All posts by Sean Tingle

English Instructor at ASU, & Humanities Instructor at EMCC. Taught in Japan for 1 year. World traveler. Dessert, tea, & coffee lover. Video game player & sci-fi/fantasy aficionado. Fan of all sorts of music. Rescue dog advocate.

REVIEW: Covet Blossoms on Stage at The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix 7-22-18

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PHOENIX – Covet, touring with special guests and friends HOLY FAWN and Vasudeva, bloomed in a magnificent way at The Rebel Lounge and shared their sublime sounds during the hottest period of the unrelenting desert summer. Luckily, nobody was a pile of goo by the time the show started.

This esoteric collection of musicians was a sight to behold, sharing a fascinating mix of influences from genres such as post-rock, math rock, ambient music, alternative rock, indie rock, experimental sounds, and many more. While stage banter and lyrics may have been at a minimum, fans certainly have a lot to talk about after witnessing this stunning bouquet of musical aptitude.

HOLY FAWN

Kicking off the evening was local band HOLY FAWN, self-described as “four creatures making loud heavy pretty noises.” They certainly lived up to their description, as the noises varied from gentle electric sounds to earth-shattering riffs and screams. They were also the only band of the evening to feature some vocals in their songs, but for the most part, they fit right in with a heavy focus on unique instrumentals.

HOLY FAWN - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
HOLY FAWN
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

HOLY FAWN began their set with some ambient music playing over a dark stage covered in laser lights. The darkness and the soothing sounds made for some great ambiance, but soon it was time to rock. Without really announcing themselves, HOLY FAWN made their way to the stage from the merch booth area — not a long walk at all in the cozy, intimate Rebel Lounge. One member said “alright, let’s do this,” as they prepared for the show.

As HOLY FAWN began to play along with the ambient music, their energy slowly rose until climaxing with some epic, loud sounds. The vocals were hard to discern in The Rebel Lounge, but the music was still enjoyable. It was all about the instruments, with some screaming thrown in every once in a while for good measure.

Vasudeva

Vasudeva took the stage shortly after HOLY FAWN, and they brought a different sound to the room. Their approach is purely instrumental, and each band member can play their instruments brilliantly. Watching all three of them on stage is a beautiful sight, and it is clear they love playing music together. Not only is their music beautiful and enjoyable, but so is their presence on stage. Their commitment to the craft is hypnotic.

Vasudeva - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Vasudeva
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Vasudeva spent most of their time on stage rocking out and sharing their captivating sounds with the crowd, but they were sure to add a quick “thank you” after each song was over. They were also sure to throw in a few other tidbits, such as “this is dope,” “this is so cool,” and “righteous.” They were also sure to thank Covet for asking them to go on tour together. Vasudeva said, “Our friends Covet are on after us. Give it up for them! We’ve been touring with them for about a week now. Wish it was longer.”

Each member of Vasudeva was really into the music and the performance, and they finished their set with an energizing finale. While many people may have come to The Rebel Lounge to see Covet, Vasudeva certainly gave them their money’s worth. The crowd was prepped for more scintillating instrumental music, but it was clear that everyone had immensely enjoyed the show so far. Unfortunately for Vasudeva fans, merch was sparse; as they said, “we’ve been on tour for a while, so we’re running low on merch. We have 2 records left. It’s crazy.” That didn’t stop people from rushing to buy things later, though.

Covet

At long last, it was time to effloresce. Similar to how HOLY FAWN began, there was ambient music playing — a prologue to the epic odyssey that was about to commence. Covet took the stage by gentle storm, with David Adamiak coming out to join the ambient music and add some bass currents to the mix. Shortly after that, Yvette Young and Forrest Rice joined him on stage to a ton of applause.

Covet - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Covet
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

As Covet says, they are “just 3 people making music” — this is the best way to describe their performance on stage. Rather than one person taking center stage, with the others supporting them, Covet is a group of musicians who somehow share the spotlight evenly. What could easily devolve into a discordant mix of conflicting instrumentals becomes a truly majestic melody.

Covet - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Forrest Rice (Drummer), Covet
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Rice, the drummer, truly rocked The Rebel Lounge into oblivion. His performance was spectacular, and by the look on his face, he loved every second of it. He gave the music so much energy, and his massive smile could pierce even the darkest of sorrows. Meanwhile, Young was in the zone, hyper-focused on plucking the strings on her collection of beautiful, unique guitars. Tying it all together was Adamiak, traipsing around the stage with his bass guitar, really getting into the music and the moment.

Covet - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Yvette Young (Guitarist), Covet
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Young has made waves in recent years with her unique style of playing the guitar, and she has also recently been featured in a few interesting articles that reveal some insights into her artistic powers. While she plays many instruments, the way she plucks the guitar strings is quite unique; the sounds this technique creates are fascinating and entrancing. Not only does this show off her sheer mastery of guitar, but her immense creativity as well. It is no wonder she has been called a true “Renaissance woman” by many. 

Covet - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
David Adamiak (Bassist), Covet
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Adamiak brought his own creative spin to the show as well. While he merrily wandered all over stage, he made sure to engage with the audience whenever possible. If he didn’t make eye contact with every single person in The Rebel Lounge, it must have been close! He also seemed to have a great time making silly faces at people, as well as jumping out at the crowd from time to time to really rock out. At the end of the show, he made sure to dispense plenty of high fives to those at the front, too! Rice ran up to join him in the high fiving at that point, so there was plenty of love to go around.

Covet had such a pleasant presence on stage and infected the entire crowd with their joy. Along with spreading the music love, they also shared some beautiful stories and useful information. They referred to HOLY FAWN and Vasudeva as their “ultra homies,” told a story about the importance of staying hydrated, and thanked the audience profusely for joining them that evening. As Adamiak said, “thanks for staying out so late with us, on a Sunday night of all nights.” He repeated similar sentiments at the end of the show.

effloresce - Album Cover

At the end of the show, Covet performed “Howl” from their new album effloresce, which just came out on July 13th; this song is a great way to send a crowd on their way, as it is full of phenomenal energy truly worthy of a grand finale. After, Adamiak said “you guys make us really happy” and mentioned they’d all be by the merch later if anyone wanted to say hi. However, the crowd chanted “one more song” for a brief time after they had left the stage, so the grand finale wasn’t so final after all.

They came back on stage, and Adamiak said “y’all are a bunch of sweethearts, thank you.” As he was letting his hair down, he added, “we’re gonna do one that doesn’t require hair ties.” Then, “on a very serious note,” he introduced the song “Ares” as their actual final song for the evening. While not quite as thunderous as “Howl,” it is still a superb way to end a show.

When the show was over, Covet, Vasudeva, and HOLY FAWN were all hanging around the merch area waiting to greet fans, sign merch, and say some farewells. For fans of HOLY FAWN, the farewell isn’t so long either — earlier in the show, Adamiak also added that HOLY FAWN will be having an album release at The Rebel Lounge on September 21st, so mark that one on your calendar!

Photo Album

Photos by Rodrigo Izquierdo

Covet, Vasudeva, & HOLY FAWN – The Rebel Lounge 7-22-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Poppy Catches Phoenix in Her Interweb on Valentine’s Day at Crescent Ballroom 2-14-18

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PHOENIX – A rainy Valentine’s Day evening in Phoenix, Arizona – what a perfect night for one of the most bizarre acts to come through town. Moriah Rose Pereira, who goes by the name Poppy on the internet, is a multi-talented internet phenomenon. A young veteran in dancing, singing, acting, and creativity, Poppy was able to bring her peculiar act to the desert. Fans and onlookers of all shapes, sizes, and types gathered together at the Crescent Ballroom to see the internet come to life and behold the spectacle that is the “Poppy.Computer Tour. It certainly did not disappoint.

What Exactly is Poppy?

Believed to be an android by many, a cult leader by some, and an all-around weirdo by “normies” on the internet, Poppy found massive notoriety over YouTube after releasing her infamous video “I’m Poppy,” which can be viewed here. Produced with the help of Titanic Sinclair, another well-known internet phenomenon, musician, and director, Poppy was quickly able to gain the attention of the modern world, mostly through her series of outlandish videos.

She eventually turned this YouTube sensation into an effective tool in the pursuit of her ultimate dream: becoming a pop star. In fact, Poppy even won a Streamy Award in late 2017 for “Breakthrough Artist.” However, it would likely be more apt to label her an anti-pop star, as her work seems to revolve around calling out the absurdities of contemporary popular culture, pop music, and fame in the modern world.

While Poppy originally claimed not to be in a cult a little over a year ago, with Titanic Sinclair vouching for the accuracy of this claim, the “Poppy.Computer Tour” seemed to prove otherwise. This humorous take on possibly spinning criticism on its own head and turned it into another powerful tool in their digital and cultural arsenals; Titanic Sinclair and Poppy seem to embrace this cultish mentality, and they certainly took it and ran with it.

This cultish theme led to some fabulously interesting and entertaining moments during the show; from the computer-rendered speech synthesis-style narration, to fans “drinking the Kool-Aid,” this cult-themed joke certainly balances itself on a thin line between satire and reality. Nonetheless, the screaming fans—aka “Poppy Seeds”—and fascinated observers did not seem to mind either way. After all, is this not the essence of modern popular culture? Undying fealty to those famous people all fans have sworn allegiance to.

Poppy.Computer Tour

The “Poppy.Computer Tour” is Poppy’s first time visiting real people as a musician, and it was originally planned to visit only 20 cities across North America, but likely due to its greater-than-expected success, the tour was expanded to include a stop in London, Tokyo, and 15 other stops in North America. Poppy and Titanic Sinclair planned this epic adventure in order to promote Poppy’s first official album, Poppy.Computer.

The most interesting aspect of this tour is that, with the exception of her Toronto show, there were no opening acts. Instead, Poppy substituted the time slot traditionally reserved for an opener for one of the characters off her YouTube channel – Charlotte the Mannequin. This same character also happens to be the main antagonist from Poppy’s new YouTube Red film, with a potential to become a series, titled I’m Poppy.

Poppy also traveled with two amazingly talented backup dancers, Alec and Jason. These two stole the spotlight during many points, yet they always made sure to give it back to Poppy when the time was right. They were their to support and augment her, after all, with their keytar dance moves, air drums, and even their own take on what looked like a Thousand Arms Dance. Complete with tutus, bleach blonde wigs, and face masks, they offered an unsettling yet oddly charming addition to the stage.

Charlotte the Mannequin

As fans eagerly awaited the unexpected, uncertainty swirled in the air. Would there be an opener? How would they start the show? What, exactly, was this going to be like? Those who knew Poppy from the internet likely had all sorts of wild ideas, and “Africa” by Toto was playing on loop as they contemplated the imminent future. As the song itself has become its own infamous meme, it seemed only fitting to fill the void of time while everyone waited for the show to start.

Charlotte Quin, or Charlotte the Mannequin, sat alone on the stage, aside a MacBook DJ setup and between two massive screens. She opened the show with a pre-selected audio set. While she isn’t the most animated character, she does have her very own YouTube channel where she occasionally copies Poppy’s ideas, makes her own versions of Poppy’s songs, and otherwise wreaks havoc on Poppy’s online presence. She also happens to have a diverse but excellent taste in music, sampling and playing songs of all genres and eras. There was certainly something for just about everyone in her playlist, and her transitions were seamless.

Songs and artists featured during this most interesting of opening DJ acts include: Daft Punk, Baha Men, Missy Elliot, N.W.A., Vanessa Carlton, TLC, Cake, Abba, Ke$ha, The B-52s, Of Montreal, Talking Heads, Madonna, Rihanna, LMFAO, Justin Bieber, Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5, Jimmy Eat World, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Dr. Dre, Cyndi Lauper, Ed Sheeran, Nena’s (Original German) “99 Red Balloons”, and Miley Cyrus.

Throughout this playlist, symbols resembling every meme about the Illuminati played, mixed in with some of the visuals from Poppy’s videos—most notably, “This Birdcage” and “Where is Poppy?”, a video made in collaboration with entertainment company and internet phenomenon Super Deluxe. Strung throughout the set were also sound clips from various Poppy videos, most notably increasingly-frequent statements of “I’m Poppy.” Charlotte’s own statements of “Hello Internet and how she is going to be the “Queen of YouTube.” It also featured some sound clips of Poppy and Charlotte discussing the Bible, internet meme sensation Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That, and an old Blockbuster commercial.

Towards the end of Charlotte’s set, there was some banter between her and Poppy, ending with Poppy stating she was “Uncomfortable,” with Charlotte replying, “Uncomfortable? I’ll show you uncomfortable!” Poppy called for “Security!” As the final two songs played, the unusual opening act ended with the question, “Are you ready for Poppy?” playing over and over. They then played just about every ending theme ever, and random noises or themes, from things such as: The Simpsons, Castle Rock Entertainment, Windows ME, Viacom, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and so on. It was hard to keep track of since they were only samples given in rapid succession, but the result was immensely entertaining.

Initiating

To capitalize on this hype, Titanic Sinclair came out on stage just before the show began. He presented what was most likely a delicious Poppy beverage (Kool-Aid) prior to sampling some himself. He then set down the pitcher and prepared the crowd for initiation. Warning messages popped up on the screens, and then fans were inducted into the Cult of Poppy over three different Programming Sequences, complete with all the necessary digital and broadcast noises to make it just weird enough. Titanic Sinclair proceeded to pour cups of the delicious Poppy beverage during this time.

With all the grace granted to an android, Poppy slowly and quietly proceeded on stage with her two gender-ambiguous backup dancers, taking her place center stage with her back facing the audience. Her fans were ravenous, but Poppy is the master of timing and patience. Once the appropriate time came, she began to perform her iconic song and first single from her new album, “I’m Poppy“. She followed this up with “Computer Boy,” the second single from her new album.

P O P P Y I’m Poppy!

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These backup dancers have the BEST job in the universe!

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Once “Computer Boy” concluded, Poppy played her video “Doritos Monster Energy Drink,” because when else is a perfect time?

She continued the weirdness by asking the audience, “Do you love me?” She then proceeded to hand out her delicious Poppy beverage, passing out Kool-Aid to a few people in the front row. Titanic Sinclair and the backup dancers also helped with cup distribution. It was a beautiful, if not strange, moment.

Later on, Poppy also brought up the LOVE METER on the large screens, and her backup dancers hyped the audience up – everyone screamed, cheered, and clapped as loud as they could in order to fill the meter up. It turns out that the crowd does, in fact, love Poppy, as they were able to fill the meter up completely. What a way to spend Valentine’s Day!

Illuminati confirmed.

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Poppy performed many of her popular songs from the new album, including “Let’s Make a Video,” “Moshi Moshi,” “Interweb,” and “Bleach Blonde Baby.” The music videos, styles, and live performances are all uniquely performed and designed, and they are all quite reminiscent of Japanese Pop Music (J-Pop).

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (KPP) especially comes to mind when exploring Poppy’s musical styles and approaches – especially her songs “PONPONPON,” “CANDY CANDY,” and “Invader Invader.” The latter two of these are especially reminiscent of Poppy’s live performance, particularly regarding her backup dancers; CANDY CANDY features what is likely a male impersonator of KPP, dancing behind her with a wig in her same hairstyle and a mask that is an anime version of her face. In Invader Invader, she has many gender-ambiguous backup dancers as well. There certainly seems to be a lot of inspiration here from J-Pop, making Poppy’s performance a great mix of American and Japanese pop music styles.

Another marriage between pop styles can be seen with French pop artist Yelle, who is also famous for her interesting approaches to music, live performances, and music videos. While the connections aren’t as clear as between Poppy and KPP, Yelle’s upbeat and interesting approaches to pop culture certainly are sights to behold. Yelle’s hit song “Ba$$in” is particularly apt, as well as “Comme Un Enfant,” “Safari Disco Club,” “Complètement fou,” and “Ici & Maintenant.” If anything, her unique dancing styles are certainly comparable to Poppy’s own take on dance, which was Poppy’s first love.

I’ve caught you in my interweb… I’ve caught you in my internet…

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

In the middle of Poppy’s performance, she played her video “3:36 and followed it up with some live additions: “Should we end the show early?” The audience, of course, said no, and she replied, “Okay.” However, it would not have been much of a surprise if she had ended it early.

Throughout the show, Poppy made excellent eye contact with just about everyone in the crowd. She was excellent at engaging people in that way while still maintaining her android-like, robotic façade. At one point, she did go through the front row and gave high fives or held hands, briefly, with as many fans as she could. Her backup dancers also, at one point, took 2 phones from fans in the crowd and took some photos of Poppy from their perspectives on the stage. It is clear that Poppy and company are trying their best to maintain their fans’ loyalty and love.

As the end approached, Poppy asked, “Can I be your Valentine?” The crowd, of course, agreed with great enthusiasm. However, all was not perfect, as Charlotte had to make her final attempt of the night at overthrowing Poppy – her voice popped up over the speakers, as she had just been sitting there, quietly, on stage throughout Poppy’s performance.

Can I sing a song?” Charlotte asked.  “You’ve already had your turn,” Poppy replied. She then requested for the crowd to join her in chanting, “Bye bye, Charlotte!” Apparently, at some point, Charlotte’s head was removed, so it is clear the crowd was quite serious about quieting her pleas for fame and recognition.

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Poppy’s penultimate song for the show was her song, “Where’s My Microphone?” The audience, backup dancers, Titanic Sinclair, and Poppy all joined in on worrying about where Poppy’s microphone was, but everyone was quite relieved when she realized it was in her hands the whole time! “Oh, there it is!”

Finally, the time came for Poppy’s last song, “Software Upgrade.” She gave it her all, and her energy was quite infectious. Most in the crowd were having such a great time singing and dancing along, with a few wallflowers hanging around and enjoying their interesting Valentine’s Day adventure. Poppy finished the song by assuring everyone that she loved them prior to departing the stage as mysteriously as she had appeared, and the crowd chanted and screamed for an encore.

A beautiful finale with some Kyary Pamyu Pamyu vibes! That dancing! 😂💃🕺

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Unfortunately, that encore never came, and it ended up being an early evening for Poppy fans and Crescent Ballroom guests. Charlotte the Mannequin had played her set from about 8pm to 8:40pm, and Poppy performed from that point until 9:30pm. It was a short show, but it can be said this was certainly not the most traditional concert or musical experience anyway. While it would have been nice to see Poppy perform a couple of her original songs prior to the Poppy.Computer album, such as “Money or “Lowlife,” it was still an immensely surrealistic and enjoyable experience to see such an internet phenomenon in real life.

Overall, Valentine’s Day with Poppy at the Crescent Ballroom was an interesting yet amusing way to spend an evening, and it is clear Poppy will be going places. Her partnership with Titanic Sinclair has, so far, been wildly successful, and it will be interesting to see where they go and what they do next. If they do choose to come back to Phoenix, however, it might be best to visit another venue – Crescent Ballroom was a bit too small for her sold out show, and the stage is too low for everyone in the audience to see the screens fully. At times, it was even difficult to see the backup dancers or Poppy herself, which was disappointing during certain moments. This was a show one did not want to miss a moment of – so many small details were hidden throughout.

One thing is for certain, though – the lack of encore and the resuming of “Africa” by Toto at the end of the show was the greatest troll moment of all. Disappointing and unexpected, yes, but one cannot help to smile after such a thoroughly bizarre experience.

REVIEW: Lights Returns to Arizona Stronger Than Ever at Marquee Theatre 2-8-18

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TEMPE, AZ – Lights, along with special guests Chase Atlantic and DCF, illuminated Marquee Theatre last Thursday. This eclectic mix of musicians magnetized a diverse crowd to The Marquee’s doors, and together, the entire venue celebrated a night of pure joy and musical euphoria. Fans of all ages blissfully enjoyed the great sound, atmosphere, and company of each band, but Lights certainly shone brightest of all — fans were dazzled by their otherworldly sounds and gorgeous visuals on stage, and it is clear for any outside observer to understand why they command an army of such devoted fans.

For those who know and love Lights already, they’re aware that this is certainly not Lights’ first rodeo — they’ve been to Phoenix many times since 2008, but as lead singer Lights Valerie Poxleitner put it, they come back stronger every time. From The Nile to Warped Tour, Lights certainly know how to command a stage of any size and location, and their attention to detail certainly transfixes audiences on multiple levels. As Poxleitner is an artist in more ways than one, it is no surprise that Lights’ live performances are as much visual spectacle as they are aural extravaganza. It’s no wonder that Lights has recently received nominations for the Pop Album of the Year and Artist of the Year categories in the 2018 JUNO Awards.

DCF

The first performance of the evening was DCF, an artist who is a compelling example of contemporary pop, alternative, and indie music styles. His was a solo act, yet he projected enough energy and personality to decently command the entire stage and crowd. Concert-goers, in fact, were somewhat devastated when it came time for Prince DCF to exit the stage after an acoustic version of “Misery Business” by Paramore, letting out an audible sigh as he departed.

SCF - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
DCF
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
Click for More DCF Photos

DCF’s interesting style, mix of genres, and unique take on what is considered pop music all went well with what could only have been a Napoleonic-era Royal Navy Admiral’s Coat. Together with his stylish hairstyle and glasses, DCF exudes confidence and mirth as he DJs, sings, cracks jokes, and finds any other way to entertain a crowd. His performance was certainly a great ice breaker for the evening, though it did end on a relatively anticlimactic note.

Chase Atlantic

Next up was Chase Atlantic, a wonderful group visiting all the way from Australia; they likely chased the Pacific in this case, but everyone at The Marquee was certainly happy to see them. They instantly took over the stage and crowd, carrying the momentum over from DCF and further building fans up for Lights later in the evening. Their high energy was contagious, and they also shared a unique take on contemporary music, just as DCF had done before them. It would be difficult to say exactly what they sound like, but all alternative musicians seem to be elusive when it comes to absolute definition.

Chase Atlantic - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Mitchel Cave (Lead Singer), Chase Atlantic
Photo Credit:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
Click for More Chase Atlantic Photos

Due to their eclectic mix of sounds, it was easy for everyone in the crowd to join in on the fun. Lead singer Mitchel Cave, who first got his big start on the world stage by performing on X-Factor Australia, must have chugged several energy drinks prior to coming out, because he was moving at the speed of light all over the stage. He also seemed to love having the audience join him in the adventure, jumping down to join them briefly, before hopping back up on stage to hype everyone up even further. Chase Atlantic was definitely a great act to follow DCF with, and these boys made the transition into Lights’ scintillating performance a flawless one.

LIGHTS

Though the performances of Chase Atlantic and DCF were fantastic, some fans simply could not contain their excitement for the main act of the evening — Lights; in fact, one young fan was spotted running all over The Marquee, seemingly unable to contain her excitement. It was clear this was likely not her first time seeing Lights, and her excitement proved to be quite the harbinger of the incredible musical and visual adventure ahead.

Lights came out on stage after quite the setup time, but the wait was certainly well worth it. Immediately, fans were greeted by lead vocalist Lights Valerie Poxleitner’s silhouette in front of a massive screen; the bright, neon lights behind her perfectly symbolized the band’s name, and the hype and tension felt throughout the crowd instantly reached a breaking point. The buildup to her full visual reveal was palpable, and her glamorous, vogue-like poses as she sang in her spectral, ethereal form brought out the best fashion week vibes. Finally, she emerged from the darkness and into the light to a feverish sea of fans.

Lights - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Lights Valerie Poxleitner (Lead Vocalist), Lights
Photo Credit:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
(Lights Photo Gallery Below)

We Were Here Tour – Issue One

Lights performed in 3 major acts throughout the evening. During the first act, Poxleitner kept the energy from Chase Atlantic going, with some of their most exciting, upbeat songs. During this portion of the show, she asked the audience if anyone here has seen them live before. There was a resounding, screaming yes, with the majority of hands within the crowd immediately shooting up as high as they could go. She continued, clearly pleased by this reaction, explaining that they love coming back to Phoenix, and that their first time here was at The Nile (Nile Theater) over in Mesa, AZ back in 2008, where they performed with Copeland. They’ve been back many times, including to Warped Tour, and she stated, “Year after year, we keep coming back stronger.” For fans who missed out on this tour, I think it is safe to assume that Lights will surely be back soon.

Lights - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Lights Valerie Poxleitner (Lead Vocalist), Lights
Photo Credit:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
(Lights Photo Gallery Below)

As the mood seemed to chill out a bit, Poxleitner began a new discussion: “I wrote this song when I was going through a shitty time. Who’s been through a shitty time?” The oddly enthusiastic screams from the crowd were certainly clear answer enough; “We’ve all been through shitty times. Do you know what helps get us through it? Friendship, a little bit of wine, and music.” The crowd loved this strategy, and prior to performing “Face Up,” Poxleitner gave them further inspiration: “Your weaknesses become your strengths.” This phrase would certainly make a great tattoo.

“Your weaknesses become your strengths” – Lights

We Were Here Tour – Issue Two

After “Face Up,” Lights retreated off stage for a brief respite. During this time, Poxleitner displayed some of her artwork on the huge screen on stage. Since she is an artist and illustrator, it only made sense — we got to see some of her characters and settings from her Skin & Earth comic series, synonymous with Lights’ new album of the same name, which currently has 6 issues out for purchase. The images and scenes shown were quite similar to the trailer for Skin & Earth, which can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/FnbL7ZE4hmo

Skin & Earth illustration at concert - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Illustration on screen from Lights’ comic book series Skin & Earth
Photo Credit:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
(Lights Photo Gallery Below)

During this phase of the performance, Lights returned to the stage with a more somber attitude. The setup had changed during this short intermission as well — suddenly, there was a piano with lots of candles on top, helping to relax the mood even further. It was time for some calm, more acoustic songs. Poxleitner was back on stage in a new outfit, sporting an acoustic guitar. It was a pleasant change of pace, and it certainly kept the vibes fresh for the evening. It also made the grand finale that much more powerful.

Lights - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Lights Valerie Poxleitner (Lead Vocalist), Lights
Photo Credit:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
(Lights Photo Gallery Below)

We Were Here Tour – Issue Three

After another quick break and some more stunning illustrations on the big screen, Lights was back on stage, and Poxleitner was sporting a third and final outfit. They brought back the high energy with a vengeance this time around, and Poxleitner joined the band with her own electric guitar. This guitar, she explained, represented her second character in her comic books, and it sported the beautiful Skin & Earth logo seen on stage, on the cover of her books, and all over her website and social media accounts — not to mention she also has it tattooed on her arm. She transitioned into her song “Running with the Boys” after this interesting discussion.

Lights - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Lights Valerie Poxleitner (Lead Vocalist), Lights
Photo Credit:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
(Lights Photo Gallery Below)

A highlight from this phase of the show was the video clips of Sailor Moon’s transformation and Street Fighter’s Chun Li pronouncing, “I am the strongest woman in the world!” playing in the background, which perfectly complemented the power behind Lights’ performance. Towards the end of this third act, Poxleitner brought up her song “We Were Here,” asking everyone, “When the song starts, do you hear waves or a storm?” The majority seemed to scream, “WAVES!” Poxleitner replied with, “Fuck. I always hear a storm.” She continued to discuss the music video for “We Were Here,” saying that she doesn’t recommend burning a bus, but that it was definitely a lot of fun: “Full disclosure — a pyrotech got to do it. But I got to throw the lighter.

Bonus Issue – The Encore

Once more unto the breach, Lights came back on stage for a quick encore. They weren’t off stage long, likely because the crowd’s chants, screams, and claps were so demanding. Poxleitner picked the mic back up and asked, “Do you guys wanna hear another song?” Everyone, of course, responded with a loud “YES!” She replied, “Alright, so be it, but you guys gotta dance, and you gotta sing,” and the crowd certainly complied. To reward fans, Poxleitner jumped down into the crowd for a bit to give most people up front the best high-fives ever before jumping back on stage for a special surprise for Poxleitner’s sister.

Poxleitner pulled out her phone near the very end of the show and told everyone that it was her sister’s birthday. She wanted to get a video of herself singing “Happy Birthday” with everyone in the audience, so the lights lit the house up, and everyone sang along while she recorded. “I’ve never done one of these before!” she exclaimed after. Her sister certainly got the best little gift from that moment.

Overall, the Phoenix stop of Lights’ We Were Here Tour was an exhilarating experience for everyone, and it was clear the entire band had just as great of a time as the crowd. In fact, Poxleitner may have had the most fun of all — she truly seems to love what she does, and this shines through in her incredible displays of creativity. From the life-sized cardboard cutouts of her comic book character illustrations out in the lobby to the strange vegan pizza box introduction to some synthy song intro tunes, her contagious enthusiasm spread throughout Marquee Theatre and well beyond. This went well with her aura of power her music, and she herself exudes, in addition to her uplifting spirit. She is an inspiration in many ways — a true Renaissance Woman.

Lights - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Lights Valerie Poxleitner (Lead Vocalist), Lights
Photo Credit:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
(Lights Photo Gallery Below)

Prior to heading out for the evening, Poxleitner explained that Lights is part of Plus 1, a movement and organization that ensures $1 from every ticket sold for participating shows and artists goes to causes they believe in. Lights decided on GRID Alternatives, an organization that helps to bring solar power to places across the states. Poxleitner closed by stating we all need to “protect this little planet that we have… it’s all we got.” They left the stage to resounding cheers of joy, leaving everyone to their evenings with a little positive thinking and a lot of great memories.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Lights – Marquee Theatre 2-8-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

All Content © Kataklizmic Design.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No Stealing

REVIEW: Miss Krystle’s New EP “Inevitable” is Down to Make Fans Feel Good

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Miss Krystle recently released her new EP Inevitable earlier this fall. As Arizona cools down from a particularly “Cruel Summer,” and as the US at large continues to struggle with obstacles across the board, Inevitable is a breath of fresh air ready to bring a second wind to all who listen. The Inevitable EP will be “on your mind and in your dreams… burning in your memory,” as it is truly “Unforgettable.”

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

Ever the inspiration, Miss Krystle continues utilizing all her passions and talents to their fullest potentials in all 6 tracks on the EP. She is a humanitarian, a philanthropist, an intellectual juggernaut, and a phenomenally talented musician; not only is the EP immensely entertaining, it is also incredibly uplifting and nurturing.
Miss Krystle had this to say about her new EP: “It was my mission to be impactful. We were going for in-your-face, this is how it is. We also wanted it to be empowering. I wanted to tell my fans that despite everything that has been going on socially and politically this year, you can find your power and your voice. I want them to remember to never give up. Lastly, I wanted to showcase my own vulnerability.” Throughout the entire album, these words certainly do ring true.

The Inevitable EP is a wild journey through many of the emotions, passions, experiences, and darkest thoughts that the human mind is capable of. The energy levels of the album are like a rollercoaster, with some songs pumping the listener up and getting them ready for a night on the town and others making the listener wonder if they should curl up on the couch with a comfortable blanket and a pint of their favorite ice cream. Miss Krystle has a one-of-a-kind style in her approach to music, but it fits in perfectly with other contemporary pop artists. Some of her new songs also seem like they’d easily find a place on a Dance Dance Revolution playlist, as they would be delightfully fun to dance along to. Others still would be perfect for someone’s first pick at karaoke.

Photo Credit: Shot by Jonny

Generally, pop music and similar genres are not known for their depth or insight, yet Miss Krystle easily marries popular culture, philosophy, and deep introspection in her musical work. During a preliminary listen, her songs sound as if they’d easily find a home in any club or on one’s favorite Top 40 radio station. Don’t be fooled, however—upon further inspection, the lyrics peel away, layer by layer, revealing a deep exploration into the human condition and how it impacts contemporary society.

Inevitable

From anthemic, affirmational title-track “Inevitable”, Miss Krystle explores themes of fitting in, watching the world around us, learning from our experiences, seeing the horrors of humanity and the world around us, yet still keeping calm and carrying on. 

She tackles the concept of how “they tell us how to fit in… tell us how to get by,” while still struggling to find our own identities in this mad world. While the song could be about so many different topics, from love to revolution, it instantly becomes a bright beacon in the night, guiding all who may feel lost.

Photo Credit: That Orko

In fact, out of all the songs on this EP, “Inevitable” itself may be the most exceptional and singularly profound track. Coming out at a time when many of us may feel utterly lost and hopeless, Miss Krystle reminds us to “rise for what matters, lasting until the end.” She needs us standing with her, united. This is a call to arms, not to fight what is wrong in this world, but rather to fight for the ability to support one another, to remind ourselves that we are all in this together. “We are, none of us, alone,” as ancient Chinese philosopher Fushumongu stated long ago.

As we’ve seen, time and again across this country, people are “taking it to the streets, not afraid to take a stand.” We do have strength in numbers, and we will fight. We have had enough. We’ve all woken up to this new day, and we “can’t give up on what we love.” Victory truly is inevitable. This song, like a mantra, shall inspire countless others to greatness in the coming days.

On top of any newfound courage in the realms of love and activism, Miss Krystle also calls us to come “together, woman and man.” This is truer now more than ever before. None of us can ignore the future, no matter how hard we try. Now, let’s get ready to “spark it up.”

Wild Like Fire

While the more insightful songs and verses from Miss Krystle’s new EP are absolutely striking, the album has a great mix of fun and fiery tracks as well. When “Wild Like Fire” comes on, it’s difficult to not instantly get pumped up. This song is a true energy boost, from the lyrics to the beat. “Welcome to the show.” Miss Krystle “can’t control it,” because she really is a pro. This song is great to drive to with the volume up, but it would also find a home in any club or, perhaps, bedroom. While Miss Krystle certainly has her own, unique style, fans of Kylie Minogue and similar artists may really enjoy “Wild Like Fire” and other songs off this EP.

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

Better Than You Think

On top of Miss Krystle’s self-assuredness and self-knowledge of her more primal urges and experiences, she also covers those more intimate feelings that often accompany physical connections between lovers. “Better Than You Think” is a love ballad of sorts, reminiscent of a modern Shakespearean sonnet in its lyrics. The symbolism and imagery in this song are quite powerful, from “collecting stars like fireflies, I’ve never felt this much alive, living the life before we die, and we return back to the sky,” to “baby the altitude is fine, on this journey, you and I, watching auroras hypnotize, getting lost deeper in your eyes.” The romantic notions in this song would melt even the coldest of hearts.

Photo Credit: Larry Alan

As much as many of us know that the only person we can truly rely on in this universe is ourselves, Miss Krystle explores feelings most of us have felt before. She shows a serene vulnerability, acknowledging the dangers but also the securities that can come out of relying on another beautiful soul for sustenance. Someone else to share this journey, and the wonders of the universe, with, as she serenades us with “and if I burn up on reentry, I knew you’d want to be here with me, you knew that one last kiss could save me, floating with you for eternity… everything’s good as long as you’re here with me.” Miss Krystle takes us on an odyssey to space, giving us “galactic goosebumps everyplace” as we cruise “on highway milky way.”

Just as Miss Krystle explores these elements of our humanness, she also explores how the best intimate relationships involve two souls coming together, knowing more about each other than they may let on. Indeed, Miss Krystle shows that she knows us better than we think that she knows us, as our human experiences are similar to one another despite their singularity. In fact, through her work, Miss Krystle may also reveal how she may know herself better than she thinks that she knows herself.

Erase You

While many of us can relate to the feelings Miss Krystle explores in “Better Than You Think”, some of us may have unfortunately experienced some emotions and experiences that are quite antithetical to that beauty. “Erase You” is a song that explores the darker side of love, when we find ourselves in a relationship that ends up being something we were not quite expecting. Still, Miss Krystle’s penchant for self-examination and metacognition still shines through brightly in the lyrics. “I never understood your distance, I thought I got it right, but now you’re gone and I’m alone.” Anyone who has been through something like this can empathize with how painful this situation is.

Miss Krystle counters this betrayal with self-empowerment, starting the song with a vigorous mantra: “You’re in the presence of a Goddess, but you forgot to bow, and now I got my eyes up on the blade I’ll use to take you out.” She continues with some conflicting lines later in the song, showing the sort of infighting and uncertainty our spirits must endure in terrible times such as this treachery of love. As she struggles with these feelings, she shares her efforts to forget: “You can hand it over, no more staying sober, I drink it away to erase you. I need to escape what you put me through. I drink it away to erase you.”

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

While coming to terms with reality and coping mechanisms, Miss Krystle also explains some positive strategies for her situation: “So you thought you’d be a martyr, and leave me with your sin, but little did you know, I gave it up before your words began… I’m glad you’re gone and I’m alone, so I can go and live my life.” While all is fair and love and war, this war takes no prisoners, and the cost is high.

Despite Miss Krystle’s best efforts, she is only human, and the song ends with more of this battle still to be fought. “If I could just wake up with you next to me, everything would be just how I need it to be. I don’t want to feel all this pain, don’t want to be alone. I need you to feel the same, and get your arms back around me.” These heart-wrenching lyrics make it apparent that there are no happy endings in the real world, but we all have the power to make it through as stronger versions of who we used to be.

Anything

From the second “Anything” begins playing, it is difficult to not imagine it being played while a model walks down the runway, or while a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race lip syncs for her life. The beat really gets the blood flowing, and it is great to drive or work out to. It’s nearly impossible to not feel sexy and powerful while “Anything” plays, so “why you actin’ so shy?” Miss Krystle shows us something that will make our hearts bleed, so we “best be getting ready” because she’s gonna get us rockin’ steady. While it may be hard to focus, Miss Krystle helps us learn to “live it up.”

Relevant

The song “Relevant” was saved for the end of the EP, and for good reason. “Relevant” is rife with self-awareness and introspection, and it is clear this song is very personal for Miss Krystle. However, it also serves as a reminder to the rest of us to let go of where we began “and be reborn in the wake of it.” These lyrics are quite relevant to the theme of symbolic rebirth, and it is also quite fitting for Phoenix, Arizona.

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

Miss Krystle also reminds us to “feel at home in the place” we’re in, and to “never mind the storm.” Our dreams will keep us warm. We all struggle to become relevant while traversing our own paths through this life, and “we constantly test our innocence.” Likely pulling from her own experiences, she reminds us of the ultimate cost of giving parts of ourselves away in order to reach our goals: “May our broken halos serve as evidence; pieces of our souls for percentages.” As she states proudly, “I’m holding on to me.” We all may get a little lost on the way, but we must always remember who we are and where we came from.

Continuing this philosophical journey through personal trials and tribulations, Miss Krystle explores how “we all wanna be somebody,” but in the end, “all we really need is somebody… down to make us feel we’re relevant now.” Perhaps that somebody is a lover, a family member, or a friend; that somebody may even be ourselves, especially when the path becomes increasingly treacherous, or when the storm becomes too tempestuous. To quote Miss Krystle, “At the end of the day, all we are really looking for is someone to make us feel like we matter. My message is that the only person who should make you feel relevant and loved is ultimately you.”

Closing Thoughts

Don’t forget, “we make our own strength, we make our own peace,” and we really are so strong. “We can do this.” We are all a part of history, but Miss Krystle and her new EP Inevitable have certainly found a comfortable home in modern popular culture. As we all enjoy these 6 sublime songs, we also wait with bated breath for future releases from Miss Krystle. Hers is a flame we do not want to go out, as she brings a lot of light to this oft dark world.

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

(Top featured photo by Tony Mandarich Creatives)

 

REVIEW: Portugal. The Man Kicked It Like It Was 1986 at The Van Buren 10-12-17

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PHOENIX – Thursday, October 12th, was a much-anticipated night for fans of indie rock band Portugal. The Man. While many people may have heard of Portugal. The Man, or PTM for short, over the years since their inception in 2004, the band truly found fame after releasing their hit single “Feel It Still” from their new album, Woodstock. Almost overnight, “Feel It Still” became a widely played hit and currently sits at a comfortable 6th place spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list, inclusive of all genres of music.

This unexpected and sudden boost in attention may explain why their show at The Van Buren quickly sold out, and it may also explain a shirt they had on display at their merchandise booth with the message, “I LIKED PORTUGAL. THE MAN BEFORE THEY SOLD OUT.” This was just one of many interesting shirts and various other accessories they had on sale, with some items featuring their iconic and fascinatingly styled artwork. The lead singer, John Gourley, is the artist, and his style is quite unique.

The Van Buren is a new establishment, but it is quickly establishing its dominance in the Phoenix Metro area. Many people visited The Van Buren for the first time on Thursday evening, and many people in the crowd could be overheard discussing how great this new space is. Since the show was entirely sold out, they had the house cleared out as much as possible and even set up an auxiliary bar located house right, close to the side exits to the restrooms. This made for 3 bars inside to complement the bars out on the patio. The crowd was definitely hydrated, and the drinks were flowing — everyone was getting ready for the time of their lives.

The Chamanas

By the time The Chamanas started playing, the house was filling up fast. People were well lubricated, and cans of PBR could be seen in hands throughout the rapidly-growing crowd. While they were enjoying their beverages, The Chamanas treated them to a soothing mix of several of their distinctly varied songs. Paulina Reza, lead singer of The Chamanas, has a beautiful voice and a powerful set of lungs which she employed to their fullest throughout the show.

The Chamanas are considered a “Fronterizo pop fusion ensemble,” and their name is part English, part Spanish, and part portmanteau; all together, they represent a physical manifestation of the magical, spiritual qualities that music may sometimes bring into the world. Their goal? To change the way people may think or feel by bringing a positive outlook and spreading love through their songs. What better way to celebrate the idea of people coming together across borders to celebrate common interests and emotions? The members come from both Juarez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas, making this a fantastic fusion of cultures, languages, and styles.

Reza brings vocals that are at once unique, but also reminiscent of many famous singers who may not be well known in the US. In fact, the style of her voice in many of her songs brings hints of Jeanette, the famous British-Spanish pop artist who spent much of her own musical career bridging cultural gaps through music. The rest of The Chamanas are also reminiscent of similarly-minded bands, such as Calexico, who will be playing at the upcoming Lost Lake Festival on Friday, October 20th, as well as Chicano Batman, who will be playing at The Van Buren on Saturday, November 4th.

During The Chamanas’s performance, Reza took a moment to tell the crowd, “We love music. We love to do this.” She continued to share positive thoughts like this throughout their performance, both in Spanish and English; “Music is the answer,” she said; it can become a cure for discrimination across the country.

Towards the end of The Chamanas’s time on stage, Reza also shared that, when using Portugal. The Man’s recording studio, Sonic Ranch, they became quite friendly with one another. After a while, PTM asked The Chamanas to perform some of their songs in Spanish to help bridge the gaps between genres and cultures. Reza and the band were thrilled to do so.

This lead to a stunning rendition of “Purple Yellow Red & Blue” in mostly Spanish, with a few famous lines still in the original English — most notably, the lyrics from the chorus that are the same as the title of the song. They also played their version of “Feel It Still,” which was phenomenal as well. This was a great way to get the crowd excited for Portugal. The Man, and Reza further hyped the crowd by asking if they were excited to see PTM later. The crowd screamed their approval.

Portugal. The Man

After a short break consisting of eager fans pressing ever-closer together towards the stage, the lights went out, and “Unchained Melody” by Righteous Brothers began to play. The crowd’s eager cheers soon gave way to gentle swaying, and a few people pulled out their lighters. Several others joined with their cell phones, but the effect was not the same. Some began to sing along, especially as the song reached its climax, so to speak:

“Are you
Still mine
I need your love
I need your love
Godspeed your love to me”

Just as the song reached the peak of its climactic crescendo, one of the Portugal. The Man logos was projected onto the backdrop along with their title, “The Lords of Portland.” Their desert kingdom awaited them.

Following their royal title was a message for their loyal subjects: “We are not very good at stage banter, so tonight’s performance will feature some slogans written by our management. Thank you for your continued understanding. PTM.” They followed this projected message with a verbal greeting: “What’s up Phoenix? We’re Portugal. The Man.” Immediately after this, they went right into their cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” complete with ominous bells preceding stellar instrumentals.Those guys can rock out with the best of them.

The next song in PTM’s lineup was their second most famous song, “Purple Yellow Red & Blue.” It was clear that fans in the crowd loved hearing one of their favorite songs performed live, and many sang along. While much of the song was the same as the radio or album versions, they did add quite a few instrumental intermissions. This showed off their passion for progressive rock, which they would dive into again frequently throughout the remainder of the show.

Their penchant for progressive rock is rivaled by their love of psychedelic rock, so of course they had to cover Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” — if the singing heard from the crowd was any indication, the rest of the room definitely seemed to approve of this addition to the show. “Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone!” This was quite fitting because many might say Portugal. The Man is quite similar to a contemporary version of Pink Floyd, though they definitely have their own, signature style.

To couple with all the alternative, psychedelic, progressive, and experimental tunes Portugal. The Man were playing, they treated the crowd to an equally-psychedelic light show, complete with a section of “Purple Yellow Red & Blue” transitioning into an entrancing display of alternating rainbows reaching out towards the audience. Naturally, they also threw in purple, yellow, red, and blue lights, perfectly timed with their accompanying lyrics.

Hypnotic lasers, flashing lights, and rainbow hues were not the only visual accoutrements during the show; Portugal. The Man brought some fascinating visuals to display on the backdrop behind them. These frequently featured nightmarish images of bodies, heads, and eyes, and each song had a unique combination of one or many of these features. Diamonds and other geometric shapes also found their way into the visual feast on the projector. One thing is for certain — these graphics were unforgettable, hollow eyes and all.

As advertised, occasionally, the “management” threw up more messages throughout the show. Some of these messages stated things like, “We are Portugal. The Man! Just making sure you’re at the right concert,” and “Thank you for buying and/or stealing our new album.” Their self-awareness and reticence (or perhaps just pure love for playing music) were quite refreshing, and these textual messages were more than enough stage banter for this show.

Other amusing messages included the following series: “Smokin’ Weed???” “Gettin F*cked Up???” “Discussing Politics at Family Gatherings” and, finally, “That’s F*ckin’ Bad Ass.” The most important message throughout the entire show, however, was most likely the message that read, “That’s right kids. No computers up here. Just live instruments.”

After playing “Feel It Still” and many other hit songs, and after bringing some Woodstock vibes to Phoenix, it was time for a Portugal. The Man style encore. The crowd was greeted with a customized PTM version of the old-school “Indian-head test pattern” that used to play on broadcast TV: “Please Stand By.” Fans of the Fallout video game series may also recognize it quite well. This take on the interim between main show and encore was different and, again, self-aware, but everyone knew they’d be coming back out for a few more songs anyway. They must have wanted to be efficient about it.

Almost as soon as Portugal. The Man had swept into The Van Buren, the show was over. After their last song, the band quickly dispersed and left the stage without as much as a farewell. However, this is their style, so this is the way it must be. PTM fans were not bothered by this one bit, and many could be heard after the show eagerly chatting about how this was “the best concert of all time.” One thing is for sure: they put on a damn good show, and Phoenix is definitely feeling it still.

REVIEW: MUTEMATH’s “Play Dead” Live Brings New Life to The Van Buren 10-10-17

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PHOENIX – Tuesday, October 10th, was yet another perfect early-fall evening in downtown Phoenix. MUTEMATH, during the latter half of their US “Play Dead Live” Tour, graced The Van Buren with their ethereal presence. Joined by the relatively new band ROMES and Tennessee indie rock band Colony House. Together, they filled The Van Buren with an interesting mix of different styles of music, approaches to live performance, and interaction with fans.

ROMES

ROMES was first up; these young musicians came to Phoenix all the way from Toronto, Ontario and Wicklow, Ireland — all four met while attending school over the pond. This was their first time in Phoenix, and their enthusiasm and excitement to be at The Van Buren was palpable. The lead singer, Jacob Alexander, even sported a Phoenix Suns t-shirt to show his love for the city.

The members of ROMES had a few lights, including a lit-up sign of the band’s name, behind them on stage, but they relied mostly on their stage presence and energy to entertain the crowd. Their music was an interesting mix of styles, and they identify as indie, alternative, soul-pop or alternative pop. Their single, “Believe,” is a great introduction to their unique style. While they may be relatively new to the music scene, they have just released their self-titled debut album on October 6th.

The handsome and talented @romes hanging out with us at @thevanburenphx for their first visit to Phoenix

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

Jacob Alexander, Nicolas Amadeus, James Tebbitt, and Andrew Keyes provided fantastic stage presence, energy, instrumentals, and vocals to the crowd. Their performance was a great warm-up for the incredible MUTEMATH show to come later, but ROMES certainly could hold their own. It was clear these guys are quite close, and you could feel the camaraderie on stage as they played their favorite songs. Their smiles were infectious, and their positive, friendly, welcoming aura certainly set the mood for the rest of the evening.

@romes rocked the stage at @thevanburenphx as the first opening band this evening

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

Colony House

After a short break, Colony House’s time had come. Their set-up was a bit irregular, with the drummer on stage right and close to the audience. This provided everyone with a clear view of each band member’s performance, which was a nice addition. They certainly made excellent use of the entire stage. They also displayed a huge sign with their band name and logo behind them, which many in the audience thought looked a bit like a nice coffee shop or brand’s logo. They also provided a moderate amount of stage lighting, including what appeared to be four lighthouse beacons. At the very least, the audience could rest assured that no boats would be approaching too closely during the show.

@colonyhouse was the second opening band this evening at @thevanburenphx — eagerly awaiting @mutemath now!

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

Colony House is from Franklin, Tennessee, which is also home to MUTEMATH lead singer Paul Meany’s record label, Teleprompt Records. While Colony House is not a part of this record label, it is clear they are quite close with MUTEMATH. They performed admirably, further lighting the fire under the crowd and increasing the energy. The highlight of their show was their hit song, “Silhouettes,” and the crowd certainly sang along with them. Later on in the show, the lead singer Caleb Chapman told the crowd to sing along with another song; after all, “it sounds so much better with your voices in it.” This was a nice way to get the audience involved.

@colonyhouse performimg their hit song “Silhouettes” at @thevanburenphx

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

Colony House is considered indie rock, and they currently have two albums out. The most recent, Only The Lonely, was released in January of this year. Some of the singles off the new album are “You Know It,” “Lovely,” and “This Beautiful Life.” Chapman, his brother Will Chapman, and their friends Scott Mills and Parke Cottrell have been playing music together since high school, and once again, it was clear they are close with one another, just like ROMES. It is always wonderful to see a band composed of members who genuinely seem to love and respect one another.

Once Colony House was done playing, it was time for another break. This time, the break was a bit longer than last; MUTEMATH had a lot of equipment to set up. During this recess, the crowd continued to increase size as latecomers finally arrived to The Van Buren. Slowly but surely, people started packing in closer and closer to the stage, eager with anticipation. Meanwhile, The Van Buren was setting up for what was to be a truly impressive light show, projecting light towards the stage from the back of the house, illuminating the backdrop as well as the crowd.

MUTEMATH

After what seemed an eternity, New Orleans-based MUTEMATH finally arrived on stage. The crowd instantly went wild, and they were greeted by a band clad in purely white outfits. Aside from looking uniform in their comfortable outfits, their attire also served to complement the visuals being projected on to the stage and the massive silver backdrop. Their first song was “War,” joined by plenty of interesting visuals that either matched the song or captured the audience’s attention — soldiers, rising fists, a spiral galaxy, and various machines of war. Fans of the band who have seen the music video for this song may have recognized some of the imagery.

MUTEMATH continued the show with very different images across the board; each song brought something new, and just about every color of the rainbow was covered in the light show. In fact, this concert was less live music and more performance art. The band itself, primarily Meany, performed admirably. Their energy levels were truly unprecedented — perhaps even over 9000. They were all over the stage, dancing and playing all sorts of instruments, aside from the drummer. It was interesting to watch multi-instrumentalists performing a menagerie of fascinating instruments.

Meany’s featured instrument of choice seems to be the keytar, which he plays exceptionally well. Mixed with his bizarrely charming dance moves, unconventional voice, and the entrancing light show, the keytar is clearly the perfect weapon of choice for this artist. Later on, however, he also played his Rhodes keyboard, electric guitar, a bizarre stringed electronic instrument, and even the drums along with 2 other band members.

Meany did not just rely on his dancing and singing to entertain the crowd. He also resorted to surprise attacks in the way of headstands on top of his keyboard, the swinging of an LED light on a chord to mimic the display on the projector, getting up close and personal with the front row of fans, standing on top of his keyboard to absorb graphics being projected onto himself and the stage, and a few more surprises.

One of the most touching moments of the show was the shocking moment when Amelia Meany, Paul’s daughter, came out on stage. She had ear protection, for anyone who might worry about her little ears. She joined her dad in singing the song “Pixie Oaks,” containing these lyrics in its chorus:

My Amelia, my Amelia,
My Amelia, my Amelia,
She’s a killer, she’s a healer,
I believe her, my Amelia…

While the true meaning of the song is likely a personal thing, it is clear that his daughter has inspired much of his recent music and lyrics. She seems like an awesome kid, and her dance skills may one day rival her father’s.

In the middle of the show, MUTEMATH seemed to be finished. They had played for about an hour, after all, and vacated the stage. The crowd was not happy with this and continued to cheer for quite a few moments. After a short break of ambient background music and interesting graphics projected onto the screen, MUTEMATH came back on stage. What at first appeared to be an encore turned out to be an entire second act, so this must have been an intermission of sorts. Nobody in the audience was upset by the second hour of music, of course.

During the second half of the show, Meany, Todd Gummerman, Jonathan Allen, and their new drummer David Hutchinson somehow increased their energy levels and truly blew the crowd away. Their stage presence is nearly unparalleled, and for those up front, it was a fully immersive experience. Aside from Meany getting up close and personal with those close to the front at various points in the show, he also pulled out that interesting stringed electronic instrument and let a few people in the crowd play it with him. He passed it out to the crowd, let it float on the sea of hands for a while, and then quickly took it back.


The second most touching moment of the show came when Meany decided to jump down into the crowd while singing. When he wasn’t too focused on vocals, he began handing out high fives to those in the crowd. He proceeded down the center of the crowd, coming across a lucky individual whom he high fived and then proceeded to embrace him in what must have been one of the best hugs ever given. A few others in the crowd wanted in on this, so he gave out several more hugs before heading back to the stage. Those who received a hug seemed to be stunned in disbelief due to this intimate moment Meany shared with them.

While there were many incredible moments throughout the show, one thing is for certain — MUTEMATH rocked The Van Buren well into the night, providing an experience the crowd will not soon forget. They may have lost their beloved drummer, Darren King, and his iconic duct-taped headphones during live shows, but the new drummer did an admirable job. In fact, there was so much going on during the show that it was easy for people to forget about Darren King’s unfortunate departure from the band.

While the show blew everyone away, it was not without its faults. One attendee and long-time MUTEMATH fan, Jim S., mentioned a few concerns: “The live mix wasn’t great. The vocals were washed out. Might have to do with the mic technique.” Despite this minor concern, he was not at all let down. He proceeded to say, “The music complimented the stage presence. They have some really amazing songs and they sound good live, other than the mic mixing, but the stage presence really put the whole show over the top.” This was perfectly put, and a few others who attended the show agreed with Jim after discussing it once the show was over.

MUTEMATH is in a league of their own. They’ve gone through so many changes since 2002, and they have had some tough times, but fans old and new alike are so happy MUTEMATH is still making music and touring. In fact, people in Phoenix already seem to be prepared for their next stop — hopefully at The Van Buren again! Their new album, Play Dead, was just released last month and is a worthy successor to Vitals. Five albums and counting so far, and fans are certain to be eagerly awaiting new songs and albums in the future.

REVIEW: Bonobo’s Desert Migration Electrifies The Van Buren 10-3-17

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PHOENIX – Tuesday, October 3rd, gave way to a beautiful early fall evening despite the higher temperatures during the day. This weather lead to what locals likely hoped was an adequate welcome for musical visitors from across the pond. Either way, Bonobo and his live band were greeted with immense enthusiasm by Phoenix music lovers.

Bonobo - Photo Credit: Neil Krug
Bonobo
Photo Credit: Neil Krug

Bonobo was one of the first shows announced for The Van Buren when the new downtown venue initially revealed its opening date, and many Phoenix area fans bought tickets as soon as they heard about this stop on Simon Green (aka Bonobo) and his band’s world tour.

Early in the evening, the diverse and interesting crowd that gathered within The Van Buren’s gorgeous walls seemed excited. One could easily sense the anticipation in the air. Many people were hanging out in the lobby area or enjoying the beautiful weather on the patio outside. Once the lights dimmed, people rushed to fill the floor, looking for the best spots available. It was a packed show that was nearly entirely standing room only, and people seemed hesitant to get close to one another at first. By the end of the evening, this part would change.

As the first few songs came on, heralded by pure white stage lights and a bright white Bonobo logo on the backdrop, people were tentatively interested. Fans or acquaintances of Bonobo already know that his music is quite chill and ambient most of the time, and he certainly started out with a couple of rather calm songs. Looking around the crowd, one might notice people gently swaying, bobbing their heads, and perhaps even wiggling around a little; otherwise, they seemed a bit unsure of how to properly enjoy the show.

Seizures imminent. @si_bonobo

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This uncertainty did not last long, however. Soon, Bonobo and his wonderful travelling companions warmed up the crowd with increasingly energetic beats. Shortly after the beginning of the show, they were also joined by the immensely talented and stunningly gorgeous Szjerdene. She began serenading the crowd, making for an entrancing accompaniment to the surreal tunes of Bonobo. Her dress was perfect for the interesting lighting as well, as more and more colors were added. The dress was made up of huge, bright white, vertical stripes that reflected the blues, purples, oranges, and reds of the light show. Overall, the entire stage took on a dreamlike quality. This gave the performers a mysterious presence on stage, shrouded in light and smoke.

Their first time in Phoenix! 😁

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After a few songs, Szjerdene took a break – likely to rest her vocal chords after such a marvelous performance. During the next segment, Bonobo was able to truly show off his mastery of building energy up and transitioning between different songs. The transitions were just about perfect; it was obvious that the order of songs was carefully considered, and they were performed with expert precision. The impeccable execution of these transitions became the true highlight of the show. In some instances, these transitions should have been jarring, but they were superbly timed. The crowd responded well, of course, and by the middle of the show, they were moving around much more than before.

With each seamless transition, the crowd hyped up more and more. The cheers and shouts grew louder, and many people raised their glasses high into the air. It was interesting to observe who got excited for each new song, as it seemed that everyone in the crowd had favorites by Bonobo. His immense library of released music did not allow for nearly enough of his songs to be performed, even within the nearly 2 hours they played, but it was clear that the crowd was having a great time throughout.

All around, people were dancing or enjoying the music in their own ways. Some were standing as still as possible, truly enchanted by the show and the energy surrounding them. Some were standing or swaying with their eyes closed, absorbing the music itself, perhaps further immersing themselves within the energy of the room. Others still were dancing with as much vigor as their space allowed – even in such close quarters with other concert-goers, many found ways to show off their best dance moves.

Thought someone was going to be teleported. #energize #twotobeamup @si_bonobo

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It is prudent to mention how much the light show amplified the music as well. While the music, the musicians, Bonobo’s DJ skills, and Szjerdene’s singing and dancing all made for a wonderful experience, they were all enhanced by the streams of light and smoke floating and shooting around them. At one point, it even seemed as if Simon was going to be teleported onto the Enterprise. While the light show would certainly not be ideal for those who may have light sensitivity, for those who were able to witness it, it was an almost-transcendental experience. It helped to energize the crowd and augment those incredible transitions between songs.

While Simon Green did not speak much at all during the show, he did mention how this was his first time visiting Phoenix after over 15 years of making music and touring as Bonobo. He also made sure to introduce everyone in the band, which was an admirable quality. They truly helped to make his music something else entirely when heard live, as people who are fans of his recorded music may have noticed. The live instruments and vocals were wonderful touches, and Simon himself even picked up an electric guitar during a few moments of the show. There was even a drum solo, and at one point, the concert felt like a fantastic heavy metal show. This was certainly not the average DJ show, and Simon/Bonobo is definitely not the average DJ. All in all, Bonobo live was such an intense, interesting, unique, and diverse experience, much like his music.

This tour was to celebrate Bonobo’s new album, Migration, which came out in January of this year. Next up on Bonobo’s tour, they are stopping by Tucson and then moving on to several locations in Texas before making a final US stop in Florida. From there, Simon and the band will move on to visiting several countries in Europe before heading over to Singapore. The last legs of the tour include Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Next year, they will return home to London and perform a few shows there, once this epic world tour has come to an end.

If anyone is going to be in an area close to one of these upcoming shows, they are highly encouraged to attend, even if they aren’t very familiar with Bonobo’s music. This show was an experience like no other, making it an entirely enjoyable experience. The nearly 2 hours of continuous, non-stop music was absolutely impressive. Their stamina, as well as their devotion to their music and the crowd, was nearly unparalleled. Seeing Bonobo live was such a rare treat to be cherished, and Phoenix and The Van Buren hope they will be back again someday soon.

Caught someone making a ❤️ with their hands up front 😍😂

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Featured photo (top) by Neil Krug

REVIEW: Bleachers, Bishop Briggs, New Politics, and Others Rock Mesa for Dia De Los ALT! 9-22-17

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MESA — As the first day of fall descended upon the Phoenix metro area, locals were preparing for a much-anticipated event hosted by local alternative radio station ALT AZ 93.3, featuring many wonderful bands and headlined by Bleachers. While it was maybe a little long for a concert, and a little short for a music festival, it was just the perfect length of time for music fans attending the Dia De Los ALT music festival in Mesa Amphitheatre on Friday, September 22, 2017. Luckily, the weather this year also seemed to participate, with a lower-than-average high of 86 degrees. A beautiful afternoon of music entertained a slowly-growing crowd, preparing them for a fantastic night of great alternative bands and temperatures in the 70s. What a wonderful way to welcome these musicians to the Valley of the Sun.

Dia De Los ALT may have been headlined by Bleachers, but 5 other incredible bands also blessed Mesa Amphitheatre with their presence – and their tunes. The lineup included local band Rival Coast, Los Angeles/Seattle band Tangerine, Los Angeles-based Sir Sly, the Copenhagen/New York musical sensation New Politics, and finally the London (by way of Los Angeles) queen of alternative, Bishop Briggs. Each band brought their unique style and sound to the festival, showing how truly diverse and interesting alternative music can be. This was also reflected by those in attendance – Dia De Los ALT was a wonderful way for all types to come together and enjoy beautiful music and a fantastic time.

Rival Coast

First up was Rival Coast, a young yet capable local Phoenix band. The festival started at 4pm, and with the recent venue change and rush hour traffic in Phoenix, the venue was just starting to gain a sizeable number of attendees. While Rival Coast are still just getting started, they just recently released their first EP – Red Lights. These young men may have only recently graduated from high school, but their talent and love for music are both crystal clear. Since they have all been friends since childhood, it was also easy to see that they love playing music with one another.

Each band member totally rocked the stage and entertained a small yet enthusiastic crowd. They only had the spotlight for 20 minutes, but they made ample use of the time they were allotted. They have likely gained at least a few new fans after their stellaalr performance. They are energetic and enthusiastic, and they pair fantastic vocals with excellent instrumentals. The highlight of their performance was definitely their last song, “Shiver,” a portentous yet spirited tune with a fun, memorable chorus. It was certainly a great choice with which to end their brief performance.

Tangerine

After a brief break and a word from some of the ALT AZ hosts who thanked everyone for coming out early, the next band – Tangerine – was introduced. They started with great energy, fun vibes, and a very chill stage presence. Their music is considered alternative pop, and they certainly have a unique sound. The band consists of two sisters, Marika and Miro, and their best friend Toby. It was easy to tell how close they are to one another, and this made their performance a seriously enjoyable experience.

Tangerine has been making music for quite a while, but they have yet to release a full album. They do have singles and EPs out, however, and their latest song ”Sly Moon” was released last month. Other highlights from the show include the songs “Sunset,” “Girls Like Us,” and “Nothing Better.” They seriously brought out some fun and chill vibes for the growing crowd near the stage as others found seating in the shade around Mesa Amphitheatre; attendees were throwing beach balls around, eating some snacks, enjoying some beverages, or getting some free face painting done with various Sugar Skull themes. Their music perfectly complimented the easy-going nature of the festival. Prior to playing their last song, they threw in a wonderful comment: “We love Phoenix so much! This is our second time here.” It was great to have them visit again – Phoenix loves you too, Tangerine!

Sir Sly

Between shows, ALT AZ played some select songs from Bleachers, New Politics, and Bishop Briggs to hype up the valley for their performances later in the evening. However, Sir Sly was on next. Sir Sly dominated the stage with their interesting music and fantastic stage presence, bringing the energy levels of the festival up a few notches. The synth music was out in full force, and the bass was certainly bumping. There were some tinges of 80s music in there, but this was certainly a unique musical experience. Landon, the vocalist, concentrated all of his energy into moving around the stage and sharing his fantastic vocals with the crowd. Most importantly, he shared his smooth dance moves with the audience, with a PBR in hand. That man can move!

Sir Sly recently released a new album – Don’t You Worry, Honey – and played a few of these new songs during their set. The best part was that the band members are very close to one another, and Landon said it was wonderful to create this new music with his best friends, Jason and Hayden. He also shared that “it’s good to be back once again,” as their very first show outside of California was here in Phoenix; it obviously holds a special place in their hearts, so being back was a truly special experience for everyone that night.

It was clear Sir Sly loved performing their music, and some highlights were new songs “Altar” and “Change.” The songs were full of fun, yet sometimes sardonic and cutting lyrics and backed up with lots of bass, guitar, drums, and synth. They also employed some voice filters to interesting effect during songs. The highlight of their performance, however, was when they played the song “&Run” just as the sun began to set over Mesa; they sang the lyrics, “Heavy as a setting sun…” and “I’ll run into the setting sun…” at the perfect moment. This truly made their presence at the show truly unforgettable.

During another brief break, as dusk set itself upon the Phoenix metro area, more people began to arrive to the Mesa Amphitheatre. The temperature was dipping into the 70s, and people were getting excited for New Politics coming on next. People were grabbing more beers and cocktails, more people were getting some face painting done, lots of people were finding spots to sit down or hang out with one another, and entire families were enjoying one another’s company; in fact, there was one family with small children playing with one of the many beach balls floating around the amphitheater. One young boy had ear protection on and a shirt that read, “HERE TO ROCK.” I’m sure he wasn’t alone!

A beautiful evening and a very happy crowd. #altaz #diadelosalt #altaz933 @altaz933 @newpoliticsrock

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New Politics

Just as twilight was setting in, New Politics came on at about 6:30pm. They were the first to have a dramatic entrance onto the stage, and dramatic it was – they played some epic background music while the band members came on stage one at a time. First up was the drummer, Louis Vecchio, followed by guitarist Søren Hansen, and finally, lead vocalist David Boyd. The crowd was screaming, and they did not waste any time getting into things. They started the show with a huge bang, rocking out pretty hard and getting the crowd jumping. Now that it was getting dark, it was time for some fantastic lighting, and New Politics’ light show definitely delivered.

New Politics was great at getting the crowd involved, and everyone certainly loved the attention and engagement. They discussed how it was great to be back in Phoenix, how they have a new album coming out next month (Lost In Translation), and sang one of their new songs, “CIA.” During this song, David threw his hat off to really get into the mood of rocking out and moving all over stage with his ridiculous yet entertaining dance moves while sporting his bright red microphone. He even told the audience he hoped they had their dancing shoes on so they could join him. During the show, they played some of their greatest hits, such as: “West End Kids,” “One of Us,” and “Just Like Me.” They also played a new song, “Color Green,” while illuminating the entire stage in green lighting (of course).

Not only did New Politics play some amazing songs, but they also brought a message of hope and love. They thanked ALT AZ for having them and bringing everyone together, citing them as the main reason they were all there that evening. They also praised ALT AZ for spreading music and love, how they love alternative music because it is truly the best. Continuing on this theme, they also discussed how, when we all have each other, through all the bad stuff like hurricanes and earthquakes, we’re here for each other; “All it is is just a lot of good people listening to music and sharing love.” This is when they started singing “One of Us,” which was perfect timing.

The most beautiful moment of New Politics’ performance was when they busted out the ukulele sang “Fall Into These Arms,” at which point a little girl popped up on her parents’ shoulders towards the front of the crowd. In the middle of the song, David pointed out to her and said, “I LIKE YOU!” The little girl was overjoyed, but that wasn’t the end of this beautiful moment. David also, quite literally, fell into those arms by gently diving into the crowd. The excitement levels of the crowd were off the charts by this point, and it was such a wonderful moment where everyone truly was brought together by some beautiful music.

Sadly, at about 7:15pm, New Politics’ time was up. Before parting ways, they announced that Bleachers were coming up later, but first, the “most beautiful woman in alternative rock” was coming on – Bishop Briggs. They then got together at the front of the stage, bowed to the audience, and threw some guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd for a few delighted fans to catch. After that, they were off, and after another short break consisting of an awkward word from the show’s sponsors, Bishop Briggs took the stage.

Bishop Briggs

First on the stage were Bishop Briggs’ band members, and the lighting was quite dark. They started playing music, and after a few moments, Bishop Briggs herself jumped out on stage with incredible energy. Dark purple lighting flooded the stage, but right at the perfect moment, the big 93.3 ALT AZ banner in the back was lit up in bright red right as Bishop Briggs started singing the first lyrics of her first song of the night.  It may have been a bit difficult to see anything on stage, but what stood out were her signature dual hair buns and jumpsuit – a black Adidas tracksuit that evening, with bright white iconic stripes down the sides. This was just the outfit she needed, because not only was she singing, she was also running! This made the show feel a bit like a high energy workout routine, but it certainly made the audience move and jump too.

The first song Bishop Briggs played was “Dark Side,” containing the lyrics “Welcome to my dark side, it’s gonna be a long night;” perhaps that’s why the stage was so dark during her show! Regardless, the intense beats and maximum bass were perfect accompaniments to her high-energy lyrics and her almost-non-stop jogging and jumping around the stage. What also stood out was her massive smile the entire time, and it was easy to tell she was truly enjoying her time up on stage. She also had a unique style of inserting a little scream into the perfect moments in her lyrics and just talking to the crowd, with such moments like “How is everybody DOING?!” followed by an enthusiastic “GOOD!!!

Her music was loud, aggressive, and entertaining, and there were even guests staying in the nearby Marriott hotel who came to their windows to look down at the amphitheatre to see what all the commotion was about. Hopefully they enjoyed their free view of the show! The crowd definitely did – everyone seemed to be jumping up and down, dancing, and singing along with Bishop Briggs’ songs. To show her appreciation for everyone, she stated that she was “so honored to be in this lineup. It’s great to be alive in this little bubble we have going on here.” On that note, she ended her show with her wildly famous hit single, “River.” The crowd went wild!

During another short break, it was easy to feel the anticipation in the air; clearly, there were many people at Dia De Los ALT who were there to see Bleachers. During this break, one could hear the final calls of the Lemonade man, who had been shouting all evening: “Lemonade, Lemonade, like Grandma… made!” Attendees had grown accustomed to him and his impressive set of lungs, particularly those who had been in the amphitheater since the doors opened at 3pm. During this time, technicians took down the huge 93.3 ALT AZ banner and replaced it with the new stuff for Bleachers’ elaborate stage setup.

Bleachers

Finally, at about 8:50pm, the moment many had been waiting for had arrived. Bleachers came out on stage to the screams, shouts, and claps of the audience. They started out with the fact that they are from New Jersey and that they have never headlined in this part of the world before, so this was a very special night for them. They also continued to hilariously decide if it was okay for them to call everyone “Phoenix” since they were in Mesa, and they asked if that was offensive. They decided, “f*ck it, we’ve never headlined in Arizona before. All of AZ is here tonight!

Their high-energy, anthemic songs uplifted and roused the crowd; their music was coupled with one of the best light shows possible, which added a new level to the experience and pumped the crowd up even more. Their songs encourage people to sing along in many ways, compounded by the fact that four out of five of the band members pipe in from time to time to sing along with Jack Antonoff. Not only that, but Jack frequently encouraged the crowd to sing along with shouts like “SING IT LOUD!” and “holy sh*t, you guys don’t f*ck around!

After a few of their songs, Jack ripped off his jacket; things were getting serious now. They also had a huge surprise for everyone that night – Jack announced they had a birthday in Bleachers very recently. The crowd cheered a bit, but to his displeasure, not loud enough: “Come on, you can do better than that! Do you guys not give a sh*t?! There was a birthday, like, a WEEK ago!” The cheering got much louder at this point, to which he shouted, “That’s more like it!” At this point, everyone sang happy birthday together with the band to one of its drummers, Mike Riddleberger. Jack then brought out a cake and handed it to the crowd, stating “You all can share it.

Jack then followed the birthday celebration up with how he knows Bleachers hasn’t been to Arizona enough, but he considers Phoenix a home away from home; it meant a lot for them to be there at Dia De Los ALT. After a few more songs, Jack punctuated the show with another little personal story. He first made the crowd get quiet, and then he made bass guitarist and keyboardist Mikey Hart stop all background music. Everyone then listened to how quiet it was outside in Mesa, and then Jack had Mikey start playing a low, humming sound. He then went on to explain how he loved Yaz (Yazoo) when he was young, and he heard this beautiful yet sad synth humming sound in the song “Only You.”

He became obsessed with that sound, and he bought the type of synth Yaz used to make it. He would play it all night long in his bedroom, which inspired him to write the lyrics to the songs that would one day become Bleachers. He wanted to make sad sounds, sad lyrics, and sad stories sound beautiful. He then stated that it would “sound something like this,” and then the other sounds of the beginning of their massively popular song “Rollercoaster” began to play. The crowd instantly screamed and cheered; this was truly one of the greatest build-up moments, and the crowd loved it. They were hanging off Bleachers’ every note, every lyric, and every word. Of course, Jack inspired the audience to sing it with him, and they most definitely sang along.

Since Jack has been a part of many beautiful moments in recent alternative music history, including being a part of the band Fun., they just had to include a slowed down version of “Carry On.” The crowd enjoyed this lull in the hype, sang along, and swayed solemnly. This more somber moment was followed up by additional slower songs, such as “Foreign Girls.” After this point, Jack discussed how they were excited to be touring with Bishop Briggs again in November, and they asked, “How are we doing on time? Someone give me a sign… I don’t want to f*ck this up.” Someone in the audience jokingly announced that it was over, to which Jack replied, “Oh, that’s it? Okay, I guess we’re done then!” However, they were far from done.

Jack next shouted out to the audience, “We’ve gotta keep it moving!” and inspired the crowd to pick up the pace once more. Next up was the song “You’re Still a Mystery,” which certainly brought the energy back again. After this, it was time to introduce the band, which was a significant moment in the show. They did a musical introduction to each member, along with a fun fact about each. Some even got to do a sort of musical solo after being announced.

Some exceptional moments were when the audience found out that Sean Hutchinson lived in Phoenix for a few years. We also learned how Mike Riddleberger is the “original Jersey hipster;” apparently, he started the entire movement! Finally, Mikey Hart was introduced, and the crowd learned he has a brother who lives in Phoenix. Mikey then treated the audience to a wickedly awesome saxophone solo, which was met with raucous applause.

Bleachers ended the evening strong, with two high-energy songs: “I Wanna Get Better” and “Don’t Take the Money.” While the crowd desperately wanted an encore, time was unfortunately up, and the festival had to come to an end. The guests staying at the adjacent Marriott were likely relieved, at least!

Closing Thoughts

All in all, despite the last-minute venue change from Fear Farm on the west side of the valley over to the Mesa Amphitheatre, Dia De Los ALT was a raging success! Citizens of the Phoenix metro area truly did come together to share love and music, and it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages and types enjoying these bands and the beautiful fall weather together. With any luck, the Phoenix area will continue to enjoy beautiful weather from here on out, and it would be great for all the bands from the Dia De Los ALT lineup to return and play in Phoenix again soon. After all, many of them seem to love Phoenix, and many of them did throw Phoenix into their lyrics as frequently as possible!

That's a wrap! What a great show! 😁😁😁 Good night! #altaz #diadelosalt #altaz933 @altaz933 @bleachersmusic

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REVIEW: A Hart to Hart – Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Sobering Moments at The Van Buren 9-12-17

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PHOENIXJust as the heat started to break, Phoenix began its transition from a seemingly-endless scorching summer to the fall and winter temperatures locals seem to live for. A perfect night for Phoenicians to head down to the brand new venue downtown – The Van Buren. Beth Hart, along with Marina V, headed to the Valley of the Sun to serenade and entertain a diverse crowd in this beautiful new downtown space.

Marina V

Marina V set the stage for a beautiful, emotional evening, slowly warming up a relaxed crowd with her melodic voice and piano-playing skills. She shared many tender, intimate moments with the audience, making it seem as if it was a private show for each and every one of them. Her passion for the art she creates and shares with the world is obvious, and her performance was a mixture of the subtle and the sublime.

Marina V - Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
Marina V
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth © All Rights Reserved

Marina V, short for Verenikina, hails from Moscow, Russia, but she has lived in the US for quite some time now. When she first started performing live, one of her first shows was opening for Beth Hart, making this tour very special – she was happy to be sharing the stage yet again with Beth. She also shared that she has performed over 1000 live shows by now, with her husband always by her side. In fact, after a few solo songs on stage and sharing her recent health struggles which she has recently recovered from – singing her song “Bring It On,” the anthem she wrote in some of her darkest moments – she brought out her husband to play guitar. Together, they rocked the stage, slowly ramping up their music and playing more stimulating songs and slowly warming the crowd up.

Eventually, Marina V told the crowd a bit more of her backstory, about growing up in Russia among tense relations with the US, and how she wishes peace, love, and unity for the two countries. To seal this deal, she confessed that she learned about most American music much later in her life, discovering Neil Diamond only recently. She sang “Solitary Man” in Russian, which was quite a pleasant surprise for the audience.

Marina V shared a few songs from her newer albums, and in fact plans to release her second album of the year soon. Her first one of this year, Inner Superhero, was released in January, and her latest album, Born to the Stars, comes out later this month. Fortunately for attendees, she was selling the newest album at her merch booth, giving fans a bit of a head start.

At the end of Marina V’s set, she offered for everyone to email her at love@marinav.com for 4 free songs, and a promise that she would read each and every message personally. She also invited everyone to visit her in the merch area, where she offered to sign every piece of merch sold, and to hug anyone who came to see her. As a bonus, she made sure to write fans’ names in both English and Russian on any merchandise sold.

Marina V - Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
Marina V
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth © All Rights Reserved

Beth Hart

During a short break, people were able to explore The Van Buren a bit more, enjoying its spacious lobby, beautiful outdoor patio area, a drink or three from one of its bars, and maybe even a snack. As people were returning to their seats, Beth Hart took the stage by storm, starting the show with a “bang bang” and a “boom boom.” She rocked out hardcore, along with her band, moving all around the stage and singing her heart and soul out. It was crystal clear that she was enjoying her performance just as much as the audience, if not more so.

Beth Hart recently released a new album, Fire on the Floor, in the US this February, and what better way to celebrate than with a worldwide tour? On top of playing some of her newer songs, Beth Hart played some of her greatest hits since the early 90s. She also made sure to play one of her own mother’s favorite songs – something she thinks is a pretty sexy song: “Close to My Fire.” What she didn’t reveal just yet was that her mother was actually in the crowd at that very moment.

Beth Hart went through a great sampling of her best songs from over the years, transitioning from high energy to intimate, sobering, somber moments, and just about every other feeling in between. Her music is a mix of blues, rock and roll, jazz, and soul, and it is no wonder that The Blues Magazine called her “the ultimate female rock star.” Her voice has such a unique, enchanting sound, and her commanding stage presence only helps to amplify this.

Beth Hart
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth © All Rights Reserved

The crowd was also treated to Beth playing acoustic guitar on stage for a few songs, and of course she pulled out a few of her singer-songwriter-esque piano songs. Eventually, she had a heart-to-heart with the crowd, revealing her struggles with bipolar disorder and how it took her a very long time to “figure it out.” She also shared what was probably one of her proudest moments – reconnecting with her mom and showing her that she can do this thing called life. It was in that moment that she shared the fact that her mom was in the audience, somewhere towards the front, stage left. The lights went out, and they put the spotlight on Mama Hart, right as Beth prepared to play a song she had written just for her: “Mama This One’s For You.”

Beth Hart - Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
Beth Hart
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
© All Rights Reserved

After this heartwarming moment, Beth wanted to get back to the business at hand – rocking the house, and she sure rocked it good. She shared how she hasn’t been to Phoenix in a very long time, and that she “really f*cked things up bad” last time she was here. She expressed how ridiculously happy she was to be back, how she has overcome many of her past struggles, and that she is in a truly good place in life now. All of this, combined with her supreme performance and masterful presence on stage, made the concert feel like a treat for all in the audience.

In addition to some of those more tender moments, she also shared how, as a young girl, she would go to the beach, see all the beautiful men, and imagine that they all looked delicious. Her line of choice? “I bet they taste like Coca-Cola.” This, as she informed the crowd, is what inspired her song “Coca Cola.” She also shared how her brother’s ex-girlfriend, who was “crazier” than Beth herself, inspired another one of her songs: “Get Your Sh*t Together.” In fact, she loved her brother’s ex, but she felt the need to write that song for both her and herself.

Later on, she shared how she always wanted to get the hell out of LA, as many people apparently do, leading into “LA Song (Out of this Town);” she expressed how she loves to tour but always seems to long for home when on the road. This lead to her final song, “No Place Like Home,” which was a raw, sincere moment where she shared how she wanted nothing more than to be at home with her husband, who does everything for her. She also changed some of the lyrics for a more contemporary look at her life, such as switching “have someone curl up at my feet” to “have Stella curl up at my feet” and interjecting with “Stella’s my dog” between lines.

Beth Hart - Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
Beth Hart
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth © All Rights Reserved

As all good things tend to do, the show came to an end after her solo performance of “No Place Like Home,” to which Beth said her farewells to the crowd and ended with some wise parting words: “Now go home and take care of each other!” A bittersweet moment of the band coming back out on stage and motioning their own farewells to emphatic applause and cheering ensued before the stage lights went off, the venue lights came back on, and people were left to find their way home.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, The Van Buren was a perfect place to hold such an intimate, surreal show filled with all the emotions under the sky – and then some. The sound was near-perfect, despite Beth’s requests for the sound engineer to tweak what she was hearing. The light show was on point, illuminating the band, highlighting Beth, and casting some interesting shadows with the TOS-era Star Trek-esque alien planet-looking props in the background. The crowd was full of true Beth Hart fans, calmly swaying to her more soothing tunes and rocking out to her more upbeat songs. All in all, this was a fantastic insight into the downtown Phoenix music scene, and Beth Hart herself certainly seemed to love every moment of her visit.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Trystan Trenberth

Marina V & Beth Hart – The Van Buren 9-12-17

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Photography © Trystan Trenberth
All Rights Reserved