Thoughts on Velour’s Open Mic Night and the Provo music scene

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Reagan High | Staff Writer

Open mic night at the Provo music venue Velour is, to be quite honest, hit or miss. I seem to always be invited by a friend every couple of weeks to this event and then consequently spend about two hours on auto-pilot while various renditions of current top 40 indie-folk pop songs are belted out to an audience of about 20 or 30 of Provo’s hippest cats.

Going to open mic night at Velour had me in a reverie of thought regarding the music scene of Provo, Utah. This contemplation was in between my brain playing Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4.  Let me preface with the fact that there are many talented musicians in Provo. I saw a lot of them that night. At these kind of things you sometimes hear some genuine songsmiths. Every once in a while you’ll hear some passion, and taste maybe just a drop of truth. With that said, I think the Provo music scene is a bit of a joke. It’s a stand-up comedy bit about the Lumineers on repeat.

Where is the variety? The same thing is being done over and over again. There is nothing wrong with folk music. I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan, as well as Woody Guthrie. There’s a lot of great contemporary folk music going on right now. The Tallest Man On Earth is a perfect example. Frontier Ruckus is another pretty decent folk-rock band. Folk is great because it is “for the people and by the people.” There is nothing wrong with pop music either. I love a good pop song. Beyonce has nothing but my respect, but the folk-pop music that is dominating Provo right now is a dead horse.

Folk music was originally written as protest music. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie were socialist fighting the exploitation of the working class. Bob Dylan was alongside the Civil Rights movement with his powerful lyrics. Folk music was going against the grain in those days. Like punk/hardcore music it was anti-establishment. Even if the songs aren’t about protest there is this homegrown authenticity to real folk music that you just don’t really see today.

Most “folk” music of this generation can be broken down to a very basic formula. Charming guy on guitar with killer vocals playing some variation of G C D, cute indie girl laying down backup vocals, maybe throw in a banjo for effect, and the lyrical content revolves around the love of two folksy individuals of the American Midwest. The music industry capitalist have gotten ahold of folk and turned it into a moneymaker.

This indie/folk/pop/whatever you want to name it craze is apparent everywhere but it seems to have consumed the Provo music scene. Things seem to be watered down and repetitive. And people here love it. Utah has a very homogenous culture and that homogeny doesn’t stop at the music scene.

To gain a following in the musical climate of Provo you must route your music in either two ways. One being the folk-pop I’ve just discussed or you can start a band in the Neon Tree-esque arena rock vein. Again I want to make it clear that there are plenty of talented musicians in Provo; there just isn’t much variety or true culture.