Provo’s own Neon Trees capped off UVU’s homecoming festivities with a 11-song set of uproarious pop anthems — and they did it on no sleep.
“We flew in from Boston this morning and were just like, ‘Let’s go play,’” Tyler Glenn, lead singer of Neon Trees, said in an interview before the set. “We’re running on no sleep.”
The set capped off a week of homecoming festivities sponsored by Pepsi, who spearheaded Utah Valley University’s events for promotional purposes. Marketing material promised a ‘surprise concert’ at the UCCU Ballpark after the Homecoming soccer match, but didn’t announce the headlining act until Friday, Sept. 29 — the day before.
Student Body President Marc Reynolds said he, himself, found out on Facebook the day before.
“[Promoters] actually kept it pretty under wraps,” Reynolds said. “There were some rumors, but I think that was part of the plan.”
Glenn said the band signed onto the gig only this week.
“I never went to college, so homecoming to me was, like, ball gowns and tuxedos,” Glenn said. “I was half expecting us to play for that [kind of event].”
Reynolds, and a small UVU delegation, presented Glenn, guitarist Chris Allen and bassist Brandon Campbell with Proud Wolverine hoodies during a photo op before the set.
Neon Trees’ ties to Utah County are many. The band, like contemporaries Imagine Dragons, cut their teeth playing shows at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo. Campbell even attended UVU before the band was signed to Mercury records in 2008.
The performance came after a two-and-a-half-year break that Glenn described as unintended, but vital.
“I think it’s just been necessary the last two and a half years to kind of take a pause and do our thing,” Glenn said.
For Glenn, that meant releasing a solo record, Excommunication, in 2016, following a public fallout with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He reflected that the album wasn’t for everyone, but he feels he reached his intended audience.
Glenn also branched out to a different type of stage. Throughout the summer, he played the role of Charlie Price, the lead character in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots.
“It was a complete trip — the challenge of my adult life, and I loved it. That show’s just an injection of happiness. It makes you think; the music’s great. And I got to be a straight British guy for a whole summer and live in New York,” he said with a laugh.
Glenn added that he was also attracted to the play for its message — one he sees as love, acceptance, and “meeting people where they are.”
It’s a similar message Glenn aimed to convey when he played the inaugural LoveLoud festival last year on the very same field.
Glenn said LoveLoud, which was organized and curated by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds as an outreach to LGBTQ youth, was impactful for reasons both societal and personal.
“I think LoveLoud really…healed some wounds and changed my mind on believing in the power of good people,” Glenn said. “I think it really was pulled off in a loving way. And I know there are so many…intrinsically good people [in Utah County], and I just believe in that. So I know that when there are good messages out there like acceptance and equality, I think people like this can hear it. And I think… especially in the colleges, kids are the ones changing everything.”
With Glenn’s public fall out from the church, he said his views aren’t shared with all of his bandmates, but through their life-altering events and personal developments, they’ve remained bound by their music.
“Music’s the one common denominator where we can all come together and let our differences aside,” Glenn said. “I’ve seen it in my own life and I feel it when we play. I’ve seen it melt people’s hearts. So I know music’s powerful.”
Glenn resides in Salt Lake City, though he’s currently stationed in Los Angeles writing songs for Neon Trees’ upcoming fourth LP.
But, Glenn says, the band always finds themselves coming back to Utah County.
“[Provo] still remains our home base,” Glenn said. “I mean, here we are playing a homecoming. It’s just fun. [The area] is an important part of our story; my story.”
Photo Credit: VidArmy
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