The first thing someone sees when they walk through the doors of The Boardwalk is the wall. Names and messages written in various colors cover the white paint. Past the wall and down the stairs is a small stage featuring a single wooden stool and a guitar.
Strategically placed tables dot the small audience space, allowing for people to see the stage while maintaining a healthy six feet between each other. The Boardwalk is home to one of Utah County’s many thriving music scenes.
BYU junior Bee Golding is a local band manager and co-director of the Buzzards & Bees music festival. She said Provo has been described as the new Nashville, the place artists go before they get big.
One major asset to the Provo and Orem music scene is the abundance of local concert venues.
The Boardwalk is a newer live music venue located in Orem and features local musicians almost every night of the week with the occasional open mic nights. The Boardwalk opened in March 2020 right before many of the COVID-19 restrictions went into effect.
“They had just opened before COVID, but were one of very few venues to not shut down during the pandemic. By remaining open, they quickly became a known venue in the area too,” said Danny Iacopucci, BYU senior and member of the local band 19 Miles Per Hour.
The Velour Live Music Gallery, located just down the street from BYU campus on University Avenue, has acted as the springboard for countless local artists.
Local band Muninn is composed of current and former BYU students. They won The Velour Battle of the Bands in 2019, following in the footsteps of big-name predecessors like Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees.
“You can’t talk about the music scene in Utah, Provo especially, without bringing up the Velour,” Golding said.
The Velour, however, was closed for a year because of COVID-19 concerns and just recently reopened in July. The Velour has live performances nearly every night Tuesday through Saturday, with a recurring open mic night every Wednesday.
Lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, sponsored a benefit concert via YouTube in August 2020, raising money to help the Velour survive during its temporary closure. The benefit concert, referred to as “Free the Fox,” raised enough money for the Velour to stay operational and continue being an integral cog in the Provo music scene.
BYU freshman Caroline Dale, or Care, as she is known onstage, is new to the Provo music scene and has been making a name for herself at local venues like the Velour.
Dale said getting involved with music locally gives new artists the best chance at making connections, meeting people and gaining experience.
“I come from Atlanta where everybody in the music business is way big and famous, so it’s been super awesome to meet up-and-coming artists like myself,” Dale said. “Seriously, the people in Provo are incredible! It’s a music scene that you don’t want to miss out on.”
Located inside BYU’s very own Wilkinson Student Center is The Wall, a venue that hosts many local artists, regular concerts and a semi-annual battle of the bands. The Wall also closed last year in response to the pandemic and does not have a date set for its re-opening.
“The Wall has been one of our favorite venues ever since winning the 2019 Battle of the Bands to kickoff our entrance into Utah,” Iacopucci said. “I’m not sure how things will look when they re-open, but I know people are anxiously awaiting it.”
BYU sophomore and musician Finn Morrison said he encourages people to follow music venues on social media and to keep their eyes open for posters and flyers around town advertising live performances.
“I think there’s been a little bit of a cultural return to live, local music. It’s a very unique atmosphere that attracts a lot of different people,” Morrison said. “If you haven’t had the chance to see any local bands you should definitely get out there soon!”
With cheap tickets, fun venues and talented artists, concerts in Provo have seats waiting for novices and longtime music aficionados alike. This October, Provo will also be welcoming the Buzzards & Bees music festival. According to Golding, this Halloween-themed music festival will feature more than 80 different local groups across 10 different music venues.