by M. Lewis Barker
So, thanks to the hours of work I put into my final projects last week, I was not able to make it to nights 4 and 5 of Velour’s Battle of the Bands. And due to a performance on BYU campus Saturday night, I missed most of the finals. But I’ll review what I know.
Holy Water Buffalo won the Battle. I missed most of their performance this time around, but I did have to opportunity to see them play with Empirates, Archie Crisanto, and Follow the Earth a couple months back. They are a very tight band who put on a great show. They write and play good music. It’s pretty straight up rock & roll. If they were to get in a time machine and play in the late 1970s, nobody back then would bat an eye to their style. Personally, I think if you’re in a rock band and too many people over 40 like what you play, then you’re doing it wrong. But they’re good and I don’t mind them winning at all.
I can’t really say much else about the finals (due to another kind of finals). I missed most of it. Jenn Blosil’s sound was off Saturday night which sucks because she rules, but whatever. It happens to everyone.
So the other thing I’m up for writing about are the shows this weekend. We are going to be seeing quite a divide. Velour is hosting what a friend of mine called an “All-Star Open Mic”. Basically, it’s lots of solo acts, picked from Cory’s favorite indie folk bands. It’s both Friday and Saturday night, and includes basically every single singer/songwriter that has played at Velour at least twice in the past year. While I’m sure it will be intimate and lovely, I have little desire to be there. I hit some point recently where I can’t take much acoustic music anymore. For awhile there, I listened to lots of Iron & Wine and Nick Drake and all sorts of folky stuff, but now I need my layers and my energy and my rock because it’s all starting to sound exactly the same. (No offense to anyone performing this weekend. You guys are wonderful.) Not all of the artists this weekend play in folk bands. In fact, many of them rock pretty hard. But, as far as I know, thanks to the short sets, it will mostly be one person with an acoustic guitar, and that’s basically what a lot of folk is. I know that many of my own songs become this way when I play solo sets.
Meanwhile, Muse Music, back with its AMAZING CAFE PLEASE GO GET A TURKEY PESTO REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU DO THIS WEEKEND, has a Punk show and an Indie Rock show. Friday we’ll be treated to an actual punk show, something I’ve never seen in Provo unless you count the Compound, and I will definitely be there. Baby Ghosts, Problem Daughter, Storming Stages and Stereos, and Good Manor will be playing some music to dance to, to mosh to. And this Saturday, my band Wild Apples will be playing with The Lunatic, D9, and Minus Mark (formerly Dawson). I really recommend that you go to that show, but that’s because we play a lot better when the audience is big and dancing. If the folky stylings of Velour aren’t your thing, please go to Muse and have some fun. Dancing around is wonderful stress relief after finals week. Of course, if a relaxing seat and chilling with your favorite local artists’ is what you’re into, then head to Velour.
Remember that thing I said about a “divide”? I don’t mean Velour Vs. Muse. It’s something else. Soft vs. Hard, maybe? The thing is, Provo is full of BYU kids and other Mormon folk (and yes, I am one of them), and these are the kind of people that like light music. I read something about the new Archer’s Apple album in Slug the other day. It said that Provo wants to be Oklahoma. I think that Omaha is more accurate, but basically we have this midwest folk thing going on and it’s all that gets noticed anymore. I’ve been told that it’s Corey Fox’s favorite music so I imagine that has a lot to do with it (and let’s not forget that Muse’s Jake Haws plays in the very folky Adding Machines), but it’s really a Utah problem. While most of Utah is busy trying to be California, those of us who like to go to shows want so bad to be Nebraska (think about that for a second). We have little identity of our own and just want to make a clean cut, Mormon version of someone else’s.
It’s not all like that. Most bands still have a lot of energy. I don’t know what it is exactly. I would just like to see more originality. You can take almost any local band, regardless of style, and find the famous band that they are ripping off. It’s not bad to be influenced by and learn from others, but when we take one or two artists and directly copy them – whether consciously or subconsciously (mostly the later) – we’re denying that truly creative part of ourselves to participate in art. It’s not a problem with Provo – you see this everywhere in the States and the world (and not just with music). But can’t we actively strive to do something new? We shouldn’t ignore the music that inspires us, but we need to make sure we’re not blatantly plagiarizing the creations of others. The Beatles played, night after night, the hits of the day before they got famous. They learned them up and down. When it finally came time for them to write music, they were so proficient in performing and knew so much about so many different artists and styles, that they succeeded in creating something brand new.
The biggest compliment someone can give my music isn’t that they loved it or liked it or thought we were good, but it’s when someone says “It’s not what I expected” or “It was… different”. I know that my band and I have a very long way to go, but I write these things so I don’t fall into complacency with myself.
There is a ton of good music in this town, otherwise I would not have started this blog. I love Velour and I love Muse and I love many bands in this town that play folk, indie, rock, jazz, or something else. Please keep in mind that this is an extremely subjective blog and is based entirely on my own opinions, which is why I’m always encouraging others to contribute. If you have something you’d like to write, even if it completely disagrees with me, send an e-mail my way and it will be posted.
Please leave a comment, positive or negative. Both are good.