By: Kevin Rolfe
The first time I heard about The Lower Lights was right after one of their run of Christmas shows here in Salt Lake City. By the reaction of the people I was talking to, I could tell I had totally missed out on something special.
By: Kevin Rolfe
The first time I heard about The Lower Lights was right after one of their run of Christmas shows here in Salt Lake City. By the reaction of the people I was talking to, I could tell I had totally missed out on something special.
New Shack is headlining Les Femmes De Velour second night (Feb 23). I was able to speak with lead vocalist Cat Leavy. Here is our conversation.
Utah Concert Review: I’m always interested in how things got started. How did you decide you wanted to do music, and how did you New Shack form?
Cat Leavy: Eric and I have similar backstories in that we weren’t originally pursuing music full time as careers. But it’s something that we’ve always done our whole lives. I was raised as a classical musician doing a lot of competitions and I always thought I was going to study music and become a classical performer but that changed. It was a really intense way to grow up. It’s something I still love. I practice the piano every day and I have a very deep love for classical music. But as a teenager, it became a very negative thing for me. I trend towards being obsessive and neurotic so it was a really negative environment for that. Just like the competition aspect. So yeah, I decided to stop doing classical music that way and I actually didn’t really think I’d ever come back to music but I did. And in my early twenties, I decided that I was going to use music as therapy, to write out my feelings. And at the same time, this was before I knew Eric, he lost his job and decided to do music full time. We met through mutual friends and began collaborating virtually because I was living in Germany. We just started emailing tracks between us. So Eric would come up with a cool beat, he would send it to me, then I would write a song to it, record some vocals then send it back to him. And then we would mix it and turn it into a finished product. What’s interesting is even now I live in L.A. and Eric lives in Utah and we still make all of our music virtually. With that said, I think that our live shows have a lot of different exciting qualities about it. Because when we get together and make a live version, it adds a whole different dimension to the music that is already there because we have to spend time figuring out how to really make it come together in a group setting because we don’t create it that way. So we have to put extra effort and strategy into figuring out how to make it translate live. I would describe our live show as our music but elevated. It has so much more excitement and presence. It’s been really fun to do that.
UCR: So how did you get involved with Les Femmes?
CL: Well Velour is our hometown venue. I’m from Provo. So I spent many high school nights at Velour. We perform most of our shows there so it’s really exciting to be able to headline Friday night. We’re basically friends with everyone we’re playing with. It’s a really positive cozy experience. It’s the atmosphere. It’s not too big, it’s perfect. We Love it.
UCR: So what can those attending Les Femmes this weekend expect. Not only for your performance but throughout the weekend?
CL: I think that they can expect a very wide range of musical styles. I look at the artists performing and it’s quite diverse in musical style. That said, I also think it’s important to bring up that this is just a very small group of women artists and specifically femme artists. I think that there are so many underrepresented artists in Utah that won’t be playing this show. You know this is just a three-day series. While I definitely think it’s important to support this show, I think it’s also really important to keep in mind that there is a diverse music scene with young queer, female, like, a lot of underrepresented artists that are out there. There’s a music scene for that and it should be supported. I think that we can use this weekend as a reminder that this is a tiny little peek into people participating in that scene. But the biggest takeaway is that there are a lot of different musical styles represented. Which I think is so cool!
UCR: Why do you think Provo thrives as a local music scene?
CL: You know, I think there are a few reasons, but I think one is very much the presence of Velour. You know, a cool venue, and Corey who’s doing a lot to support local music and connect local bands with opportunities and exposure. I think that he and also Kaneischa foster that music scene. But also, I think if you go to a small town where there isn’t really a nightlife and there’s also a bunch of high school and university students and it’s just something really fun to do. There aren’t any nightclubs or bars, and a lot of people don’t drink. So the music scene is where it’s at. It’s what you look forward to doing on the weekend. When I was in high school that was what we did. It almost didn’t even matter who was playing at Velour, it was where to go. It was where you meet people, hang out with your friends, it’s exciting, it can be loud, it can feel like a party. So I think between the fact that there is this really cool venue and there are a lot of young people looking for thing to do, I think it encourages people who are prone to creating and writing music, I think it gives them a space to do that. So I think it between all those factors it snowballs into something really cool.
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?
CL: I remember when I was 14 I went to a smoothie cafe that was really cool for teenagers at the time. At night they would let local bands play and I remember going to see this local screamo band with these cool 16 year old boys. I remember feeling really cool. I have no idea who that band was, but I was definitely a really young teen. But the first real concert I remember was, I think I was 15 or 16 and it was Death Cab. And I was obsessed with Death Cab when I was a teenager when I started to feel feelings and realize there was more than pop music. And it was just a little more alternative than Jimmy Eat World. I just remember listening to that music in a dark room being like “Oh, so many emotions!”
UCR: Do you remember the first time you performed live? What was that experience like?
CL: Oh my gosh. So the very first show I ever played was at Velour with New Shack. AndI had never performed a show in my life ever. I had maybe sung in a microphone twice. I was writing and kind of recording songs, but I wasn’t ever viewing myself as a vocalist. The very first show I played I was headlining at Velour, the crowd was huge and I actually was so nervous that I can’t even remember it. I like, blacked out! I don’t even remember performing the show. It was so awful, I think my voice was just so shaky. Someone had taken some cellphone footage of it, so the next day I watched it and it was so traumatic! Hearing my voice so shaky and so off, I couldn’t hear myself because I sing so quietly, and it was just traumatic. Eric just laughs it off, he is just able to look at things objectively. And objectively people had a great time, but I remember the next day he could not get out of bed the next day. I would be like “Well, that was my debut! All these people came to see me and I just really flopped.” It was rough. But it’s also motivated me practice really hard and invest in my voice as an instrument. I definitely identify myself as a vocalist. I’m comfortable singing a wide variety of things and I’m comfortable on stage. So yeah, I’ve come a long way from that first show.
UCR: What would you say has been your best experience as a performer.
CL: I’m not sure if this is my best performance, but my best experience would be last summer, New Shack got to open for Glass Animals at the Complex. The crowd was huge! Three Thousand people I think! I really like to dance when I perform. Every time I pulled a dance move the whole crowd just freaked out! So I was like wait, hold on a second you like that? You want me to keep doing that? It was incredibly validating, incredibly fun, and just exciting to play with a big successful band! So yeah that’s probably been my favorite experience.
I want to thank Cat for chatting with me. I really enjoyed it. Be sure to catch New Shack’s headlining performance this Friday night (Feb 23) at Velour!
Get New Shack’s single Cherry! Just released today! Available everywhere. You can take a look at the video below.
Cat has a solo project called Madge with an excellent single titled “Fight or Fight Club” available everywhere.
Eric has a music subscription service called Pleasant Pictures Music Club. There is a wide variety of music that you can license.
Sister Adolescent will be performing at this weekend’s Les Femmes de Velour on Friday night. I had the opportunity to speak with Trevor Free, the brother of the brother sister duo. Here’s our conversation.
Utah Concert Review: How did you get into music and then form a band with your sister?
Trevor Free: So this particular band Sister Adolescent started almost three years ago. It was just me and my sister. It was just an acoustic type thing, but I started to realize that, just how the songs were, it just didn’t feel right. That style didn’t fit my vision with the songs. So we changed things up and added guitars, keyboards, and beats. Then it turned into what it is today. So originally it was just my sister and me making the music and performing. Like, we did a show where it was her singing and just me on my laptop. Which doesn’t make for a great live show we found out. So we added our drummer Seth Ringger, who we literally just met by happenstance. We posted on Facebook that we needed a drummer and a friend referred him to us. So I sent him a message and he came to my house and he didn’t know any of us. So I was just like ‘Hey if you hate this you can go.’ But he was actually like, “No I actually think this is ok.” So he stuck around and he’s in our band now. For a while, it was just a three piece but we all realized that we needed more for it to feel, and look, and sound like what we wanted to sound like. Because we had a lot coming through backtracks and it just wasn’t a compelling live experience. So we added Dave Reynolds who was playing bass with us for a while. He’s currently away studying abroad in Greece. This last year we added Matt on the Bass, Dave switched to guitar and when he left we brought Ethan on. So a lot of musical chairs so to speak with our band members.
UCR: How did you get involved with Les Femmes De Velour?
TF: I’ve known Corey Fox (Owner of Velour) for a while now. I grew up in this area, so even in high school, I was in bands that were playing Velour. So recently we played there at the “Battle of the Bands”. And we won our night and ended up playing in the finals. I think the judges were kind of impressed with our set, and I think Corey liked it too. So we had pretty good feedback and we were talking to Corey about playing other shows. We’re actually going to play a release show for our album that comes out next month. So he just reached out to me and asked if we wanted to play the event. I’ve always followed Les Femmes over the years and have felt that it was an amazing an important event, so when he reached out I was obviously excited.
UCR: See that’s the thing I love about Velour. Not only is it one of my favorite venues to see a show, but it’s in a place where people who grew up here, like you, can see shows, then be in shows, then win your night at “Battle of the Bands”, then be asked to be part of this event. It seems like a great place to receive a musical education in that way.
TF: Yeah! As far as winning that night, yeah we actually won! I never thought anything like that would actually happen. It’s been really cool growing up in this area. Really admiring the people that are playing in these shows, and then getting to actually play in them, it’s kind of a dream come true really. And the support Velour provides local artists, to how great Corey and Kaneischa are, it’s just really encouraging to grow up in a place like Utah, to have a place where you can go and connect, and be in shows that have been curated, where you can play with other like-minded artists and grow as a collective community. Velour is a great place!
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?
TF: So my cousin. Well, I don’t know if he’s directly my cousin, but he’s in No Doubt, so when I was 6 or 7 my parents took me to see No Doubt. I just remember thinking it was the coolest thing. And also, just bragging to my friends that I got to go to some concert, and the fact that I got to stay up past my bedtime. That was pretty cool.
UCR: Now do you remember your first time performing live?
TF: Yeah, I think so. It was this one show. I don’t know if you could really call them shows. But we got to play in the commons area of the school. It was kinda cool because the commons area had all these step platforms. So all of us were standing on different steps and playing like we were The Beatles or something. So yeah that was the first time I played live. I’m sure it was terrible. But it was fun.
UCR: I have to say though, that’s pretty innovative for first time performers to decide to be on different steps like that.
TF: Oh yeah, so, we weren’t any good I don’t think, but we had choreographed guitar moves. Yeah, it was pretty good. We were all in the performance. Not in the actual music. But we were very interesting performers for sure.
UCR: Do you have a concert that you performed in that you would say was your very best?
TF: I don’t have a particular experience. But I will say that there is something amazing about, especially at Velour, about playing at these live shows. There are a ton of people there, and because they’re curated, there are artists there that are similar to you, and playing a song that you’ve written and produced, and hearing people be receptive to that and actually really like it, and being into it, that’s really cool. I think the moment where you get people to like your music and it’s not just your mom telling you, you know, sweet lies, and identifying with it, is just really nice and what I think it’s all about. You hope to make art that people want to be connected to and to say something to that person. Seeing that translate from the initial thought to performing in a live setting and hearing people be receptive to it is kind of a magical thing.
See Sister Adolescent tonight (February 23) at Velour in Provo. And be sure to be at Velour for their album release on March 17th!
Mia Grace is a up and coming musician from Utah. She will be headlining night one of Les Femmes De Velour, a three-night event that will showcase some of Utah’s finest female musicians. Here is the interview we had leading up to the show.
Utah Concert Review: What is your background in music and how did you decide you wanted to perform?
Mia Grace: Music is something that has changed my life in so many ways. Since I can remember I have been writing songs. Writing songs is relaxing to me. I don’t get distracted easily with music and instead it gives me energy and I’m so passionate about it. It is something that is refreshing and stimulating and when I have finished a song or am working on it I feel like I face other things in my life feeling inspired. It also has given me so much power in my life when I felt like I had none. I am a very quiet person and incredibly shy but when I sing I feel like I have a voice. It has given me the power to heal and cope.
UCR: Do you remember the first time you performed live?
MG: Oooooh, I try not to. Just kidding. I was maybe 13 and I cried. Not a good cry. Like a nervous, I am so scared cry. So If you come tonight you will see that I have come a long way.
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
MG: The first concert I went to was The Allman Brothers Band. I was six and couldn’t see over anyone in front of me and was covered in spilled beer by the end of the night. Even so, it was a great concert and I still love that band today.
UCR: So how did you get involved with Les Femmes?
MG: I have been to every Les Femmes weekend the past eight years as a fan of course because there are so many talented female musicians around here. I think I have performed at all apart from maybe two or three years as a solo act. Corey and Kaneischa (Cory Fox and Kaneischa Johnson owner and booker of Velour) have always been really supportive and encouraging and it’s actually Les Femmes that kind of pushed me to finally start a band. They told me I could headline last year if I got a full band and so I did and I feel like the luckiest person ever to kinda have had that push because the evolution from last year until now is black and white. Les Femmes De Velour provided that platform for me to get that started.
UCR: What do you think those attending Les Femmes should expect?
MG: Each night is well curated by Corey Fox. If you are going to hear one performer you are likely to leave a fan of someone you just heard there for the first time. All of the ladies performing this weekend and the men who support them are really talented and great songwriters so I would expect to be moved in some way.
UCR: In your opinion, what is the message a show like Les Femmes is trying to convey?
MG: With music, you are conveying messages. Sometimes it can invoke feelings of happiness, sorrow, patriotism, inspiration, loneliness, and camaraderie. All of these emotions bring about change because music is inspiring and empowering. Right now the culture is shifting. If women are given more opportunities in any field or industry it could only help them feel empowered and I think with female songwriters and musicians to see them perform and hear their perspective I don’t know about everyone else but that inspires me and makes me feel like I can be and do more.
UCR: What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?
MG: Black Keys in Mesa. for their “Brothers” tour. My neck was so sore for about a week from the headbanging! HAHA!
UCR: What was your best concert experience as a performer?
MG: All my favorite memories of performing are because of my band. I played as a solo act for a decade before last year when I started a band. My band includes Scott Wiley, Marcus Bently, Nate Pyfer, and Aaron Anderson. The confidence I have gained from playing with those guys is black and white from last year until now. They don’t want me to fail and even more than that they are supporting me and are my friends. I am so lucky to have them. When we first played together I think I clapped after every song was finished because I wanted to celebrate them after every song. They are so funny and are always making it fun and making me laugh.
Mia Grace headlines night 1 of Les Femmes De Velour on February 22. Doors open at 8, with music starting at 8:30. Tickets available at the door for $8 or at 24tix.com
Mia’s music can be found on both Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music.
Last night I had the extraordinary experience of seeing The Lower Lights opening night of their 7th annual Christmas Concerts. There are so many things I want to say about this Americana orchestra! However, because it was opening night, and they still have five shows remaining, I want to refrain from spoiling anything for those who will be attending future dates. So without specifics on the set list or particular highlights of the show, let me tell you just how great this show was, and if you don’t have a ticket yet, why you should get one.
So let me first say that this show begins at 7PM. Apparently, a lot of the audience thought the show began at 7:10, or 7:15, or even 7:20! Come on people! This band works hard. On all the songs! So it’s not ok to miss the first 5 songs. I understand that things happen and sometimes we’re just late to stuff. But there was an alarming amount of people coming in late. There is so much more I could say about this, but the concert was so good, that I’d rather focus on that.
Kingsbury Hall is a beautiful venue. If you haven’t been to a show there, I recommend it. It’s the perfect venue for this kind of concert too. The stage is large, yet the venue is intimate enough to where every you have a good view from any seat. The only negative can be that parking is kind of a struggle. What I would suggest is give up trying to park on the street, or anywhere right next to the venue itself. Just drive south to the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot, and walk over. It’s about a 5-minute walk, ten tops, and there is plenty of room. Trust me it’s worth it. For some shows, they even offer a free shuttle to Kingsbury Hall.
Monday night concerts are always a little tricky. The weekend is over, and the crowd tends to be a little more reserved. Such was the case last night. I was in a good place in the audience to where I could see a lot of faces. Despite the less vocal, or physically enthusiastic nature of this audience, their faces did show me that they were loving every minute of this concert.
As I understand it, The Lower Lights have had up to 30 or more members performing with them. There are 21 talented artists in this lineup, and I was expecting the show to begin with all of them walking on stage for a big first number. But one lone man, with an acoustic guitar, walked on stage into a solo spotlight and sang us a song to start things off. And that’s the beauty of concerts. To be pleasantly surprised at any moment. Now as I mentioned, there are 21 people in this band, so I apologize now for not mentioning all of their names. Just know that every one of them is talented, and makes their own positive mark on this show.
Following the opening song, the rest of the band did take the stage and blazed through a number of Christmas favorites. While I’m not sharing the setlist in this review, I do want to say to those wondering if they’ll hear Christmas songs they like or know, that the answer is a resounding YES! You will not come away with this concert feeling like you missed out on hearing a Christmas song you liked.
The band entered and exited the stage with such fluidity. I have been to many shows, with much smaller lineups that take forever to switch instruments, bring people on and off stage, and it really takes away from the show. The Lower Lights seem to have perfected this art.
The show began with one man and ended with the entire band, but throughout the night, the band shifted into ensembles of varying sizes. I was impressed with the diverse talents that are within The Lower Lights. They have an Americana or folk-country sound, and there were times where I felt like I was at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. There were other times that I felt like I was simply in someone’s back yard listening to some friends play music. And some of my favorite moments were when I felt like I was at a tent revival meeting in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I think it takes real talent to be so grand, yet bring such intimacy to an audience.
I really enjoyed the way they interacted with each other as well as those in attendance. There is no front person in this band so different members would take turns addressing the audience. It was fun to see the range in personalities when songs were presented. Some of them presented a song with humor, some with sweetness, some with emotion, and some with a soft yet serious tone. It’s obvious how much these band members care about each other. It would seem that there is no ego within the band. That they are there to play this cherished music and fill the hall with the Christmas spirit. Which they did flawlessly.
Ok, I lied. I have to tell you about one song. But just one, I promise! Along with being pleasantly surprised at concerts, I also love when a band plays a song that I’m really hoping they’ll play. With all the Christmas songs that exist, I did my best to prevent myself from getting my hopes up. Because you can’t play them all. But with this style of music and this particular song, it just made sense that they’d play it. And they did. One member of the band invited the audience to sing along. They then played one of my all time favorite Christmas songs “Go Tell it on the Mountain”. I was smiling from ear to ear. My apologies to the older gentleman sitting next to me, because I was belting out that chorus as if I was on stage. Their rendition of this song exceeded every expectation I had. And, it wasn’t even the best song of the night! So if that song was that amazing, just think about how great the rest of this concert is.
The last thing I want to mention is what we think of when we hear the term “Local Artist”. Many times, and I’m guilty of this too, we hear that and think that they’re not as good as the artists on the radio, or with a major record deal. How wrong we are. The Lower Lights are a band made up of “Local Artists”. I believe each member of the band, while not all of them are currently in Utah, do have Utah roots. And yet, if they played at the Ryman in Nashville, or if they played at a tent revival in Virginia, honestly if they played the Hollywood Bowl or Madison Square Garden, no one would think twice. They would simply know that they are listening to a band with an exceedingly high level of talent that puts on a fantastic show. So, be sure to pay more attention to “local artists”. I know I will.
Go see this show! There are still tickets remaining, but let me assure you, they will be snatched up. Some of them by me, because I’m going back at the end of the week. Yes, it was that good. If you need uplifting or help in getting into the Christmas spirit, then, by all means, get to this concert.
For more information, and to purchase music albums and tickets to the show go to…
This week I caught up with local solo artist, Debra Fotheringham. Along with her solo work, she sings with the Blue Heart Revue and The Lower Lights.
Beginning December 5, the highly acclaimed The Lower Lights Christmas returns for the seventh year, with a six-show residency at Kingsbury Hall. I really enjoyed speaking with Debra.
Utah Concert Review: How did you get into Music?
Debra Fotheringham: I got into music when I was around 14. I had always loved music from a young age watching live shows, that it was something that I knew I wanted to do. My dad was a musician at one point so I grew up listening to a lot of music. So it was part genetic, and part I just gravitated towards it at a young age.
UCR: How did The Lower Lights come together?
DF: The central figure in the whole thing is Scott Wiley. He owns June Audio recording studios. And most of us know him from different projects and records he’s worked on. He was the central figure that called people and had people come in. He and a few others had the idea to do a Hymns record with some of their friends. And so they finally made it happen and Scott invited me to come and be a part of it, and then it
morphed into The Lower Lights. It was supposed to just be an album we were recording, but then we started playing live shows and it turned into a thing.
UCR: So was it a love of the holidays or holiday music that started these concerts? Because it seems like this has become the real focal point of the band. Am I off on saying that, or does this seem to be the case?
DF: No, I’d say that’s a fair assessment. I can’t remember exactly how it started, but I think we were releasing an album around Christmas time and we just decided to make it a Christmas show. I can’t remember if that’s how it started but at some point, we decided we should do a Christmas show because we had people asking us if we were going to do one. We had a surprising turnout at the first one, so we just started doing it every year because it was so enjoyable.
Another reason it became a thing with the band is due to the fact that there are so many people in the band that it can kind of be a logistical puzzle to get us all together and so when we have a set show like this, we’ll all be able to show up for it. And the Christmas shows just happened to be what it turned into.
UCR: Did I hear that there were thirty or so members of this band?!
DF: (Laughs) Yeah! It changes depending on who shows up for each show. It’s a pretty flexible lineup.
UCR: So what is your role within this enormous band?
DF: Within the band, I’m mostly just a singer. I have arranged a couple tunes that we’ve done but mostly it’s fun for me to just show up and sing, which is pressure off from doing my own stuff where I have to promote it all myself and write everything. So it’s relaxing and fun to be part of a project where I just show up and sing and make music with friends.
UCR: So, what might people who have never see this show before, be in store for?
DF: Well, (laughing) there will be a lot of people on stage. It’s a “get on your feet and clap” kind of thing. There are parts of the show that are more rockin’ and parts of the show that are more contemplative. We try to have something in it for everyone. We make it non-denominational so everyone will feel welcome. We just try to have a good time and celebrate the season.
UCR: This might be a difficult question, but, what is your favorite part of doing these concerts?
DF: That is a hard question. I think my favorite part is just being on stage with these people that I’m friends with who I love so much. Getting to make music with them and sharing it with people that I’ve never met who are touched by it. I’ve had some of the coolest experiences and heard some of the coolest experiences from people that share how they’ve been touched by the music. That’s really made it special. So that’s probably my favorite part, just the connection I get to make because of these shows.
UCR: Being a local artist, what is your favorite venue to play here in Utah?
DF: That’s a difficult question. I really liked playing the State Room. I think my favorite venues are house concerts, to be honest. Just playing at people’s houses for maybe fifty people. I like it because they are there specifically to listen to you so it’s a special experience. They’re not there to socialize but to listen to music. Venues like that where that is the emphasis are my favorite. Kingsbury Hall is like that. People are there to come listen to music rather than socialize. Of course, there is a place for that, but for me specifically, those are the venues are my favorite for me to play.
UCR: What has been your favorite concert that you’ve attended?
DF: I just went to Americana Fest in Nashville. I went to so many good concerts there that the whole experience was my favorite. It was all day long, good show after good show. It was sort of mind blowing.
UCR: Yeah I bet that was amazing. Well, on a personal note, I’ve been wanting to see The Lower Lights Christmas shows for years and for one reason or another not been able to attend. So I am very much looking forward to it this year.
DF: Awesome. I’m glad you can go. Hopefully, it’s a good time.
Debra is currently writing her next solo album that he anticipates being released sometime next year. You can find her previous solo work here www.debrafotheringham.com
You can also hear Debra with the band The Blue Heart Revue. They recently released an album that Debra described as “Americana Covers”. (Personal Note: Since this interview I have purchased this album, and have been listening to it on repeat. I highly recommend it.) To learn more about The Blue Heart Revue or to buy their album, click here.
The 7th Annual Lower Lights Christmas concerts begin December 5th, with shows on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and two shows on Saturday. Tickets are going fast and these shows are known to sell out, so be sure to get yours soon. Click here for tickets.
Utah Concert Review will be attending the opening show on December 5th. Look for our review of the show the following day.
To have the opportunity to see a band that has become an international success, come back and perform in their hometown is a unique and special experience. There are some bands that don’t even claim to be where their actually from if it doesn’t seem cool enough. Some band are from such a big place like New York or Los Angeles, that a hometown show might not have the same feeling unless it’s someone like Bruce Springsteen in Jersey, or U2 in Dublin. But on a smaller scale, yet still applicable, I was able to see Neon Trees return to Utah County to do a homecoming show at the inaugural 5 Star Legacy Foundation Summer Bash at Utah Valley University’s Brent Brown Baseball Stadium. Neon Trees is a band I have really enjoyed over the years, and have always wanted to see live. They put the perfect mix of classic New Wave, with a modern touch. This is music made for my ears.
When this new summer festival was announced I was really excited to attend, and looked forward to seeing all the bands. Unfortunately there were circumstances that made it so I was only able to make it in time for Neon Trees. So my apologies to the other bands. I’m sure you were great, and I hope I get to see your shows soon.
Now, in case you missed it, yes, this concert took place in college baseball stadium. When I first walked in, I had some concerns about the setup. The stage was located in center field, the infield was blocked off of to prevent any damage, and there seemed to be a variety of things going on in different parts of the ballpark that gave off more of a county fair vibe than a concert festival. Food trucks in left field, blankets sprawled out behind second base, families sitting in the stands behind home plate eating hot dogs, booths for who knows what in right field, I was concerned that this wouldn’t quite have the concert feel I had hoped for. But, as I moved past the blankets, the tents, the soundboard and into the crowd, it was easy to forget I was in a baseball stadium, and it all seemed just like any outdoor concert I’ve been to.
Just about the entire outfield was full of people, and from the get go, they were high energy. Neon Trees opened with what I believe is their new single “Songs I Can’t Listen To”. They had the fans from there. Lead singer Tyler Glenn mentioned a number of times that they were excited to be back playing to their hometown crowd, and stating one time that “we have never claimed to be from anywhere but Provo, Utah!”, much to the delight of the crowd.
I thought Tyler Glenn sounded amazing live. He has a unique voice and while there may have been some signs of wear and tear on his voice from the road, he covered it all perfectly. There were times where I was anticipating a big note, and thinking to myself, ‘how is he going to hit this?’, and sure enough, he nailed it. Very impressive. I thought he did a great job of sharing personal yet universal messages with the crowd. He gave an inspiring speech about various times of his life when people told him he couldn’t be a certain way, from a Mormon missionary, to being too flamboyant on stage, to still holding on to his beliefs while being openly gay. This led to an inspired version of their song “First Things First”. The crowd seemed to turn into gospel choir at times, and left the crowd feeling uplifted.
While Chris Allen, and Branden Campbell are excellent at lead guitar and bass respectively, I found it difficult to take my focus away from Elaine Bradley on drums. She is an exceptional drummer in my opinion, and I wasn’t aware that she had such a good singing voice! When Elaine and Tyler would harmonize, it was magic. This is probably old news to those who have seen Neon Trees before, but this being my first time, it was a pleasant bonus to the show. I was really impressed.
I imagine for time constraints, they decided to forgo the traditional stage walk off after “Sleeping With a Friend”, and performed their encore straight away starting with an incredible cover version of the classic “80’s” hit “Come on Eileen”! They had the crowd in a frenzie! It was really a fun moment in the show.
If I was to complain about anything it would be two things that have nothing to do with the band. First, while Neon Trees were performing, the crew was taking down a side stage that I imagine was used for going back and forth between opening bands to save time switching one band to another. I get wanting to get going on take down so you’re not there all night, but this stage was right next to the main stage, and some of the equipment being taken down was loud and totally distracting. I hope this was just a rookie move considering it was the first Summer Bash, but it’s just something you don’t do. You have a fantastic headlining band, doing a homecoming show, you gotta make sure all eyes are on them. I could see the crowd looking over, annoyed that they had to battle hearing the band they came to see, and a bunch of clanking metal.
Second, at the end of the show, when Neon Trees was performing their final song “Everybody Talks”, fireworks begin to go off. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with fireworks going off when a band is performing. It happens a lot at outdoor shows, and it brings an added excitement to the finale. But, generally the fireworks go off above or behind the stage. These fireworks were going off over by third base. Remember, the main stage was in center field of the baseball stadium. So right when the band was reaching their ultimate crescendo, at least half the audience looks to their left to start watching fireworks going off. This could have been a really cool moment, but instead, I found it to be really unfair to the band to have to battle with what ended up being another distraction. But to give credit to Neon Trees, they didn’t seem affected by it, and perhaps took the challenge head on, because they raised their energy level even more, and won back the crowd.
I’m glad I finally got to see Neon Trees live. As previously mentioned, I’ve wanted to see them for a while, and I just missed seeing them open for The Killers back in 2008. I figured I’d be seeing them soon, but I ended up waiting seven years. Well they were worth it, and I hope to see them again soon. This is a band with actual talent, and I hope we get to see what else they do because I believe the best is yet to come.
Songs I Can’t Listen To
Sins of My Youth
Calling My Name
In the Next Room
Moving in the Dark
Love In the 21st Century
Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night)
First Things First
Sleeping With a Friend
Come On Eileen