By Zach Collier
Night 2 of Velour Live Music Gallery’s Winter 2022 Battle of the Bands far exceeded the previous night – which already set a high bar in terms of energy and enthusiasm. After two great shows in a row, I’m honestly really stoked for finals this weekend.
Sage Lane made an immediate impact on me. Without warning, they dropped into a groovy, trap-inspired song, their drummer laying it down with intricate hi hat work. Their lead guitarist carried the tune with a chorusy arpeggiation. The whole thing felt very “lo-fi beats girl” in the best way. Their front man’s voice is unique, with just the right amount of grit and whine.
The second song was an uptempo number with an “oh oh” chorus that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Vampire Weekend track, but felt very much like a Bad Suns song circa Disappear Here. Their third song felt like it was going to be a stripped back ballad until suddenly their drummer dropped in and launched it into a Temper Trap inspired bop. Their set was an indie music lover’s dream.
Unfortunately they had a cover in their set, which was against the rules of the competition. They also got cut for time. But having all their gear shut off while they were rocking out and getting pulled off the stage was pretty punk. I absolutely loved their set, and walked away a huge fan.
Maren Gayle took the stage next, her opening number standing in stark contrast to the preceding set. A slow and somber tune, her haunting vocals floated over arpeggiated guitar and wrapped everyone up in her artistic vision. The opening number was a slow burn, but it paid off in a big way. A huge drop followed the quiet opening. It was unexpected and thrilling.
The second song felt like an Elton John tune and showcased Maren’s solid piano skills. She’s such a great frontwoman. To be honest, she had me so transfixed I have no comments on the rest of the band members. That’s not a dig at them. They were solid enough to let the attention rest squarely on Maren – which is perfect since it’s her project.
Maren is the Provo music scene’s hidden gem. She’s been behind the board at June Audio for hundreds of local mixes, and that time in the studio informs her songwriting. Her songwriting is eclectic and weird, but perfectly centered around her distinct vocal delivery. She reminds me of Christine McVie, but in a completely different musical context. Her song “Stars” is an epic for the ages.
Ultimately, for me, their songs were tight and beautiful, but the transitions between songs left a bit to be desired – especially compared to Sage Lane’s breathless performance. It was the difference between playing through a really good set and putting on a SHOW. A little more attention to what happens between songs will help her stand out in the future. Regardless, I’m seeing Maren in concert again very soon.
Jonny Malyon was a last minute replacement for JollyTime, who had to drop out the day before due to an emergency. His smooth, soulful vocals rang out over chilled grooves and drum loops, which provided a unique flavor and set him apart from the other acts. Their bassist held it down, grooving like they had a live drummer. This provided life and energy to the entire set, and kept the tracks from feeling canned or stale. Unfortunately, the band just wasn’t quite as tight as the other acts. Given the fact that they only had one night to prepare, it makes sense. There were a few times when they drifted away from the backing tracks, others where the vocals got a bit pitchy, and one time when the tracks malfunctioned. On another night they might have been able to get away with that, but not with the talent they were up against tonight. Regardless, the group was good enough to make me look Jonny up on Spotify. And I have an insane amount of respect for all three of the guys up there on stage for being true homies and filling in like that. That took a lot of bravery and guts, and they did a good job.
Jordan Moyes rounded out the night. This was the first time I’d ever seen Jordan with a full band, and let me tell you – it was the real deal. His harmonies with Cayson Renshaw were a dream come true. Perfectly executed and SO resonant and satisfying. A seasoned solo performer, Moyes has learned through his solo shows how to captivate and mesmerize an audience without any bells and whistles. He was every bit as captivating in the quiet moments tonight as he was in the epic ones. The band only served to amplify the emotion already extant in his compositions. From etherial soundscapes to BRUTAL half time shifts, I felt like I was watching a master at work. My only wish for this band is that they hit the road immediately and never come home. The world needs to hear them, and they should be selling out stadiums. There have been very few perfect performances in this world, and this was one of them for me.
At the end of the night, MC/soundman Michael McKenzie (shout out to him for pulling double duty tonight!) took the stage to announce the winner. Jordan Moyes and his band are advancing to finals this Saturday.