In Defense of the Provo Scene

Written by Chance Clift on . Posted in Music

On Friday afternoon, I was shocked to see online buzz among the Provo music community over an article published in The Daily Universe about the “exclusiveness” of the Provo scene. At this point, I hadn’t even read the article — I was simply shocked over the fact that The Daily Universe, known for its sparse (if not bland) coverage of Provo music, had anyone talking at all. Then I actually read the article.

As a person who has been a participant, observer, and employee of Provo music for nearly a decade, I thought I would add my opinion to those floating around the 100Block-o-sphere over the contents of this article.

While I was at first amused by some of the biases and inaccuracies found in this piece, I soon realized it wasn’t so much the article that was flawed as it was the musicians who were quoted in it. The article actually represents a common misconception among many Provo musicians — that the Velour scene is a fiercely competitive popularity contest that can only be won by a combination of 1) being “indie-folk,” and 2) being “connected”/networking with the “right people.” (?) After a long and bitter fight, these Provo musicians become jaded and give up on their lifelong dream of headlining a Velour show (“I didn’t wanna play there anyway!”), turning instead to bashing Velour and any band who plays there.

At this point I should probably mention that I played in a Provo-based pop-punk band for five years and have been doing a rap group for the past two years. And I’m an employee of Muse Music Café. Given those credentials, I am quite possibly the polar opposite of this supposed “Indie-Folk Velour aesthetic.”  So you’d think I’d be the ringleader of the bitter Velour-bashers mentioned above, right?

Wrong.

I’ve had no problem getting shows at Velour since the venue opened in 2006. Velour doesn’t favor bands that are “indie-folk” or “alt-country.” It favors bands that are good. It favors bands that try (a very non-indie trait, in my opinion.) And let’s not forget that while the venue’s books may look more like those of a non-profit, it is still a business. They favor bands that promote and draw a crowd.

Getting back to The Daily Universe article and where it goes wrong, we need to look at one of the primary sources for the article: a member of the local band, Red Orange.

Let me make it clear that I have nothing against this band or its members. In fact, I saw them play at Muse Music just last weekend. It was their first show (sorry bands; I don’t count playing the Raintree clubhouse or your ward talent night as a “show.”) They were great though. The place was packed. I am fully confident that if they kept it up, they could be co-headlining with Eyes Lips Eyes at Velour six months from now. (How this article affects that momentum remains to be seen.)

It seems like this new band jumped the gun in making all these broad generalizations about Provo music. In a way, it’s like they sealed their own fate as a potentially great Provo rock band. Buying into the myth that the Provo music scene is an uphill battle for bands like them, they are now perpetuating that myth to other musicians. And they haven’t even played a second show yet.

I don’t know Lizzie Jenkins, the reporter who wrote the article, but I’m sure she’s a fine writer who was just trying to fill an assignment, not knowing the can of worms she was opening among diehard Provo music enthusiasts. I know her journalism class said she needed at least three sources, but she could have perhaps talked to some more bands, maybe some who have played more than one show on 100Block.

I do admire Ms. Jenkins, though, in a way — and I am not saying this sarcastically. Rather than write the same vanilla articles about Provo music that are published year after year by the Universe (with the exception of Spencer Flanagan’s brief stint at the DU culture desk — a breath of fresh air indeed!), she tried to dig deeper and find something newsworthy. I admire her intentions. How many DU writeups about a local band just skim the surface, with a headline that goes something like, “______ Plays Gig in Provo, Seeks New Fans”?

What I’m saying is that, contrary to what many of my Facebook friends are suggesting, Ms. Jenkins should keep writing. Continue to dig deeper. There are so many great stories to be told about Provo music.

Let’s tell the stories of all the great things happening on 100-something North University Avenue. Neon Trees are touring the world. Fictionist are on the verge of being on the cover of Rolling Stone.  Neither band can be described as “indie-folk.” Muse Music and Velour are not rivals. I work at Muse and play shows at Velour.  Cory Fox owns Velour and buys sandwiches from Muse’s café — he and his sound guys are our best customers!

Sometimes I have a hard time getting my rap group on the shows I want to be on. When I text the band I want to open for, only to get the reply of “We’re working on our new album right now, not playing shows,” only to see that band playing a big show at Velour the next week, of course I get bummed! But that doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with them, or with Velour. It means that I need to work harder — and that’s exactly what I will do.

If you don’t want to put any work into your music, then I believe there’s an opening for you at the Raintree clubhouse next Friday. They’d love to have you play.

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