Winter Battle of the Bands @ Velour Live Music Gallery 12.14

Posted December 17, 2013 in
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Jenessa Buttars rocks the harp in The Echo Chorus. Photo: Gavin Sheehan

“It’s over,” I’m furiously scribbling down high marks on the scoring sheet provided by Velour, speaking to no one in particular. “It’s fucking over!” The sold out crowd has become unhinged, saying, “One More Song! One More Song!” The electricity is palpable. Christopher Kalani Bennion is shuffling offstage mouthing thank you and smiling. The mad-genius lead man of Coral Bones and his band have just finished playing a masterful four-song set. It was less a musical performance and more an artistic showpiece—the perfect blend of energy, emotion and talent all delivered with precision and flair. After the fourth band of five, Velour’s semi-annual competition is over. I just feel bad for whoever has to go after this …

I’m getting ahead of myself. The Battle started at 8:15 p.m., a bit earlier than most shows so, as is my way, I was running late. Luckily, I had my brother with me so he could just drop me off and park the car. After giving him very specific instruction where to and, more importantly, not to park (pretty much everywhere in Provo), I jumped out and scurried into Velour.
St. Charles was already one song into their set. God, I’m such an awful judge—missing part of a competing band’s set. Right away, I was taken by the band’s big, melodic sound. It was all quite hypnotizing. But I also couldn’t help but notice that underneath it all was a sort of sloppiness. Maybe it was nerves, but the vocals often seemed just off key—and the band, sometimes, was less than tight. When it was working, the performance was very nice, especially Mindy Burton’s contributions on the cello, with the best example being the French-infused “Vinyl.”
The next entrant, The Echo Chorus, was probably the group that showed the most potential. This act could be something special. An outfit that more resembles the lead chairs of an orchestra than a rock band (no electric guitar can be found, but a harp?), but that is not to say that they don’t rock. Their set-closer, “One Went Down,” kicked so much ass that it had my fellow judge, Ryan Innes, uncontrollably bouncing up and down and saying, “Damn, I want to steal this song.” Harpist and lead vocalist Jenessa Butters really caught my eye here. She has a measured confidence about her, and it’s a joy to watch her attack such an instrument of intimidating size—a very good performance overall and definitely a band to watch for.
As a pretty straight-up indie-sounding band, you would not think Solarsuit would be the exception of the night—but without a single harp or viola in sight, they definitely were. They were also very good, most notably their energy that they put into every song. The crowd definitely fed off of that energy—one dude was even crowd surfing, which is no easy feat in Velour. Were they the best band on the night? No. But I would definitely like to see them again, and their song “Twin Tropic” has a ton of appeal—I’ve been listening to it almost nonstop as I’ve been writing this review.