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Surprise! Provo is home to a thriving music scene

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1 2013 5:00 p.m. MDT

Unlike most entertainment venues around the country, Fox doesn’t serve alcohol, which he believes has greatly influenced Velour’s success in a few different ways.

“Of course the alcohol revenue would be nice,” Fox said. But that would have detracted from his purpose in opening the venue.

“I hate when you’re in a noisy bar and the band is just background music. The goal is to have the music be the focus. We want the crowd to actually get something out of it.”

Not only has the refusal to serve alcohol created a music-focused atmosphere, but it also allows underage performers and audience members to come to shows.

“Many of these acts started off as teenagers," Fox said. "It’s rare to have a place where anyone under 21 can play.”

Like Russell, for example.

“There would have been no way to cultivate that want and need to perform,” said Russell, who started playing shows at Velour behind his brother when he was only 13.

“It’s also nice because you know that everyone at the shows is honestly going just to hear music. They’re not going out primarily to drink at bars and then maybe listen to whoever is playing.

“They’re sober all the time, so if they like your music, they’ll be able to go post it and share it. They exist clearheadedly.”

Religious culture

Perhaps a contributing factor to Velour staying afloat without alcohol is that Provo is “a heavily religious town,” Russell said.

The influence of faith on the Provo music scene is something no one involved can ignore.

Russell says that being in a place where most residents are of the LDS faith is "kind of hard sometimes" for a musician. He commented on how the local culture sometimes cultivates “one-upping" and pressure to be perfect.

On the other hand, Russell can’t help but wonder if perhaps the pressure that comes with holding oneself to such high standards is what also leads to good songwriting.

“Maybe it’s that angst of trying to be perfect that leaves people wanting to express stuff,” he said.

According to Fox, “Anytime you have a conservative community, there is a thriving subculture within that.”

Schultz believes the college community attracts musical talent.

“You look at all these bands, and they’re not originally from here," he said. "What I think happens is that kids from all over the world come to BYU and UVU and they’re all Mormon. They’re talented, form bands and create awesome stuff together. BYU and UVU are very entertainment-driven and they will come to shows, support events, which creates a buzz, and that helps artists be more secure.”

Whatever the reasons, “It’s an exciting time,” Fox said.

“I’m really interested to see what happens, and I don’t see it ending any time soon," he said. "Now, everyone is stepping up their game. It’s inspiring everybody to do more. I think one of the best things that can happen in the music scene is friendly competition, and that’s definitely what’s going on right now.”

“It’s a mecca of talent — it really is,” Schultz said.

The only thing left?

“Huge things are happening right now, and a majority of people still don’t know a lot of these bands started here,” Fox said. He explained that in the news, there is usually always a section featuring local athletes playing in the NFL, but rarely do you find news about local artists.

“Growing up, it was all about the BYU quarterback factory and all these people going to the NFL. The music scene is the equivalent of what was happening with BYU football in the '80s — except it’s not getting as much attention.”

Neon Trees’ “Animal” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Rock chart, and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” earned the band a Rolling Stone magazine Biggest Rock Hit of the Year in 2012. Both bands are featured on the “Iron Man 3” soundtrack. And that’s just a taste.

“So many things are happening with all these bands, and local exposure is definitely not where it needs to be," Fox said. "But it’s cool that it is changing."

And if it doesn’t, the rest of America will probably pick up the slack.

Email: ksullivan@deseretnews.com

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