Let me just say first that I love you. I really do. I mean, I know that I would never brag about you to my friends living in other places (except for Rexburg) or ever think to claim you as my absolute favorite place to live, and I would be hard-pressed to hear myself say anything more than “sigh” upon returning to you after a wonderful Christmas break in sunny California. But despite my inherent lack of “city spirit,” I can still say you are loved.
Otherwise, why would I be here? I’m neither forced nor bribed to stay, thus within me must reside some sort of desire to keep my bones in this place. Besides, even after my year full of travels to many more technically exotic locales, I’ve found the best-looking women (and men, I presume, but you ladies can decide that for yourselves as I’m certainly not looking) are present here within these city limits — honest to goodness. But this letter is not to tell you of my closeted love for you or the beauty of the individuals living herein, so much as it is to talk about your rather unique music scene.
You do good, Provo. Really. But there are some things I would perhaps like to see change — drastically — within the next year and, being as how we just turned over a new leaf with the ushering in of 2010, I think now would be as good a time as any to set some new year’s resolutions for you. Let’s begin.
1. Mas venues, por favor!
Over the course of Provo’s more recent years, there have been a lot of positive changes in the music scene. We’ve gone from having next-to-nothing to comparatively booming success. It seems more and more people were getting sick of the Ryan Shupes, Peter Breinholts and other various EFY artists coming out of this area’s “lack-of-scene,” only to graduate to mediocre musical careers in quasi-religious genres. In particular, people like Corey Fox, Bentley Murdock and Jake Haws were the ones to get off their duffs and try to make a difference.
And, essentially, it’s worked: we now have two (read it, two!) venues here in downtown Provo, Velour and Muse Music. These two venues have done a great job in allowing students and locals alike to form bands and groups, make music, and perform it on-stage in front of real people — allowing concerts to finally become a form of Friday and Saturday night entertainment for the under-nourished BYU and UVU students, effectively lessening the amount of weekend facebook binges and DDR competitions. (I know you were wondering where that horrid game had gone.)
Well, it’s been fun, but don’t bust out the Martinelli’s in celebration for your efforts just yet. Muse and Velour, you’ve done well — but it’s not enough. We’ve yet got work to do. We need more musically-inclined, successful entrepreneurs. I’m not saying I’m expecting Provo to be the most bangin’ place for bands of all genres — I don’t even really care if folk remains the only type of music present and popular (and without the omnipresence of alcohol, I’m not sure that will ever change) — I just want more venues. More venues = more concerts = more music = more attention to Provo as a good place for music to flourish. But, of course, something’s missing from this equation…
2. Party people, bring it over here!
Is it too much to ask that people besides friends and relatives of the band members come and attend shows every once in a while? Perhaps there’s a good lot of you that do honestly appreciate music for the sake of it being good music and consistently find time and a couple nickels to hear it live, instead of just paying homage to your buddy who’s been desperately begging you for 8 months to come to one of his band’s performances.
Don’t get me wrong — loyalty is fantastic and wonderful and all that, but heaven forbid if you keep attending their shows because you liked it, or even started to follow the other bands that played with them that night. (If you even stayed, that is. I’ve seen way too many people flood in for “their band” and ditch the rest of the night to hang out at a bonfire or something pathetic like that.)
As previously mentioned, the effects of alcohol are usually negative, but when it comes to concert attendance it seems to do wonders. Let’s attempt to prove to ourselves that we can support our local musicians without grandpa’s old cough medicine guiding our feet to the venues. And please, for the love of everything beautiful in the world, STAY. And if it so happens that you’re invited to a local show that absolutely sucks, just suffer the rest of the night and you never have to hear them again.
3. Musicians: can you learn more than folk music?
Diversity is not a word Provo’s really familiar with, if you haven’t already noticed. We apparently are all just peas in a pod, as we all love frozen yogurt joints, In-N-Out (Have you seen those lines? Calm down, people!), “black and white affair” parties, playing Mafia (or endless variations thereof), playing crappy covers on acoustic guitars to pick up women, using the word “random” in every situation possible, bonfires, being Republican, late night Beto’s runs (which isn’t Beto’s anymore, but we don’t notice) — and, of course, folk bands galore.
I’m sure someone somewhere has said something in regards to “moderation in all things,” but in these things we have none of that. We are obsessed. Not that there’s anything wrong with folk music, but come on, guys. Three chords can only go so far when you have 100 bands playing them simultaneously. Maybe it’s a phase we just have to live through, like the “Cecil is my Homeboy” t-shirts — or maybe not.
So, when you’re forming your next band to go big with, think about being different. You know, use that electric guitar as a main instrument instead of a way to make cute, ambient noises. Besides, when it comes down to it, there’s only so much folk that people outside of Provo can tolerate.
Feel free to include some new Year’s resolutions of your own for Provo in the comment space below. I’d love to see what comes forth. Perhaps “break Scott Manning’s fingers so he can’t type anymore” will be in there.
Scott Manning is a music correspondent for Rhombus.