All posts by Mark Greenawalt

REVIEW: Raising The Roof with Tech N9ne at The Van Buren 5-13-18

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PHOENIX— It was a Sunday night that just so happened to be Mother’s Day, but they still came out in droves to see Tech N9ne and his cast of labelmates at The Van Buren in Phoenix. Rapper Aaron Dontez Yates, a.k.a. Tech N9ne, brought his semi-automatic speed rhymes to the house in support of the 2018 release Planet. The album was just released in March and instantly shot to number one on the independent album chart. This was spurred by the charting single and video for “Don’t Nobody Want None”, a solid track with beat boy throwbacks to analog synths lifted from Hashim – Al-Naafiysh (The Soul), scratching, and breakdancing in the video. This concert was a four-hour marathon and it was high energy from eight to midnight… and that’s probably when the after-party was just getting started because they showed no signs of slowing down.

The “Planet Tour 2018” is a family affair with artists on the roster of the Yate’s Strange Music record label including Joey Cool, Mackenzie Nicole, and of course Krizz Kaliko, along with a few friends of the family with King ISO and Just Juice. Phoenix was the 24th stop on this 60-city tour and it was a sold-out show with standing room only.

King ISO and King Kash

The show opened with King ISO and King Kash sporting orange prison jumpsuits, wrist shackles, and sacks over their heads.  Then it was 100-mile-per-hour rhymes for twenty minutes culminating in their signature “1s in the air for Mental Health and Suicide awareness”. Showing true fan appreciation, each act took time at the merchandise booth to meet and greet the fans and sign anything from t-shirts to body parts during the break.

Joey Cool

Next up was Joey Cool, just signed to Strange Music last October and supporting his debut self-titled album. He and Yates both hail from Kansas City and collaborated on “Life Sentences” from the Special Effects album. Tonight Joey was joined on stage by DJ Tiberias who played the only instrument all night when he picked up the bass for the new single “Under Pressure”.

Mackenzie Nicole

In the three-hole was Mackenzie Nicole introducing songs from her new album The Edge on Strange Music. Nicole’s set was a refreshing break from the angst and monotonous beats of the opening rap acts and introduced melodic pop music to the crowd. The expectation was that the Tech N9ne crowd would boo a Taylor Swift-inspired artist singing to tracks and syncopated video, but the crowd adored her and she seemed genuinely surprised at the enthusiastic response from Phoenix. She later told Burning Hot Events, “I loved this Phoenix crowd, this was the best show yet!” Although the music seemed a little out of place for this concert, Mackenzie Nicole has a great signature voice and the songs were instantly familiar.

Just Juice

Another break. On the stage are two larger-than-life video screens flashing the winged snake logo of Strange Music. Expectations are high for internet sensation Just Juice, but instead, we are greeted by his unknown MC sidekick. So sure he was a comedian doing his schtick, but he did get the crowd fired up with an overused countdown dance for a crowd yell.  Finally, Just Juice appears in a white jacket and his trademark bucket hat. Props to his mic skills and lyrical tirades, but the banter between songs about his doubters and haters in high school got old. He’s young and shows lots of potential, and it was awesome that Tech N9ne gave him the opportunity to be on this tour, but his set was uninspiring. The audience, on the other hand, were on their feet and connecting and gave him a warm Phoenix welcome.

There was ample time to buy t-shirts and swag, down some cold beer, and from the smells in the air there may have been some medical marijuana patients in the audience getting prepared for the main event.  The intermission mixtape was filled with favorites that had everyone rapping in place and getting amped.

Tech N9ne

Eventually, the groundswell culminated as the lights went down and the “Klusterfuk” mixtape heralded the coming of The G. Two 12-foot screens flash with the beat and an 8-foot crystal ball glows purple from within with the blood-red winged serpent logo locking in that brand identity. The video to the right explodes with Yates as ‘The King’ adorned in brown medieval robes in a deserted misty forest. On the left screen, he is ‘The Clown’ and wearing all white and donning the skull cap touting the “A” for anarchy. Fans scream as the crystal ball turns to reveal ‘The G’ dressed in all red except for the white jersey number, and obviously, that number is “9”.

Tech N9ne - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Tech N9ne
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

What the fuck’s up Phoenix!?,” he shouts, “I…am…what? Fresh out of fucks!” It was on. This was what everyone came for. This is really when the SHOW started. One-hundred mile-per-hour chopper style flowing with his hand in the air and each finger typing the lyrics into the sky. The Clown and The King are the on-screen backup singers for The G and this power trio continues to entertain with “Comfortable” and “No Reason (The Mosh Pit Song).”

Tech N9ne - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Tech N9ne
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

Just when it seems like we’ve reached the pinnacle of excitement, Krizz Kaliko hits the stage and takes it up another notch, prancing back and forth like a caged panther. The virtual trio becomes a quartet as they launch into “Riotmaker”, “Dysfunctional”, and “Einstein.” The G takes a knee and lets out a primal scream to end the song while explosive smoke cannons erupt. He gets to his feet and shouts, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom I love ya” and he exits the stage.

Tech N9ne - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Tech N9ne & Krizz Kaliko
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

Then it was Kaliko’s turn to take center stage to hammer out “Anxiety.” He was also dressed in all red except for his white spider logo on the front of his jacket and a white towel that he waved around like a magic wand. As the song faded, he exited the stage. Eerie music played and a chant began: “long live the clown.” There was an explosion on the left video screen and the clown was gone, replaced by a twerking dancer in lingerie and a medical gown.

Symbolically jumping from the screen, Yates reappears donning the clown mask and the white uniform. We were in Clown Town now and the set includes “Tormented”, “URALYA”, “Straight Out The Gate”, and “Starting To Turn” (note, this one was awesome), “So Dope (They Wanna)”, and then he dedicated the show to his mother and shot into “Blackened the Sun”.

Tech N9ne - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Krizz Kaliko
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

Kaliko was back on stage and did a dope medley of songs that included homages to Hall & Oats “I Can’t Go For That”, to “Rock Me Amadeus”, and host of song snippets that kept everyone entranced. Krizz Kaliko can obviously rap, but his singing voice was even more impressive and he was leaving it all out on the stage. The twerker on the left screen had gone away and The King was replaced on the right screen with another twerker wearing very little medieval garb in front of a throne made of dead wood.

A choir of angels heralded the coming of The King. Yates dressed in his priestly robes and gave a schooling demonstration of speed and enunciation that is unrivaled. This set included “Sriracha”, “He’s A Mental Giant”, “Worldwide Choppers”, and wrapped up with “Speedom (WW2)” that featured Kaliko and Eminem on the Special Effects CD.

The last act of the show was aptly titled “House of Hits” and Yates returned to the stage in all black and admitted that they’d been ‘sippin’ all day and they’d be sippin’ all night.’ The feel of the show transformed from “why so serious” to “let’s get delirious” and all of the opening acts took turns collaborating.  King ISO rocked “Bad Juju” and Mackenzie Nicole brought vocal prowess to “One More”. The party was in full swing, both the audience and performers were showing signs of being under the influence, and what better time to break into “Caribou Lou”; the song that inspired the Tech N9ne craft beer “Bou Lou”!

Tech N9ne - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Tech N9ne & Krizz Kaliko
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

The song selections covered the entire Tech N9ne career, which led us to 2018 and to the song that’s ignited the interest of the newcomer fans, “Don’t Nobody Want None”. He was out of breath as any normal human being would be at the end of a four-hour show, but it wasn’t over yet.  There was some drinking on stage and the full cast of characters came out for the finale of “Hood Go Crazy” and the last rites of the 14-second “Stamina” from the Anghellic CD. What an awesome way to end the show as everyone on stage recites the final words, “Tech N9ne”!

Tech N9ne - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Tech N9ne
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

One last shout out to this crew for being genuine and for respecting the fans.  They had been doing these long nights since the beginning of the tour for the past two weeks, and they still took time at the end of the show to meet and greet everybody at the merchandise booth… not just the elite VIP, but every fan. That’s cool, and it makes them even more appreciated. Phoenix may have been just another stop on Tech N9ne’s tour across the planet, but he showed that he genuinely cared about the fans in this town and that will be remembered for a long time to come.

PHOTO ALBUM

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

Tech N9ne – The Van Buren 5-13-18

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Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Miss Krystle Showcases New EP At Intimate Private Studio 11-11-17

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PHOENIXPop recording artist Miss Krystle has just released the six-song EP Inevitable as the follow up to her successful Woman In Motion CD. This night was a showcase of the new songs along with an offering of music from her first three studio CDs. The intimate VIP party was held in a controlled private studio called the Premier Room at Premier Studios on Indian School Road. Guests arrived in anticipation of the live show and explored the venue and the well-stocked merchandise booth while networking with friends and industry associates.

Miss Krystle lit up the room at 8:30pm when she hit the stage dressed all in black; a dramatic contrast to her signature fiery red mane. The set started with “Right Movement” a collaboration with KJ Swaka (Pendulum and Destroit) and “Take Me Home” which was produced by Zion Brock. The hard-hitting electronica tracks are brought to life by the solid rhythm section of That Orko on bass and Brent Hensley on drums.  This music transcends labels of pop or electronic dance music.  It is edgy and in-your-face, but it is uniquely Miss Krystle. With lyrics like, “I’m a wolf, not a sheep,” she has no regrets in blazing new trails forging her own sound.

Miss Krystle - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Miss Krystle
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

Miss Krystle commands the stage and pours her soul into each line. The fans in the audience are under her spell and sing along with the next two songs from Woman In Motion; “Dukes Up” and “Pressure”. The high energy has been non-stop and her performance has been an aerobic workout, but still the vocals are spot on.  From assertive lines of angst to soft soaring notes she is matching the studio versions of the songs note for note.

At the end of this introductory frenzy, there is a catharsis. The band exits the stage and Miss Krystle is left alone with keyboard and a spotlight.  This is where we learn that Miss Krystle is more than a pretty face with rock star vocals as she demonstrates her classical training on piano and delivers some of her original songwriting. The three-song solo “acoustic” set starts off with her song “I Don’t Cry” from the Run CD. This song has a beautiful music video where she performs in elegant body paint and has over 200,000 views. The crowd cheers as she begins singing. Next up is “Relevant”; the first song played from the new EP.  In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Miss Krystle described the message of this song saying “The only person who should make you feel relevant and loved is ultimately you.” The studio version of the song has a sonically big production that conveys the emotional message, but ironically this stripped down piano/vocal version may have emoted even more heartfelt emotion. The third song in the set was a totally unexpected cover of “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. This brought a smile to everyone’s face and it seemed to be a true expression of love to some lucky person in the room.

Miss Krystle - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Miss Krystle
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

The band returned to the stage and the energy again cranked up for two more songs from the new EP, “Inevitable” and “Wild Like Fire.”  Miss Krystle has been very prolific at self-producing high quality music videos and her latest is for the song “Inevitable.” In an industry where record deals seem to have lost their teeth, she has been successfully gaining celebrity through self-promotion and a lot of hard work. Her new songs are collaborations with her musical partner, That Orko, who has helped to elevate her production sound and inspired her to write songs that she says are some of her “best music to date.”

Miss Krystle - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Miss Krystle
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

Miss Krystle isn’t relying on sex appeal to connect with her audience, but she definitely isn’t trying to hide it either. There is a seductiveness to her moves that matches the message in “Focused All Night” from Woman In Motion. She strips one layer of black and eventually focuses on each person in the room, one at a time, making eye contact and making a personal connection.  One can envision her doing this same performance on a national stage with backup dancers, lights and pyrotechnics, a 10-piece band, and a stadium crowd. Although her surroundings were much more reserved, her performance proved that she is ready for prime time.

The 14-song set culminated in trio of covers that kept in sync with the high energy of the evening with “Lap Dance” by NERD, “Breath” by The Prodigy, and an homage to Beyonce with “Crazy In Love” that had everyone moving. Lastly, it was back to an original for the final song of the night which was “Unforgettable”…literally and figuratively. This song’s haunting melody is addictive and complements the lyrical intent to never fade into anonymity,  “Burning in your memory you know I’m unforgettable…On your mind and in your dreams I’m a part of history.” The band left it all on the stage and there was no holding back to put on a fantastic show.

Miss Krystle - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Miss Krystle
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

This was a VIP experience so everyone had their chance to meet the band, take selfies, and get their CDs, prints, and t-shirts autographed. The venue was a perfect place for a band showcase and the sound was appropriately loud while remaining clear.  The only annoyance was the automated lighting chase that wasn’t synched to the music and each scene was monochromatic. Other than that, the space was a perfect venue to promote the new EP from Miss Krystle. Look out for her next music video release for the song “Relevant” coming soon to her bustling Youtube channel.

PHOTO ALBUM

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Miss Krystle – Premiere Studios 11-11-17

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved