MURRIETA, Calif. — Neon Trees, the popular band many in Utah consider their own, returned to Murrieta, Calif., home of frontman Tyler Glenn and guitarist Chris Allen, to perform a benefit concert at Vista Murrieta High School's football stadium on June 8.
Glenn and Allen started playing music together 11 years ago in Murrieta, but it was difficult to find places to perform. The duo would end up playing in places like coffee shops, with just an acoustic guitar and a keyboard.
“Murrieta isn’t known for music,” Allen said. "We never really had anywhere to perform in the area."
That changed when the two moved to Provo, eventually adding drummer Elaine Bradley and bassist Branden Campbell to complete the lineup. It was there that Neon Trees started to establish a following.
“It feels really good to have graduated from practicing in our garages and having the cops show up to shut us down for playing too loudly," Allen said. "It is amazing to have the freedom to pursue what we love to do. We finally moved into a rehearsal space this year that is big enough to install a full studio. Doors are really beginning to open for us and we understand the importance of that."
The band has played shows all over the world, having toured with the likes of The Killers, 30 Seconds to Mars, Duran Duran and Maroon 5. Neon Trees recently announced that it will also be joining Taylor Swift on the Australia and New Zealand leg of her Red tour this December.
But they haven't forgotten Murrieta.
"It's pretty fun that we finally get to play a big show in our hometown," Allen said. "It feels like we've really accomplished something for there to be two states fighting over where we originate. We've always claimed Murrieta and Provo as our own."
Glenn attributes part of the band's success to his and Allen's friendship and vision, both of which were forged back home.
"We've shared this singular Neon Trees dream for over a decade," Glenn said in an email response. "It's a very wonderful thing to watch the payoff and feel the successes together."
Murrietta residents are proud of these successes, as well.
Kimberly Peeler, of Murrieta, has known both Allen and Glenn for 17 years.
“It has been so much fun," she said. "We started out going to shows with less than a hundred people. And look at them now."
Peeler recalls watching the band perform for a small crowd a few years ago for a New Year's Eve party in Salt Lake City.
"This past New Year's Eve, they played Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve, live in Times Square. It has just been so much fun watching their dreams come true," Peeler said.
The idea for a benefit concert began when former Vista Murrieta High School principal Darren Daniel asked Allen’s brother Jordan, an alumnus, to see if Neon Trees would consider doing a much-needed fundraiser. The two largest extracurricular programs in the school were in need of funding due to the school's reduced budget.
Allen said his father was a huge force in making the concert happen. Neon Trees began to establish a faithful following that began in Murrieta, and many in the community continue to maintain personal relationships with Glenn and Allen.
“The band moved back to Murrieta for about six months in 2007 to focus on writing," Allen said. It was there that the band wrote half of its album "Habits" in Allen's old bedroom at his parents' house.
While Neon Trees would never call itself a Mormon band, all are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served full-time missions for the LDS Church.
That shared history has helped the band remain grounded in what can be a crazy industry.
“Everyone in the band was either raised Mormon or converted," Allen said. "Since we all have that common background, it was easy to decide that drugs and alcohol wouldn't be a part of Neon Trees' routine.
"Being as busy as we are, if substance abuse became part of the picture, it would be impossible to keep up the work ethic we've established. And we like setting a good example as well.”
"I consider myself extremely blessed to have been brought up the way I was, considering the type of person I am," Glenn said via email. "I guess I'm a questioner, and have a rebel spirit in my blood — but I also have a fantastic set of parents and a great family, and ever since I was young I have always appreciated different walks of life, cultures, paths and choices. But I also have a very spiritual reverence that is ingrained in me. It's helped me stay afloat in a sometimes chaotic industry."
Allen also expressed his appreciation for those closest to him.
"Family has always been important," he said. "They have always supported me in whatever interests I've pursued. They have always offered advice. Sometimes the advice was to maybe think about college and a traditional career path, but they always have the best intentions."
Once the band started having success, Allen said it was a real relief for his parents. "They were already happy that I was doing what I loved, but they worried I'd never be able to support my own family; or myself for that matter."
This sense of family and familial relationships has also carried over to the way band members look out for each other.
"None of us meddle in each other’s lives and choices," Glenn said via email. "But we also have a family sense and will definitely call one another out if their choice is hurting them. I think all in all, there is a respect that I don't know if you always find in a successful rock band."
It has been a long journey for Neon Trees, full of hard work, highs and lows, but the band members were finally able to give back to the town where it all began.
"I loved the whole night," Glenn said via email. "I loved seeing faces from the valley — that I've seen from either school, church or the town in general — come out as real fans of the band.
"It makes me feel like I've done something really impressive, maybe even more so now because of the support on such a local level. I don't even know most of them that showed, on a personal level, but it felt like the band and the audience were very in key with one another that night."
"The cool thing about Neon Trees playing in Murrieta," Robbie Parks, concertgoer and friend of Allen, observed, "is that they have not forgotten their roots."
For more about Neon Trees' Vista Murrieta Benefit Concert, see the Press-Enterprise, the local newpaper, at PE.com.
Kathryn Skaggs is passionate about writing. Her personal blog is at wellbehavedmormonwoman.blogspot.com and she regularly shares her thoughts about Mormonism, traditional marriage and some current events related to her faith.