by M. Lewis Barker
Tonight’s Battle of the Bands did not sport the legions of people that came to see their friends last night, but there was still a good crowd, especially for a Tuesday. I don’t feel like philosophizing tonight so let’s get right into the meat of the article:
Proving Ground started us off with a set of pure, down home polka music. It was really refreshing to see a group of young musicians take up the heavy task of playing unironic, pure polka. Some people may have found the accordions to be grating, but personally I thought it was a refreshing break from – oh I’ll just admit that I didn’t catch their set. We had band practice over in Orem and it didn’t get over in time for me to see the first band. Apparently they were a sort of emo pop-punk or something? Kaneischa thought I would have liked them but joke’s on her: I absolutely hate that stuff. Maybe Proving Ground would have proven me wrong, but I doubt it. If someone wants to write a little review of their music down in the comments, feel more than welcome to.
Our second act of the night was none other than the strangely titled They Shall Be Lions. TSBL is a three-piece piano/bass/drums group with a singer whose hair was so gelled that it sparkled. It’s hard to pinpoint their genre, but it’s that sort of Provo Piano Pop stuff (Utah County’s second favorite genre after indie folk), like the Neighbors or J.Wride. Though I liked TSBL more than either of those bands. It was energetic and dynamic, though most of the songs felt a little same-y (a problem with this genre). They have a pretty original sound, and I have to give the rhythm section serious props for being so solid. The drummer especially was quite a showman, and sources tell me that he is relatively new to the instrument. Though I shouldn’t known the frontman’s piano skills, as he knows his way around a keyboard. He could also sing quite well though I found the vocals to be muffled and occasionally lacking. His voice felt best in the baritone range but he spent most the show singing above that, sounding a bit strained. (I can relate.) I liked them, but their forte was good instrumentation and not the songwriting itself.
Donnie Bonelli, apparently an old local favorite around these parts who recently returned from Neptune or something, had a brand new band called Bottleship. Let me tell you, I really loved this band. I kept hearing about Mr. Bonelli before and thought his music would be more uninspired folky stuff, but I was wrong. They had five or six people on stage at any time, with cello and bells and keyboards and all your indie favorites. The band was very tight together, and they knew how to rock when necessary. Bonelli isn’t afraid of doing a bit of yelling into the mic either, which is a lesson other singers could learn. They pulled influences from many different sources, like rockabilly, gospel, and modern alternative. While Bonelli usually sang solo, the band did employ the occasional vocal harmony, and it worked like a charm each time. The sound was diverse, but unlike Par Avion who felt disjointed, Bottleship was cohesive no matter what genre they chose to play. Bottleship is not the most original band around and aren’t starting a revolution, but they know the language of music and sometimes that’s all a good band needs.
The Old Grey Geese closed the night with the most Provo Folkingest set I have ever seen in my life. Daniel Hanks is a very good songwriter and his music is quite a bit more listenable than the experimental stuff I did at the same age. I’ve even sung his praises in the past. But he’s basically Joshua James Jr. Sure, other people say that OGG sounds more like Parlor Hawk or Isaac Russel or whatever, but they all stem from that Joshua James sound. And JJJr here is doing it completely from start to finish. Not a single lyric is understandable because he’s doing this whisper mumble thing all the time. (Should we call this genre Mumble Folk?) And J³ was mumbling is some kind of weird fake accent. Sometimes I wondered if he was trying to yodel. And yes, you’re playing folk so of course a harmonica should be involved, but the playing was kind of lazy and just “hey guys look at how folky this is”. I know that I am being extra harsh on OGG here. They’re a good band and I enjoyed the set, and I’ve been hearing constant praise about them for like two months now. But come on, don’t be afraid to let us hear those heartfelt words you wrote.
Night Two’s Winner: Bottleship.
Barker’s Pick: Bottleship. Two nights in a row my favorite band of the night also happened to be Velour’s favorite band. And I was glad to hear it.
Runner Up: The Old Grey Geese. Well-written songs, good performance from all band members. I’m only harsh because I see so much potential. If Baby James can write songs like this at his age, imagine what he’ll be doing in 5 years once he finds his own voice.
Wednesday, night three, we shall be treated to some really great bands: Eidola, Bus People, Wolves, and Searching For Celia. I will be there from start to finish this time as I don’t want to miss Eidola!
Also, Chance Lewis, good friend and even better rapper, has been the frontrunner in a contest to open up for Ludo at In the Venue on August 1. But they keep changing the end date of the contest because they don’t want him to win. Go to http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=168110699916463 and click “Attending” then write “Chance Lewis” on the Event’s wall to show those bastards what the Provo music scene can do when united!
P.S. I just went to Proving Ground’s Facebook page and that little picture of the three of them on their music player is hilarious. (I am such a douche, I know.)