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Neon Trees

Squeaky-clean brother/sister duo Donny and Marie Osmond typically come to mind when one thinks of music in Utah. But the Wasatch Front music scene is a lot more than a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll, supporting thriving communities that love hip-hop, dance music, jazz, bluegrass — you name it. We’ve got the scoop on some of the surprisingly diverse area bands that are ready to put Utah musicians on the map again.


Name: Neon Trees
Hails from: Provo, Utah
Formed in: 2005
Sounds like: A John Hughes soundtrack meets the Killers
This fashionable crew got an assist early on from the Killers, who enlisted them to open some of their 2008 tour dates. But it was Neon Trees’ omnipresent 2010 hit, “Animal,” which was featured in a “What Happens in Vegas” ad, that earned the band national television appearances as well as cross-?country tours with 30 Seconds to Mars and, naturally, the Killers.

Name: Muscle Hawk
Hails from: Salt Lake City
Formed in: 2008
Sounds like: Daft Punk meets Studio 54 circa 1977
This duo of Josh Holyoak and Greg Bower creates a fresher sound and a bigger, better live show than far larger acts, whether rocking a massive outdoor stage or a steamy club like Park City’s Harry O’s. “I’m a big fan of trying to stimulate as many of the human senses at a time as you can,” Holyoak says. His band’s shows prove it.

Name: Afro Omega
Hails from: Salt Lake City
Formed in: 2003
Sounds like: Gwen Stefani meets the Wailers
Afro Omega was a semipopular male-fronted reggae crew until backup singer “Miss Omega,” Elisa James, took over on lead vocals and led them in a more progressive direction that mixes feel-good reggae hooks with what they call “psychedelic-dub.” They’ve toured from coast to coast and will release their third album in 2011.

Name: Holy Water Buffalo
Hails from: Heber, Utah
Formed in: 2009
Sounds like: Kings of Leon meets Bright Eyes
This young quartet hails from the small ranching town of Heber, just a few miles east of Park City and home to one of the largest cowboy poetry gatherings in the country. That fact makes Holy Water Buffalo’s jangly guitar-rock sound, steeped in ’60s psychedelia, all the more interesting and unexpected.