by M. Lewis Barker
Velour’s Summer 2011 Battle of the Bands has kicked into high gear with an impressive first night. The crowds were heavy that day, my friends, as large swaths of fans came to support their friends. It gave the rest of us playing this week a standard to live up to.
Starting off the show was Color Copy. I found myself enjoying their catchy, energetic brand of Alt Pop (that’s right, I make up genres left and right). They had the uncanny ability to have several girls screaming for them throughout the set, though it may have just been one very loud girl. Both the band and their fans seemed slightly younger than your usual Velour crowd, but maybe I’m just getting older. The band was tight, which is always a +2 in my book. Strong stage presence and good crowd control led this observer to believe that they’ll have quite a future here in the Provo scene. Though I speak quite positively of them, I’d still say that they’re just a good band but not yet a great one. But they’ll get there.
Following was Avenue of Embers, a five piece butt rock outfit with a female lead singer. I say “butt rock” in its loosest form, but recently I watched The Jetsons Movie for the first time in over 15 years and I had forgotten that the whole thing is basically a Tiffany music video, and AoE’s music sounds like it came right off that soundtrack. They are 80s as balls. With two guitars, bass, and drums to back the singer, it was a little odd that the band chose to have prerecorded piano and synth parts to back them up. That sort of thing works for small acts, but it felt a little like I was being cheated out of the spontaneity of a live performance as they had to follow their prerecorded tracks to a T. The lead guitarist stole the show for me, playing some very cool, spacey sounds that helped the band create a wonderful wall of sound. The songs themselves, on their basic level, I found rather poorly written and the vocal melodies were the weakest part. But they have their fanbase, and they’ll find plenty more people that like their music because people go for that. (And was the drummer wearing a Neon Trees shirt because he’s such a big fan of that band or was he trying to get some Velour cred? Editor’s Note: Patrick Kintz corrected this in the comments. He was their former tour manager so it’s pretty cool. But I’ll keep the stupid little sarcastic note.)
The band I was most looking to forward to seeing last night was Lady & Gent, a new project from open mic regular Garret Williams. I first saw Garret perform with Caleb Loveless at Muse a couple months back with Adding Machines. They played straight-up folk, but did a great job of it. I counted myself a fan right then and there, and further performances at Velour’s open mic night cemented my fondness for their music. L&G is Williams first time playing his music with a full band, and it paid off in spades. First and foremost, it is whole milk Provo Folk. They’re one of the most folkingest bands I’ve ever seen at Velour, which is saying a lot. Acoustic guitars and banjos and a girl who sings backup and cool three-part harmonies are all staples of folk. But, like it or not, that sort of sad Elliot Smith-esque indie folk is the current music of Provo, and we have to judge each band based on their own merits. And L&G is just fine music, through and through. The band played wonderfully together and was well-prepared.
And then Par Avion took the stage.
Par Avion is a boy band. An indie boy band.
Par Avion is five pretty white boys with a whole lot of very supportive friends, most of them girls who were probably 7 or 8 at the height of the Boy Band craze and never quite outgrew it. They wore matching outfits: white shirts and skinny black ties. They busted out keyboards and banjos and midi-synthesizers. You get the sense that they really want to be Arcade Fire or Bloc Party or Neutral Milk Hotel but just don’t know how. They’re not the greatest musicians, though the pianist stood out as more than competent to me (involuntary piano lessons from childhood will do that). One of the first songs was accompanied by constant buzzing from the guitar whenever the thick E string was hit. They did some little vocal harmonies here and there that were more than passable. I should be honest: I didn’t hate them nearly as much as I wanted to. Out of all the bands last night, they had the most stage presence, and that goes a long way. Their songs weren’t half bad, and I enjoyed one or two of them quite a lot. But it’s a band of frontmen and each one seems to want to do something completely different. Guys, you’re not John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who write two very different styles of music but both fit perfectly into the collective whole that is The Beatles. No, Par Avion sounds like it wants to be indie and then pop and then acoustic and then electronic and while I admire the desire (heh) to try to make each song unique, it just comes across as disjointed. And I don’t feel bad for writing mean things because they brought the most people and can do whatever the hell they want if people want to come see them play.
Night One’s Winner: Lady & Gent
Barker’s Pick: Lady & Gent. They just had the best music of the night, to put it bluntly. And I’m very glad to see that the judges agreed.
Runner Up: Color Copy. These guys are also really good and I liked their songs quite a lot. They have a lot of potential in them too and are the band I’m most looking forward to hearing more from in the future.
It feels good to write about unknown bands in a BotB, gets me back to my blogging roots! We’ll be here all week long, provided I manage to survive watching 19 bands, and playing in 1, within 5 days. Tonight is Proving Ground, They Shall Be Lions, Bottleship, and Old Grey Geese. The only one I’ve heard before is OGG, who are a very good folk band, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the night.
Also, Travis Van Hoff, who we (Wild Apples) are competing against on Friday, was there handing out flyers to come support him that night. But he’s from Salt Lake AND he plays acoustic singer/songwriter pop stuff, which is the enemy of Provo Music Guide, so let’s stop him! Unless of course, you really like that stuff then I encourage you to vote for him.
And Travis, if you’re reading this, I congratulate you on your promotional skills and your ability to add my friends as your friends on Facebook without them knowing it.