Despite what everyone seems to think, Velour totally sucks as a venue. Gasp! Anathema! Don’t worry; there is a great defense for this kind of heterodoxy.
The primary draw of a place like Velour is not the music, but the image. Perhaps it is better to say images since there are two illusions that are being bought into by those entering its doors. The first is that of self-importance. Velour bills itself as the all-ages venue where only the music matters, and everyone there is as such because of their deep appreciation for great bands. Pesky things like booze and food, offered at most other places where shows happen, don’t get in the way and you can have a pure musical experience.
What results is that bands feel like they have an audience who cares deeply about them. The reality is that most of the people who patronize Velour probably have nothing better to do that night, and because of the bizarrely stifling atmosphere of a religious teetotaling town, they feel uncomfortable in a bar. Music is awesome, but seriously, who goes to see a band and do nothing but listen to its music unless it is their absolute favorite band? Almost no music in Provo is of this quality.
The second illusion is of the possibility of fashion conscious, squeaky clean, inebriant-free music scene in Happy Valley. Precisely the opposite is the case. Half the bands up there are stoned out of their heads, as they should be. Music and debauchery were made for one another and this has been known at least since the ancient Greeks, and an all ages venue in Provo won’t do anything to change the effectiveness of dithyrambic revelry – it can only put on a happy face and pretend otherwise.
Venues like bars are far more honest than façades like Velour – if a band is really doing well, people will pay attention. If a band blows horrendously, people are going to dive into their stein of Belgian white and start talking to their friends – and this is how it should be. Terrible bands should be greeted with half-hearted applause and conversation over their set, and great bands should turn heads. The idea that the only acceptable way to approach a band is with silence during the set and applause afterwards, which is what you find at Velour, is entirely disingenuous.
But let’s be clear about the worst aspect of this venue. It really does little for the bands that play there, and therefore little for the music scene. Because it makes none of its money from food or drink, every dime of profit is exploited directly from the bands, which are the primary draw. Their talent pays the bills and keeps the lights on (which is why they charge $7 for a show that could be free at a house). In a serious way, this means Velour is not about the music but all about the money.
Only bands who bring in dough are allowed to play there, so burgeoning bands who are trying to cut their teeth are not given the kind of support you find at a house show or a bar. Entire genres of great music are banned from that stage because they aren’t cool enough or “in.” This again fosters the illusion of importance for the bands that do make it on Velour’s stage, and creates an unfortunate elitism among the well-established bands.
Venues that are really about the music make some or most of their money from food or liquor, like Muse Music or ABG’s, because this allows them to give fair compensation to bands, and also buffers losses when young, less-talented bands are trying to get better and can’t pull in a crowd. Since people will eat or drink regardless of the music playing, bands on the margins of a scene have a chance to make it to the inside. A single show at ABG’s can bring in more money for a band than a dozen played at Velour. That is much better for the local scene than masturbatory, image-conscious elitism. Bands work hard around here, and make some damn fine music. They deserve a better venue.