By Davis Blount
On June 27th, 2015, Velour hosted the finals of their semi-annual Battle of the Bands. Analog Provo was on the floor for the entirety of the show and was blown away by the talent on display. In the words of Karl Strange, frontman of The LoveStrange, “every single one of you is underpaid.” After such a stellar night, a feature of each of the artists is certainly in order.
To start the night off, four men adorned in animal masks took to a darkly lit stage and started their first song. From the outset, it sounded like Justin Vernon and the rest of Bon Iver had snuck into the lineup: soft falsetto was accompanied by mellow guitar and bass riffs, creating a trance-like fixation among the crowd. It wasn’t long before the band picked up the tempo and had the crowd really in to what they were doing. Strange Familia is not a Bon Iver tribute band, but rather have developed a sound similar to all of Justin Vernon’s bands mixed together. Elements of Bon Iver, The Shouting Matches, and Volcano Choir were all present. Strange Familia incorporates soaring vocals and unique instrumentals to create a soundscape all their own.
Jessica Frech and her band have been labeled by many as an indie ensemble with a folky twinge. Her soft but confident voice can be heard over an understated supporting band on her studio albums, which have merited some notoriety in many circles. Frech’s live performances, however, are anything but understated. Even songs like “Speak Softer, Love Louder” came with a high energy accompaniment that had the crowd clapping along. The violin’s occasional harmony added a tinge that was vaguely reminiscent of Brady Park’s first project, Brady Parks and the IndiAnns. All in all, Jessica Frech is a can’t miss live performer whose songs take on a new meaning when experienced live.
Velour is known for drawing Provo’s hottest local acts and creating a space where they can really reach their potential as musical artists. This was particularly true in the case of one Amber Lynn and her supporting cast, complete with horn and sax. From start to finish, this blogger had goosebumps as this soul-filled crooner pledged to “Testify.” By the end of the first song, it was clear that we had all been ushered into the church of Amber Lynn and she had a few things that she still wanted to preach on. By the end of her set, it was evident that she and her band had won the adoration of the entire audience. If ever faced with the choice to see miss Amber Lynn in concert, especially in one of Provo’s comfy and intimate venues, do it. This is not a drill.
When Foreign Figures set foot on stage, it was clear who had drawn the largest following. With the happy-go-lucky, beat heavy hit “Come Alive” as their opening song, it was not long before the entire audience was on their feet and jumping along with the band. Foreign Figures debuted a new song, “Coming Home,” which displayed a musical maturity that showed they are on the verge of finding and owning their sound. While Foreign Figures performed some songs that felt somewhat generic or contrived, the band had high energy and tons of crowd support. Fans of Foreign Figures ought to look for future releases by the band with eager anticipation, as they discover and explore a corner of the music world all their own.
Karl Strange and his fellow bandmates have gone to great length to create an air of mystery around themselves and the music that they create. Known around Provo for their iconic sharp outfits and for Karl’s signature glasses, there was no mystery around this band’s skills. From start to finish, The LoveStrange treated their fans to fast-paced, white-knuckle, good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. The band debuted their newest song, “Everything That Ever Was,” which Strange admitted is very close to his heart. While the band’s performance embodied elements of some classic artists like The Clash or The Strokes, there was no mistaking that this motley crew is chasing something all their own.
After judges and fans alike submitted their votes, the winner was announced: Amber Lynn! Emotions were close to the surface as miss Lynn tearfully recalled how far she and her band had come to get to where they are now.
A big shoutout to Velour and their corporate sponsors for helping to showcase the amazing talent that exists around us and helping the finalists to expand their musical portfolios with studio time, photo shoots, and articles in some of Salt Lake’s publications.
Congratulations to Amber Lynn and all the other finalists in Velour’s Battle of the Bands! You can hear “Testify” by Amber Lynn below.