Posts Tagged ‘Isaac Russell’


Podcast: The Bachelorette, Eclipse, Isaac Russell and More

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Film, Music, TV

It’s with great pleasure that Rhombus introduces its third podcast — the Rhombus Roundtable. Featuring a variety of opinions on politics, pop culture, and everything in between, the Roundtable will serve as a regular series of discussions on the world’s latest happenings — all with that distinctive Rhombus slant.

This week, the magazine’s editor Steve Pierce and resident armchair economist Daniel Anderson contemplate the reigning hot topics of the day — including the most recent (and totally unexpected!) Bachelorette trainwreck, Eclipse‘s total dominance at the box office, local favorite Isaac Russell’s new major-label EP, and the greatest (and worst) American presidents. Enjoy!


Celebrating Our Birthday (With a Little Isaac Russell)

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Local, Music

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking: “Rhombus has been pretty sketchy lately, what with all the disappearing for long periods of time with little to no explanation. What kind of publication does that?” And to that I would answer: ours, apparently.

Sure, it’s been a little rough lately; As a not-for-profit, volunteer-operated organization, Rhombus often takes a back seat to other things when life gets busy. Is it desirable? No. Is it reality? Unfortunately, yes. But regardless of how busy life gets or how intermittent the posting schedule sometimes becomes, we’ll continue to do our best to fulfill our original mission of bringing you intelligent and interesting writing on the topics you actually care about — now and in the months and years to come.

Running an online publication in the era of the 24-hour news cycle is not easy. Consistently feeding the beast is a foreboding and persistent challenge. And we’re certainly not perfect at it, but we’ll continue to try and hopefully you will stick with us through the rough patches. After all, the fact that Rhombus still exists and some people actually still care now, a year after our initial launch, is quite a miracle in and of itself.

Truthfully, it’s a miracle that would have never happened without people faithfully reading the articles, sharing them online with their friends, talking them up at shows and gatherings, and always coming back for more. In essence, the message is this: We don’t survive without you — and, as is evidenced by this post, we’re still surviving.  So thank you. Thanks for sticking around. Thanks for a great first year — one we hope to improve upon moving forward.

Now, as a wonderful birthday present to us (and even an early/late one to you), enjoy a new video I discovered on the Web today from Rhombus favorite Isaac Russell and have now embedded below. In our vaunted opinion, there’s no better celebration music than the sweet, sweet tunes of Sir Isaac of Russell. Happy birthday to us!

MUSIC: Concert Review: Velour's 4-Year Anniversary Celebration (Night 2)

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Isaac Russell

People who’ve read this site somewhat regularly since its inception have probably garnered that I don’t throw my hat in the ring with the local folk-haters. By contrast, I love folk music and particularly Provo’s unique brand of indie-folk that increasingly populates our venues. I know some wish for “more rock and roll” in our little town but, to me, good music is good music — and if there’s one thing our local bands do really, really well, it’s creating great folk music. Nowhere was that better on display than at Velour on Saturday evening.

The second night of Velour’s four-year birthday bash was heavily slated with local folk heavyweights, beginning with relative newcomers The Archer’s Apple. Featuring a unique set-up that doubles down on percussion (i.e. using two drums sets on most song), frontman Seth Hanks led the band through a rousing set of folk numbers that won many a new convert amongst the folks standing near me.

The Archer’s Apple makes a type of folk that is insanely enjoyable and lyrically driven, but that employs just enough experimentation and instrumental excellence to set it apart from similarly inclined folk-pop bands. Not to mention that “Bang Bang” (which also showed up on our recent local music compilation) is one of my favorite songs I’ve heard in the last year. With the band currently in the studio working on their first album, I expect to hear a lot more from The Archer’s Apple in the near future.

Second act Desert Noises have recently taken quite a bit of time off while band member Kyle Henderson played with friend and labelmate Joshua James on his recent world tour. James returned the favor on Saturday, stepping in to play bass for the band when regular bassist Riley Johnson couldn’t make it due to some mysteriously vague “legal issues.”

It’s been interesting to watch Desert Noises grow as a band from the time they introduced themselves to Provo and the world with their EP release last year to today. While they still harbor a sound reminiscent of a Band of Horses-Fleet Foxes lovechild, their newer songs seemed to have branched out in new and interesting directions, even appropriating some 1950s pop harmonies to make for an intriguing blend.

As always, their musicianship was flawless on Saturday evening and, while vocalist Henderson’s voice may crack on occasion when he reaches for the uppermost parts of his range, the audience can feel his impassioned plea, beautifully complimented by the harmonies provided by his brother (and drummer) Trevor. No one knows where Desert Noises will eventually end up — certainly the sound is becoming more and more interesting and the requisite talent is present — but with the recent national attention the boys have been increasingly receiving, it wouldn’t surprise me if Provo is far from the band’s last stop.

Speaking of upwardly mobile Joshua James proteges, Moses once again proved themselves worth their salt on Saturday evening. Currently recording their debut, full-band album with James, Drew Capener and company turned out a great set of folk-rock tunes, lending credence to my opinion that they’re becoming one of Provo’s most consistently excellent bands. While Moses isn’t necessarily flashy by any stretch of the imagination, they certainly do bring their “A” game to every single show, marked with tight vocals and even tighter instrumentation.

That trend continued Saturday night as the band bounced effortlessly between spare acoustic ballads and the roaring, jet-propelled melodies of their up-tempo country-rockers. Capener’s voice was flawless, reaching seemingly impossible heights on the soaring chorus of set opener “Pictures.” Every time he reached even higher in his register for yet another note, I was absolutely sure he would crack or come up flat, but it never happened — and he didn’t even go into a falsetto. With their aforementioned debut album slated to drop this spring with the always excellent James behind the control panel, you can consider me first in line for what is sure to be a gorgeous piece of art.

Rhombus favorite Isaac Russell had a bit of a rough go of it on Saturday evening, battling through a cold to perform his headlining set. Luckily, even a rough set for The Artist Formerly Known As RuRu is a good one. While this was far from the young phenom’s greatest performance and it was obvious he was straining to control his usually pitch-perfect croon amidst the sickness, Russell still turned in a solid effort, heavily imbued with new songs and glimpses of what his ardent fans can expect from his forthcoming major-label debut.

His nearly six-month recording process with production wizard Dennis Herring in Oxford, Miss., has undoubtedly created a more pop-sensitive Russell — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. More mainstream-friendly rearrangements of favorites like “Golden” and “Anniversary Song” came off smelling like a bubble gum-flavored rose, while new tracks “See You Soon” and “My Heart” redefined the term “soaring melodies.” Russell even mixed in a few digitally sampled beats (heavily indebted to his great love of rap music) that produced a different and interestingly layered sound never before heard from the teenage bedroom folkie.

If I were to predict the future career arc of Isaac Russell, Columbia Recording Artist over the next few years, I would undoubtedly say supporters can expect a lot more of what they saw on Saturday night and a lot less of the vulnerable-boy-with-his-guitar meme that originally endeared him to so many Provo music fans on his debut album. Though I’m as big a fan of his gorgeous 2008 LP Elizabeth as anyone, it’s entirely logical that Russell will (of necessity) develop a more accessible, poppier side to please his new Columbia bosses.

It’s not that Elizabeth isn’t great music in and of itself (it certainly is), but it’s also pretty damn depressing — and I don’t know too many people who are actively seeking a new favorite artist to make them feel like life is bleak and ultimately meaningless, especially these days. Though the purists (including my wife) may never feel entirely comfortable with it, this is a path young Russell must take — and one, he proved Saturday, he can do especially well. I (and many of his adoring fans, both old and new) will certainly be along for the ride.

Steve Pierce is editor and co-founder of Rhombus.

EVENTS: Your Weekend Schedule

Written by Kristin Clift on . Posted in Uncategorized

Black Tie Dance PartyHave plans for the weekend? Well, if you don’t, I’ve got you covered. If you do, you have new ones now.

Have you ever imagined yourself ice skating in a sexy cocktail dress (or suit)? This Friday, your dreams can come true. With a descriptively long name, the “Back-in-Town Black Tie Dance Party” is the hottest thing happening this weekend — and possibly in a great while. There will not only be dancing (DJ Ryan D.), flirting, pool and ping-pong tables, food by Rockwell Catering, but also ice skating on the roof — and it’s no extra cost. They’re really going all out for this! Of all the parties, you definitely don’t want to miss this one.

Time: Friday, January 15th, 8:30 p.m. – 1:30 a.m.
Location: Noah’s in Lindon (644 N. 2000 W. Lindon, UT 84042)
Price:   Gents: $12 ($15 after 9:30), Ladies: $7 ($10 after 9:30)


But before the dance party you must — I repeat MUST — hit up the first official Student Film AssociationSFA Presents…” It’s the first student film festival of the semester. I’ve seen a lot of these films and they are all excellent. If you don’t believe me, watch this awesome commercial.

Time: Friday, January 15, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: 3380 Wilkinson Center (BYU)
Price: $1 — Buy your tickets at the Theater and Media Arts Office in room D-581 in the Harris Fine Arts Center.


Saturday, you’re going to watch Isaac Russell perform at Velour. The end. I was first introduced to the Russell family and their extraordinary musical talent last weekend watching Mudbison. I’m a convert. And now I’m anxious to hear Isaac Russell perform. It’s his birthday and he just got back from tour.

Time: Saturday, January 16, 8 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Location: Velour (135 N. University Avenue)
Price: $7

Kristin Clift is an events correspondent for Rhombus.

MUSIC: Concert Preview: Velour's 4-Year Anniversary Celebration

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music


Corey Fox, owner of Velour Live Music Gallery, has been working with local bands since the early 1990s — longer than just about anyone else in these parts. His venue has consistently provided a quality outlet for Provo’s musicians to play and promote their music in a convenient space right in downtown Provo for four years now. Fox and Velour’s contribution to the local scene is more than monumental — it is absolutely essential to the lifeblood of our little community.

That kind of commitment is cause for celebration — and that’s what we’ll be doing this weekend as Velour celebrates their fourth anniversary with a pair of star-studded, jam-packed shows with great music for everyone — all for the low, low price of seven dollars. Haven’t yet heard about the wonderful things in store at Velour this weekend? Have no fear and keep reading — we’ve got you covered.


Night 1: Friday, January 15th; 8:00 p.m.; $7
Featuring: Neon Trees, Seve Vs. Evan, Location Location, Gypsy Cab

Much like the venue’s popular annual Cowboys and Indies event, the anniversary shows feature both folk and indie rock bands from the local scene. However, unlike Cowboys and Indies where all the bands take the stage together, each genre will have its own night to take the stage this weekend. The rockers go first this weekend with a stacked line-up that is not to be missed.

Local indie band Neon Trees has made a big splash recently — and the ripples are extending far beyond Provo’s borders. After signing a recording contract with Mercury Records last year, the band have toured the country relentlessly with some big names and are currently preparing to release their first major-label album in the near future. Thankfully, they’ve decided to take a break from their busy schedule and grace us with their awesome presence on Friday night — a show which is not to be missed.

But the show openers aren’t shabby either. Local electro-poppers (and Rhombus local compilation contributors) Seve Vs. Evan’s shows are legendary, due to the duo’s crazy antics and insanely fun, danceable songs. I was a little unsure about Seve Vs. Evan — and then I saw them play. Needless to say, I’m converted. Indie rockers Location Location (fresh off a huge show with national act the Bravery in Park City on Thursday evening) and Southern rock throwbacks Gypsy Cab (if you love Lynyrd Skynyrd and face-melting guitar solos, these guys are for you) will open the show and round out a generally excellent night for Provo music fans.

Night 2: Saturday, January 16th; 8:00 p.m.; $7
Featuring: Isaac Russell, Moses, Desert Noises, The Archers’ Apple

I’m a huge fan of Provo’s indie-folk scene, so I am veritably giddy about Saturday’s show. As phenomenal as Friday’s lineup is sure to be, Saturday might be even better (if that’s possible). Teenage folk phenom and Rhombus favorite Isaac Russell (formerly known as RuRu) will headline the night and it’s always a (increasingly rare) treat to be able to see him for such a minimal price and in such an intimate venue.

Russell hasn’t played in Provo much over the last six months, as he has spent much of his time touring the country with the great Pete Yorn and recording his Columbia Records debut with super-producer Dennis Herring (who has worked with Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello and Counting Crows, among others) in Oxford, Miss. Saturday night will be the young star’s homecoming show and, coincidentally, his 18th birthday. If you needed a reason to plop down a measly seven bucks for a night of phenomenal entertainment, Isaac Russell should be excuse enough by himself.

But he’s not the only excellent artist taking the stage on Saturday. Folk rockers (and Velour Battle of the Bands runner-up) Moses will also take the stage to share their carefully crafted harmonies with the crowd. Frontman Drew Capener has long been a Provo favorite as a solo artist, but his heavenly croon is even better when backed by a full band. Rhombus favorites and compilation contributors Desert Noises (reportedly backed by Joshua James on bass this weekend) and the Archers’ Apple (“Bang Bang” is one of the most addictive songs I’ve heard recently) will open the show in style, providing a full folk explosion that may just blow your face off.

Bottom line: you need to be at Velour Live Music Gallery on Friday and Saturday nights. For a small cost, you’ll be able to see a great collection of artists from two different genres, including two major label recording artists that you won’t be able to see at this price or in this intimate of a venue for too much longer. So don’t wait — the opportunity is right in front of you, and there’s nothing better going down this (or any other) weekend. I’ll see you at the shows.

Steve Pierce is editor and co-founder of Rhombus.

(Photo courtesy of Elise Capener and Velour Live Music Gallery)

SONG OF THE DAY: September 18th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Isaac Russell, “Why”

We here at Rhombus haven’t been shy about our feelings for RuRu — or Isaac Russell, as he’s now known. (No matter what Columbia Records calls him, he’ll always be plain old RuRu to us.) Provo’s own musical prodigy has blessed us all with so many great live shows over the years (not to mention a truly spectacular LP) that it’s going to be a little sad to see him move on to bigger things.

For those of you unschooled in the local music scene, 17-year-old Russell — formerly known as RuRu — just signed a recording deal with Columbia and recently returned from recording his major label debut in Mississippi with industry heavyweight Dennis Herring. (For more details on his big break, check out our original, exclusive report here.) The album should hit stores in early 2010 and then our favorite folkie will be off on who knows how many world tours, visiting places much larger and certainly more interesting than Provo, Utah. And as happy as everyone here at Rhombus is for Isaac and his much-deserved success, we can’t help but be a little sad that things will probably never be quite the same again.

That being said, you should probably take advantage of having Russell here before he’s gone — and that starts tonight! If you have a breath in your body, you should be at this boy wonder’s Columbia signing celebration tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Velour in downtown Provo. Featuring sets from both Russell and local favorite Sayde Price, this evening full of great music will definitely be worth the meager $8 price tag. If you’re having trouble parting with your Washingtons, just consider that you’ll have to pay $40 and brave the abomination that is the E Center (or some similarly awful venue) to see him in just a few short months. Might as well strike while the iron’s hot.

In order to get you psyched for the show, I’ve embedded Russell’s truly superb song “Why” below. The opening track off his excellent 2008 LP Elizabeth, “Why” defines everything great about Isaac’s music and will undoubtedly be stuck in your heads for weeks on end — without ever getting old. And that is what he does best: Outside all of the hype and major label hullabaloo, Isaac Russell writes great songs that affect people’s lives deeply and powerfully. The boy’s not a flash in the pan; He’s the real deal. Stop by Velour tonight and appreciate having this great artist around while you still have the chance. We hope to see you there.

Listen to: Isaac Russell, “Why”

Steve Pierce is editor and co-founder of Rhombus. His Song of the Day feature appears Monday through Friday, showcasing some of the best in local and national music.

MUSIC: RuRu Goes Big

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Isaac Russell

Isaac Russell

Provo’s favorite folk-singing son Isaac Russell, formerly known to fans as RuRu, has made the big time.

The 17-year-old Rhombus-approved phenom recently signed an exclusive recording contract with Columbia Records, one of the few major labels left standing in an industry increasingly decimated by online file-sharing. Russell recently told Rhombus he is excited about the possibilities the deal will present for his music.

As part of his transition to the national stage, Russell will drop his longtime stage moniker, RuRu, and will record simply as Isaac Russell for Columbia. While it remains unknown exactly why the title was thrown aside, it is possible that the label wanted to avoid confusion with (and lawsuits from) a Japanese animation company with a similar name.

Russell began negotiations with Columbia following an April showcase he and his brother, Spencer (of local band Mudbison), played for record company scouts, including representatives from Universal and indie label Asthmatic Kitty. While it has taken a few months to hammer out the legal and compensatory details of Columbia’s buyout of Russell and his songs from local label Northplatte Records, the deal is now done.

“[I am an] exclusive recording artist of Columbia Record label,” Russell announced via his Twitter account on Tuesday.

The newly minted star plans to re-record portions of his 2008 album, Elizabeth, and lay down new material in a month-long recording session beginning August 7th. The recordings will be helmed by producer Dennis Herring, who has worked with several prominent artists, including Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello, Counting Crows, Ben Folds and the Hives.

The new album, which will be recorded at Herring’s Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, Mississippi, will likely include old fan favorites like “Elizabeth,” “Excuse” and “Why,” but also feature fresher tracks like the heartfelt “Made Me A Man” and the rambling “Anniversary Song.” Russell recently told Rhombus that Columbia is shooting for a late 2009/early 2010 release.

Meanwhile, Russell and his band will tour the country this fall in support of the upcoming disc. He has been in California over the past week, playing shows in Los Angeles, Bakersfield and even a set at the California Mid-State Fair, alongside the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Journey and — Lord help us — Judas Priest. Unfortunately, Russell may not grace the stage at Velour for awhile with his new found fame, but his many local fans hope their favorite teenage folkie won’t stay away too long.

For an interesting look at Russell’s skyrocketing career, watch this video from Bakersfield’s NBC affiliate, KGET 17. To hear more, visit Russell’s MySpace page.

Steve Pierce is editor and co-founder of Rhombus. His weekend plans will take a serious nosedive now that RuRu isn’t playing local shows.

CONCERT REVIEW: RuRu, Desert Noises, Code Hero

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Wednesday night saw the return of Graywhale Entertainment’s biweekly Local Artist Series with a prolific performance by headliner RuRu.

To be honest, Graywhale’s University Mall store is not the ideal venue for a live show. The acoustics aren’t the best and the sound system is middling. In short, it’s a record store, not a live venue. Almost every set I have ever seen performed at the store has been sub-par, not necessarily as a fault of the artist, but because the sonic element of the space often contributes negatively to the overall sound. That being said, the fact that Graywhale is willing to open its doors and book great artists for free is amazing and, despite the venue’s shortcomings, deserves to be supported. After all, you’re not paying for it. Graywhale is one of the few independent record stores we have around here and Utah Valley music fiends need to support them in any way we can, especially considering the state of the record industry today.

That being said, Wednesday night was not RuRu’s best set ever, mostly due to the venue. However, when you’re Isaac Russell, one of your weaker shows is still better than a lot of bands’ strongest effort. Russell completely eschewed his traditional acoustic guitar for his eight song set, instead opting for the fuller sound of a Gibson hollowbody electric. The setlist was split almost evenly between new songs and older material from his 2008 album, Elizabeth.

While old favorites like “Why” and “Excuse” will never get stale for Russell fans, the show’s most interesting moments came when the artist debuted his most recent songwriting exploits. Opening with a newly completed, untitled song, Russell provided a glimpse into the future direction of his writing. More rocking than usual, his new songs hew closer to the more rock-oriented sounds of Conor Oberst than the alt-country feel of Ryan Adams. The set’s second song, “Be Honest,” wouldn’t have felt out of place on some of Oberst’s later Bright Eyes records, featuring the singer constantly fluctuating between a whisper and a scream over a single guitar.

However, the night’s highlight came in the form of Americana-tinged rocker “The Light At The End Of The Tunnel.” With beautiful guitar work and a comparably awesome keyboard part to boot, the song embodies everything that is great about Russell’s brand of folk-rock: the simple, but infectious melodies, the tight musicianship and the penetrating insights on topics well beyond the intellectual and emotional range of most 17-year-olds. When the frontman contemplates which supernatural force controls death and comes to the conclusion that “it all depends on who you like,” it represents not only a young poet wise beyond his years, but also a stark assessment of the nature of religion in modern society. This, my friends, is what great music sounds like.

The show opened with performances by Code Hero and Desert Noises. As previously stated, almost nobody sounds great at Graywhale, so this wasn’t exactly Woodstock. However, both bands turned in solid performances — or at least as solid as the venue would permit. I look forward to seeing both bands play again outside the walls of a record store in hopes of experiencing their respective live shows at their full potential.

To hear tracks from these artists, please visit their respective MySpace pages here: RuRu, Desert Noises and Code Hero.





MUSIC: RuRu, Desert Noises, Code Hero At Graywhale Tonight

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Graywhale Entertainment, located at University Mall in Provo, presents the next entry in their biweekly Local Artist Showcase tonight at 7:00 p.m., featuring a killer line-up of Provo musicians.

RuRu, the stage name of local folk wunderkind Isaac Russell, will headline the evening with a full band set that is sure to please. If you happened to catch his spare, acoustic-driven set at the Vibrant Sound’s CD Release party in June, you are in for a treat. As excellent as young Russell is all by his lonesome, RuRu is an altogether different beast when drums, pedal steel and electric guitar are fully featured. Furthermore, the artist has promised new material for tonight’s show, which should be enough to whet your appetite, considering Russell’s considerable songwriting ability. Do yourself a favor and amble over to Graywhale for a bit tonight. You won’t regret it.

The show will also feature local boys and RuRu labelmates (over at Joshua James and McKay Stevens’ Northplatte Records) Desert Noises, as well as Code Hero. Desert Noises recently released their first EP, chock-full of folk-rock songs that resemble some kind of lovechild created by Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes. I first stumbled onto Code Hero at last year’s Sego Festival during their set on the main stage and remember being significantly impressed. We’ll see if my memory serves me correctly tonight.

The show starts tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. at Graywhale Entertainment, located next to the food court at University Mall. Admission is free, so you really have no monetary excuse for not being there. Rhombus promises an evening of great local music for the optimal (non-)price. We hope to see you there.

To hear tracks from each of tonight’s featured artists, please visit their respective MySpace pages here: RuRu, Desert Noises and Code Hero.

CONCERT REVIEW: The Vibrant Sound (6/27)

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

It’s hard to neatly box up the music of the Vibrant Sound into one cut-and-dried genre, but that didn’t matter much to the packed crowd that attended the band’s album release party at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo on Saturday evening.

Marley and Hayley Hernandez opened the show with their brand of quiet acoustic pop. The duo’s set of original tunes called to mind the music of Colbie Caillat, only with more brains and better harmonies. (What happened to her anyway? Did she die or something?) While both Hernandezes may or may not take issue with such a broad characterization of their music, the fact remains that their catchy melodies and ethereal voices were the perfect way to ease into a night’s worth of great music.

RuRu, the stage name for 17-year-old singer-songwriter Isaac Russell, filled in the middle portion of the bill with a truly stunning performance. Eschewing the drums, pedal steel and electric guitar of his usual full band set-up, Russell took the stage armed with only an acoustic guitar and a remarkably plush-looking armchair. With a sparse backing band, comprised of only a keyboard and bass guitar, the young folk phenom enraptured the audience with a slew of stripped-down versions of tracks from his 2008 album, Elizabeth, as well as some new cuts that showed a possible glimpse of Russell’s future progression as an artist.

While his usual bombast and intensely emotional stagecraft were significantly reined in by the more subdued setting, Russell still managed to wring every last emotional and musical drop from his material. The understated arrangements placed more emphasis on the songs’ beautiful composition and dense lyricism, often delving into poetic discussions of love, loss and death. One of the set’s many highlights came when Russell invited his older brother, Spencer, and Caitlin Duncan (both of local indie-eclectic band Mudbison) onstage to provide backing vocals on the aching ballad, “Excuse.” With the crowd in the palm of his hand, Russell masterfully spun his tale of sickness, heartache and death over a cascade of shimmering “oohs” and “ahhs” from his guests. The moment perfectly encapsulated the talent and potential possessed by the young songwriter, and undoubtedly resulted in a couple sold copies of Elizabeth at the merchandise table.

Following the laid-bare folk of Russell is no easy task, let alone if your music sounds like that of the Vibrant Sound. Mixing a plethora of influences, including hip-hop, soul, R&B, funk and rock, McKay Stevens and Company certainly kicked the show’s energy up a notch from their very first note. From the moment the band launched into bouncy opener “Summertime” with Stevens’ spot-on rendition of Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song, the audience was ready to dance and it was immediately clear who they had come to see.

The band tore through a nine song set featuring numerous guests, including Provo’s favorite son, Joshua James, on keys, and comprised mostly of material off their newly released debut album, Downtown. While they also threw in a re-imagined cover or two — including a straight-up filthy (and that’s a good thing) cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” complete with Stevens laying down original rhymes, and a slow-burning version of the 80s pop classic “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” featuring Scott Shepard of The New Nervous on lead vocals — the Vibrant Sound shined brightest on their original material.

The political overtones of “The Industrial Revolution” and “The Proletariat” were not lost on the ears of the crowd, regardless of their minds’ acceptance (or lack thereof) of the messages. The mostly white audience — this is Provo after all — even responded enthusiastically to the black history anthem “Abolitionist Newspaper,” which prominently features Stevens rapping about African-American liberation over snippets of Martin Luther King speeches.

If there was ever a place to find a cultural disconnect, this would be it — but there was none to be found. It is often said that music can bridge cultures and races, and span creeds and ideologies. It seems the Vibrant Sound have discovered how to do just that — and make you dance and sing along at the same time.

Steve Pierce is the co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He generally thinks hip-hop is dead, but the Vibrant Sound gives him hope. Follow him on Twitter at