Downtown Provo is rising. For proof, look no further than a two-block strip of University Avenue where a new breed of young urban professionals have set up shop offering in-the-know locals rare access to boutique and vintage clothing, live music, cutting-edge art and other cultural perks in a setting similar to Salt Lake City’s East Broadway district. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive. But, one visit, and you’ll be hooked. Just ask Coal Umbrella co-owner/Sego Art Center and Sego Festival founder Maht Paulos, whose popular celebration of music and art enjoys its third run Sept. 26-27 (see MySpace.com/SegoFestival for details) with more than 60 bands and performers on six stages. This year, organizers also commissioned graphic designers, artists, filmmakers and others for a vibrant multimedia exhibit. Best of all, Sego is entirely volunteer based—right down to each band member donating $10 to support and exercise ownership over the festival. New to the Provo music scene? Paulos has a few suggestions for newbies, starting with songs by some of his favorite Utah County bands that might make Side 1 of killer mixtape:
Midwife Crisis: Behemoth/Leviathan “Cops and Kids”
This short-lived, defunct Provo act made a lasting impact on the scene. They only played a handful of shows, but the palpable energy of each performance remains the yardstick by which I judge each [Paulos’ band] Mathematics et Cetera show. “Cops and Kids” is it for me. It’s art rock footloose: Kids wanna have dance parties, but the civic establishment doesn’t wanna let them, so they do it anyway and constantly get in trouble with the cops. Then they write a bunch of radical dance-punk songs about the experience.
The John Whites: Mean Old Mister Moonlight “There Was A Time”
As the story goes, John White wrote this song around some words and a melody he heard his father humming around his home in Reno, Nev. White has written a lot of great songs, but this might be his finest. I think it’s the saddest most beautiful song in his catalog, written with the authenticity of an Elliott Smith.
The Eden Express: The Disconnect Is Gorgeous “Birds and the Bees”
If I wasn’t sold on Eden’s genius before this EP, the first listen left me with no more doubt. “Birds and the Bees” is my favorite track. It’s just weird and pretty enough.
Boots to the Moon: Boots to the Moon “Porch On Me, Ghost”
It’s probably bad of me to pick a song from the side project of the lead singer of the band I play in, but because I’ve just now made that clear, my hands are clean! This song seems so simple: “I miss you more than you know/ I love you more than you know.” But as it breaks down in the bridge, the depth of the song’s soul is revealed. Each live performance is different, and each show seemingly presents a new song.
Chris Merritt: Pixie and The Bear “Dr. Jerk”
First, I can’t get over that KORG-created lead synth melody throughout the song … It’s so good! Second, Dr. Jerk is just a great, unadulterated pop song with the perfect amount of Chris Merritt quirkiness—“I thought we understood that I was crazy/ I can’t believe you thought I was a sane man”— and sentimentality: “I swear to you we won’t do this again/ I swear to you I won’t swear this again.”