There is beauty all around. That insipid tune is ringing in my brain as I walk toward the downtown Provo parking structure that doubles as the venue for their Rooftop Concert Series. Why? Because everything about the early Summer night in Provo is so damn beautiful. The weather is a perfect 75 degrees, with a light breeze and clear skies. The sunset, with all of its oranges and purples, falling behind the downtown Marriott and into Utah Lake. The massive mountains are the stage’s backdrop. The sweet smells waft from the WaffleLuv truck. And the people … Oh God, the people of Provo. Every single one is more beautiful than the last. Rising above it all, however, is the music—the music and the feeling that it is creating. I’m looking around, now at the top of that parking structure on 100 West, and seeing 4,000 beautiful people soaking in the creativity, the talent and the passion that is the current Provo music scene.
Most were there to see Joshua James https://www.facebook.com/joshuajamesband, Friday night’s headliner. The slight but powerful Americana man from Nebraska, has been at the forefront of the scene for the better part of a decade. He’s brooding, intense and, at times, even dark. But he’s also hopeful. He’s got two feet squarely planted on Earth, but, in most of his songs, he’s reaching up for something higher, something more, something he’s not even sure he believes in. His songs and his ideals often compete head to head with that of his adopted town’s. But Provo loves him and could not have been more excited to see him.
Kicking off the evening was Jay William Henderson http://www.jaywilliamhenderson.com/ of Band of Annuals fame. Henderson is now embarking on a solo project and has some amazing content to show for it. Tragically, I was a bit late so, other than the song I heard as I was walking up to the venue, I missed his set. But by all accounts, it was brilliant—and you only have to listen to a few of his songs to know why. Songs like “Lonely Man” http://vimeo.com/46128464 show him to be one of the very best songwriters around.
Up next was Polytype https://www.facebook.com/polytypemusic, an Indie/Electronic band—think Kid A meets Coexist, with a twist. That twist is lead singer Mason Porter and his soulful yet subdued delivery. He almost evokes Jamie Lidell or Robin Thicke, but a restrained version. Playing through their recently released album Basic//Complex http://music.polytypemusic.com/, Polytype sort of hypnotized the crowd, most of whom had never heard quartet, with their methodic beats and melodic guitar riffs. The high point of the performance was the album’s title song, specifically during the hook when Porter is wailing, “I’ll wait for you.” With all the elements combined, this was the most euphoric moment, among many, in the set. The quartet, made up of Porter, Jared Price, Jason Gibby and Scott Haslam, are giving us plenty of opportunities to see them this summer, with shows http://www.polytypemusic.com/shows/ at the Utah Arts Festival, Velour and Muse Music just to name a few.
From their opening moments, Joshua James and his band presented a complete shift in genres from the predecessor. The band itself was pretty notable. Tim George (aka Timmy the Teeth) on drums, Isaac Russell on bass and guitarist Evan Coulombe, were worth seeing on their own. They were tight, energetic and raucous. This was organic, gritty, very American music. When James is with his band, there’s definitely something of a formula (and I mean this in the best way). Most songs start out soft, somewhat slowly, but build up to a crescendo brimming with sharp, Southern sounding guitar riffs and hard, loud drums. The mustached, Johnny Depp–looking James is filled with his music. He cares deeply about it, and anyone within a mile radius can probably feel that.
James showcased a lot of songs from his latest album, From The Top Of Willamette Mountain, which was released last November, as well as his EP “Beware,” which was released in March of this year. So many great songs in the set—from the opener “The One” to the folksy “Pirate from the West” and the stunning “Beware,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Na1z6K7Xss&feature=youtu.be the show’s closer. After a show filled with songs about religion and God and questioning the validity of both, “Beware” is a song that talks about how dangerous both can be, regardless of their validity. James will be playing again at Velour on June 22.
It was a brilliant night. And yes, this all happened in Provo. The next Rooftop Concert show happens on July 5, and if it’s been awhile since you’ve been to the UC for a show, it is definitely worth the drive. The mountains, the weather, the food, the people and the music. That beautiful music.