The Provo-Rexburg music connection

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Musically speaking, Provo and Rexburg feed each other. Provo musicians visiting Rexburg expand their audience and share their art. And Provo’s gift to Rexburg is two-fold: when Provo musicians visit, they give Rexburg ears the products of a varied, thriving music scene, and Provo offers Rexburg enticement to come partake of its resources.

To understand how the Utah and Idaho music scenes complement each other, consider the ways in which they differ.

Provo’s pool of talent often draws from the likes of BYU and UVU, which operate under traditional four-semester systems. Rexburg’s music scene largely includes students from BYU–Idaho, which uses a three-semester track system. This sporadic, seasonal system breaks continuity in Rexburg’s music scene.

“There can be a really promising band until a couple members are off track, and it hurts the entire music scene,” said Garrett Sherwood, a musician who moved from Rexburg to Salt Lake. “I guess to sum it up, the Rexburg scene has always been subject to the ebbs and flows of the talent and commitment of a dedicated few.”

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Garrett Sherwood, creator of the Poetry Slam in Rexburg, performs at a Sammy’s restaurant in June 2013. (Photo by Melanie Smelcer)

Sherwood noted that Rexburg also suffers from a shortage of music venues. But, he said, the restaurant Sammy’s helps fill that void, serving as the center of the Rexburg music scene. Sammy’s regularly hosts concerts, open mic nights and poetry slams. But although the venue offers space and time dedicated to music, Sherwood said Rexburg still lacks certain resources and know-how.

Provo possesses many of the resources Rexburg lacks, such as a variety of venues, a strong open mic night scene and an abundance of promoters, producers and recording studios.

Provo, however, is full of noise. Most of the time the “noise” made by all the aspiring musicians in town is so deafening that it’s hard for a single band to step up and make a name for itself.

From Provo to Rexburg

The holes in Rexburg’s music scene provide Provo musicians opportunities to slip in and make some noise.

High-profile bands and musicians, like Imagine Dragons and Ryan Innes, make appearances. But lower-profile bands looking to make their mark traverse to Rexburg as well, in an effort to gain followers and share their art. The National Parks’ friends at BYU–Idaho help the band boost its show audiences when it comes to visit.

“They spread the word for us,” said Brady Parks, National Parks frontman. “We were lucky enough to play for a full crowd on our last trip, and for a band to play for a lot of people while out on the road is a great feeling.”

Provo musicians who haven’t toured beyond Utah’s limits can comfortably stray to Rexburg to branch out in a stress-free zone. Tom Brinton, of The New Electric Sound, said Rexburg gets a bad rep for being “a more Provo-ish version of Provo.” But Brinton added that, “Whether you dig the vibe or not,” the residents make visiting bands feel welcome.

“A Rexburg show always feels like a ‘home game,’ even if you’re not from there,” said Amber Lynn, a musician who moved from Idaho to Provo.

From Rexburg to Provo

Whether it be because they’re off their “track” at BYU–Idaho, they’re done with college or they’re seeking greener pastures, one thing is sure: musicians leave Idaho.

Lynn used to attend BYU–Idaho, where she worked hard climbing the ladders of the music scene. One night she played in Provo. She spoke with Amy Whitcomb and Stuart Maxfield, of Fictionist, after the show, saying she planned to move to Arizona after graduation. They urged her to choose Provo instead because of its thriving music scene.

Lynn said she is so happy she took their advice. Although she’s starting from the bottom again, Lynn recognizes the resources here and appreciates the competition.

“There are so many wonderfully talented and hardworking people here, which means there is much more competition and variety,” Lynn said. “Variety means more influence on my own music, which pushes me to expand my sound and take more risks, but also forces me to focus and have confidence in what I do.”

Connections explained

Parks suggested the two BYU campuses connect so well because they’re culturally similar when it comes to music. Each is passionate about supporting local bands and watching them progress. Sam Schultz, owner of the Sammy’s restaurant chain, identified other cultural links.

“Their religions bring them together,” Schultz said. “Bands form. People find themselves. Music is bred into this culture.”

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