Concert Review: Proof Of Provo! On The Front Line with Baby War Stories


Sometimes art mirrors life and other times art takes on a life of its own. Such is the case with Baby War Stories. Originally a photographic exhibit by keyboard player/vocalist John Rees, Baby War Stories has evolved into a band. The visual element is still there, with background slides taken or appropriated by Rees, but music is at the forefront of this battle.

Rees was at a friend’s house listening to some women in the next room talking about “birthing experiences.” He off-handedly commented to his friend, “Yeah, they’re talking about baby war stories.” And thus, the idea was conceived.

Rees’ former efforts include the ethereal working of Vincent’s Crows, which disbanded after singer Lara Jones left to join Commonplace. Jonathon Deem joins Rees on guitar and Brent Astrop on bass. Deem is a blues guitarist and has played locally with Jacobin’ Frenzy, a two-man blues assault. Astrop is a former member of Face and moonlights on the Country Western circuit, as well as an occasional Werk-Schutz gig. All three bring very diverse elements to Baby War Stories, which leads them to classify their style of music as “eclectic,” not falling into an already established genre. “We’re kind of schizoid about what we’re playing,” says Rees, barely visible behind his stack of keyboards. “There’s a thread running through it,” explains Deem. Eclectic and energetic would best describe their songs.

There is an industrial edge to their music, though. Guitars are harsh, keyboards sound brash—at times, grating—bass, steady. Rees sings through effects that make his vocals raunchy. Deem’s blues background comes into play on an industrial blues cover of Tom Waits’ “Gin Soaked Blues.”

Astrop is the band’s most recent member, joining them the night of this first show in Provo. His bass lines make the songs more full, adding depth to them. The night of the show, though, Astrop didn’t know the songs, and Deem was teaching him chords and riffs backstage during the opening band. Professionalism and good karma lead to positive audience response. “We had sixty people show up at our concert,” said Rees. “Which is amazing for a local band for their first gig,” adds Astrop, especially when you consider that no one knew who or what Baby War Stories was. Again, Rees’ artwork came into play on their flyers, representing headless baby dolls in various forms.

Besides the Tom Waits song, Baby War Stories had a set of ten songs. Rees is working on an industrial version of Bowie’s “Fashion” to add to their set, as well as more original material. If you missed them live in Provo, you might catch Baby War Stories on KJQ’s “locals only” show, or in the mix at Industrial/Underground Night at the Pompadour Club.

You can check out other Utah Valley locals on the Lots of Cool Bands From Around Here sampler tape. Most notable are Mary Throwing Stones with “Glue Horse,” and Verse Vice with “Fat Gulper.”

Sure, Provo’s scene is not as cool or as big as Salt Lake’s, but that doesn’t mean you should judge all the bands by Swim Herschel Swim. There’s a lot of talent and creative frustration flowing in the valley. You might be surprised with what their energy leads to.

Check out more 1990 SLUG Archives:
Concert Review: A New Beginning

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult & Idaho Syndrome 04.26 @ Speedway Cafe