Posts Tagged ‘Velour’

Garage Band

Blood, Sweat and Tears: How to Make It in Music

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Music

You just started a band.

You start small by gathering in someone’s garage or apartment clubhouse and writing some music. You score a gig opening for a semi-known local act on a Thursday night at the dumpiest venue around. Maybe a handful of your friends come, enjoy, and request a CD that you don’t yet have. You can’t afford the studio quite yet, but your bassist has a camera that records sound, so you set it down during practice and hope for the best.

You determine that the next best thing to a CD is a Myspace band page so — ignoring the poor recording quality — you don your page with all sorts of band branding and upload your tunes. Now you can tell potential fans where to find your music after shows. You book your second show, feeling a bit more prepared and ready to blow the crowd off their feet. You text everyone in your phone and wait for the inevitable throngs of people ready to support you, but by the time you strum your last note, there are two in the audience other than the other bands — and they’re sitting down in the back of the room rolling their eyes.

Velour Live

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.

Empirates

The Next Best Thing (Part 2)

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Local, Music

You may have read my previous article dated several months back with a similar title. You may have even liked it and are ready for round two. But it’s far more likely that you have never seen the first part of this multi-article compendium and are jumping in right here, so here’s my little disclaimer:

Provo may seem quaint at times, but underneath it all there is talent that stretches far beyond these city walls. This series of articles aims to bring attention to all the musical good that’s been quickly growing, and even more quickly now that bands like Neon Trees have trailblazed the way to nationwide — if not worldwide — success.

So without further ado, I present to you two more of this town’s Next Best Things.

mudbison 2

MUSIC: The Next Best Thing (Part 1)

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Local, Music

Thanks to the recent stammering success of Provo-based Neon Trees, our town has gotten a bit more attention. Not much, but a bit.

The Trees have exploded on the national music scene well enough to have scored appearances on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live, toured with The Killers, 30 Seconds to Mars and Mutemath, and had their single “Animal” placed on Billboard’s Hot 100… and much more. I’m sure there are plenty of fans of theirs that are reading this and are mentally listing all their major accomplishments I’ve missed.

But this article isn’t about Neon Trees.  It’s about what we have coming next.

Because of them, Provo may be getting a different eye from the music industry — and we just so happen to have a couple good things in the mix to surprise them with. As some of you know, several bands based (or at least at one time based) out of Utah County made it into this years SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, one of the biggest annual festivals in the nation. Music from other local bands has been heard on MTV and other network television shows — and if you think we’ve exhausted our resources, you’re simply out of your mind.

At one time I was convinced that our town was one of the weaker music scenes in the States, but compared percentage-wise to other larger cities, we’ve got a pretty good track record so far. So, for your information, I’ve compiled a couple interviews with bands that have dug their feet into the rocky ground of the music industry and are ready to show the world what they’ve got.

More than a couple of these bands have already been featured by Rhombus, of course, but before you complain and post your disdainful commentary below, know that this is not another album or concert review — this is a compendium of some noteworthy acts whose names you’re most likely to see around soon in more magazines than this one.

Mudbison
Their name bound to be bigger than the animal it refers to, Mudbison has made some pretty big leaps recently. Spencer Russell –brother of Columbia-signed folk artist Isaac Russell — has been working his arse off on getting things in line, such as recording/mixing/mastering, pumping out music videos, and trying to get a tour off the ground. All the hard work is paying off though, as is evident by conducting a simple YouTube search and finding that the band’s very newly added videos have already garnered over 5,000 views collectively. It’d be my guess that not all of those are just from Provo either.

Upon being asked what drives him to keep working at his music career, Russell replies, “Maybe it’s teaching people morals I’ve learned through the stories I write. Maybe it’s my love for writing a tune that gives people chills. It’s probably both. Aesthetic pleasure is something I love to give, and this is the best way, I guess.”

Style: Indie pop, singer/songwriter
Sounds like: Badly Drawn Boy meets Sufjan Stevens meets Beck
Likely labels to see them on:
Asthmatic Kitty, XL Recordings, Sub Pop Records
Strongest weapon: A killer album, Russell’s ingenious songwriting ability
Biggest accomplishment: Their unique sound
Network/Connections: With a brother signed to Columbia Records and a father deeply ingrained in the film industry, Russell is likely to get his band’s music into good hands.

Imagine Dragons
I don’t know of any band that has received a quicker hype than these guys. Coming out of a victory at BYU’s Battle of the Bands in late 2009, they had achieved “Provo fame” within a few short months and began packing Velour and other venues/events to the brim shortly thereafter. After a move to Las Vegas and a couple lineup changes, ID is now the fastest growing band in Sin City — but they still aren’t content.

Lately they’ve been hitting areas nearby like L.A., Phoenix and San Francisco, all while maintaining their huge fan base here in Utah. Don’t think for a second that Imagine Dragons will fall by the wayside — you’ll soon be seeing their records everywhere you look.

Style: Indie pop/rock
Sounds like:
The Killers thrown back to a Tears for Fears/Depeche Mode concert.
Likely labels: Warner Music Group, EMI
Strongest weapon: A plethora of involved fans.
Biggest accomplishment: Showcased at SXSW 2010, shared stage with Blue October, Jet, Kelly Clarkson, Presidents of the U.S., and more.
Network/Connections: Friends — and relatives — in high places.

Eyes Lips Eyes
Having just a couple days ago changed their name from ER (which had been changed from Elizabethan Report), Eyes Lips Eyes has been cooking what you’ve been smelling. After playing a couple shows with these guys, I can attest to the level of professionalism and skill they have — things that undoubtedly will help them achieve their goal of making music their sole income. That’s what influenced their decision to move to L.A. last summer, and what continues to push them now as they have raised their marketing to a whole new level.

Spencer, the band’s guitarist, gives this piece of advice to other bands that are trying to make a living out of music: “In the end, the stuff that works the best is the stuff that no one has tried yet. So being willing to venture out and take some risks with promotion ends up paying off in the end. Once people catch up, though, you have to find something new.”

Style: Dance rock, indie/alternative
Sounds like: Interpol gets in a food fight with Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Likely labels: EMI, Warner Bros., Matador Records
Strongest weapon: Their stage energy coupled with their promoting energy.
Biggest accomplishment: Shows with The Raconteurs, Spoon, The Black Keys, Bob Dylan, and releasing two albums.
Network/Connections: Have found good friends while in LA, but no shew-ins — They’ve succeeded through blood, sweat and tears alone.

Stay tuned for some more bands to be featured in this 3-part series.

Archers Apple

MUSIC: Review: The Archer's Apple, "Suburban Ocean"

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Music

Suburban Ocean, the new EP from Provo folk band The Archer’s Apple, galavants with a velvety staccato swagger through its five tracks. It’s a strong and surprising record because, while garnished with an array of vintage sounds (and, presumably, influences), it’s actually a markedly contemporary sounding effort. And, probably most importantly, it should easily sate the appetite of the band’s ever increasing fan base.

The disc opens with “Moon Love,” an amorously oriented song whose primary conceit links geography to psyche. It includes some charming metaphors — the mind as a sea and thoughts as plankton in that sea, for example — that milk some creative mileage out of a topic that would feel more worn in other hands. Like subsequent tracks, “Moon Love” also shows off the band’s tendency to pair quirky lyrics, warbling vocals, and instrumental sincerity in a way reminiscent, at its best moments, of Devendra Banhart.

The second track, “Chameleon,” shares this approach, beginning with a harmonized vocal intro and blusey, classic-rock-esque guitars. It’s a somewhat heavier tune than “Moon Love,” but refreshingly never becomes dark or dismal.

By staying upbeat, “Chameleon” exemplifies what puts The Archer’s Apple a head above its competition: the band takes an ultimately happy — even peppy — approach to folk longing and nostalgia. That’s also what makes the album sound so modern. Between the punchy percussion and the amalgam of influences the band draws from, Suburban Ocean sounds sort of like a folk-ish version of Vampire Weekend performing songs co-written by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez — and I can’t think of another band out there, local or otherwise, that fits that description.

“Standing in Deserts,” the EP’s third track, shows off the band’s Americana influences with some sparkling finger picking, organ, and more strong vocals. It also has contemporary-sounding guitar parts, including some almost-indie riffs and what sounds to me like an Ebow near the end (though I can’t be sure about that).

It’s followed by “Once,” which, maybe because it loosely tells the story from which the band derives its name, most poignantly evoked a The Archer’s Apple live show for me. The song also included a relatively long instrumental build-up that — unlike those attempted by other bands — isn’t pointless, self-indulgent jamming. On the contrary, it actually felt like an appropriate effort to extend and complete the emotional arc of the song.

The final track, “Bang Bang,” is a beating, quasi-epic epitaph that feels, at times, like an embryonic version of Simon and Garfunkle. It includes some of the most yearning moments of the EP and I probably listened to it the most (though picking out a “favorite” from the collection is difficult because all the songs are pretty strong). Ultimately, then, “Bang Bang” is a satisfying conclusion to an album that draws on folk, Americana, greaser vintage, and a host of other influences to produce something that should leave listeners bobbing in the high tides of a surprisingly pleasant Suburban Ocean.

Parlor Hawk

MUSIC: Review: Parlor Hawk, "Hoarse and Roaring"

Written by Chase Larson on . Posted in Music

Listening to “Hoarse and Roaring” is like driving alone down a long, open road off into a sunset tinged landscape, leaving plenty of time to contemplate life’s hopes and struggles. Parlor Hawk’s distinct brand of Americana folk-rock permeates the effort with a tight sound featuring steadily strummed guitars, an achingly bluesy twang and frontman Drew Capener’s desperate vibrato on every track.

The band successfully creates a contemporary take on an antique sound with a salt-of-the-earth vibe — but that’s not to say there’s anything ordinary about this music. The evenly-paced drum beats and clean harmonies are both intimate and personal in their everyman quality. The sound produced is at times melancholy but more often contemplative — simultaneously nostalgic and forward-looking. Utilizing instruments such as a pump organ and slide guitar, Parlor Hawk generates a vintage sound. The music and lyrics are unpretentious and fervent; simple yet rich and layered. Stylistic comparisons can be easily drawn to artists like Damien Rice, Ryan Adams or early Wilco.

“Home,” the album’s opener (embedded below), has a catchy chorus and sparse percussion with the duo of a bass drum and tambourine that eventually break into handclaps at the peak of the action. Capener careens in and out of the guitar riffs, channeling an old-timey, saloon feel as you envision an antique piano being played in the corner. Parlor Hawk’s country roots show through in “Every Bone,” a track laden with the twang of a steel guitar as the reluctant rhythm trudges forward with a message of love lost.

“Julian” the album’s most melancholy tune, utilizes Capener’s wounded voice well as he croons about faded love: “I’ll give you my canvas/Paint cracked and dry/Might lead you to question/But reason can’t ask reason why.” The album’s dream-like “Lark” is a swaying melody that plays like a bittersweet lullaby, with the ethereal chorus floating in the night sky as Capener’s voice intertwines with the female harmony. The more upbeat “Flowers” contains a bluesy guitar hook and a steady, toe-tapping beat, while “Saddest Song” is a melancholy campfire sing-a-long, featuring only vocals and an acoustic guitar.

All in all, “Hoarse and Roaring” is an album that you’ll want to pick up and sing along with, no matter what mood you’re in.

Listen to: Parlor Hawk, “Home”

Check out Parlor Hawk’s MySpace page to hear more tracks and learn about the band. Also, check out their recent interview with 21st and Ivy here.

mudbison 2

MUSIC: Review: Mudbison, "A"

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

For fans and devotees of the local music scene, the debut album of indie-eclectic band and Provo mainstays Mudbison has been a long time coming — and, thankfully, it’s finally here with staggering results.

Largely the brainchild of frontman and producer Spencer Russell, A is one of the most inspired and unique discs to drop from a Utah band in quite some time. While the Utah Valley scene has produced some great artists in recent years who’ve found widespread success, it seems fairly safe to say that we always know what they’re going to give us. Joshua James creates brilliantly soulful folk music that transports you to a different time. Neon Trees make you want to dance your face off while singing along at the top of your lungs to their synth-driven dance-rock jams. We love these excellent homegrown artists for what they do — but they are known entities. They just are who they are.

Mudbison is a whole different breed. When the band officially formed in early 2009, their early tunes were generally acoustic guitar-driven folk ditties penned by Russell and then sparsely augmented with keys, bass and drums. More than a year later, the sounds of A could not be more different. Now gleaming with a studio-quality sheen proffered by Russell’s burgeoning production genius, each song brings its own unique flavor while still fitting into a larger, cohesive, and distinctly “Mudbison” feel.

Some tracks, including the simple acoustic opener “The Mailman Song” and the tender piano ballad “Wait for Me,” wouldn’t have felt out of place in the band’s early catalog, while pulsing synths and sampled beats provide a glimpse into a completely different creative vision on album standouts like “Color T.V.” and “Mama Nix.” Similarly, old Russell standbys like “Little Indian” and the ever-popular “Suburbia” get electronica-tinged upgrades that retain the soul of the original recordings while taking the songs to new, more expansive heights. Indeed, to listen to A‘s “Suburbia” (included below) in comparison to the original version off Russell’s self-released 2009 solo disc is to glimpse the possibilities of a band truly reinventing themselves and their sound, while pushing the sonic limits of their creativity.

That’s not to say A is all fun and games. The somber yet expansive “Joy!” shows Russell confronting the untimely passing of his mother through song more directly and powerfully than ever before. By layering his delicate piano melody and guitar picking with profoundly affecting backing harmonies provided by Caitlin Duncan and field recordings of his mother discussing her difficult struggle with cancer, Russell simultaneously creates one of the most devastating and most uplifting pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I challenge any individual with a heart to closely listen to “Joy!” alone in a room and try not to cry your eyes out. (I’m almost certain it can’t be done.)

But, in short, that’s what A and, by extension, the new Mudbison is — a brilliant amalgamation of musical styles and thematic tones that create an even greater whole. Russell and Duncan’s voices blend together effortlessly in any scenario, whether it be an up-tempo dance number or a sparse acoustic ballad, giving the album a shape-shifting versatility that’s sure to please listeners of all kinds. If you like music and have yet to hop on the Mudbison train, now is as good a time as any to walk — no, run — toward the light and receive your tuneful reward.

Listen to: Mudbison, “Suburbia”

Hear more Mudbison and learn about the band at their MySpace page here.

Desert-Noises

MUSIC: Sounds from the Expanse: Desert Noises Give Away Their EP

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Music

What surprises me so much about Desert Noises self-titled EP is just how kinetic it is. Knowing that it was released by local label Northplatte Records, I expected on my first listen to hear a well polished—and emotionally rich—work, with roots in folk music. And I did. But the record also isn’t merely a gentle charting of pathos. Instead, its tonal diversity at once elicits sorrow, exuberance, and nostalgia. Some songs are slow, while others are very nearly danceable, but all of them represent a raw convergence of different musical genres and philosophies.

This Saturday, Desert Noises will be giving away said debut EP for free during their show at Velour. The concert will also feature Sayde Price and Parlor Hawk (formerly Moses), and will be the first chance audiences have to hear Parlor Hawk’s upcoming album, which will be playing between sets. For Desert Noises, however, the show will be a chance to get people interested before they return to the studio to work on their next album.

“We want people to know about us, but at the same time we want them to have something while they’re waiting for the new release,” said Kyle Henderson, who plays guitar and sings in the band. “We think the old EP should be in people’s hands, instead of them having to pay for it.”

And given the clarity the EP achieves, that next album should be well worth the wait.

The EP begins with “Morning Song,” a reverb- and harmony-heavy piece that, at only 44 seconds long, feels more like a prelude than an opener. It’s pretty, and I wouldn’t have minded hearing what it could have become as a full song, but as it currently stands it also provides a sharp contrast for the more explosive second track, “Mad Moon.” That song is similarly folk-based, but feels much more expansive with its full band. I especially appreciated the xylophone in the background, and though Desert Noises isn’t the first band to write a song like this, they do it as well as anyone.

“Building Glass Walls” comes next and is probably my favorite track on the record. It combines the spacey folk-rock I had expected to hear with a surprising dance beat. It’s ethereal, but upbeat, and makes the argument that Desert Noises isn’t a band that should always be listened to sitting down.

The next two songs, “Kelton” and “Blue Skies,” continue to take the album through emotional highs and lows. The latter is a soft, almost-vintage sounding acoustic tune, while the former brings back the full band. Listening to them, I couldn’t quite pin down the band’s genre and I began to be reminded of another expressive-but-genre-less musician, Sufjan Stevens. Though comparisons between other folk-with-a-full-band groups like Fleet Foxes are easily apparent (and appropriate), it was Stevens’ softer material that I kept thinking of as I listened to the album’s middle songs and moved through its final two, a rhythmic tune called “New Man” and the more contemplative “Devil’s Own.”

If the record feels raw at times—and it certainly does—it’s probably because the band recorded it over the course of only four days. Henderson told me they “just kind of banged it out really quick. Something that I like about it is it feels like it was on the spot.”

For the most part, that works–and in some cases it’s downright surprising, given how polished the tracks can seem. At other times, however, I would have appreciated a tad more finesse. Still, many great musicians have succumbed to the temptation of over-production, and I’d hate to see Desert Noises lose any of their expansive emotionality.

If Desert Noises’ concert on Saturday is anything like their EP, attendees won’t just acquire a free CD–they’ll also have felt something more profound, which is what the band hopes for.

“I hope that people walk away with something they won’t forget,” Henderson said of the concert. “I hope it will be a memorable show and will hopefully make them want to follow what’s coming next.”

After listening to the EP, I know I’ll be following them, all the way to the desert.

Find out more about Saturday’s concert, featuring Desert Noises, Parlor Hawk, and Sayde Price here.

Jim Dalrymple is a regular correspondent for Rhombus.

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.

MUSIC: Concert Review: Velour's 4-Year Anniversary Celebration (Night 1)

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Neon Trees

There’s been some griping recently (including some by folks at this publication) about the amount of indie-folk bands that permeate the local scene. Well, for those of you who hold that opinion, Friday night’s four-year anniversary show at Velour Live Music Gallery was tailor-made for you — not a folkie with a microphone in the house.

The show opened with a solid set from local up-and-comers and recent Velour Battle of the Bands finalists Gypsy Cab. If you’re into classic rock — and particularly Southern classic rock — and frequently find yourself wondering what happened to the “good ol’ days” of rock and roll, this is the band for you. Gypsy Cab are what Lynyrd Skynyrd would have sounded like had they grown up in the post-grunge, post-punk new millennium. A bit punchier than the likes of “Sweet Home Alabama,” et al., the group’s songs exude energy like you can’t believe — a feeling that was certainly helped along by a full-volume sound set-up on Friday evening.

While Gypsy Cab’s genre isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, they are certainly a talented group of musicians and it shows in their live performance. While I don’t think I would ever sit down and listen to one of their album’s for kicks, I love to watch them play. Lead guitarist and part-time vocalist Pat Boyer is undoubtedly one of the local scene’s most skilled axe-men and — I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — his solos make me feel like the Nazi bad guy at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a testament to the band’s live appeal that a slightly xenophobic song like set closer and fan favorite “Living in America,” which basically represents everything I personally find reprehensible about our national attitude of superiority, is still enjoyable and fun enough for Gypsy Cab to come off smelling like a rose.

Dance-rock locals Location Location took the stage second and fought through some sound problems to produce a solid set of danceable tunes. While it would have been easy for the band to succumb to the issues at hand and mail in Friday night’s performance after putting on such a big show the previous night in Park City (where they opened for national touring act The Bravery), they thankfully took the higher road and made it work.

Lead vocalist Marcus Bently turned in a great performance, his Springsteen-esque baritone-via-distortion-pedal providing a unique counter to his bandmates’ pulsing synths and pounding digital beats. While his voice isn’t one you’d expect to be fronting a dance-rock band (I’d normally expect a higher, reedier, more Ben Gibbard-y voice), Bently’s works because its different and, in a world where “new” electronica acts do nothing but shamelessly ape the genre’s proven pioneers (Owl City anyone?), that’s refreshing.

I’ll be honest — I don’t quite understand Seve Vs. Evan on an analytical basis. I listen to their recorded music and it shouldn’t work — it’s just straight-up, two-part dance-pop (nothing special) and lead singer Severin Bozung’s voice is mediocre at best. I tried so very hard to understand their appeal — how they became such local legends and why they have such an ardently die-hard fan base — and I couldn’t… until I saw them live at Cowboys and Indies in November.

While Seve Vs. Evan are probably not for everyone and they certainly don’t make the world’s “best” music, they are fun and this comes through best in their live performance. From their goofy stage banter and ridiculous antics to their legion of fans’ coordinated dance moves and exuberant energy, a Seve Vs. Evan show is some of the best fun you can have in Provo, period. Friday’s show was no different and, even though illness caused Seve’s voice to be even more “frog-like” (his words, not mine) than usual, the crowd’s energy was high and the band’s beats and keyboard licks slick, creating a magically good time for anyone willing to abandon their inhibitions and let loose.

Headliners Neon Trees are an interesting band and one I am inherently conflicted over. I’d never really given the band a proper listen or seen them live before Friday’s show, so I was essentially going in blind — I knew they were signed to a major label and I’d heard rave reviews from many a trusted friend, but that was about it. So it was with cautiously optimistic anxiousness that I prepared for Neon Trees to take the stage at Velour. Then they did — and I was horribly disappointed, at least for awhile.

Neon Trees are undoubtedly a supremely talented band. Vocalist Tyler Glenn has an elastic voice with unbelievable range that few in the business today could even dream of matching. (Adam Lambert comes readily to mind.) However, despite his obvious vocal talent, Glenn proves to be a polarizing frontman. His stage performance is very abrasive and even brash, causing a reasonable person to immediately either a) love him or b) loathe him. I initially took the latter course of action. While I recognized the talent, I couldn’t get over his ridiculous haircut and overblown outfit, not to mention the “rock star” swagger he was laying on so thick. I didn’t know who this guy thought he was, but I didn’t like him.

It didn’t help that the Trees’ first five songs seemed pretty mediocre as well. While they make an intensely marketable hybrid of (early era) Killers-esque dance-rock and standard emo post-punk, the band’s opening songs leaned heavily on the latter. More concerned with “rocking out” than crafting an aesthetically pleasing musical composition, the songs seemed to focus more on Glenn’s vocal pyrotechnics than any discernible hook or melody. The set’s first 25 minutes just felt like one long, eardrum-shattering slog — which is unfortunate, considering what happened next.

The band started to get better. Melodies started to emerge. Glenn became a little more loose and self-effacing and, thus, more likable. The poppy side of Neon Trees, apparently shackled in somebody’s basement for the set’s first half-hour, emerged victorious — and the result was a much better band and show altogether. Addictive sing-along pop anthems like “Animal” and “1983″ burrowed their way into my brain as Glenn used his otherworldly voice to greater thematic effect and created beautiful harmonies with drummer Elaine Bradley. I was being sucked in — my previous biases were beginning to melt away. The band’s four song encore continued apace with more excellent dance-pop jams. This was it. This was the band I had been expecting. I actually kind of liked this band. I left the show semi-stunned at the evolution that had transpired before my eyes.

So why did Neon Trees and I get off on the wrong foot? Well, I felt like Glenn and company initially (whether purposefully or not) put rock star bravado and pretentiousness ahead of what (I would subsequently discover) they do best — making great, enjoyable pop music, which is all they need to do. I have no doubt the band will find a mass audience and their debut album Habits (due out March 23rd on Mercury Records) will be wildly successful if they stick to their bubble gum-laden guns. Neon Trees don’t have to be “serious artists;” in fact, they’re ten times better when they’re not. “Animal” has continued to run through my head all morning long and I’m still not sure how I definitively feel about their Friday night set, but I do know one thing — Neon Trees have what it takes. They just need to stop themselves, as hard as it is, from reaching too far.

Velour’s 4-Year Anniversary Celebration continues tonight with a great folk-based lineup, featuring Isaac Russell, Moses, Desert Noises and the Archer’s Apple. Doors open at 8:00 p.m. Be there.

Steve Pierce is editor and co-founder of Rhombus.