In the past few years, Provo has seen some of its favorite local bands make the jump to the national music scene, and this weekend two of those bands will return to wish Velour Live Music Gallery a happy birthday.
Fictionist, which inked a deal with Atlantic in the fall of 2011, and Isaac Russell, who signed to Columbia at the age of 17, are headlining two nights of great music to celebrate Velour’s sixth anniversary.
For many, Velour has been the heart of the Utah County music scene since it was established in 2006. The cozy music club is owned, managed and eccentrically decorated by Corey Fox. Having been involved with local music for more than 20 years, Fox said the idea to open his own music club stemmed from his love of local music and desire to cultivate an environment where bands from the community can thrive and, ultimately, move on to bigger and better things.
“I felt there was a ceiling to the local music scene and if bands were going to progress any further they would need a more professional venue to push them to that next level,” Fox said. “The ironic thing about Velour is that our goal is to help build bands to the point that they outgrow Velour.”
Case in point: Isaac Russell.
Russell, who turns 20 next week, has been a supporting act for Jakob Dylan, Pete Yorn and even Adele. After living in Los Angeles for nearly a year, the young songwriter recently moved back to Utah County, returning to the music scene in which he practically grew up.
“Corey just helped out a lot,” said Russell, who first wowed audiences at Velour in 2006 at the age of 14. “He put me on a few acoustic showcases and then always gave me opportunities to play shows that would allow me to grow. Playing shows with people like Joshua James at Velour was huge too.”
Like Russell, Fictionist was recently signed to a major record label, thanks in part to their success in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Choose the Cover” contest last year.
Jacob Jones, who plays keyboards in the band, said Velour is a distinct music venue that has played an important role in his band’s success.
“Playing at Velour, we always wanted to create a good show,” Jones said. “It forced us to expand musically and experiment with things we do on stage, with our setlist, the lighting and everything else. Corey has always been gracious in letting us play here, and we always work hard to put on a good show.”
According to Fox, it’s hard-working bands like Fictionist that inspire the next generation of Provo musicians.
“When younger bands can see other local bands working hard and having success from that, it motivates them to do the same thing and they realize that their musical dreams are actually attainable if they work hard enough,” Fox said.
As great as it has been for Velour to play a part in helping these bands take the next step, the day-to-day operations of running a venue in Provo still proves challenging.
“It’s hard when your clientele are college kids who are only here for a few years and then move away,” Fox said. “But probably the biggest challenge of running an all-ages venue is no alcohol revenue. Most venues make almost all of their income on alcohol sales. Without that income and with the continuous shuffling of bands and students, there is always a constant pressure of reinvention and survival.”
Despite the difficulties, Fox remains optimistic and hopeful about the future.
“Our goal is to keep building the best bands in Utah, but we also want to create far more awareness and community support and pride with what’s going on,” Fox said. “I doubt there is another small town in the country that is experiencing what the Provo music scene is right now, and I’d love to get it the attention it deserves.”