All posts by Desirée Izquierdo

REVIEW: Puddles Pity Party Treats the Crowd Like Royals in Mesa (12-7-18)

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PHOENIX — Many of us have been invited to a pity party and more than likely, we have no desire to attend. When Puddles the sad clown hosts one, however, I recommend you RSVP and make it a priority on your calendar.

I was one such lucky attendee amidst several thousand others that packed the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center. Not knowing what to expect of the next 110 intermission-free minutes aside from a sweet serenade from the 6’8” baritone crooner in a clown costume, I kept my mind, ears, and eyes open.

Three minutes before the show was set to begin, the house lights were still up as people shuffled to their seats. There appeared to be commotion on the mezzanine level as several audience members looked up to see the unmistakable giant, cuddly clown making his way through the sea of people giving hugs, handshakes, and posing for photos. He effortlessly hurdled the chairs and made a concerted effort to greet as many of his party “guests” as he could, before making his way down to the ground level where he popped through the back doors and dashed to and fro, greeting attendees as he made his way up to the stage.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Puddles Pity Party is anything but predictable, and after enthusiastically giving high fives to some of the folks in the front rows, he hoisted himself up onto the stage and awkwardly rolled to his feet despite the fact that there was an accessibility staircase not 10 feet to his left. It was at this moment I realized that things were going to be shaken up into a concoction of splendor and entertainment that would take all of us on a wild adventure of fellowship and laughter.

The festivities began with Puddles amusingly popping a whopping amount of gum into his mouth and loudly chewing as he read an AARP magazine featuring Kevin Costner.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Much like other aspects of the show, these pieces may have seemed trivial at the time, but became integral parts of his act. Perpetually animated and childlike in his movement at times, Puddles — brought to life by Mike Geier — scoots about the stage on his stool and takes his sweet time getting to center stage to watch a montage of his trials and tribulations while appearing on America’s Got Talent. The sad clown with the golden voice sang his rendition of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, only to be abruptly stopped by a loud buzzer and a giant red X like the one he received while performing for the show. Despite this, Puddles pressed on.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The irony was not lost in respect to a silent comic entertainer who uses only his vocal ability to belt out emotional tunes; however, the heartfelt depth of his singing left the partygoers absolutely stunned. Puddles performed “The Sound of Silence” to a video of ASL translator, Zoey Stormes, signing a moving performance. Though he is a sad clown who expresses tremendous variety of emotion, from melancholy, to gratitude, to wonderment, it’s virtually impossible to be sad while in his presence. Laughter and words of encouragement from the crowd consistently permeated the silence.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Puddles has several obsessions that attendees learn throughout their time with him, two of which are Kevin Costner and coffee. Never have I attended a party that entailed a coffee break, but there is a first time for everything. In fact, Puddles Pity Party contained many firsts, which takes the Vaudevillian style act from being a show to a full-fledged experience. I lost count of how many times Puddles left his wad of gum behind on his suitcase of goodies and plucked it back up to resume chewing. Additionally, I lost count of how many times he rolled himself off the stage to interact with the audience and bring a new friend up to be a part of the show. Attendees were swept away, transformed into an environment where excitement is found in the simple and absurd.

It was when I oddly caught “the feels” from hilarious snippets of robots falling over to the sound of Puddles’ emotional rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You” that I realized the power and magnitude of this king-sized clown’s voice. No love song directed at a cup of coffee will ever feel so pure and heartfelt as it did in that theater.

Partygoers were just as much a part of the show, and were brought into Puddles’ world of make-believe. One woman transformed into a wolf that Puddles waltzed with. A gentleman enthusiastically sang the karaoke version of “All By Myself”. Another got to be a rocket scientist, and yet another got to stuff his face with cupcakes while being reminded that the word “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts”. Puddles even had one of the party attendees summon Kevin Costner, albeit after a failed attempt that accidentally summoned Kevin Bacon.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party with concertgoer
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Other celebrities were attending in spirit, as it was impossible to miss the homages to Axl Rose, Freddie Mercury, and the King himself, Elvis Presley. Puddles’ prowess as an accomplished musician was made apparent through performing on his cardboard guitar that asserts “Do Good Work”, to his various beats on both real and video game drum sets, to his unique song mashups.

Geier, affectionately known as “Big Mike”, who has run a burlesque performance troupe out of Atlanta and also performs with the Kingsized Jazz Trio, has the performer gene coursing through his veins. Traveling with Puddles Pity Party, he has made audiences giggle and laugh warmly all over the world while wearing his endearing heart on his ruffled sleeve.

All you would have to do is go on YouTube and search “Puddles” to encounter countless videos of the sad clown with the golden voice. One of his most captivating being his rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier”, which partnered with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox and also performed on America’s Got Talent to agape jaws and an uproarious standing ovation.

The party on Friday was no exception and the crowd had their phones out to record video of his most notable serenade, as is encouraged. This did not stop Puddles from giving his adoring fans the up-close and personal show they were hoping for, as he grabbed one phone to sing to it and place it in the hand of another individual while picking up their phone and passing it on until there were multitudes of attendees who had incredible footage of Puddles and the cell phone of their fellow party-goer. The laughter that ensued afterward while people scrambled to find each rightful owner was memorable. If anyone can bring people closer together with their fellow man, it’s most definitely Puddles the sad clown.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

If you have the opportunity to attend a pity party put on by Puddles, I highly encourage it. How a sad clown can make everyone in a room light up with laughter is a special kind of magic that can only be felt and seen by experiencing it firsthand.

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Puddles Pity Party – Mesa Arts Center 12-7-18

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Mommy’s Little Monsters, Second Generations, & New Beginnings: Social Distortion Fall 2018 Tour Launches in the Valley of the Sun (9-10-18)

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Tempe, Ariz. — Social Distortion are no strangers to touring, and after a one and a half months long summer tour and 8 weeks of recuperation, they were back at it again and kicking off their Fall 2018 tour to a sold out Monday at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Known for bringing along with them some promising new talent to get the crowd revved up before they make their grand entrance, this tour is no different. Accompanying the band for their September shows is Justin Townes Earle, as well as Valley Queen, to be followed by Will Hoge and Pony Bradshaw for the month of October.

Half an hour before the theater doors were set to open, and the parking lot was nearly full. With hopes of snagging a great vantage point, several generations of Social D fans braved the 100 degree heat while standing in line, donning their page boy caps, Black Kat Kustoms shirts, tattoos, and multi-colored hair.

The Los Angeles-based group Valley Queen were the first to take the stage, giving fans a sampling of songs from their recently released debut album, Supergiant.

Valley Queen - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Natalie Carol (Vocalist), Valley Queen
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The four-piece group, with an excellent energy and apparent cohesiveness, seemed to truly enjoy what they do. With a voice reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor and a carefree flit about the stage, front-woman Natalie Carol lit up the room with an unparalleled vibrance. Not long into their second song, amidst the sound of Shawn Morones’ slide guitar and Neil Wogensen’s energetic bass licks in alignment with Mike DeLuccia’s drumbeats, Natalie broke a string for the very first time on a guitar she stated she’d had for over 6 years and chalked it up as an omen of great things to come.

Next up was singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who connected with the audience on a level that few musicians are known to do. With a smirk and eye contact with the folks up front, he touched on the motivation behind each song he’d written before he performed it.

Justin Townes Earle - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Justin Townes Earle
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Accompanying him were bassist Mike Luzecky from Denton, TX, and drummer Bill Campbell from Brooklyn, NY, who had only met that day and had one rehearsal prior to playing together — not that anyone would be able to tell, however, which is a true testament to their talents. It is apparent that this second generation music star is definitely forging his own successful path in the industry; from the fun, upbeat “Champagne Corolla” and “Short Hair Woman”, off of his most recent album Kids in the Street, to the deeply genuine “White Gardenias”, from his album titled Single Mothers. “White Gardenias” was preceded by a shout out to Billie Holiday and all others affected by the opioid epidemic.

The roadies took to the stage to ensure everything was perfectly set as the crowd inched closer to the front in anticipation of Social Distortion’s arrival. Impatient fans gained some visual stimulation from strategically placed items around the stage, like signs that said “funeral, no parking” and “inmates stand here,” as well as boxing gloves, a RCA dog statue, and mannequin parts with lingerie.

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Social Distortion stage props
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Without a warning, the band swiftly took to the stage and went right into their opening song, “Reach For The Sky”, followed by “Highway 101” and “Don’t Take Me For Granted”, all from the 2004 album Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The seemingly endless sea of rowdy fans swayed as Mike Ness, Jonny Wickersham, Brent Harding, and David Hidalgo, Jr. entertained with seamless precision, as Social D is known to do.

Social Distortion - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Mike Ness (Vocalist, Guitarist), Social Distortion
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Preceding the 12th and final song of the set, frontman Ness opened up in a heartfelt monologue about having written the next song in 1994 about racism and dedicated “Don’t Drag Me Down” to the Chicanos in the audience.

No show is complete without an encore performance, and Social Distortion did not disappoint. After their flawless performance of “Angel’s Wings”, Ness explained his friends’ unfavorable reactions years ago when he told them he was going to record a Johnny Cash song. He said they all asked, “Why?” to which he quipped, “because it’s cool and I want to,” and asserted that Johnny Cash deserves to be back on the top where he belongs. The crowd roared as the band finished up with a double dose of Cash with “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire”.

Social Distortion - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Social Distortion
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Though Ness did mention that he doesn’t know a whole lot of places that Social Distortion could sell out on a Monday night, it seems evident that with the fervor of the fans filing in to see them perform live, it’s bound to happen more often than he may think.

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Social Distortion, Justin Townes Earle, & Valley Queen – Marquee Theatre 9-10-018

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: The Melvins Bring Sludge Metal Back to Phoenix with Basses Loaded 5-31-18

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PHOENIX The Melvins concluded the spring portion of their ambitious two-part 2018 tour schedule to promote the April 20th release of their album, Pinkus Abortion Technician, at The Crescent Ballroom on Thursday, May 31. Los Angeles-based rock band All Souls warmed up concertgoers with songs from their newly released self-titled album.

Rockers of all ages flooded the intimate venue to experience the heavy, experimental sounds of one of the most influential and notable grunge/sludge metal bands to pave the way for the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The drinks flowed and the smell from the food being run from the kitchen to Cocina 10 permeated the venue as All Souls hit the stage.

All Souls - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Antonio Aguilar (Guitarist, Vocalist), All Souls
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo. © All Rights Reserved

After a quick introduction, they jumped right into the music with their melodic, guitar-heavy sound that ranges from deep and dark, to grunge, to downright ethereal. All Souls, comprised of Drummer Tony Tornay, (formerly of Fatso Jetson), bassist Meg Castellanos and guitarist/vocalist Antonio Aguilar (both formerly of Totimoshi) as well as guitarist Erik Trammell (formerly of Brothers Collateral) proved that, though they’ve only been together for 3 years, they’ve uncovered a winning combination of musical talent to generate a polished sound worth listening to on repeat. At then end of their set, Trammell thanked the Melvins for a “blissful” five week tour together to which Meg added that it also included a broken foot. This concluded the band’s stint with the Melvins, who take a small break and then tackle another ambitious 5-week tour schedule to include four nights in Canada.

Following All Souls’ performance was the anxiously awaited Melvins who planned to take listeners on a musical trip through their discography that spans 34 years. Their newest creation to add to their collection is Pinkus Abortion Technician, which pays homage to the likes of The Beatles and The James Gang. The album brings bassist Jeff Pinkus from the Butthole Surfers back on a collaboration once again to create a whole new sound along with fellow bassist, Steven Shane McDonald, who joined the band in 2015. The Melvins have toured with two drummers and also with two lead guitars, but having two basses is a first. Being the experimental musicians they are and willing to take a chance, they brought forth a sound rarely experienced. The walls reverberated with what felt like a collective heartbeat, a depth of sound that had audience members moving their heads in unison.

The Melvins - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
The Melvins
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo. © All Rights Reserved

The band came out to experimental pedal and guitar sounds that primed the audience for the journey they were about to embark on for the next few hours.The musical journey began with visceral and gritty “Sesame Street Meat” off their 23rd studio album from 2014, Hold It In, on which bassist Jeff Pinkus collaborated. Drummer Dale Crover was immediately seated and fitted with his over-the-ear mic, while outgoing bassist McDonald dazzled with a series of high kicks. Bassist Jeff Pinkus took stage right, where he remained the majority of the evening deeply engrossed in his music and showing an occasional glimmer when his guitar hit the light just right. Guitarist and lead vocalist Buzz Osborne restlessly moved about the stage as though energy were traveling through him in a higher capacity than he could possibly emit. Next stop was 25 years in the past with “At A Crawl”, followed by a zig zag to “Kicking Machine” from 2008’s Nude With Boots, which brought the crowd to a higher level of excitement when a mosh pit ensued. Next were two covers: David Bowie’s “Saviour Machine” sung by Steve McDonald and Red Kross’ “What They Say” which had all-hands-on-deck vocally.

Buzz Osborne took front and center once again with “Anaconda” off of their 1991 album, Bullhead. Next up, Buzz got into character over dead silence and sauntered up to the mic with a smirk to tell everyone, “Well… well… well, I’ll be moooving down to Floriduh,” to kick off the Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida” with a mix of their new song “Stop Moving to Florida” off Pinkus Abortion Technician.

The Melvins - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Buzz Osborne (Guitarist, Vocalist), The Melvins
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo. © All Rights Reserved

Other notable mentions are McDonald’s long locks blowing in the wind of the fan off on stage left, his Superman move of pulling his blazer open to show his sparkly “punk rock” written across his chest, and one cannot forget the slower tempo of “Don’t Forget to Breathe” off of the new album, with credits for writing going completely to Pinkus.

The Melvins - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Steven Shane McDonald (Bassist), The Melvins
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo. © All Rights Reserved

The Melvins ended their energy-fueled, seventeen-song setlist by taking fans all the way back to the beginning with “Eye Flys” from their debut album Gluey Porch Treatments. Drummer Dale Crover’s elbows were moving at seemingly lightning speed, reminding everyone why he was worthy of a shout out during Nirvana’s 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.

As the crescendo of the last notes of the night filled the room, shook the ground, and flooded the ears of each fortunate audience member, Crover stood up and dropped his drumsticks to a crowd of sated fans who uproariously applauded. Drenched with sweat and playing with the same amount of gusto as the first moment they set foot on stage, it was evident that the Melvins have the masterful talent of a band that has been around for 34 years and the ambition to put on a show for their fans like a band that is just up and coming.

Photo Album

Photos by Rodrigo Izquierdo, Burning Hot Events

Melvins – Crescent Ballroom 5-31-18

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved