Indie-eclectic outfit Mudbison rocked Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo on Monday evening, ultimately bringing home the title in night one of the venue’s summer “Battle of the Bands” competition.
Led by frontman Spencer Russell, the new-look Mudbison tore through their five song set with a ferocity not generally associated with Russell’s solo material. The band recently downgraded to four regular players from its original six, and while the band was certainly smaller than in previous incarnations, their sound was definitely not.
The band opened the set with a slow-burning rendition of “Beastmaster,” beginning with Russell plunking out a lonely and simple keyboard riff before growing into a full-band explosion and climaxing in an extended instrumental bridge. Slots two and three of the five song set were occupied by up-tempo stomper “Momma Nix” and the thoughtful, Christian-tinged introspection of “Resurrect.”
The noncommittal crowd oozed apathy throughout the set’s first three songs — an attitude that completely changed beginning with the hard-driving rock of “Suburbia,” featuring a normally acoustic-clad Russell wailing on a hollowbody electric guitar and the gorgeous backing vocals of keyboardist Caitlin Duncan. The more dance-friendly beat of “Suburbia” segued effortlessly into the marching band-style drum cadence that began the band’s final song and the set’s biggest highlight.
With a lone drum solo (prominently featuring the wonders of a woodblock) eventually giving way to a catchy piano riff, Mudbison launched into “Tyranny,” the newest song in the band’s catalogue. Russell’s poignant lyrical pondering of the allures of “Satan’s plan” ultimately surrendered to the set’s best moment: an extended jam session that featured the frontman turning out not only classic rock-style guitar solos, but also a good measure of spirited cowbell banging and tambourine shaking as he barked out the shout-along chorus. Russell’s energy was infectious and the Velour crowd couldn’t help but clap along and smile — presumably in distant memory of Will Ferrell’s SNL Blu Oyster Cult character — when he finally blessed them with “more cowbell.”
Mudbison’s 30 minute set — like many of their songs — was a slow-build: the crowd was only casually interested for the slightly more delicate and nuanced beginning before getting all riled up by Russell and his mates’ contagious melodies and danceable riffs. The payoff was certainly worth the patience on both ends, as the band left victorious and the crowd smiling.