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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Deathstar: Making Noise 'Twixt Velour & Muse

You can still read the sign that says "LEGION" on the empty building between Velour and Muse. It is the ghost of a failed skate shop, sitting empty for years. The floors are stripped and dirty. The walls are covered in graffiti. And if you want to use the bathroom, I suggest you walk over to Muse (and buy a turkey pesto while you're at it). It's a shell. Or at least it was until a somewhat enterprising young Tyler Foisy decided to make a hardcore venue out of it.

Hard music is pretty ignored in Provo. And I mean hard music like garage rock and punk and hardcore. Velour just plain won't book those bands, and you'll only see one or two shows a month at Muse featuring that kind of music. I'm not a fan of post-hardcore at all, personally, but I know that there is a large community around here that doesn't get much recognition. Plus the harder garage rock bands have nowhere to play besides the Compound, which I have previously discussed in detail.

The Deathstar is a venue for those forgotten bands. It's not going to be stealing much business from its neighbors, but instead will be catering to those who haven't been going to any shows because there's no one they want to see. I personally do believe that three venues side by side all competing is not going to be healthy for the scene, and the Deathstar is not booking enough shows to stay open for very long. But all that said, I played there on Saturday and had a blast. And I would like to review the show!

The Lunatic

I've talked a lot about the Lunatic, having played a few shows with them now and generally being in love with them. They once again gave us a great performance, opening the show. They had to run around and fetch their own microphones because the venue only had one on hand. The sound system there is not spectacular, but it's certainly not bad either and the acoustics in the room help a lot. The Lunatic sound better in those venues than at Velour, because their amps work best when not mic'd. If you haven't seen them play yet, please check them out soon.

The Travelling Salesmen

After they finished, we played. The Deathstar does not have a stage so we played eye-to-eye with the audience which I absolutely love doing. The Deathstar also has little in the way of lights, so it's very difficult to see when on stage so I often found myself playing a halfstep off. But I had so much fun jumping around and being loud and distorted and screaming in the mic that neither I nor the audience cared. It was a very enjoyable experience and I wouldn't mind playing there again.

Big Trub

Big Trub are a very loud, simple four-piece punk band. People moshed something crazy to them. It's not music for everyone, but if you're into that sort of thing I suggest you see them play. While it's not music you'd catch me listening to at home, I do find it refreshing to see a band like that in a town like this.

The Broken Spells

In my review of the Compound, I talked in length about the Broken Spells. But to keep it short: they rock. They're a really fun band that plays good music. This time we could actually hear Jessica Davis' (SLFM) synth, and it added a lot to the music. They're a garage rock band with heavy punk influences, and they do it well. They're quickly becoming one of my favorite local bands and I will make sure to go to every Compound show I can to see them play.

In conclusion, the Deathstar is gritty and simple. It's just you and some music with no fanfare in between. If you're the type who likes to your music loud and proud, check them out. You won't find a moshpit anywhere else in town either. I don't know how long it will be around, so let's enjoy it while it lasts.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Toy Bombs, Shark Speed, Eyes Lips Eyes, and Seve Vs Evan @ Velour

"I'm afraid we're going to die. I'm afraid we're going to die. But that's okay 'cause we're so pretty."

This blog generally focuses on the less known bands around town - the ones that people don't talk about. Unfortunately for those losers (just kidding I am one of them), I'm going to talk about some popular bands because that's the kind of show I went to tonight.

Tonight was one of those occasions where I found myself excited for a show. Toy Bombs (formerly Kid Theodore) and Eyes Lips Eyes (formerly Elizabethan Report) moved to Los Angeles a few months ago, but come up to Provo fairly regularly to play shows. I make sure never to miss one. (And my fandom increased when I won a bunch of their merch thanks to a costume contest last Halloween.) Tonight they played with two of Provo's most popular local bands - Shark Speed and Seve Vs Evan.

Velour was packed. One of the most packed shows I've ever seen there (but I also tend to avoid the really crowded ones). And the crowd was energetic.

Toy Bombs

Toy Bombs opened the night, and they played a fantastic set. I must admit that I am biased towards them. They were the first band I ever saw in Provo and now I go every time they roll into town with Eyes Lips Eyes. They bring a lot of energy and fun to the show thanks to their dual guitars and three singers. Unfortunately bassist Ryan Darton has taken a backseat, due to concentrating on his own projects, so we did not get to hear him sing much or play his own songs (including one of my favorites, "Os Passarinhos"). But they still had great sound and put on a show that the crowd loved. They play very funky rock and roll and each song is catchy. This is a band that you know has played together over many nights in many towns, as they are as solid together as ever. I also bought one of their shirts that I will proudly wear.

Shark Speed

Shark Speed is one of Provo's most popular bands. Over the past couple years, I've seen their flyers up seemingly nonstop as I walk to and from campus. But this was the first time I've actually seen them live. I listened to their music a long time ago but it just did absolutely nothing for me. Now that I've seen them, I'm still not a fan, but they write pretty good songs and play together solidly. It's very accessible indie pop/rock, extremely similar to Minus the Bear. My only real complaint is that it feels like they wrote a good song and based a whole set around it. But that's something I can say for most bands (even my second favorite band, Sonic Youth, has fallen into the hole of monotony over the past few years). I can understand why people like them so much, but I won't be going out of my way for their shows.

Eyes Lips Eyes

ELE put on the best shows. Tony Hello is the most enigmatic frontmen to come out of Utah County. Spencer Petersen's special blend of Frusciante-esque funk guitar is the center of the band in my opinion though. He writes some fairly complex, fun guitar parts. Aaron Hatch's bass and Thomas Carroll's drums add the solid rhythm to accompany the rather eclectic guitar and vocals. No band commands an audience like they do. Everybody dances and yells and sings along and anyone who isn't enjoying it hates life itself. They lack solid melodies with the exception of the occasional chorus, and that is their biggest weak point. Imagine Red Hot Chili Peppers with (a fun version of) Ian Curtis on vocals. They are a fantastic group though and have come a long way.

Seve Vs Evan

Synth pop. Glorious synth pop. I now know why so many people love this band. Seve is a fantastic keyboardist and songwriter, and Evan keeps up with a very solid drum beat that really makes their sound something beyond electronic. I love a good fun band, and these two are great examples of that. Their musicality is outstanding. I do feel like Seve may have been in an emo band in high school, as his vocals can get that somewhat weak, nasal quality to them, unique to that genre of/for adolescents. He's a great singer, but I would really love to hear what those two could do with a solid vocalist singing along. I will not miss their shows in the future, as Provo could use more of this.

All in all, I have to say that this was a great show. The audience was happy, the bands were fun, and people actually danced! Provo could use more of these.

Tomorrow night (Saturday, January 29) I will be playing at The Deathstar, a new venue primarily for hardcore bands that opened up right between Velour and Muse on University Ave. Tomorrow (technically tonight) will not be a hardcore show though. We'll be playing with my favorites The Lunatic, and a band I previously heaped great praises upon - The Broken Spells. Also playing is Big Trub who I have never heard of but I'm sure they rock too! It starts at 7PM and is only $5. It's going to be for all you folk that don't feel like listening to Provo's VH1 Storytellers at Velour. (Sorry, I don't care what most famous people wrote their songs about and the same applies double to you local bands.) Muse's last night of the Songwriter Showdown is tomorrow too if you want to check that out.

Much peace and love to all you folks.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Acoustic House Show: Spencer Russell, Courtney Marie Andrews, and Cody Taylor

Sorry if the last entry was a bit of a convoluted mess. I wrote it and posted it in something of a hurry. School has taken away a large chunk of my free time.

I really love house shows, so when I found out that Cody Taylor was throwing one, I knew I had to be there. Courtney Marie Andrews, who has recently been playing and singing with Jimmy Eat World is finishing up a 2-week tour with her bassist and able to come to Provo for a free show. Along with Mudbison's Spencer Russell, we were sure to be in for a soft, folky night.

We arrived late to Cody's house. We walked in to a very cramped living room which had been cleared of all furniture save the stool where Russell sat. A couple dozen people were crowded on the floor, standing against the walls and in the hallway. The room was lit with candles and Christmas lights, decorated by abstract paintings. I've called house shows "intimate" in the past, but this took the word to a new level.

Spencer Russell

We caught Mr. Russell's last two songs. It was my first time seeing him perform. His solo music is light but well written, and his fantastic guitar skills helped liven up what could have been a dull set. It is far from my favorite style of music. But I enjoy a good performance. Some louder vocals would do a lot to color his songs, but the man has a fantastic, albeit quiet, voice. He speaks that way too, so he could insult my mother and threaten my life but I would still think him the nicest guy in the world.

Courtney Marie Andrews

When he finished, we all had to scoot up the front to make more space and allow others to sit down. I was able to sit in the very front, between Ms. Andrews and her bassist Matt. I spent most of it looking at Courtney's hands, as she can finger pick the guitar as fine as anyone. Courtney and Matt's greatest strength is their ability to arrange their music in a consistently interesting and intelligent way. The songs may sound monotonous at first, but they avoid repetition. The guitar and bass are complex. Courtney can sing very well, but she (and dozens if not hundreds of other vocalists these days) tries to sound too much like a watered down Joanna Newsom which is not her natural voice. I don't care for hearing "love" pronounced with the long O. I think we should be proud of our own voices and pronunciations and not seek to imitate the current trend. It's a small complaint, but it detracts from her originality.

Cody Taylor

I've known Cody awhile now and seen him perform so many times that I feel silly "reviewing" him. I've even performed with him before. Cody and I often disagree on what makes good music. (I am incapable of liking metal.) But the man writes some great songs and puts more emotion into his sets than anyone else in Provo. The highlight of the evening was the crowd singing along to Cody's rendition of Gary Jules' rendition of "Mad World". Cody has an album coming out in March, and he will (hopefully) be playing with a band that show. His strengths really come out when he arranges music, thanks to his metal background.

I enjoyed the night and found myself never bored which came as a big surprise as I am very sick of the indie folk scene in Provo. But all three acts can write original music and know how to play their instruments. It was a very successful house show, and I hope that Courtney and Matt were able to sell enough CDs to pay for gas to Pheonix.

Go to house shows. They are great.

And don't forget to check out Chance Lewis, Michael Barker *ahem*, and Tahsha Kofford at the Pig Pen (Pleasant Grove High School) tomorrow night. It's only $2 and is worth almost every cent.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Q&A: A Letter from Anonymous

I received an e-mail from an anonymous girl yesterday, with many questions about for me. I will post the e-mail, but with any responses/comments by me added in italics. Pay attention to that, otherwise the following will be confusing. Please read both parts. The italics don't mean "skip this".

Hello Lewis,

I like your blog. Not that you would take that as a compliment. :)  I followed several links trying to put a face with the name and consequently (stalker), read a few of your older posts. Which in turn, prompted my present post. 

You commented that music is the only thing that makes sense to you, and I get that. Difference is, I am not (by any stretch of the imagination) a musician.  I sing in my ward choir and with my ipod.  Dance is more my thing, though I don't rightly know that I've ever been in a mosh pit.  I haven't been on the music scene here in Provo, other than as the audience (that is all you need to be active in the scene).  I have to agree with one poster who claimed the genre is "boring" (she is referring to Martin's comment on my post about folk) .  And I HATE saying that! I feel awful not loving and adoring the hard work of SO MANY artists!  The only reason I feel brave enough to say that is because you requested comments and discussion...and because I get to remain fairly anonymous.  :)  (I wonder how you know that it is Provo's favorite kind of music?)  Also, I am fascinated by people and what makes them tick, which is strange because I'm not really a people person.

If you read about the Provo music scene, or simply attend enough shows, one can plainly see that indie folk is the most common and most popular genre. That doesn't mean that the majority of Provo's music is folk, but it definitely is prominent.

You may begin to wonder if this post has a point.  (...wondering that myself, actually...)  However, I do have some questions.

What exactly is 'emo' music?  Like, is there an actual definition for that?  I never would have grouped Nickleback there.  Why do you hate it?

Did I call Nickleback "emo"? They are most definitely not, but they are the most generic, mediocre piece of trash to ever record music. Emo is a rather broad term that has gone through a myriad of definitions. It used to be "emocore", short for emotional hardcore, referring to bands like Rites of Spring and Fugazi whose sounds have all been eradicated by modern emocore like Fallout Boy and My Chemical Romance. Lighter emo falls closer to bands like Dashboard Confessional and Saves the Day. I have a difficult time explaining why I hate these genres, but I always have. They are grating on the ears and show a complete lack of musical knowledge, being more concerned with fashion and image than listenable music.

And Indie?  punk?  do artists ever create something that blurs the lines between genres?  If they do, at what point do you decide that you hate it or like it?

The majority of artists blur genres. Indie is an even broader term than Emo, so I suggest using Wikipedia to look more up about these genres. I don't pick which music I like based on the genre it falls under. Nearly any genre is capable of producing good music that I can enjoy (except, of course, Emo). I generally find myself disliking music if it is just plain bad or completely unoriginal.

I enjoyed reading through the list of artists that have influenced you. (This can be found at my old blog.)  I knew three of them.  I had heard of about seven (ok, it was more like 20 after the re-read). 
I know a guy who works with another guy whose hobby is collecting music and artists.  This guy has hard drives FULL of music and is planning on getting his own "server" to hold it all.  He has enough music to listen to for 60 years continuous -not listening to the same song twice!!!  And I seriously doubt that he knows any of the bands here in Provo, only 12 of which were listed in just your post.

I seriously cannot contemplate how so much music gets made.  There are only so many notes in a scale!  It's like contemplating the space-time continuum!  Mind-boggling.  And you and others want to make more?  Something new?  Fascinating! 

Well I make music for two reasons: So I can have the kind of music I would want to listen to, and because writing and performing is incredibly fun. Sure, there are only 11 notes in our Western scales, but there are only 6 colors in the rainbow, and yet people continue to make art.

Perhaps it is the lack of "musician" in myself, but I don't think I really understand how all this works.  It's like knowing something is missing, but not "what". 

Why are all you people writing music?  How/Why does it make sense to you?  I want to understand! (Your 2009 vivacity posts explains this some...I think it would be a great article to repost on this blog, very beautifully written.) But why should you be your own favorite band? Do you artists love everything that drips off your own fingers?   How do you determine when you are settling for mediocrity?  Who is the judge of that?  You? the audience?  What happens when you and the audience disagree?  And what the heck are "we, the audience" supposed to do when you call us a tough crowd? Are you there to 'Wow' us, or is it the other way around?  Do we get a warning "when we need to be nice"? Do we crush a little of you each time that we don't swoon away?  Or are you all cool with not being "well-known"?

I mentioned why I write music in my last response. Music makes so much sense to me because it exists in that perfect space between our brain's right and left hemispheres. It is both intellectual and emotional. It gets in your head and stays there all day. It fills your chest and uplifts the spirit.

I want to be in my own favorite band even if that is incredibly difficult and I'm nowhere near that level right now. When I write a song, it isn't for anybody else, but for me. If I personally don't love it, then I don't play it. But I also play in a band and let others help me make the songs better. Being in a band isn't about compromising your music or your vision nor is it controlling others and making them do what you want to do, but about working together to make something better than you could as an individual. My favorite feeling in the world is when a song comes together. It has never been about satisfying my ego, but about trying to make something new that also doesn't suck.

That may sound like I am disrespecting the audience, but that is not my intention. I do not make music with the goal of fame, success, or having anyone else like it. But I know that if I write the best songs I can and put out a great performance, an audience will naturally form. I absolutely love it when others appreciate the work that we have done, but I make music for the sake of music. It's not the best in the world, and we definitely need to collaborate and practice more, but I love it. If other people don't like it, that's their opinion and I don't mind. I listen to music that the majority of people dislike or haven't heard, so I expect the same with my own.

If you are playing music with the express intent of getting famous or rich, then I can guarantee that you're not writing good music.

I'm not a lady gaga fan, but I've heard her music and actually like some of it.  Is she something that you would consider 'original'?  Is she copycatting someone else?  She definitely gets noticed.  Is she doing it for the money, or for the love of music or for the love of something else? 

There is absolutely nothing original about Lady Gaga's music. She just dressed really weird and says outlandish things so people think of her as an "artist". Her music is not bad - she writes catchy tunes and is a talented musician, but it is pop for the lowest common denominator.

Is it truly "originality" that is of value? (Brandon Sanderson has an interesting view on that in the final chapter of his book "the Way of Kings".)

This is a little vague, but I personally value originality over other skills. I would rather kind of suck and be original than use my talent to bring nothing new to the table. Originality stems from understanding and learning what came before, then breaking the rules. It is very difficult to be original without being talented, and it marks a true artist in my eyes. Know your heritage and your history, learn from it and even imitate successes, but know where to break the mold.

I've often been teased because I have a very specific playlist that I listen to over and over and over. Granted, I like what I like, but I feel that my list requirements are high.  I like a lot of music, but only a few make it to my playlist.  The music has to move me every time I hear it. And I usually have to hear a song about 5 times before I can decide whether it is worth it to me to keep.    Though every once in a while there comes a gem….

I have a friend who seems to listen to new music like breathing.  Song in, song out, song in, song out, song in....  I don't know how he does it.  How can you remember what ones you like and what ones you didn't?  And why does he do that?  Does it make sense to him?  And you?

I don't do this. I find something I like and listen to it a lot. I listen to music as I walk to and from campus, as I work on art projects, and even now as I type this. (Neutral Milk Hotel's "Ghost". Fantastic song.) I have to listen to an album multiple times until I start to really fall in love with it. The only time I listen to a lot of new artists at once is using Pandora, and if a song really stands out, I procure more from the artist.

That is one of the most difficult parts of this for me.  I personally don't have TIME to listen to all that music out there. To sort through it ALL. I’d like to.  I guess some people do, and some people don't.  Hmmmmm.

Don't even try to listen to everything. Find what you like and love it.

Mr. Foster...either I didn't get your sarcasm, or your marbles are shaped differently than mine.  You write music that you want people to come and listen to, but make comments like "anything that gets rid of people is ok with me"?  It seems like $10 would be a good thing then.  It deterred you.

I don't think people get Steven's humor.

I'll tell you what bugs the crap out of me.  Teen-age bands.  And their teenage crowds that come because teenage social networking overshadows any organization I know of.  And I don't say this as a slam on teenagers (which they will probably take it as anyway...ha ha ha). But it is all a huge popularity contest.

I could be wrong, but it would totally floor me to have evidence that all those teenagers that come to the various shows-- know the lyrics by heart, to the songs "their band" is playing.  I honestly do not believe they are there for the music.  They are there because so and so is going to be there too.  (Please, go tell all your friends.)  So much awesome potential and so little life-knowledge and wisdom. It is a vote for your 'friend', not the music.    I've never seen so much wasted inertia. OH, wait a minute, Justin Beiber seems to have clued into it...  Muse appreciates it as well, I'm sure.  And I can appreciate friendship.  (don’t even get me started on Hannah Montana…..HOW did that happen?)  (I know, I know. I can argue against myself here, too.)

While I agree with your points, I also disagree with the sentiment of these last couple paragraphs. The majority of teenagers like crappy music, but so do most adults. I absolutely love playing to a teenage crowd because they really get into the music. It's us college kids who deem ourselves too cool for that. I listen to a lot of the same music I did as a teenager and my band even plays a few songs that I wrote when I was 16-17. But I also went to all the local shows and almost every band in town was awful. But it was a fun social activity, but not about the music. I will not begrudge the teenagers their music or their social activities, and plenty of them like some good stuff. If all our fans were teenagers, I would be quite content.

In the end, we all know absolutely the music speaks for itself.  But still, I think the Provo music scene is barely alive, for how many artists we have.  Maybe I just keep missing all the good nights.  Maybe I'm too old. If only I had more time!  (one of the biggest reasons I enjoy your blog!)  I love the idea of a house show, though the one I did go to....well, I enjoyed it even if I felt wildly out of place.  (is there a certain way to go about having a house show?)

I often hear that the Provo music scene is "dying", despite the high number of artists and bands we have here. Some people will say that it has never been more alive, and I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I go to a lot of shows, and I see the same people at these shows. The scene suffers from too much monotony and too many big egos. With the success of Neon Trees and Joshua James, many people have inflated the scene's own sense of worth. Yeah, we've got a band who got on Kidz Bop and someone only known in the folk scene. Big deal. Provo isn't Seattle or Omaha. Egos will kill the scene, nothing else.

Keep writing. Write your music for YOU and if you love it...LOVE IT! If others love it, they'll tell people.  And if I don't love it, someone else will, even if it is only your mom.  The top spots on my playlist are occupied by artists I'm sure you've never heard of, because like you, they are small-town.  But their songs rock my world and transport me off of it on a daily basis.…like strands of color and waves of texture curling up a blind man's spine.  I couldn't live without them.

This right here. You understand what it's about, Ms. Anonymous.

I'll be listening for your gems...  what do you recommend? 

Just a girl next door

Thank you for the e-mail! I really enjoyed reading it. I suggest the incredibly popular Arcade Fire to you because they are a band that anyone can love. As someone who has listened to a lot of music in a lot of genres and studied its history and theory for years, I can say that they write the best music today, being influenced by a variety of genres while remaining unique and relevant. I've also been listening to a lot of Broken Social Scene but they are not as accessible.

That's the end of her e-mail, but check out some great shows this week. My friends in Empirates are playing at Velour Wednesday night with some other great bands! There's a secret house show on Thursday with Courtney Marie Andrews who recently played with Jimmy Eat World on Conan. That same night features a wonderful, very energetic lineup at Velour. And I'll be playing with Chance Lewis and Tasha Kofford at Pig Pen (Pleasant Grove High) this Saturday night.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hello Twenty-Eleven!

I trust you all had a lovely break, enjoying your respective holiday with your families. Our local venues also took a break, unless you count Tyler Glenn and Chance Clifton's NYE dance party. But, judging by all the event invitations I've received on Facebook recently, there are a number of shows coming up this week.

Velour's five year anniversary is this month, and they are going all out with the number of shows and bands playing.

This Wednesday at Velour, we will be graced with a show from Cody Rigby, Foxheart, Kathleen Frewin, and the Mad Diving Barons. My band Wild Apples had the pleasure of playing a show with Cody Rigby a few months ago, and I've band a fan of his rather unique style of folk since. I know I often complain about the oversaturation of folk in Provo, but Rigby's is original, emotional, and he has a band with the chops to bring his songs to life. I've also become a fan of Foxheart, despite my complaints about Foxheart in the past, they've showed very steady improvement and I recommend you see them. I haven't heard Kathleen Frewin, but the Mad Diving Barons (another folk band!) have some great songwriting, vocal harmonies, and musicians in their trio. The show will be worth the admission price for any of those bands, and I'm sure Frewin can also deliver.

And Thursday we get to forego the folk and rock out with Blind Actuaries, Federal Party Players, Tighty Willis, and Chance Lewis. The Feds and Tighty Willis are both fantastic rock bands whose shows I always try to catch. The Feds feature Provo's favorite guitarist, Pat Boyer, who brings a very upbeat 90s feel to the band. Chance Lewis is Provo's second favorite white rapper. (Sorry Chance, but B$ has you beaten.)

Then Friday night is Isaac Russell, Desert Noises, and the Devil Whale - some of Provo's bigger acts. As of now, I haven't seen any of them live, but I plan to remedy that situation this weekend.

Don't think I've forgotten Muse! Thursday night we'll have a rather packed acoustic showcase with Spiral Diary, Davey, Kenzie Rosin, and Spooky Moon.

2011 is going to be a very exciting year for Provo Music. Despite my complains about homogenization, there is a tremendous amount of talent and diversity in our music scene. My own band is undergoing some serious retooling but we're joining forces with D9 to create what I hope to be one of the most... hmm.... unique band in town. So I urge you to check us out when we return to playing shows next month. But there is still a lot to enjoy, so tell your friends about the blog and don't forget to become a fan on Facebook.

Leave your thoughts! Let's not be afraid of discussion!