The importance of house shows

by M. Lewis Barker

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

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

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

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

Well before all that, there was the house show.

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

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

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

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

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



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