Summer Battle at Velour: Episode IV: A Blues Hope
We have now moved onto Night 4 of our Velour Wars sextology (which is, in fact, not a word). Be sure to read parts one, two, and three if you haven’t already. I’ve had a great time seeing so many talented groups this week and last night was no exception. Thursday’s crowds were the smallest so far, but that didn’t stop any of the bands from putting on the best show they could.
Ruts & Weeds play acoustic Irish folk. If you like Frightened Rabbit or Flogging Molly or even bluegrass, you may dig R&W. The band gave the few audience members shakers made from soda cans, and the audience participated by dancing, clapping, stomping, shaking, and singing along. Their songs are good and really fun. The musicianship is very simple. Everyone was playing rhythm with the exception of a few leads here and there. They had guitar, banjo, and mandolin and for the most part all were just playing the chord progression with little variation. They would benefit greatly by applying more elements of real bluegrass to their music – quick leads and fingerpicking. Though their use of percussion was absolutely wonderful, with band members pounding away on floor toms and cymbals. They even through a rainmaker in for good measure. The performance was very sloppy, but it was so much fun that few people minded. R&W play music for dancing and for parties and just for the enjoyment of it all, and I respect that greatly. But they’re not the sort of band you can take seriously. (Also I think Corey Feldman may have been on bass and mandolin.)
Pat B. & the T-Birds came down from Salt Lake City to grace us with some Rock and Roll. The quartet consisters of two guitarists, a standup double bass, and drums. To be a T-Bird, you need long hair, preferably in dreadlocks, and some scraggly facial hair. Their tunes are mostly upbeat and have a lot of blues, funk, and ska flavor mixed in. Though the band knows when to take things slow and play a soft ballad. On their fast tunes, Pat Briggs would be yelling into the mic and his vocals became quite muddled. But on the ballads, you could hear that he could actually sing really well. He through in some very interesting chords in his songs, which keep the music alive. Briggs is just a great guitarist without being a showboat while soloing (unlike me). The other guitarist also threw in some really great licks but was a showboat about it (just like me!). It wasn’t my favorite kind of music, but they did a really great job of playing it. The band did some nice harmonies at the end of the set, and I’d like to see what they could do if they added those to their other songs.*
*And Briggs may have bribed me to write a good review with a free CD, but I promise that I am doing my best to pretend to be impartial.
“Brothers and sisters, I feel it would be remiss if I did not thank you for being here,” said Please Be Human‘s Randy Mauerman in with a fake southern drawl during their set. PBH is Provo’s family band. Mauerman (vocals/guitar) with his wife on drums, his sister on bass, and a couple other friends on guitar and keyboard, played us some good ol’ fashioned Southern Rock à la Neil Young or Lynyrd Skynyrd. The music is unoriginal, but I wouldn’t call it uninspired. It’s very powerful. And as the set progressed, a noticed a love of Alt influences such as Dinosaur Jr. or Flaming Lips creeping into the music. Sometimes it would get downright chaotic, with walls of sound, screaming wah guitar, and noisy improvisation. But all of those things are just additions to the very pure blues rock that the band plays. Some days you just need some real good Rock and Roll, and PBH delivers in spades.
To really drive home the blues rock feel of the night, we ended with Westerlies. They succeed in their style, though they like to put in little parts of metal or rap to break things up. Though these feel more like quirky little asides as opposed to genuine parts of the music. It’s happy music, recalling the faster paced late 90s radio rock. I loved the energy and musicianship from the band, even though the music they play is very safe. There was a hell of a lot of great guitar work at this show, and Westerlies were no exception, giving us solid blues and grunge solos. The music never quite clicked with me, but I was pretty exhausted from having sat through a whole night of this blues and rock and funk and bluegrass. There’s only so much the mind can take.
I have to give a serious shoutout to the audience last night. There weren’t a lot of people at the show, but those that came were absolutely wonderful. R&W’s fans stayed throughout the night, dancing to every band and enjoying themselves. The bands were most definitely feeding off that energy and playing better sets because of it. Remember people, when you like a band, do something to show it. There’s nothing worse than a band playing to a stoic audience who does nothing but clap at the end of each song. It’s like a comedian telling jokes to an audience that refuses to laugh. Nod your head, clap your heads, or just let go and dance around like the animal you are! It goes a long way.
Night Four Winner: Pat B. & the T-Birds.
Barker’s Pick: Please Be Human. Their music just really clicks well with me, even though I don’t listen to much Southern Rock. They’re just a great band all around and are going to find themselves a wonderful fanbase soon.
Runner Up: Pat B. & the T-Birds. Objectively, they were the best band last night, showing the most solid musicianship and the most diversity. But they also just played some really great songs and I enjoyed the set a lot.
Well tonight’s the last night of the preliminaries! And more importantly, it’s the night that my own band, Wild Apples, plays. We’ll be going on first, so get there before 8:30! Now is your chance to judge me as harshly as I judge everyone else. So if you hate it, feel free to heckle us (though I won’t hear it over all the rocknroll). With us, are I’m Designer, Soft Science, and Travis Van Hoff. Stay for the whole show and vote for your favorite band! Soft Science plays some really good slower indie (kind of like Sigur Ros). Travis Van Hoff is a singer/songwriter whose pop songs are sure to woo some ladies, and I have to give the man serious props for coming down from Salt Lake every night to hand out flyers at Velour. And I have not heard I’m Designer, so that will be a pleasant surprise!
Will Wild Apples be able to break the dreaded first band curse? (The first band generally has the least chance of winning.) Find out tonight! I hope to see you there!
And thanks for reading my biased opinions!