywood, owner and manager, does a lot to support the local music scene here in Provo. A couple weeks ago, she stayed open until 3 AM so the Chasing Kings/Eyes Lips Eyes show could have an after party. The Parlor stays open for local shows quite often. On many nights, they offer discounts for people that come in with a stamp from Velour or Muse. And on Wednesday nights, they host a concert night where local musicians can perform. I've seen Archie CrisantoCasanova Frankenstein, and Tighty Willis play live shows there. I myself have performed inside. And I have seen Marie and her employees at a number of local shows, enjoying the music. Marie even judged a night at Velour's Battle of the Bands last winter!

Unfortunately, the Parlor is preparing to close on April 30. Despite being completely awesome and extremely delicious, it has not had all the exposure it deserves. That means that you have three weeks to eat there, and I suggest you go at least once a week before it closes, starting today. So go with some friends, a loved one, or even have them deliver it to your house so you can eat it in your undies as you stream Netflix on your X-Box.

Sammy's Cafe

Around the corner from the Parlor is Sammy's, which has some of the best shakes in town. Their pie shakes use actual slices of pie. The sweet potato fries are delicious. And the burgers are greasy as hell, just the way I like them. Sammy's has a cozy little spot at 27 North 100 West. It's a very small burger joint, so I tend to go there much more in the summer where I can sit at an outside table. On warm summer nights, I'll grab a shake or Italian soda at Sammy's once or twice a week.

Sammy's also works as a free venue in the warmer months. A few weeks ago they blocked off the street to host a huge outdoor concert with Fictionist. But lots of local acts have the chance to play there on weekend nights. (Though I personally find the stage to be a little scary.) Fans, burger-eaters, and passersby alike all have a chance to see a band for free. It's a great way to build a reputation as a band, and get practice performing. And Sammy's is just across from 100 Block so it's only a short walk from Velour, Muse, or the Deathstar if you're attending another show.

And for you college kids with Starving Student Cards, Sammy's always has some great deals on there.

Saigon Noodle House

This is Provo's hidden gem. At 440 West 300 South in Provo is the most affordable, most unknown Asian restaurant in this wonderful town. For $5, you can get a huge plate of a great food, along with egg drop soup. Plus they have some spicy stuff. They don't do anything for local music as far as I know, but it's such a great little place that I want people to know about it. Seriously, try it out.

I know this was a rather unconventional post, but there's a lot going on here in Provo that people need to know about. There are some I left out, like Guru's which is another great place, but I've only been a couple times and am therefore unqualified to discuss it (great quesadillas though). Go to these awesome places, especially the Parlor before it closes! And don't forget all the wonderful shows this weekend.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I would like to start off by saying that The Grove Theater, a new venue in Pleasant Grove located in a wonderful building with a very high capacity, is looking for bands to play there. Contact (Nate Baldwin) to play there!

As you can already see, we're starting to make some changes to this blog. We are now known as The Provo Music Guide. You can become a fan on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. There are now a small handful of writers, and we are always looking for more! We have a new domain name registered and within the next few weeks will be leaving Blogger in order to add some needed features.

One thing that we really want Provo musicians and fans alike to have is a database of our many local acts. So right now we've created a list of all the bands we could think of. That list will include links to the bands' music, Facebook/Myspace/official pages, and if the band is willing, contact information for press and booking purposes. I am including the list in this post so you all can help me make it as accurate as possible. (Please note that some of these bands are recently defunct or have moved from Provo, but I include them anyway.)

90s Television
Abby Normal
Adding Machines
The Apache
The Archer’s Apple
Archie Crisanto
Aubrey & Alexander
Baby Ghosts
Benton Paul
Big Trub
Blind Actuaries
Book on Tapeworm
Boots to the Moon
Boy and His Balloon
The Brocks
The Broken Spells
Burnt Reynolds & His Hot Bones
Caleb Loveless
Calm Paradox
Casanova Frankenstein
Chance Lewis
Chasing Xan
Code Hero
Cody Rigby
Cody Taylor
Colleen Green
Cory Mon & the Starlight Gospel
Crab Scratch Ecstasy
The Crylics
Denney in Stereo
Desert Noises
The Devil Whale
Dream Eater
Drew Danburry
Eden Express
Emily Brown
Eyes Lips Eyes
Father Time
The Federal Party Players
Ferocious Oaks
Follow the Earth
Ghost in a Jar
Glowing Heads
Goodnight Annabelle
Gypsy Cab
Hard Drive to France
Holy Water Buffalo
The Howitzers
Imagine Dragons
In Dreaming
Isaac Russel
J. Wride
Jacket Weather
Jennifer Blosil
John Ross Boyce & His Troubles
John Thomas Marco
Joshua James
Just for the Record
Kathleen Frewin
Katie Brandeburg
Kite Theory
Lindsey Stirling
The Lovecapades
The Lucky Crickets
The Lunatic
Lucid 8
Mad Diving Barons
Mason Porter
Matt Weidauer
The Mighty Sequoyah
Nate Baldwin & the Sound
The Neighbors
Neon Trees
Night Night
OK Ikumi
The Old Grey Geese
Pablo Blaqk
Parlor Hawk
Prince of Whales
Red Orange
Return to Sender
Ring of Scribes
Rollercoaster for Henry
Ryan Innes
Sayde Price
The Second Estate
The Second Round
Seve vs. Evan
Shady Chapel
Shark Speed
The Soft Bler
Street Legal
Tighty Willis
Till We Have Faces
Toy Bombs
Vibe Rising
Vibrant Sound
White Elephant
Wild Apples
The Whits

As you can see, it's a very big list. Help from anyone and everyone is very much appreciated and necessary for a project like this. I am not looking to exclude anyone, but please keep in mind that I am only included bands rooted in Utah County, and no bands that have broken up for more than a year or so. The comment box below is there for you to help me out! Or you can send me an e-mail. Thanks for the support and love!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Drew Danburry opens a barbershop, gets albums reviewed here

First off, have you guys seen The Angel Murkurker videos? They're a trio of local comedians who release a new video every Monday. Please subscribe to their channel and help support local comedy.

Drew Danburry has done a lot for Provo's music scene over the years, but last year he retired from performing music in order to grow a mustache and open an old-fashioned barbershop. In honor of the opening of The Danburry Barber Shop, I decided to talk a little bit about the two rather different albums Drew released last year. You can download the two albums here for FREE. ("" and "", though I highly recommend you also download "".)

Drew Danburry - Goodnight Dannii

This upbeat music sounds like it could belong right in the 1950s, but Drew adds a modern twist to his songs. Mixing folk, rockabilly, doo wop, and gospel, Goodnight Dannii is his best work to date. Danburry's personality shines through every song. The songs are usually short, though their titles tend to be lengthy. The guitars are acoustic, but the energy can get very manic. Danburry often foregoes traditional song structure, though the album is filled with so many familiar and catchy melodies that it could be difficult to notice.

Goodnight Dannii is a musical, starring a happy protagonist who occasionally has to rally his friends ("Artex Died in Truth or Consequences, NM"), sometimes gets down ("Hero Kensan"), has dawning realizations ("Dispersing the Veil"), and sings a short duet ("Aubrey Debauchery"). Danburry guides us through an emotional experience, letting his unique, boyish voice tell the tale.

The album has a pleasant flow, though I find the song order somewhat peculiar and not what I would personally do. The album starts off with a slow indie folk song, but quickly gains a fast pace. Suddenly you could be dancing to every song. But then just as abruptly, Goodnight Dannii returns to its soft beginning and remains that way until the end. I would like to hear those ballads interrupted by something like "Optimus Prime is Dead".

But it is an excellent album, one of the best to come out of Provo. Please download it and listen.

The Apache - Apache, The

Danburry's other release last year, Apache, The, was a hard rock side project. All those fast songs I was missing from Goodnight Dannii can be found here, with appropriate instrumentation. A lot of people did not know that the Apache even existed, as they lasted only as long as the album. I like this album more than Goodnight Dannii, but that has more to do with personal taste than anything. The band chose to remain as anonymous as possible, though Danburry's voice and songwriting are very firmly planted all over the record. I believe that Pat Boyer of Gypsy Cab and The Federal Party Players, plays lead guitar on the album. Pat is maybe the best blues rock guitarist in Provo, and his talents are what separate The Apache from Drew Danburry more than anything else.

The album's most known song is "Robert Redford or Kristen Wiig (1973)", a song that sounds more like Danburry than anything else on Apache, The. (All the album's song titles are two famous people and a year, 1973 refers to the year that The Sting was released and also when Wiig was born.) It's a classic Southern Rock song, complete with wailing chorus and everything. You could throw this on a radio station between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kansas and no one would bat an eye. But I prefer "James Coburn or Samantha Morton (1833)" for it's harder edge. Both are fine songs though.

Despite the anonymity and collaborators, Apache, The is still very much a Drew Danburry album. One could seamlessly alternate between this and Goodnight Dannii without the two feeling disjointed. I think they work well as sister albums. One is rock and one is folk, but they are two sides of the same coin. And they really show what music in Provo is all about. Nearly every band here sounds something like one or the other. Danburry has left a very large footprint on the Provo music scene, even if there are many do not recognize the influence.

His effort inspires me, personally. In a world where we become increasingly global yet personally disconnected, we need to do all we can to support ourselves locally. Provo is rich with the arts, but it takes effort and it takes dedication from people like Danburry. He is now putting that energy towards his barbershop, which I hope stays open for a very long time and becomes outrageously successful. But we can all do our part, employing our talents for the good of others. In this time of economic struggle, the arts often suffer as we need to concentrate on our basic needs, but I hope we can find the time and effort to enjoy those things that make life good - whether it's pizza at The Parlor, a show at Velour, or a haircut and shave from an old-fashioned barber.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pablo Blaqk - Sons & Daughters

I made a list of bands in Provo, currently at 115, and over 40 of those play some variation of acoustic indie folk. The reason that this sort of music is so prevalent in Provo is that many wish to imitate those who play it well. Pablo Blaqk is no imitator. His new album, Sons & Daughters, co-produced by Blaqk and Provo's premiere folk leader, Joshua James, is going to change the landscape of the genre here. It's much braver and more experimental than a casual listen might indicate.

I met Pablo was at Wild Apples' last show, and Ferocious Oaks were kind enough to let him play a song in the middle of their set. I had heard his name before, but never his music. While I can't say I was blown away by the solo performance, I did honestly enjoy it and was excited to hear more. Luckily, one of my roommates is a good friend of Pablo's and handed me an extra copy of the album a couple nights ago. I couldn't wait to give it a review.

From the first few measures of the album, where Pablo sings "Sons and daughters, where have the animals gone to?", I was already entranced. The piano and ambient white noises are out of this world. The faint echo of overdrive gives the short song a climax, and then the acoustic guitar of "Find Your Way" starts. Slide guitar and banjo accent the song in that cliche country folk way, but the sounds of crunchy guitars balance everything nicely. Watch the video and form your own opinion:

The rest of the album follows in a similar vein. Most of it is fairly melancholy and it all rings familiar. Though catchy songs like "Family Tree" and "Papa & the Sea" greatly elevate the mood, the majority is slower, more thoughtful. It's the kind of album I can imagine a broken-hearted girl crying to. (Though I wouldn't cry to it myself because crying isn't cool.) It sounds like it could be a soundtrack, like Badly Drawn Boy's music to About A Boy. I honestly hope that some folks out in Hollywood get a hold of this album and put some songs in their films and television shows.

The production is perfect. Many of the songs have at least one element that sets them apart from the rest. Whether it's the electric guitars of "Find Your Way" or the synthesizers in "Didn't Mean To", Blaqk and James found unique ways to give the album its own voice. While it is difficult to know how much direct influence Joshua James had on the album, you can hear his idiosyncrasies creeping into each track.

Blaqk's breathy voice is reminiscent of James himself or our beloved Cody Taylor (who I should mention is currently on iTunes' "New and Noteworthy" under Singer/Songwriters along with Sayde Price. Provo represent!) Blaqk separates himself from his contemporaries by being more of a baritone. If you find yourself tired of folk singers, then this album could be grating. At least Blaqk's much more resonant tone in "Annalee" had me checking the album's liner notes to make sure it wasn't a different vocalist. I would like to hear more of the album through that voice. But the man can sing very well and it perfectly compliments the music, no matter what he is doing.

"Dear Abbey" may be my favorite song on the album, but I'm a sucker for songs with slow buildups and big climaxes. The synth, horns, and piano all work together to wake up the listener. But they feel earned, never coming in too early. But the string arrangements of "Papa & the Sea" find themselves competing for my affection. Many different instruments are used to create a somewhat dreamy experience.

If I were the type of reviewer to give out ratings, Sons & Daughters would have quite a high ranking. Though it is kind of sad that those first two minutes of introduction may be the most inspiring thing on it.  The rest of the album is inspiring, emotional, and very real, but it falls firmly into that genre of "Provo Folk" ("Provolk?"). It's far from my favorite kind of music, but it's something I enjoy immensely when done right. I salute Mr. Blaqk, Mr. James, and everyone who contributed to this album, especially the musicians whose competency sculpted the many sounds found within. You can purchase Sons & Daughters on iTunes or from And there's going to be a big deal CD Release Party up in Salt Lake at Brewvie's Cinema Pub on Thursday, April 14.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Compound bringin' it old school: Tacocat, 90s Television, and Glowing Heads

The Compound, Provo's hidden venue, played the host to some fine rock/roll last night. The house was packed and my ears are still ringing.

Glowing Heads, photo by Alex Pow
Glowing Heads kicked off the show, playing some mini-indie-alt-rock (minimalist independent alternative rock and roll). My first thoughts veered towards Beat Happening. Everything was completely stripped down. The guitar was slightly overdriven and delayed. The vocals were quiet and muffled. The bass followed the guitar lines. The drum kit was nothing but a snare and floor tom. Influences of surf, punk, and the Velvet Underground were aplenty. When I think about being in a band, this is exactly it. Getting together with friends and making music together because it's just a really fun thing to do.

90s Television, photo by Alex Pow
90s Television picked up where Glowing Heads left off. I knew I would like them just from their setup - a Fender Jazzmaster AND a Roland Juno-60 synthesizer? I thought I was the only person in Provo who owned one of those. 90sTV have a very spacey sound. The crunch of the Jazzmaster is contrasted by the twangy funk of a wah-driven SG. The vocals run through a very heavy delay, and my position right in front of the singer made the PA impossible to hear. This also made the synth inaudible for me, so I will have to hear the band another time to form an educated opinion. I loved what I heard though. Distorted guitars and Clayton Godby's drums are really all I need to have fun at a concert.

Tacocat, photo by Alex Pow
But the Compound exists to give touring bands somewhere to play (and sleep) in Provo. Last night's headliner were Seattle surf punk band Tacocat. Three parts girl and one part dude, Tacocat knows how to write a catchy, fun song then crank up the speed and volume. Singer Emily Nokes is a tiny, feisty little girl who constantly dances and shakes the tambourine during the performance. The whole band is fantastic though, having written some great music and playing it great together. Shows every single night help them to solidify their sound too. Provo would be very lucky to have them come through town again, and I really hope you can be there to see.

Photographer Trevor Christensen took some great pictures of the night and created this very cool slideshow to one of their songs (you can see me awkwardly standing in the right of many of the photos!):

This free advertisement for your work is a special thank you to Trevor for all the exposure he is giving my blog.

If you have yet to come to the show at the Compound, then you're missing out on a fundamental Provo experience. Their next show is Friday, April 8. I hope to see you there!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Thanks for all the support so far!

I honestly can't understand what people are expecting from a free blog run by a busy college student who also works. I'm not even a writer. I haven't gotten a good grade on a writing assignment since high school. I've even started every sentence so far with "I", if that tells you anything. I started this blog with absolutely zero expectations, initially using it as a place to rant about things that pissed me off. It was Muse's Battle of the Bands and I heard so much crap that week that I needed to tell people about it. I probably even dismissed some fairly good bands since we were all in competition with one another (but at least I discovered The Lunatic, who I'm listening to right now and are currently my favorite local band).

If it weren't for Blogger's wonderful Stats feature, I would have probably given this blog up already. The Facebook page only has a handful of fans, and less than half of those officially "follow this blog" on here. Each article generally gets 0-3 comments. But numbers tell me that people are actually reading this thing:

In March alone, it's already been viewed 1500+ times. People are actually reading this amateur imitation of journalism. Or at least, clicking on the links that get posted to Facebook. (As of now, 30 different people posted a link to my last post from Facebook. A record!) I'm also a bit confused as to why I've been linked from, but um, thanks? What I'm saying is, even though I became an art major to avoid my mediocre writing, I'm glad people out there think this blog is somewhat worthwhile, even if I can be incredibly pretentious.

I have quite a lot planned for this blog in the future. We are going to start a weekly video podcast soon. And now that I have a job, I plan on saving money to turn this into a proper website where we'll make a database of all the bands in Provo. This is a big scene, and it's very scattered and unorganized. I'd just like to bring some unity (even if it's people united against me).

But most importantly, I'm always looking for more contributors. I don't have the talent to do this blog alone like How to Provo, so I encourage any and all lovers of the scene to write something. I will post it.

And if you have any comments/complaints/threats, just come look for me at shows and angrily scream them at me. I'll be at the Compound tonight for this show w/ Tacocat, Glowing Heads, 90s Television, and Twins. It is going to blow your balls off.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Provo can rock. It can rock hard. (Concert Report: Velour, March 25 2011)

Chasing Kings' frontman Matt Schwartz told me last night that no other town in the United States has a music scene like Provo.

Music is my raison d'être. I listen to it as I walk to and from campus. I listen to it as I work on art projects. I sing along loudly in my car. I've been playing it since I was a child. I go to shows every single weekend. I write about music on the internet. I play in a band. I just love music.

And last night, Provo was catering to my tastes. 100 Block was rocking hard. Muse had some great new bands. The Deathstar was throwing a hard garage rock show. But I was at Velour, where I had one of my best local concert experiences yet. For your reading pleasure, here is a review of that show:

The Future of the Ghost

Future of the Ghost comes to us from Salt Lake City. They play some good old fashioned indie rock. Their songs are catchy and simple but carry a lot of punk influence. The guitars are just crunchy enough to dirty up the sound in all the right ways. And the light synth adds a whole other layer to the band that nicely fills out the soundscape. The band boasts two frontmen who trade off singer/guitar/bass duties, yet the sound stays consistent between the two of them. They write some interesting guitar parts and know when to let feedback speak for itself. I hope they take the time to come down and play in Provo often.

Chasing Kings

Chasing Kings rolled into town last Halloween weekend and blew everyone away with their vocal harmonies, catchy hooks (did I seriously just write that?), and engaging performance. One of them was kind enough to give me a copy of their EP The Current State of Our Future, and it stayed in my car's stereo for a long time. They came back into town and once again, played a fantastic show. They played a lot of new songs from their forthcoming record, but everyone saw the mark they left on the town when we all sang along to their EP's title track. I hope they made a lot of new fans last night, and I really hope you're there when they next play in Provo.

Holy Water Buffalo

I've told you folks about Holy Water Buffalo in the past, but let me reiterate that they are a great rock and roll band who are very quickly making a name for themselves in the local scene. Last night was no exception.

Eyes Lips Eyes

I have seen Eyes Lips Eyes (formerly Elizabethan Report) the last six times they've come into town since moving to Los Angeles. How can I miss the greatest live show in Provo? Fresh off a stint at SXSW, Tony Hello and his band of merrymen showed us all how to put on a real rock show. The band is tighter than ever. If Hello were more self-conscious, his showboating could be seen as egotistic, but he just completely lets himself go as he flails around the stage and gets the audience to sing along. Instead of overshadowing his bandmates, he lets us see them even more. Spencer Petersen's innovative guitar playing is inspiring. Aaron Hatch's bass adds a lot of funk, and he makes sure to hog up the stage as much as anyone. Thomas Carroll's steady and eccentric drum playing gives the band the base they need to go crazy. The audience is completely participatory: singing along, jumping up and down, clapping, dancing. The whole event taps into this primal human need to just let go of inhibitions and be one with a group of people. While Eyes Lips Eyes may not have played my favorite music of the night (though they still write some amazing, amazing stuff),  they did manage to steal the show every time through sheer force of will.

I also caught Eidola at Muse Music last night in between sets at Velour. Eidola is the new project of former Follow the Earth frontman Andrew Wells. Wells writes some very complicated songs, but he grounds them in some good Rock & Roll. It is a sound that is entirely his own, accentuated by the crazy light show his band always puts on. Let me just say that Eidola are a very, very good band and will be making waves in the Provo scene in the close future.

After all the shows, the Parlor had an "aftershow" where Tighty Willis played as people ate pizza. Sometimes, you just need to dance until 2 in the morning. Last night was one of those times.

I really am impressed with the scene here. It's strong. Velour, Muse, the Compound, and now the Deathstar are all doing so much to keep music alive in town. I used to worry that it was too much competition all right next to each other, but last night all three venues were packed with people, and tonight might be even worse. I now look at 100 Block as a little music festival every weekend with multiple stages. I think our little scene here is about to see an explosion, and some of these bands that we enjoy are going to see themselves in the spotlight on a national scale. Let's just enjoy the music together.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fan Mail #1

You should follow @Provo_Music on Twitter for all sorts of treats and goodies.

Hey everyone, lately I've been getting plenty of e-mails, but most of those are people either asking me to review albums/shows or sometimes even asking me to help book a show! But I also get the occasional bit of fan mail, telling me what a great job I've been doing. Just yesterday I saw this lovely e-mail from "Richard" in my inbox and I wanted to share it with everyone:


I just wanted to let you know what a total douchebag you are--or at least how absolutely shitty your music reviews are. I can't speak for your character as an individual, but I'm not surprised in the least that no one in Provo reads, follows, or otherwise pays any attention at all to your blog.

Please don't take this as a personal attack. I'm just sick of side-liners who play in washed-up, unoriginal bands but feel like they are entitled to make crap judgements from some sort of pretentious, god-given soap box. (Yes, I've listened to Wild Apple's music, and I've even seen you play live, and you were pretty awful). But really, the internet has enough junk on it without your meaningless contributions. 

So please, do your part to make the world a better place and stop writing such lame reviews. Consider this hiatus as a form of community service; some people have to go out of their way to help the world around them by picking up trash, volunteering, planting trees, or donating to charity. All you have to do is stop what you're doing, and go do something else. Masturbation, crochet, cooking, or even just playing halo all day would be much more productive and meaningful than your current music blogging.

If, because of your incredibly douchebag-distorted view of reality, you think that this is funny or a joke, it's not. Really, I mean it. Please stop writing that piece of shit blog of yours.



Thanks for the kind words, Richard! I always appreciate when someone takes time out of their day to write me!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Calm Paradox - How to Mind

Most girls, when they pick up an acoustic guitar, are content to either imitate Taylor Swift or Ingrid Michaelson. They don't sing with their real voice, opting instead to imitate the pronunciations and inflections of a favorite singer. With every newcomer, I see more and more homogeny. (Not that boys are much better, about 3/4ths of every open mic night is filled with Jake Johnson would-be's.) There are very few girls (and guys, for that matter) who simply like to kick some ass.

Michelle Kennedy's brainchild Calm Paradox joins Provo's White Elephant and Salt Lake's SLFM as an exception to that rule. She may have started as another singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar and a few chords, but she knows the beauty of an overdriven guitar and a solid drum beat. Calm Paradox is reminiscent of indie rockers such as the New Pornographers and Metric. She writes pop songs then cranks up the guitar and rocks out.

In less than half an hour, her indie (and I mean that in its original sense) album How to Mind (which you can listen to at shows the very promising start of what could eventually be Utah's favorite alt rocker. The album is littered with fuzz, synths, piano, and fairly original sounds. It's like she tailor made it all for me, knowing my musical sensibilities. Yet it's still very accessible and could appeal to a very wide demographic. Most songs don't break the three minute mark, giving us just enough to want a little more and never tiring out.

I really love the album and have listened to it quite a few times already, but unfortunately for Calm Paradox, playing the kind of music that I like also means that I am extra critical.

There's a certain level of monotony to the album, though clever instrumentation helps keep things interesting. A few songs in, the melodies and rhythms start to feel repetitive, with some exceptions. "Rich Kid" has a great, catchy chorus, and "This May" has the album's most distinctive and engaging melody. For the most part, I can perfectly imagine these songs being played by any number of female guitarists/singers. "Rites of Passage" are the most notable examples of this, being little more than an acoustic guitar, vocals, and piano. It works since the rest of the album is more energetic, but it's also the key to seeing the origin behind the rest of the album.

What makes How to Mind special is the way Kennedy presents her music. The girl can sing, and more importantly, she doesn't fake her voice. One of my chief grievances in music is when a singer does his or her best to imitate someone else's style (as complained about in the beginning of this review). You can tell that it's fake, and it shows a certain level of insecurity (whether conscious or not) from the vocalist. Kennedy knows her own voice and displays it proudly. It's just so damn refreshing!

The instrumentation compliments her songwriting. Without it, she would just be another girl and guitar. "Barcelona" and "Sunrise" have some of my favorite arrangements. The former uses pauses to great effect and latter includes some subtle strings to accentuate the melody. Occasionally there are some hiccups: my least favorite song on the album, "Dystopia", has some guitars that could use another few takes in the studio. I would like to hear what Kennedy's songs would sound like with some more experimental instrumentation. Right now it's still fairly generic. The songs are open enough that you could do almost anything with them at this point. Some more melodies and harmonies would add some wonderful color to How to Mind.

The lyrics can be... lacking. They feel more like placeholders for the music than any kind of poetry unto themselves. If you stuck a lyric sheet in front of me, I would be very surprised by how good the music is in comparison. It's that voice that gives them meaning. Although I can say I am a fan of the line "I'd rather share a married man than have a cheating asshole who's all mine" from "Boots". She has clever lines like that now and then, such as "as tangible as death can get" and "let's use friction to heat our frozen lips" from "Influenza Tiger". Still, those moments are few.

My favorite song is the album's closer "This May". It would be stronger at an earlier point in the album. And I wish it were longer than it is, building up to a bigger climax and finishing out strong. It shows a lot of promise for the young artist, and I hope it is indicative of things to come.

I am a big fan of Calm Paradox's debut effort. I may have sounded like an overly critical know-it-all in this review, but only because I see a lot of potential in what Kennedy is doing and hope that she constantly improves. The album is very enjoyable and very clean. It's too clean, actually. Overproduced. Calm Paradox deserves a dirtier, rawer sound. I'd like to see what she can do live with a full band. I know that I will be at the show, right at the front.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Matt Weidauer, The Brocks, and Provo's bustling music scene

Don't forget to follow @Provo_Music on Twitter for all your local opinions in short form!

Last night in Provo, there were four different concerts happening within a very small radius. I found myself wandering around, seeing all the sites and running into friend after friend. At Muse Music, patrons were treated to the folky simplicity of Garret Williams and Alameda, as well as Jennifer Blosil's jazz-inspired songs. At the Deathstar, one could see some harder rock bands like the Incidentals, Stencils, and the Strokes-esque Crylics. Velour was having a ska night where skanking was most definitely encouraged.

The big event was Fictionist outside Sammy's. They closed off that whole block so several hundred people could watch them play. As you are probably aware, Fictionist is in a contest to get on the cover of Rolling Stone. They're Provo's biggest band right now (not counting Neon Trees). Allred played, though I can't say I became a fan. I did manage to catch Lindsey Stirling's hip-hop violin act though. Stirling was recently a finalist on America's Got Talent and has been making a name for herself. She was thoroughly entertaining and you should see her as soon as possible. I left after Fictionist played a couple songs to go see Jennifer Blosil's set at Muse, but I can understand why people are such big fans of the band. I wish them success.

There was so much to do last night for local music fans! If you wanted to hate one thing, you could enjoy another. Provo-based music is getting ready to blow up. Record companies have been watching bands around here. There are dozens upon dozens of bands in town, and a select few will soon find themselves gaining national attention. Neon Trees are bona fide pop stars, with "Animal" having been featured on Kidz Bop, Glee, and even Now! That's What I Call Music. Joshua James and Parlor Hawk are some of iTunes best sellers in their genres. Empirates are about to be featured on radio stations across the country and are very likely to become an under-the-radar hit.

These aren't the bands for this blog though. I'm here to tell you about someone you may not have heard of who has been making great music that goes unnoticed because it may be less accessible or just lacks promotion. Today I will be reviewing a couple local recordings, one old and one new. Requests for reviews have been steadily increasing (which means people have been reading!) so I decided it would be more prudent to include more than one at a time.

Matt Weidauer - Birds

It may be a job requirement in the United States that public school bus drivers listen exclusively to Country stations, as that is all I heard as a child. And I absolutely hated every second of it. The entire genre was sullied by exaggerated (and often completely fake) southern drawls, homogenous orchestration, and faux-patriotism.

Luckily, Matt Weidauer exists to show us that Country can be intelligent, pleasing, and good. He released his album, Birds, back in late 2009, but I recently acquired a copy and I intend to give it a small fraction of the exposure it deserves. Weidauer plays that wonderful mix of country, folk, and bluegrass that has slowly come to define music in and around Utah. The eight songs that make up Birds are fine songs in and of themselves, and they all work wonderfully together to produce an album worth buying.

My favorite song is "A Just & Perfect Man", a song about Job from the Old Testament. The lyrics tell the story from Job's shoes (or, well, boiled feet). Weidauer conveys the importance of overcoming adversity and sticking to one's principles through his steady guitar and subtle voice. It's the sort of song that could be forgotten on an album such as this. It has no drums, no bass, no harmonica. It's only Matt, a guitar, and a violin. And it's short. But its simplicity is why it's so good. I wouldn't change a single thing about the song, and it breathes new life into an old Bible story.

Please, buy this album. You can purchase Birds on iTunes or pick up a copy at Muse Music Cafe. It is worth every penny and will help support local music that doesn't suck. And make sure you see Matt Weidauer at his next performance. He plays an acoustic guitar better than the majority of artists in town and it's worth it for that alone.

The Brocks - The Brocks EP

The Brocks sound like an 80s movie soundtrack. Or a late 90's radio rock band. But more modern. The influences are all there. They have a variety of sounds. The recording quality is fantastic and everything is well performed. But it tends to go all over the place, never giving them a distinctive sound. Are they pop? Rock? Indie? Folk? I am all for incorporating as many genres as possible, but it doesn't quite feel cohesive. The one thing keeping the record together is the organ.

"She Loves You" is a fun pop song. It's not what I would listen to in my spare time, but I wouldn't deem you a Philistine if you told me you liked it. "Run Away From Here" is similar in scope and style. Starting the EP with these two songs would have the listener assume that their entire catalogue sounds just like this, when that's not true.

The one exception to the EP is "You Are", which sounds so much like Coldplay that it may as well be a tribute, British accent and everything. I don't listen to Coldplay (ever), but this is not a bad song by any means. Much like Coldplay, it feels very spacey, never distorting the guitars. Also like Coldplay, it feels like it just barely misses the climax that would turn it from a good song to a fantastic one. It's a fine song, but don't base your opinion of The Brocks on it, as the rest of the EP never quite sounds like this.

The highlight of the EP is "I'll Try". It's catchy, simple, and has some fairly cool instrumentation. The arpeggiated synthesizer adds a bit of subtle flavor. The recording feels like it was done underwater, but I do not mean that in a bad way. There's a dreamlike quality to the song. The next song, "Satisfy" is fairly similar. The vibrato on the synth (or organ?) later in the song comes across as awkward, but doesn't last. "Since I Held You" sounds like some discarded Beatles song played with folk instruments. The EP ends with "The American Revolution", which is actually a great song. The hip hop drum beat and variety of instrumentations help what would otherwise be a repetitive and boring song.

Perhaps a different song order would help the EP. The individual songs are well written and performed, but as a whole it just feels off. I am most definitely not the Brocks' audience so it is difficult for me to judge them or their music. I like that they mix up genres, but I'm not a big fan of how they mix up their genres. If you're a fan of upbeat pop folk, give their EP a listen at Reverb Nation. This is a group where I say, "make up your own mind".


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Glowing Heads, the Howitzers, Colleen Green, and Meth House Party Band @ the Compound (March 12, 2011)

by Alex Pow

Follow @Provo_Music on Twitter for up-to-the-minute snarky opinions and mean-spirited comments!

This was the first Compound show I’ve been to in a while, and it was the best show I have ever been to in my life. I used to go when my friends’ hardcore band played there, but since they split up I haven’t been. After Saturday’s show, I’ll do my best to never miss another one. 

Glowing Heads played first, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I missed their whole set except for the last half of the last song. What I heard (a sweet bass-line and some dreamy synthesizers) was awesome and I’ll be at their next show no matter where it is - I promise.

The Howitzers, a garage-rock three-piece, played second; I hear that some of the members used to be in The Yaks, another band in Provo that stopped playing before I moved here. I was impressed by the guitarist, who played some sexy, psychedelic guitar riffs and solos. Mid-set the vocalist/bassist said to the guitarist, “I told you to do more stuff.” I think he was doing plenty of stuff. They asked if anyone liked playing Super Metroid and then said the next song was called “Samus.” So, yeah, awesome. I thought it was very appropriate that the vocalist was wearing sunglasses and standing directly in front of the dartboard, so the warning sign above him read, “IF YOU HIT THE WALL YOUR CLOTHES HAVE TO COME OFF.” Sexy.

Colleen Green, touring from LA, started setting up, and I knew I was going to love them before they even played their first song. Colleen introduced the bassist as her friend Melissa (hope I got that right), and the two girls set up a drum machine, put on their sunglasses and started playing a song that instantly brought Dum Dum Girls (one of my favorite bands) to mind - their long, dark hair probably also had a little to do with that. I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of Colleen Green before, but thank goodness I have now. Colleen has a sweet, but also kind of droney voice, and the steady beats of the drum machine provided an interesting contrast to the fuzzy guitar. The second song they played was a cover of The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and it ruled. After the set was over, we all started asking for one more song, and so they played another one for us. I bought the “Green One” 7” after the show - it’s the best thing I’ve bought this year (I might even like it better than the new Dum Dum Girls EP). Colleen Green is the reason this was the best show I have ever been to. Thank you, Colleen.

Meth House Party Band played last, and before one of their songs they said “this is about being fans of The Cramps in Idaho Falls.” I think that may be the best way to describe how they sounded - very punk-rock. The bass drum had a skull and crossbones spray painted on it, but with Pacman instead of a skull. 

I hope you'll all go to a Compound show. They’re always fun, and you can find out about some great bands. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cody Taylor's Debut Album

Hey you kids, follow @Provo_Music on Twitter to get all my fast updates, first impressions, and snarky comments (mostly the latter)!

Cody Taylor has finally finished his self-titled debut album. He has been performing in and around Provo for quite some time, perfecting his sound and working on the album. Cody plays a fairly traditional form of singer/songwriter folk, similar to artists such as Damien Rice, Elliott Smith, and even Nickel Creek. His shows are often just him with an acoustic guitar, occasionally accompanied by someone on violin or cello. The raw emotion he displays gives Cody the individuality that otherwise might be lacking in such a traditional American genre.

I was able to obtain a copy of Cody Taylor's Cody Taylor last week and have hopefully given it enough listens for an honest review (or in Cody's own words, "brutally honest"). To start off, the album is good. Very good. The more and more I hear from local artists, the more I am convinced that the only difference between the unknown and famous is exposure. Take a listen to the album's third track, "Don't Go":

This song was recorded quite a long time ago, but it no less fits right into the album. It's catchy, fast, and would not be out of place on a Top 40 station (that almost seems like an insult coming from me, but I mean it as a compliment). If my math is correct, that song was recorded while he was still in high school, showing a much more mature musician/songwriter than his age might indicate.

While the album has its share of energetic songs such as "Criminal Virtue" and "Ralphie", most the record is slower and softer. But the album never drags and never bores. The songwriting is so good that Cody succeeds where others routinely (especially around here) fail.

Cody has one of the best singing voices in town, something I know on a personal level as he makes me look like a drunk karaoke singer in our Backstreet Boys cover for Reliving the 90s. He showcases a wide vocal range, from the baritone of "Timeless" to the tenor of "Love, Love, Love". Despite the professional quality of both his voice and the recording, it still feels somewhat raw thanks to the emotion injected into every note.  I mentioned in my review of Cody's house show that he puts more emotion into his performances than anyone else in Provo, and that carries right into the LP.

The instrumentation of Cody Taylor is not to be ignored either. With a background heavily steeped in orchestrated heavy metal, Cody makes sure to keep things interesting. Harmonica, strings, and mandolin are scattered throughout the songs, giving them their folky flavor. The string arrangements are marvelous. While I do not know how much of the album is actually performed by Mr. Taylor himself or by other musicians, I can say that everything is very clean and very well recorded. Cody's perfectionism has paid off in that aspect.

The album only suffers in that the song order feels a bit awkward. I can't say I have suggestions on how to fix it or that I wouldn't have made the same choices if put in Cody Taylor's shoes, but it doesn't feel very cohesive. None of the songs are subpar and some are spectacular, but as a whole it feels disjointed. Thanks to the fact that it took so long to record, it ends up feeling more like a compilation and less like an album.

The worst part of the album though is that I have it in my iTunes playlist, and as soon as it ends, Coldplay's "Don't Panic" starts. I have since deleted Coldplay from my computer. Now it segues into Colin James Hay's "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin", one of my favorite songs.

The album will officially be released next week on Thursday, March 24 at the Release Show at Velour with the Second Estate, Donnie Bonelli, and Wolves. Cody will be playing with a full band, an experience I have personally wanted to see for a long time. If you want to pre-order the album at a cheaper cost, e-mail Cody himself. You can also download it from The CD shows that local artists can do it just as good if not better than famous acts, and you would do a lot to support that cause by purchasing a copy.

You can also buy the album on iTunes! And I suggest you do.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

News et cetera

I am currently making somewhat futile attempts to create a logo for Provo Music. This is where I currently am:

It is just a prototype. I might be an artist but I most definitely not a graphic designer (nor do I have the money to afford one). You see, the orange dot on the "i" is where Provo is, and that's about as clever as I know how to get when it comes to this sort of thing. You can tell me how much it sucks or how great it is. I constantly dish out my fair share of criticism but I don't want to be one of those unstable jerks who can't take it either. I mean, if you see my band play and send me a scathing review, I'm not going to get all Charles Foster Kane and post it just to prove that I can be unbiased. This whole paragraph has become rather stream-of-consciousness, but I woke up late today and missed my Jazz Improv class and am a little upset.

This is all getting very "personal blog". Here are some things to say that you will actually care about:

Colin Hatch, frontman of Tighty Willis won Second Place in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest Video Challenge with "Answer the Phone". So, for your viewing pleasure, here is the video!

Tighty Willis are a group of great songwriters and musicians who really deserve this recognition. They also put on one of the best live shows around. (Perhaps Colin is inspired by his brother's band Eyes Lips Eyes.) Luckily for you, faithful readers, they will be playing this Saturday at Muse Music Cafe with Ferocious Oaks and Wild Apples (shameless self promotion). You can hear the rest of Colin's fantastic, non-award winning songs, and purchase a copy of Ferocious Oaks' new Polyamory EP! Yours truly will also have an art installation up at Muse for one night only. The place is going to be colorful like you've never seen it before.

And in the very near future, we shall be starting a weekly Provo Music Podcast! Any ideas you have for people to interview/things to talk about would be very much welcome!



Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ferocious Oaks - Polyamory EP

I have been jonesing to get my hands on Ferocious OaksPolyamory EP and was finally able to last night. The band released the EP headlining Velour a week ago, to much success. They are relatively new but have been quickly growing in success thanks to their energetic and unpredictable live shows. (They are also the only band in town brave enough to take a harp on stage, after all.) Within the next year, Ferocious Oaks can very easily become one of the bigger bands in town, and hopefully have enough exposure to be known on a much broader scale.

Polyamory has been in my hands for less than 12 hours, but it's short enough that I have given it quite a few listens already. It is 15 solid minutes of new music. I emphasize the "new" because frankly nothing sounds quite like this. Sure, it's an indie folk album, but it avoids the many cliches of the increasingly popular genre. Halfway through the title track, the band shoves a whole lot of coal into the engine, setting the tone for the rest of the record. Instead of slide guitar, there's a flute. Instead of banjo, there's a harp. Instead of four-part vocal harmonies, the melody is accompanied by bitter (yet upbeat) screaming. Like the virtually unknown Parenthetical Girls, Ferocious Oaks takes a pair of scissors and cuts out different styles and influences then glues them onto construction paper in whatever way they please.

Strong songwriting is at the base of the EP. Any band can be weird or different yet completely awful. Polyamory shows us that you can do whatever you like with a song if the song is well written. It is as catchy as anything you'll hear on the radio. Justin Duckwitz with nothing but an acoustic guitar and his voice would make for a great show. The songs underneath the instrumentation are simple enough that one could translate them to rock or pop or really anything, but it's the way they are performed and arranged that gives the band its unique flavor.

Despite all the strings and woodwinds present in the EP, it still feels very raw. But I mean that in a very positive way. Too often a band goes into a studio and loses everything that makes them special. They become a sanitized, boring version of themselves. Polyamory does not suffer this same fate. Duckwitz puts so much emotion and energy into each song that one feels as though he is in the recording booth with him. Everything stays acoustic where other bands would be tempted to put in some loud, distorted guitars. The Oaks fill that space up with an orchestra's instruments. (An occasional mandolin in thrown in for good measure.) This record feels like the listener is watching a jam session of seasoned musicians, maybe even playing along on a djembe or piano.

Despite the diversity in orchestration and song structure, Polyamory is very cohesive. It suffers a bit from homogeny. I found myself barely noticing that a new song had started on my first couple listens. On my list of praise, that is my only complaint and it may not be a valid one. The record is short enough that a bit of homogeny does it good.

What gets me most excited about Ferocious Oaks is, like I said earlier, they do something NEW. The influences are obvious, but they have a unique sound while the majority of bands do their best to imitate whatever is popular. As an art student, I am surrounded by artists and am often lectured on the subject of growing a unique voice while understanding the importance of those who have come before me. Songs are paintings, yet musicians and songwriters often lack artistic sensibility. It's not something exclusive to a select few, but merely a different perspective that literally anyone can have. Ferocious Oaks are artists, and they paint some beautiful portraits.

I urge you to pick up a copy of the record. On Saturday, March 12, Ferocious Oaks will be playing at Muse Music with Wild Apples and Tighty Willis. You can grab your own copy of the Polyamory EP there, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Ferocious Oaks puts on one of Provo's best live shows while Wild Apples and Tighty Willis are two of the most energetic bands in town. (I am not above shameless self-promotion.) Ferocious Oaks will be playing again at Velour on March 26 with The Archer's Apple, Timber!, and The Mighty Sequoyah so be sure to catch that show too.

Comments? Complaints? Threats? Leave them below!

And if you'd like to write an article about the local scene, just let me know and I shall post it here!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Howitzers and Crab Scratch Ecstasy at Muse Music - 2/18/2011

How are you doing fellow music lovers? I know I have not updated in quite awhile, but schoolwork and all that have made me a busy bee, missing a number of local shows. But I am not one to so quickly abandon my post, so I am back with another fine entry.

First thing's first, there are a couple articles worth reading. Recently an article was published in BYU's The Daily Universe called "Networking key to Provo music scene". The title of the article is very true. Networking is more important than anything else, even being a good band. And yes, indie folk is possibly the most prominent genre in town, but it's not necessary to be an indie folk band to be successful, as the article leads us to believe. My complaints about indie folk is that there is an over-saturation of it in Provo, not that Velour won't book anything else.

But the ever positive Chance Clift responded with his own article, published at Rhombus, called "In Defense of the Provo Scene". Chance's main point is that yes, the bands that work hardest to get people to their shows will be the most successful, but you can play any genre you want and still accomplish that. It's a very good read. Please check it out.

In normal news, I got to see The Howitzers and Crab Scratch Ecstasy play at Muse Music Café last Friday. Archie Crisanto opened the show with a solo set, but I've talked enough about him. Cowboy Chords also played, but I missed their set. If anyone reading this saw it, please leave a comment with your thoughts on them.

The Howitzers

The Howitzers are straight up garage rock. They play a really fun, energetic set and always manage to bring a crowd. I definitely recommend you check them out some time. They are a three piece, but both the guitarist and bassist share vocal duties and tend to sing together. They're a rough band, but talented at their instruments and writing some solid songs. You won't find anything terribly original, but you will definitely see something very enjoyable.

Crab Scratch Ecstasy

CSE is a three piece jam band. They played a set that was twice as long as it needed to be with songs that were twice as long as they needed to be, but the audience enjoyed it and stayed for the most part. There are a lot of good ideas in their music: interesting compositions, chord changes, melodies. But one quickly gets the feeling that they're just making it up on the spot after awhile. The highlight of the band is the bassist, who is one of the best I've heard in town. The guitarist was very talented too, though I occasionally felt like he was playing music above his skill set with a mistake now and then. (Though I'm not one to talk. I screw up like 10 times a song.) They're a good band though, but I'm not a fan of the wankery involved in jam bands. I love jamming, but it's not something I like to subject an audience to.

I'll be playing a few house shows/parties this weekend, but there's a fantastic punk show at Muse this Friday which I highly recommend. And the magnificent Ferocious Oaks will be releasing their new EP this Saturday at Velour with Mudbison, Boots to the Moon, and Emily Brown.