By Andy McFerren
This was a weird night considering the stacked lineup. The worst performance of the night easily came from the crowd. I’ll get to it more later, but the level of reverence for the music was rather disappointing.
The indie rock trio Del Perro kicked off the night. The crowd was skeptical and cold as they began the first song, but heads were bobbing in no time. They delivered an electric performance of their song “The Introvert.” I personally enjoyed their set and their awkward, sad boy rock. Their lead singer, Caleb Roundy, really embraced his awkward but endearing energy in between songs cracking jokes (that actually landed).
Like many trios, however, Del Perro’s downfall came with an overpowering bass and a relatively quiet guitar that left parts of their set sounding hollow. Great trios fill the sonic space entirely and surprise you that there are only three people up there. I have faith that the band will take tonight as a learning experience, dial in their tones, and use it as fuel for improvement.
Bad Heather took to the stage next, and I don’t think people knew what hit them. The alternative pop band’s choreographed dance moves from song to song were incredible. Bad Heather brought the heat, but it took till the 4th song to change the temperature of an icy crowd even a little bit. Bad Heather is a little edgier than most Provo-based bands, and I was surprised at the crowd’s lack of response.
Afternoon All Night was the one band I had not heard of before the show, and based on the crowd’s reaction when they took the stage, they easily had the biggest showing of supporters. Despite this showing, the crowd’s response seemed to be on par with the other bands up to this point. There were more cheers but relatively little movement until the second song where the crowd finally showed any signs of life. They played a tight set and their energy was infectious. They’re quite the showmen, and had a simple and effective lighting rig to accompany their set, spelling “AAN” in LED tube lights. They ended their set with a banger in their song “California.”
While Afternoon All Night put on a great show, a performance that had me convinced they would be the night’s winner until Beeson played, I was less than impressed by some of their fans (or at least a few people wearing their merch). It wasn’t until those fans left that the rest of the night up to this point made more sense.
The audience talked during the other bands’ sets, and they talked over Michael McKenzie as he talked in between sets while introducing the judges and sponsors. Yes, the latter of those two is less egregious, but their concert etiquette was lacking to say the least. I found myself having a hard time enjoying any of the bands of the night, and I didn’t realize why that was the case until those spectators were gone. While this whole event is labeled a Battle of the Bands, it’s a different kind of event more akin to a stacked, week-long music festival. A talent incubator for the local scene, it breeds collaboration between bands, wins bands new fans, and gives audiences a taste of what the music scene has to offer in an easily digestible and exciting way. It was really disheartening to not only NOT feel the good vibes the event normally gives, but to feel some outright antagonism.
This isn’t a criticism of Afternoon All Night, nor do I think the band had any influence on their fans’ behavior. But it certainly had an effect on the night. It was a huge factor, and when that portion of the crowd left, it was like a completely different show.
Beeson finished out the night and had quite the task before them after Afternoon All Night’s set.
If Jane saw my preview of the battle of the bands, I think she took it personally that I didn’t predict her winning the night because she attacked her set with a ferocity I’ve never seen before. As much as I appreciate Beeson’s music, I always find myself wanting more from their live performances. Last night was the first time I felt that her live performance lived up to her recorded music, starting her set off strong with “Pink Light.” Whatever it is she’s changed, it’s working. Her confidence on stage was a world of difference from last year’s battle of bands, and it lended strength to her vocal performance.
Now, as someone who doesn’t really dance, the biggest sign of my approval of a set is me swaying side to side or tapping my foot. I am an old crotchety man at heart, and I am usually perfectly content sitting along the wall, buried in my phone taking notes. I could not stay seated during Beeson’s set, which warranted a combination of both my go-to moves: swaying and tapping my foot.
Beeson rose to the occasion and won the night after it seemed a foregone conclusion that Afternoon All Night would win. A big congratulations to each band, and with one night of prelims left, the final is looking to be a fun one.
Battle of the Bands returns tonight at 7:30 PM with MYKAH, Welcome Home Sundance, No Such Animal, and Sky Olson & the Valley. Tickets are $10.