Acoustic guitars and melodic voices echo through Velour Live Music Gallery during the gallery’s open mic night held every Wednesday. Local artists use the night as a springboard for their music careers.
Velour owner Corey Fox is a huge factor behind the night’s success.
“My motivation is definitely finding young talent, like at open mic night, and pushing them to do more with their talent than they would on their own,” Fox said.
Fox managed venues and bands for many years and continues to coach local artists to higher places.
In addition to open mic night, Velour hosts many concerts for bands and has become a well-known venue for bands to find a fan base and grow. Famous bands and artists that started out performing at Velour include Neon Trees, Imagine Dragons, The National Parks and Joshua James.
Derek Boss, a frequent open mic performer, has experienced Fox’s influence firsthand.
“Corey Fox encourages and mentors artists, bands (and) singers to achieve more than they ever would without his help,” Boss said. “Huge, mega-popular bands have started here, and for some musicians, playing here is the fulfillment of a real dream.”
He also recognized the impact Velour has had on the music scene.
“Provo would be very different without Velour. The world, on a smaller scale, would be different without Velour,” Boss said.
Fox lets singers and bands start off on weekdays at open mic night. Then they have the opportunity to work their way up to opening for other bands and eventually headlining weekend shows.
“I’m a big believer in making people work for what they get,” Fox said.
He said he allows anyone to have a chance at open mic night and then watches how the audience reacts and evaluates their talent.
Fox pointed to Brady Parks, lead singer of The National Parks, as an example of an artist who started at open mic night as a solo artist and continued to progress in the music world.
“Brady was a solo guy and he was good, but he was like your average open mic artist. There’s so many talented people, and then to watch someone like him, grow, start adding band members, forming bands and now they tour the country selling out venues,” Fox said. “I love watching that.”
The National Parks consists of Brady Parks and his wife and violinist Megan Parks, drummer Cam Brannelly, and pianist and vocalist Sydney Macfarlane.
“Velour has been a huge part of the band. That’s where it all began,” Megan Parks said. “It’s where we really started to create a fan base. Our first sold-out shows were at Velour!”
The Wednesday open mic night usually has a line of performers outside the door waiting to enter and be put on the performing list.
This past Wednesday, Oct. 23, 18 artists had eight minutes on stage during open mic night. Most artists played a cover and then an original song.
Dylan Manzanares, a performer and BYU psychology major from Sandy, Utah, was one of the performers. He spent his summer in Washington working and playing music, but said Velour still holds a special place for him.
“I prefer Velour, I really like the vibe here, everyone is here to listen and (is) respectful,” Manzanares said.
Velour provides good vibes and a good audience, but artists like Manzanares are still sometimes nervous to play their music and see the reactions.
“It’s hard releasing something I’ve worked so hard on because I’m worried if people will like it or if it will be well received,” Manzanares said.
On Wednesday the venue was packed with people supporting their friends and enjoying the open night music. Different performers enlisted the audience’s help to sing their songs.
“Velour was vibing. I love how I got to visit a culture where musicians that are so diverse get to come together and support each other,” Oromia Eshete, a BYU psychology student, said.
Fox said his goal for Velour is to make it a cozy venue for people to come have a musical experience.
“Velour is such a welcoming space everyone feels comfortable in. It’s cozy and creates intimate shows that are magic. We always know that when we play at Velour it’s going to be a special night,” Megan Parks said.
When Velour opened in January 2006, Fox wanted to come up with a name that represented the vibe of the place.
“Velvet is a great representation but overused. I stumbled on the name Velour and it stuck and it’s a great representation of the vibe,” Fox said.
One way Fox helps create the cozy atmosphere is by decorating Velour with vintage items.
“I love vintage things because I feel like they have a soul,” Fox said. “They’ve already lived a life, and if you put vintage things in a building, it instantly gives it character and soul.”
Fox said his favorite antique is a buffalo head on the wall above the desk, which is named Mighty Joe Moon. This was inspired by a ’90s band Fox grew up loving called Grant Lee Buffalo and one of their albums, Mighty Joe Moon.
Fox added that he likes to see the crowd get into the music and have a good experience.
“A lot of times during a big show I’ll go around and watch from behind the band toward the crowd, because I love seeing peoples’ faces and how they are experiencing the music,” Fox said.