Remember that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer claymation movie we used to watch in school the Friday before Christmas Break back when Winter Break was called Christmas Break? If no, I don't know what to say to you. Have you lived under a rock under your entire life? If yes, remember the Island of Misfit Toys? I swear to god this was the inspiration that led to the creepy-ass, Frankenstein-esque toys Sid, the literal spawn of Satan, made in the movie Toy Story. This was nightmare fuel for all children under the age of five when Toy Story came out (me — I was that child).
Back to the Island of Misfit Toys.
What if I told you that Island of Misfit Toys was in fact a very real place and located in the college town of Provo, Utah? This is my best attempt at a promo for an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary or maybe those ten-second 60 Minutes previews they have coming back from commercial break of an NFL football game. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, either with the Island of Misfit Toys or NFL 60 Minutes promos, then you clearly are too busy living your life and do not spend most of your time in front of a screen like I do.
And once again, back to the Island of Misfit Toys.
On the island, they sing about how they’re rejected. I vaguely remember there being a griffin who is the leader of the misfit toys which is baffling, and kind of makes no sense because griffins are badass, but as I’ll continue with my extended metaphor, incredibly appropriate (you know what, I probably won’t get to this point). Then, Hermey the Misfit Elf, sings about wanting to be a dentist and how being a misfit is actually a good thing and then they all find purpose in their lives from being misfits. Truly, a moving story. That’s why I remember it so vividly twenty years later. Or maybe it’s because the movie’s music got stuck in my head and some of the visuals were rather haunting.
Fun fact: did you know there was a sequel? It was made in 2001 and stars Richard Dreyfuss, Rick Moranis, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Like, holy shit. Unbelievable.
But as I said before, the message of the original movie has stuck with me: the elf saw a great market opportunity for being a dentist in a society that eats mostly sugar and probably made a killing. Capitalism at its finest, folks.
No, goddammit. I got sidetracked again.
The point of the movie is that no matter our faults, our uniqueness makes us better. We should be proud of our differences. The island of misfit toys was a place for misfits to be safe and they just needed a little guidance from another group of misfits to show them their true value.
And even though he resembles Yukon Cornelius with his beard and has the stature closer to that of Hermey, Corey Fox’s Velour Live Music Gallery has been a safe place for misfits of all shapes and sizes for 15 years.
My mind wanders to the poem found on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…”
With these words that ooze with religious undertones (See Matthew 11: 28: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest), I can’t help but think about all of the various religions that preach, or purport to believe (including the religiously affiliated university just down the street from Velour), this message, yet fall short in practice. My mind wanders to another scripture that talks about people honoring God with their lips but their hearts being far away.
Yet, upon entering Velour Live Music Gallery, you immediately feel accepted and know that this is a place in which all who enter are welcome as they are and accepted for who they are, no matter how different they may be from "normal." Local music venues all around the country, like Velour, create places and communities that act as safe havens for these people from the very religions that hypocritically reject them.
Over the last year and a half, countless local, independent music venues have been devastated by the pandemic. Luckily, through various avenues, but mostly by the benevolence of their fans, some have managed to stay afloat after having their doors closed for, at the very least, most of the last year. I find it to be of no surprise that some of these venues have survived due to generous donations from their fans because they are such important cornerstones to our communities.
I recently went back to Velour for the first time since the pandemic started, and I find it only fitting that my first show was to see Michael Barrow & the Tourists. You see, we (my terrible band and I) got to really know Michael Barrow (& his Tourists) nearly five years ago because we were on the same night as them in the Winter 2016 Velour Battle of the Bands. But of course they’re still playing today because they were good, and we could barely play three chords without tripping over ourselves. Velour and Michael Barrow have been there for me in good times and in bad. In sickness and in health. At the highest of highs and lowest of lows. They have honored their vows with me without realizing they were in a weird polyamorous marriage.
Upon entering, I was greeted with the in-your-face, feel-it-in-your-soul, sheer loudness of the music; so loud that you know you’ll have a soft ringing for at least an hour after you leave because you forgot to bring your earplugs. You don’t mind though. If you go deaf prematurely, it’ll have been worth it (maybe not but who’s to say). Accompanying the sound came a mugginess that hit me so hard upon entering that it causes flashbacks to a middle school locker room. The kind of memories you thought you’d long forgotten. Fortunately you can’t tell if it’s you that smells because frankly you’re smelling the collective stench of each and every single person in there. You don’t smell, we smell. A collective we. A Marxist bugs bunny meme we. But not a royal we. And all of this I welcomed with open arms because it felt so familiar. It felt like home.
I was also quickly reminded of the diverse crowd you will find at any given night at Velour. It’s for those who wears jorts because they’re trendy to those who never stopped wearing them and for everyone in between. The Hipsters (mostly older, dare I say, geriatric, millennials), the Zoomers (who dress like the millienials did when they were kids in the 90s), the Zoobies (these are the stereotypical BYU students who look the part), the Goths (who seem to be making a comeback — good for them), and in the midst of all of these people jamming out ("jamming out" - standing with their arms crossed, nodding their heads and maybe swaying back and forth as they intensely consume the music) you see ultra conservative dads supporting their ultra artistic sons. Truly, a beautiful moment.
Anytime you go to Velour you’re bound to see a friend or maybe meet a new one. As long as you don’t talk during a song or when someone is bearing their heart on stage because then you might make an enemy (everyone has their limits).
No one cares who you are, where you’re from, or where you’ve been. That’s the beauty of Velour. They’re just glad you’re here and hope to share some beautiful moments of music for a few hours at a time and they hope to see you again soon. And for those few moments, nothing matters because you’re where you belong. Because everyone belongs.
So here’s to Velour, for being the real-life Island of Misfit Toys these last fifteen years, and hopefully many more to come.
P.S. Huge shoutout to Rachel Warner for accompanying me this last weekend, so I didn’t have to go by myself.
So, come here often?