Cities like Seattle, Brooklyn and Portland are famous for music communities that have seemingly launched myriad bands to national or even international fame. Although Provo pales by comparison to those cities in terms of population, multiple bands from the area have signed deals with major record labels in the past few years, shining a spotlight on the college town’s music scene.
There are many within the community, however, who feel Provo’s abundance of local talent is underappreciated.
“I truly think that the Provo music scene is more respected in other states than it is in Utah and Provo itself, and that needs to change.” said Corey Fox, owner of Velour Live Music Gallery.
This brief guide is meant to help the denizens of Provo realize what kinds of musical treasure is buried in their backyard.
Where to Go
On the west side of University Avenue, between 100 North and 200 North, stand the two most popular music venues in Utah County. Velour, owned and managed by Fox, celebrated its sixth anniversary last weekend. Two doors down, Muse Music Cafe has been operating under its current management since last summer.
Each of the venues plays host to bands of varying genres, due to a music community that continues to diversify (although it’s common knowledge that there is no dearth of folk-rock bands in Provo). Both venues have open-mic nights on a weekly basis — Tuesday nights at Velour and Wednesdays at Muse — which also serve as a great way for fledgling songwriters or bands to break into the music scene. In fact, Fox has been known to invite impressive open-mic performers to play in an acoustic showcase or to be an opening act for another show.
While Muse Music and Velour offer live music experiences multiple times a week, other downtown locations host concerts on a less frequent basis. Guru’s and Sammy’s, for example, are great for those interested in dinner and a show.
Plan on live music at Sammy’s during warmer months since they set up a temporary stage outside the hole-in-the-wall burger joint. Guru’s, on the other hand, has an intimate stage right in the restaurant, so check their calendar for shows year round.
The Madison, a fairly new addition on Center Street, has a live DJ every Wednesday, but also features live bands on occasion.
Who to Hear
According to local music aficionados, there are two main tiers of Provo music acts, excluding bands like Neon Trees, Fictionist or Eyes Lips Eyes, who have either signed contracts with major record labels or have moved out of state to pursue music careers.
The first tier comprises the biggest bands in Provo. These are bands that have built a healthy following in the area and appear to be on the verge of gaining national attention. This tier includes Desert Noises, The Moth & The Flame, Book on Tapeworm and Parlor Hawk. These bands consistently draw large crowds anytime they play in Provo and their success outside of Utah County is imminent.
“The bands are starting to get big enough to get signed and big enough to sell out these local venues,” said Dean Cheesman, founder of Occidental Saloon, a group that produces unique live music performance videos. “You should see them now, before they become too big to play Provo.”
The second tier includes bands that have the potential to become “tier one” bands if their fan bases continue to grow. Naturally, this tier consists of more bands than the first, but examples include The Archer’s Apple, Back Chat, Lake Island and Gils.
While there is definitely a wide range of musical style and preference within the community, a sense of camaraderie exists among many of the aspiring musicians. Kyle Hooper, a sophomore at BYU and frontman for Lake Island, said this mutual support helps bands progress and keeps the music scene vibrant.
“Being friends with other bands helps because they’ll spread your music around and you’re able to reach more people,” he said. “It’s also very inspiring to see awesome local artists play. I start getting ideas to bounce around with my own band.”
Velour Live Music Gallery — velourlive.com
Muse Music Cafe — musemusiccafe.com
Occidental Saloon — theoccidentalsaloon.com
Desert Noises — desertnoisesmusic.com
The Moth & The Flame — howwewokeup.com
Book On Tapeworm — bookontapeworm.com
Parlor Hawk — parlorhawk.com