By Zach Collier
Tonight’s crowd may have been a little smaller than last night’s, but night 2 of Velour’s Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands featured more drama than any in Velour’s history. And that’s no exaggeration. “In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen a battle of the bands this close,” says Velour owner Corey Fox.
The night started out like any other night at Velour: a buzzing crowd full of friends catching up, taking group photos, and enjoying the eclectic scenery. As one patron so eloquently put it: “Velour is like if John Wayne took LSD and went to church.” The venue’s vibe is so distinct and engaging, you can’t help but love it.
Porter Smith from Lantern By Sea was the MC for the evening. At 8 PM he welcomed the first band of the night to the stage: The Sols.
I’d never seen The Sols perform before. I was immediately impressed by their rhythm section. The bassist had rich, warm tones and really locked in with the drummer. I was even more impressed after I found out that these two weren’t even regular members of the band but were brought in the day before. Their lead singer has a great voice for their brand of rock – a perfect blend of grit and tenor timbre with a hint of shaky vibrato. Little touches throughout their set, like dropping into a half-time shift right as their second song was getting a little stale completely sold me on these guys. They’re smart musicians. The third song in their set had some tuning issues in the guitars in the chorus. It sounded like they were pushing a little too hard on the strings, which was a bummer because the drop in this song (shouting “I can’t sleep!” before a huge breakdown) was pretty epic. They just didn’t quite stick it. Win or lose, I walked away a fan of The Sols. “Rock N Rollin’ Freddy” is awesome.
Chi Chi Le Möt was next. Frontman Dallin Major provided the best vocal performance of the night hands down. However, being a trio was both their biggest strength and their biggest weakness. Major had a few clunkers on the guitar throughout the set and he had nothing to hide behind. When he was on the top of his game though, his solos soared and it felt like there were 3 times as many guitars onstage. This is how they sounded for 99% of the set. These guys had great transitions between songs. No down time. Even when Major was telling a story, the story was focused and well delivered. My only real gripe with their set was that I think the final song wasn’t a great choice. More introspective, it ended the set on a low note instead of the high, memorable energy they needed. I wish they would have switched their set order and ended on their second to last song “Unfaithful” instead. All this being said, everyone knew they were going to be tough to beat.
Poolhouse was third. The band had a lot of smart, intentional musical moments that demonstrated their talent as songwriters and arrangers. I was particularly impressed by how they treated the verses in their songs. Each verse was differentiated from the other by distinct additions of new lead lines on the guitar or added rhythmical ideas. Their opener had a few iconic moments where the whole band would drop out and the drummer would absolutely slam a single hit on a low tom before everyone would come back in. These guys also had really clean transitions between songs, and they were also the first band of the night to introduce gang vocals and harmonies. These guys had the talent and musicality of Chi Chi Le Möt with the tightness and energy of The Sols.
In a massive stylistic departure, the night ended with No Bad Ideas, a bluegrass folk band complete with fiddle, accordion, double bass, and jaw harp. Whereas last night’s folk/pop group struggled to maintain energy, these guys used dynamics to their advantage, digging into their instruments and filling the room with the magic of a folk orchestra. Their sound was incredibly full. The tuning between instruments was spot on, and their harmonies (in three parts!) were stellar. Their guitarist shredded just as hard on an acoustic as the other bands did on their electrics, and their fiddle player played so furiously her bow started fraying. When people in the audience start spontaneously arm swinging and knee slapping unironically, you know you’re doing something right. I couldn’t stop smiling after the set ended. It was so fun. In my mind, No Bad Ideas is second only to Grizzly Goat as local masters of this style. My only complaint was that the sound system was giving them some feedback. Investing in personalized equipment (like instrument mics and clips) would eliminate this in the future. Despite this, they played through it professionally and sounded great. It was an absolutely joyous set.
To be honest, I had no idea who was going to win. Each band was a real contender. When the MC returned, he announced that for the first time in Velour history there was a tie. That meant this was the closest call since Garon Brett beat Le Dad by one point in the preliminaries in 2019.
The judges’ scores were tied between Chi Chi Le Möt and Poolhouse, and the audience vote was also tied between Chi Chi Le Möt and Poolhouse. The judges had to reconvene and cast their votes again, and Poolhouse won 5 votes to 3. It was a fantastic night, full of excellent performances. Each band tonight could have gone on to the finals and done well. There were talks of a future Poolhouse/Chi Chi Le Möt concert. If this pans out, you better believe I’ll be there.
Velour’s Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands returns again tonight! Terrell Thomas & The Niños, Sweet Tangerine, No Such Animal, and Beeson will perform. Doors open at 7:30 PM. You can see the full schedule for the week here. While you’re waiting for the show to start, check out “Strawberry” by Poolhouse below.