Sunday, February 20, 2011

Top 10 of '10

This is a little belated, I know. Last year, a bunch of my friends made their Top 10 albums of 2009 lists, and it made me realize that I've been really bad at keeping up with new music. This year I tried to do a little better. So here they are, my favorite albums of 2010:

10. Say Anything - Say Anything

9. Motion City Soundtrack - My Dinosaur Life

8. Eminem - Recovery

7. Against Me! - White Crosses

6. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

5. Neon Trees - Habits

4. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

3. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

2. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

1. Vampire Weekend - Contra

Saturday, February 19, 2011

IN DEFENSE OF THE BLOCK: My Response to a Daily Universe Article About Provo Music

Earlier today I was shocked to see the online buzz among the Provo music community over an article published in the Daily Universe about the “exclusiveness” of the Provo music scene, or as my friends and I call it, 100Block. At this point, I hadn’t even read the article, I was simply shocked over the fact that BYU's Daily Universe, known for it’s sparse (if not bland) coverage of Provo music had anyone talking at all. Then I actually read the article.

As a person who has been a participant, observer, and employee of Provo music for nearly a decade, I thought I would add my opinion to those floating around the 100Block-o-sphere over the contents of this article.

At first glance I was amused by the inaccuracies I saw in this piece, although I think the reaction to it was a little over the top. As I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t so much the article that was flawed as it was the musicians who were quoted in it.

The article actually represents a common misconception among many Provo musicians: that the Velour scene is a fiercely competitive popularity contest that can only be won by a combination of 1) being “indie-folk” and 2) being “connected”/networking with the “right” “people” (?). After a long and bitter fight, these Provo musicians become jaded and give up on their lifelong dream of headlining a Velour show (“I didn’t wanna play there anyway!”), turning instead to bashing Velour and any band who plays there.

At this point I should probably mention that I played in a pop-punk band for 5 years and have been doing a rap group for the past 2 years; also, I’m an employee of Muse Music Café. Given those credentials, I am quite possibly the polar opposite of this supposed “Indie-Folk Velour aesthetic”. So you’d think I’d be the ringleader of the bitter Velour-bashers mentioned above, right?


I’ve had no problem getting shows at Velour since the venue opened in 2006. Velour doesn’t favor bands that are “indie-folk” or “alt-country”. It favors bands that are good. It favors bands that try (a very non-indie trait, in my opinion). And let’s not forget that while it’s books may look more like those of a non-profit, it is still a business. They favor bands that promote and draw a crowd.

Getting back to the Daily Universe article, and where I believe it goes wrong, we need to look at one of the primary sources for the article: a member of the local band, Red Orange.

Let me make it clear that I have nothing against this band or its members. In fact, I saw them play at Muse Music just last weekend. It was their first show (sorry bands; I don’t count playing the Raintree clubhouse or your ward talent night as a “show”). They were great though. The place was packed. I am fully confident that if they kept it up, they could be co-headlining with Eyes Lips Eyes at Velour six months from now (how the Daily Universe article affects that momentum remains to be seen).

It seems like this new band jumped the gun in making such broad generalizations about Provo music. In a way, they sealed their own fate as a potentially great Provo rock band who thought “the scene” was out to get them. Buying into the myth that Velour is an uphill battle for bands like them, they are now perpetuating that myth to other musicians. And they haven’t even played a 2nd show yet.

I don’t know Lizzie Jenkins, the reporter who wrote the Daily Universe article, but I’m sure she’s a fine writer who was just trying to fill an assignment, not knowing the can of worms she was opening among diehard Provo music enthusiasts. She could have perhaps talked to some more bands, though; maybe ones who have played more than one show on 100Block.

In a way, though, I do admire Ms. Jenkins. Rather than write the same vanilla articles about Provo music that are published year after year by the Daily Universe (with the exception of Spencer Flanagan’s brief stint at the DU culture desk, a breath of fresh air indeed!) she tried to dig deeper and find something newsworthy. I admire her intentions. How many DU writeups about a local band just skim the surface, with a headline that goes something like: “(______) Plays Gig in Provo, Seeks New Fans”?

What I’m saying is that, contrary to what many of my Facebook friends are suggesting, Ms. Jenkins should keep writing. Dig deeper. There are so many great stories to be told about Provo music.

Let’s tell those stories! Neon Trees are touring the world. Fictionist are on the verge of being on the cover of Rolling Stone. Neither band can be described as “indie-folk”. There is no truth to the imaginary rivalry between Muse and Velour. I work at Muse and play shows at Velour. Corey Fox owns Velour and buys sandwiches from Muse’s café (he and his sound guys are our best customers!)

I'll admit, sometimes I have a hard time getting my rap group on the shows I want to be on. When I try and open for a band, only to get the reply of “we’re in the studio, not playing shows right now”, only to see that band announce a big show at Velour two weeks later, of course I get bummed! But that doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with them, or with Velour. It means that I need to work harder, and that’s exactly what I will do.

If you don’t want to put any work into your music, then I believe there’s an opening for you at the Raintree clubhouse next Friday, they’d love to have you play.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Frogurt...Is Also Cursed

Utahns have always been known for their love for gimmicky desserts. Whether it's jell-o with creatively placed fruit chunks in the middle, or variations of ice cream, Provo might as well be the capital of dessert indulgence, most likely as a way of over-compensating for the lack of the regular vices found in most American college towns.

With that said, 2008 saw the rise of the Provo frozen yogurt spot. The foundation for this craze was laid in the 90's, as the "Yogi" in Utah fast food chain Hogi-Yogi. Frozen yogurt is a natural drug of choice for health-consicious yuppie college students and their older married friends.

It was no surprise to see startups like Fro-Yo or Yoasis (or as I call it, Broasis) catch on quickly in Provo. I did not, however, foresee the extent to which this fad would spread through Utah County in the face of a "recession". The day is not far off where there will be (apparently) recession-proof frozen yogurt restaurants on literally every street corner in the BYU bubble.

Tomorrow night may very well be the apex of the Frozen Yogurt wars: Competing over-the-top bro-fest events at competing frozen yogurt businesses.

According to my Facebook Events page, on Friday, April 10th, Spoon Me is having a "Spring Fever" party, while less than a block away, Yoasis is holding their much-anticipated One Year Anniversary Party. Both events boast the usual suspects: free admission, local bands as opening acts to the headlining local DJ/Dance Party, and of course, overpriced frozen yogurt.

Events like this teach the average Provo college student two valuable lessons:

1) You should never have to pay for any event ever in Provo. Places that charge for live music are ripping you off and offer no difference in quality to frozen yogurt parties. After attending said parties you are officially qualified to write home and tell your parents that you are fully intergrated to the underground culture of Provo...


2) Live music is never reason enough to leave your apartment/dorm. It MUST be accompanied by the presence of food (preferrably frozen yogurt) and another form of entertainment, including, but not limited to: Live DJs, Guitar Hero contests, or Giveaways.

So who will win the frozen yogurt wars tomorrow night? This is a difficult question to answer; one of demographics, location, and marketing strategies. I, however, will be far from the pandemonium, watching The New Nervous play at a house in Orem, where I can nearly guarantee there will be no frozen yogurt.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Meyd in Tsina

I loved going shopping while I was in the Philippines this past January. While I typically avoid malls and big-box stores here in the states (because of the anxiety they cause me, and the temptation to spend money I don't have), I went to a mall nearly every day I spent in the Philippines.

SM City Iloilo is the branch of a ginormous nationwide chain-megamall located about 5 minutes from my girlfriend, Alchi Mae's, house. I loved going there with her and buying awesome clothes for dirt cheap, (that actually fit me!) I literally have the exact same measurements as the mannequins in their department stores! We got used hardcover books for $1.50, and a Big Mac meal for the price of a U.S. Double Cheeseburger (err, excuse me...McDOUBLE).

You have to have a sixth sense for shopping at certain spots in the Philippines, however. This is especially true in the marketplaces of the small towns, where imitation off-brands run rampant. While on a day trip in the quiet town of Altavas, in Aklan province, Alchi Mae tried to contain her laughter while pointing out this Made-in-China perfume list on display in a local shop:

Now, to the untrained shopper, this store would appear to be selling upscale American perfumes, and for dirt cheap. After a careful inspection of the list, however, you will notice the subtle differences between these imitations and their authentic counterparts (...and a big name in U.S. politics?!?)

The moral of the story is, in a culture where all spelling is purely phonetic...


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dude, Where's My Subaru?

A funny thing happened while I walked back to my car Saturday after an evening at Velour. The walk was farther than normal, because parking at Velour has taken a turn for the worse ever since EVERY adjacent business somehow needs their vacant lots to be completely empty at 10 pm.

I knew I parked somewhere on 200 north, which is really the closest place to park on the block anymore. I spotted the ol' red Subaru Legacy, and opened the door to get in. The first thing I noticed was that the squeak in the front door was oddly gone. Hmm...weird...maybe Pyfer fixed it while I was in the Philippines and I had just barely noticed.

Then I got that weird sinking feeling in my stomach. My car was completely empty! I had stopped locking my car, as I stopped keeping anything of value in there. This led me from worry to confusion:

"Why would someone steal a yard-sale sleeping bag?"

"How much will you get on Ebay for a box of 200 Chance Lewis CDs?"

Then my inner dialogue got more analytical, and I started observing more things in the car:

"Is this a prank?"

"The car is not only empty; it's literally been CLEANED!"

"Why does it smell like bad-jock-cologne in here? (a cross between Polo Sport & Testosterone)"

"Is that a Guster sticker on the window?"

Then I looked about 3 spaces down the street, and saw my nearly-identical car, cracked windshield and all. Squeak? Check. Wendy's bag doubling as a trash can? Check. Paper cup in the holder filled with "We Are Chance Lewis" buttons? Check. I headed home.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Of This Much I Am Sure

Next week, my co-worker at Muse Music, Becca is leaving to go on a mission. As I contemplated all of the things that can change (or not change) in 18 months, I told her what I thought the world might be like when she gets home.

I told her that with the current economic crisis, she's leaving the "real world" at a perfect time. For a year and a half, she won't have to worry about a job. With any luck, by the time she gets home, everything will be back to normal and she can pick up where she left off as if nothing happened.

I told her some things will never change, especially in Provo: In 2011 we will STILL call it Beto's (even though they changed their name to Rancherito's like 2 years ago) and BYU students will ALWAYS call it "The Muse".

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I haven't been all that affected by the recent financial crisis in the U.S., so I've had a hard time buying into all the hype about it in the news. I have friends that have been laid off. Even the workload at my job slowed down over the past couple months. But as long as I continue to work at a job I am blatantly over-qualified for, there will always be outbound phone calls for this big fish to make at the small pond that is BRG Research.

I have been oblivious to the hard times that most Americans are apparantly facing. Maybe I'm spoiled; maybe I just have been living within my means all along so the pinch isn't as tight.

Well, that all changed today, after I was asked to pay $1.19 for a Double Cheeseburger at McDonalds.

The McDonalds Double Cheeseburger has been not only the salient feature of the Dollar Menu, but also the de facto U.S. currency of this decade. Gas prices may fluctuate, but I can set my watch to the Double Cheeseburger being a dollar.

Some people's consumer confidence was shot when they actually found themselves questioning whether they really need a new $200 coffeemaker at Linens 'n Things instead of just impulsively buying it. (see Michael Kinsley's November 14th NY Times Op-Ed)

Such pointless purchases were never a temptation for me. This was my crisis of confidence: paying an extra 20 cents for a Double Cheeseburger.

Now, I should have ponied up and sprung for the sandwich. Surely I already have more stuff than I need, and it should be my patriotic duty to pay $1.19 for a McDonalds Double Cheeseburger and stimulate the economy. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it, out of principle.

It's like the time last year when I called 5 Buck Pizza only to be informed that all of their pizzas now started at $6.99. Upon hearing my obvious question: "Are you still gonna be called 5 Buck Pizza?" they had the nerve to tell me that they in fact would. I thanked them for their time and hung up the phone, and have never called them back since.

I recently read that McDonalds is one of the most recession-proof businesses in America. If they want to stay that way, they need the Dollar Menu now more than ever. Or better yet, remember in the late 90's when they had those 39 cent cheeseburger Wednesdays? If they still had that offer, McDonalds would be the 21st century soup kitchen.

By the way, as a side note, the McDonalds guilty of this heinous $1.19 charge is the Orem, UT, Center St. restaurant. I usually try to avoid this one, but they offer the $1 Breakfast Burritos all day, so I couldn't resist.

Incidentally, any McDonald's that charges 25 cents for water, such as the one on University Parkway in Orem, will never make it through a recession. Especially when cheapskates like me are practicing business-as-usual thrift.