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Velour Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands Recap – Finals

One of the best Battle of the Bands finales in Provo history.

By Zach Collier

“I haven’t seen this much talent and excitement in the room since the early days of Velour. And I mean the early, early days,” says Velour owner Corey Fox in his office. “I’m talkin’ Neon Trees, Imagine Dragons, Fictionist. The early days.”

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Outside, a line snakes out from Velour’s front doors to the end of the block. Inside, the venue is already sold out. Backstage, patrons attempting to sneak in the back door are turned away. Within the Enchanted Chamber, an impressive lineup of judges talks amongst themselves as they wait for the show to begin: Karl Strange of The LoveStrange, Porter Smith of Lantern By Sea, renowned songwriter Mindy Gledhill, American Idol alumni Jenn Blosil, composer Anji Branch, Harrington Center for the Arts board-member Jeff Sermon, photographer Michael Hansen, and photographer and musician Clark Clifford of RKDN. It felt like it was going to be a great night. And I was not disappointed.

Basement Waves performing at Velour Live Music Gallery’s Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands Finals. Photo by Molly McCoy for Provo Music Magazine.
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Basement Waves was on first. Having reviewed them Thursday night, I can say that they performed better tonight than Thursday, which was an off night for everyone. It was a fun pop performance with a great crowd response. Their lead singer is a talented vocalist who can hit some crazy high notes, and the show they put on is impressive for a band of their age. They’ve only been together 6 months! That being said, they were clearly the most inexperienced band of the evening. I really hope they do Battle of the Bands again in another 6 months. With a little more polish, some better gear, and better songwriting (which will all naturally occur as they keep doing what they’re doing), I think they could be a fun staple in the Provo scene.

Beeson performing at Velour Live Music Gallery’s Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands Finals. Photo by Molly McCoy for Provo Music Magazine.
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I missed Beeson on Wednesday (check out Grant Fry’s coverage here), so I was really excited when she and her band took the stage. Let me tell you, it was a great performance. Two songs in and I was thinking they had won the entire night. Jane Beeson is one of the best songwriters in Provo, if not all of Utah. Hook after hook, her band enchanted their way through the night with some of the best pop songwriting I’ve heard in a long time. I could write ten paragraphs about how much I love Beeson’s voice, but that’d be weird so I’ll spare you. Let’s just say it’s really good. While few vocalists in Provo would be able to match her vocal talent, her guitarist comes close. Usually providing backup vocals, there was one song where he and Beeson split vocal duties equally in octaves and it was KILLER. And not only do these guys write great hooks, they’re also epic storytellers. The story about the inspiration for “Online Issues” was captivating and had a hilarious plot twist. I had so much fun watching Beeson. So. Much. Fun.

With Andrea performing at Velour Live Music Gallery’s Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands Finals. Photo by Molly McCoy for Provo Music Magazine.
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With Andrea was another band I missed this week, but Grant told me they were also top-tier and one to watch out for. With how awesome Beeson performed, I wasn’t sure they’d be able to top it. But holy smokes. Everyone reading this needs to schedule a time to go see With Andrea. Rock music has become a shallow imitation of its former self over the years, watered down by other genre influences until the genre itself has just come to mean “music with a drum kit and some guitars.” With Andrea made me feel like I was hearing classic rock for the first time. Their low end was fuzzy and HUGE; the guitar solos were both reckless and precise; and their lead singer was giving me mad Rivers Cuomo vibes. He struck no ostentatious poses, he had no choreographed moves, and he didn’t possess any kind of pep-rally charisma. He was just unabashedly, energetically himself. His excitement got everyone excited to the point where he could command the crowd with a nod or a slight wave. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen. The only downside to With Andrea’s brand of rock is that, while world-shatteringly good, it feels like I’ve heard it before. Similarly, as much as I love Greta Van Fleet, I can’t hear them without thinking of Led Zeppelin. With Andrea’s challenge as composers going forward is figuring out how to innovate on a genre that has been iterated on for nearly a century while keeping the genre pure. It’s a tall order, but with their skill level, I’m confident they’ll find a way.

Cardinal Bloom performing at Velour Live Music Gallery’s Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands Finals. Photo by Molly McCoy for Provo Music Magazine.
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The third act, Cardinal Bloom, was just as great if not better than they were last night. It’s a remarkable feat to make music that can be so chill still command the attention of an audience. They accomplish this by teaching the audience early on what to expect – somber melodies and slow, voluptuous guitar textures followed by h*ckin’ sick drops and guitar solos. Their performance featured the hard hitting energy of With Andrea alongside a fresh, novel sound – Beeson’s biggest strength. These guys are masters of tone, and they use major 7ths and 9ths really well in a rock context. They also changed their set up from the night before, treating the audience to a false ending to their set before launching into a crazy, exhilarating conclusion. The guitar duet in their finale was an absolute wonder to behold. My only gripe with these guys is that they feel a lot like The Backseat Lovers. Recording their most recent release at Pale Horse Sound only compounds that comparison. Going forward, I’d like to see them distinguish themselves a little more.

Poolhouse performing at Velour Live Music Gallery’s Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands Finals. Photo by Molly McCoy for Provo Music Magazine.

Poolhouse had the monumental task of following Cardinal Bloom. The audience was recovering from an incredible performance, and they were also about to listen to the 5th band of the night. It was nearly midnight, and I think everyone was a little fatigued. Despite this, Poolhouse still brought it. They are such a tight band. They’ve got excellent pop songwriting chops, and their vocals were second only to Beeson. I can see these guys being huge one day. They’d fit really well on a bill with The Band CAMINO, The 1975, or LANY. The Poolhouse guys are primed for success, and I will not be surprised at all when it happens. I had no complaints about their set, but for me Cardinal Bloom just had that little extra magic. It was something unquantifiable that Poolhouse – as polished and well rehearsed as they were and as famous as they most likely will be – didn’t quite have during their set.

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After the show, I snuck backstage and overheard Cardinal Bloom talking amongst themselves. “What have we done?” their lead singer Joey asked anxiously. “We just blew it. Our last song was really rough.” Then the band conducted a post-mortem on their set, optimistically talking about what they would improve for next time. Even though I absolutely disagreed that they blew their set, it was then that I got a peek behind the curtain and saw that special something that Cardinal Bloom had: a complete and utter humility onstage. They were well rehearsed. They were talented. They write good music. But at least during that one performance, they personified the artistic pursuit of humble perfection – and absolute faith in its attainment – far better than anyone else that night.

The judges were split. There were too many good bands to choose from. Sitting in the Enchanted Chamber, you could overhear that the judges were just as anxious as everyone else to see who would be declared the winner. But when the MC revealed that Cardinal Bloom was the latest winner of Velour Live Music Gallery’s Battle of the Bands, every judge looked relieved and said, “I knew it.”

Thus concludes Velour’s Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands. We’re already looking forward to Velour’s Summer 2022 Battle of the Bands a few months from now. In the meantime, make sure to stream Basement Waves, Beeson, With Andrea, and Poolhouse. You can check out “To Love Someone” by Cardinal Bloom below.

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8 replies on “Velour Winter 2021 Battle of the Bands Recap – Finals”

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