Mesa, Ariz. — As I approached Mesa Amphitheatre on the hot Arizona day, I saw many of the almost-5,000 people walking in to fill out the sold out show to see The 1975. I was surprised to see the wide range of fans who filled the venue. A very different scene from when I first saw The 1975 at Comerica Theatre in 2014 where the venue was filled mostly teenagers. This shows how much the band has grown in reaching their music to a broader audience.
The first opener, Pale Waves set the indie pop mood for the night. The up-and-coming British indie pop band got the crowd moving with their catchy guitar riffs and the lead singer’s enchanting voice. Pale Waves played a song called “Kiss” which had an ‘80s pop nostalgia vibe that I loved. The strong female presence was amazing with the lead singer and drummer both being girls. With a sound reminiscent to The 1975, it was no wonder they were opening for the band. Pale Waves is definitely a band you’ll want to listen to.
came out next and the crowds excitement roared when they walked out on stage. Lead singer, Sarah Barthel, commanded the stage with her electric voice and 70’s fringe, Stevie Nicks, inspired outfit. Her captivating psychedelic-pop voice hypnotized the crowd. Energized guitar solos, powerful drums and added keyboard for a synthesizer effect got the crowd moving.
The 1975 finally came on, and to say the crowd was excited was an understatement. Pink lights flooded the stage and the beginning of “Love Me” caused the crowd to scream with excitement, myself included. It was the perfect opener, showcasing the new image and sound of the band.
Throughout the set, when the band played songs from their first self-titled album, the lighting fit the aesthetic of a darker mood with darker colors. During the transition to “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It”, the lighting consisted of neon pink and white. I loved how the band made it a point to showcase the different album styles through lighting. Not to mention how amazing their backdrops were! The 1975 is definitely an aesthetically pleasing band.
Lead singer and frontman, Matty Healy, commanded the stage and engaged the eager fans as he climbed on top of the speaker and lit a cigarette, while singing “A Change of Heart” to mesmerized girls. Before playing “Falling For You” Matty asked for “no phones”, adding, “let’s live right now”. The sheer silence and lack of phones, with the exception of the few fans who couldn’t possibly resist capturing how beautiful Matty looked, made “Falling For You” a unforgettable song. The outside venue made this moment even more magical because for just a few minutes the outside seemed calm and everyone free of any worries.
One of the most captivating moments of the concert was when “Loving Someone” started play and suddenly the lights projected the LGBT flag colors into the crowd. I couldn’t help but smile and feel comfort in knowing one of my favorite bands is using their music to show support.
The band played many fan favorites including “Robbers”, “Sex”, “Girls”, and “Somebody Else”. They ended the set with “The Sound”. On the last verse, Matty asked for everyone to jump. Seeing close to 5,000 people jumping and singing along will definitely be one of my favorite sights I’ve witnessed. In that moment, nothing but pure joy exuded from the crowd.
As I walked out of the venue, I couldn’t help but smile. I overheard girls telling their friends about the experiences they had with Matty being so close to them and the happiness they felt. It’s so amazing how The 1975 never fails to impress. Seeing them live is an experience that leaves me speechless every time.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Tempe was bursting with anticipation Friday night as fans of co-headlining Bayside and Say Anything gathered early outside Marquee Theatre, pushing their way inside to claim their spot in the front row.There was a tangible buzz in the air as people of all ages lined up to be checked by security outside the theatre.
The air was crisp in my lungs as I walked rather quickly behind Burning Hot Events concert photographer Katherine towards Will Call to claim our press passes for the evening. As we arrived for Bayside in the nick of time following some transportation chaos, the opening band, Reggie and the Full Effect, had set a fast-paced tone for Bayside to take the stage after them. As the set change became evident, audience members rushed to claim their place before the stage, rumbling with shouts and claps in a flurry of excitement; and I hurriedly followed suit to find my place in the front corner near the security barrier.
As I quickly worked to get my things in order, I could feel the deep rumbling of the bass move from beneath my converse and slowly encompass the rest of me as the band did a quick warm up. The vast, dual-level concert area makes for great acoustics, which they used to their advantage as they dove into their set with the ever-popular “Already Gone.” The breakneck tempo of this A Day to Remember-esque song sent the crowd into a frenzy of cheers and metal hands as the band members danced around the stage to the opening chords.
“What’s up Phoenix?! We came to sing with you and dance with you!,” vocalist Anthony Raneri shouted into his mic, attempting to rouse the crowd even more. This song comes from the band’s fifth album Killing Time, which was released back in February of 2011, and it was obvious why they chose to open with it. The exuberant crowd danced and sang along in unison, receiving copious opportunities to sing back the words they’ve come to know so well. Raneri made it known immediately to everyone there that the rest of this particular set was going to be filled with high energy and vivacious songs. And they did not disappoint.
This being my first time seeing Bayside live, I can honestly say I didn’t know what to expect, but the next 12 songs following the opener all had one thing in common: they were meant to make you move. Wanting to keep the electricity flowing, Raneri continued to captivate the crowd with other old favorites such as “Sick, Sick, Sick”, “Masterpiece”, and “Blame it on Bad Luck.”. Guitarist Jack O’Shea and bassist Nick Ghanbarian could be seen dancing around stage the entire performance, singing passionately as they moved fluidly from one song to the next.
They even included a few songs off of their new album Vacancy, and while it “isn’t a breakup album”, the songs were written to portray a very uncertain time in vocalist Raneli’s life. That doesn’t mean they have to sound that way, however, and as “Mary” followed hastily by “I’ve Been Dead All Along” were blasted through the speakers I was standing precariously close to, the frenzied tempo was enough to keep everyone moving.
While the set was primarily focused on the music as opposed to engaging the crowd, Raneli did pause about halfway through the set to discuss their new album. “CDs are expensive to make and even more expensive to buy” he stated matter-of- factly, and went on to inform the concert goers that the band has created a $5 version of their new album that is available for purchase now. The roar in response was deafening, and all the motivation Raneli needed to jump into the next set of fiery songs that would steadily keep the energy of the room at maximum level right up to the final song “Devotion and Desire” off their very first album.
As I left the Marquee that evening, I couldn’t help but notice how quickly I moved, or the extra spring in my step. This band had even found a way to keep the energy flowing through me, even after their set was over. They show true passion in their music on and off the stage, and gave me the motivation to be as fluid with my writing. This was admittedly my first time writing a concert review for Burning Hot Events, but I can easily say that if every show is like Bayside, I will definitely be back for more.
PHOENIX — It’s around 7:30 PM on a Tuesday night and the streets are busy on 4th Ave and Washington. The throngs of people milling around are desperately searching for the end of the impossibly long line that will eventually lead them to the entrance they are only feet away from at the moment. The lights from the large electronic marquee reads “A Perfect Circle TONIGHT!” and casts a glow on the faces passing below. For many standing there on that night, this was a long anticipated show.
“Oh my god, she just left her fuckin boyfriend back there!”, I heard a woman blurt out as I sat on a bench next to the box office at Comerica Theater. With lines stretching around the corner for several blocks, people of all different backgrounds are shuffling slowly past me toward the entrance gates. There are goth teens, soccer moms, bikers and hipsters all standing together in line. They’re chatting excitedly, talking about the last time they had seen the band perform and even dancing to Sublime’s “Wrong Way” as the sky gets darker.
I prepared myself for what would be the second time I would see A Perfect Circle since Lollapalooza 2003–the year they released their second album Thirteenth Step. In the nearly 14 years since that show, they’ve come a long way. Although the lineup has changed slightly, lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan of Tool-fame and lead guitarist Billy Howerdel have remained the central force of the band since its inception. Current bassist Matt McJunkins, who joined in 2010, has played with the likes of Thirty Seconds to Mars, Maynard James Keenan side band Puscifer and The Beta Machine, a band he formed with current APC drummer Jeff Friedl. McJunkins was also the touring bassist for Eagles of Death Metal during the Le Bataclan attack in Paris, France on November 13th, 2015. The audience was attacked by terrorists wielding automatic rifles, grenades and suicide vests, killing 89 fans including the band’s merchandise vendor. Rounding out the group is former Smashing Pumpkins alumnus and founding member James Iha on rhythm guitar, a superstar in his own right.
As the line seemed to shorten to a visible end, I took my place to be screened by security. It was a relatively short process. I got through the entrance within maybe 5 minutes of entering the line and spotted another long line snaking up the stairs to the second floor balcony. A friend remarked, “That’s the line for merchandise.” After purchasing my respective Cola and water bottles, I finally found my assigned seat just moments before the house lights come down and the uprising of applause and whistles begin. Smoke begins to seep from across the foot of the stage and everyone in attendance knows that this rocket is about to blast off.
The first notes of “The Package” begin to trickle melodically from the speakers behind a hazy white cloth that encompasses the entirety of the stage. Hidden beyond the opaque white veil, the band members’ silhouettes can be seen in various distorted sizes dancing as the lights produce their shadows. With little silence to buffer, each of the beginning three pieces all vaguely kind of bleed into the other. This first medley, The Package, The Hollow, and The Noose perfectly set the tone for the remainder of the show.
It was then that Keenan finally addressed the crowd, explaining that this was their first show since their three show Vegas tour kickoff at the Palms Resort and Casino Pearl Concert Theater. “Normally we try to do this first so we don’t make a bunch of fuckin’ mistakes and then you guys judge us…”
“And now a song about anal sex!”
Keenan playfully muses into the mic as the band launches into “Weak and Powerless”, another track from Thirteenth Step, their 2003 sophomore masterpiece, followed by “Rose” from their debut album Mer De Noms. As the show goes on I feel as though I’m transported to a time when I first started listening to a group whose lead singer sounded like that guy from Tool. It would be months after first being introduced to this new band until I would find out who it was behind those vocals, and would ultimately turn me on to Tool after hearing A Perfect Circle, and not the other way around.
Keenan has been an eccentric figure in both his professional and personal life. Army veteran, musician, winemaker and entrepreneur; he is one of the most eclectic artists ever grace a stage. With a residence in Jerome, Arizona near his Merkin vineyard in Cornville, where he produces his Caduceus Cellars blends of wine; Keenan has singlehandedly raised the profile of Arizona wine nationally and internationally to break it out of mediocrity and make it a truly respectable region in the wine world… But that’s another story. We’re here to talk about the music.
The fourth movement and majority of the body of the show begins with a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” from 2004’s eMOTIVe album, in a style that one could only expect from A Perfect Circle. It’s brooding and not without the quintessential melancholy that only APC can produce. Truly a beautiful cover. As I ruminated on that thought, I scanned the crowd behind me. Not a single sarcastic smirk. The audience seemed to think it was as beautiful as I did. The show continues with several more amazing tracks from previous albums and including their incredible cover of Depeche Mode’s “People are People”. Keenan prefaces this performance with a few words to the audience regarding forgiveness.
“It’s those moments that forgiveness is the only thing that’s gonna get you through it, so, forgive each other, forgive yourself. Move to the light.”
For some people it was an emotional experience. I saw a woman across the aisle from my section wiping tears from her eyes during that particular track. It was evident that it meant something to her that only she understood. This band holds a special power that allows them to tap into the listener’s psyche. The feeling and raw emotion they emote entrances these fans with melodious distortion and precision combined with Keenan’s articulately barbed lyrical style. A Perfect Circle masterfully ends the main body of the show with “Blue” and Keenan once again addresses the masses before introducing all the players to their venerate fans.
The final medley of the concert is comprised of two tracks from Thirteenth Step, and a new song they debuted in Las Vegas during the first dates of the tour. Keenan describes the first song, “The Outsider,” as song “sung from the perspective of an asshole who has no compassion, so think of the whole album as being parts in a play and this is the Rodney Dangerfield…. Being a dick.”
“So anyway, look out for each other. Don’t be a dick”
At this point, James Iha is introduced and expresses his distaste with the desert.
“The sand, it permeates my clothes. I don’t like it.”
The monologue goes on a little longer and almost seems necessary to lift the crowd back up from getting too cathartic and deep. It’s certainly a fun interlude as the final trio of pieces signals the beginning of the end of the show. By the close of “Feathers”, the final song and A Perfect Circle’s newest unreleased track, everyone is on their feet and cheering as Keenan speaks one last “Thank you”, and the band gives their final humble bows amid the silken forest of pillars amongst them and walks off stage.
Iha throws several handfuls of guitar picks into the front rows and the band disappears, never to be seen again by those hoping for an encore. Those dreams were dashed when the house lights immediately hit like a blast of reality and signaled that it was indeed time to go. I sauntered out into the streets and walked down Jefferson toward Squid Ink to wait for my Uber, and savored the sights and sounds I had just beheld.
PHOENIX — As I finished my coffee outside Comerica Theater, I watched the ever expanding line of eager concert goers and couldn’t help but marvel at how much the demographic for Underoath and Bring Me The Horizon had changed over the years. Bands who once suffered mile after mile in cramped vans to play to maybe 200 people on a good night were now riding in full size tour buses and playing 5,000 capacity venues decked out in state of the art stage production. Rooms full of angsty scene kids were now joined by radio ticket winners and suburban families all venturing into downtown Phoenix for a Friday night of metalcore’s biggest contemporary acts.
As I made my way down to the venue floor, Beartooth was two or three songs into their opening set and were doing an admirable job of getting the crowd moving and engaged while many were still trickling down to their seats or waiting in the (literally) two story tall merch line. Despite having played multiple sold-out shows at The Nile, sets at KUPD’s Ufest, and enjoying regular radio airplay, the crowd was largely silent when asked “Who here has seen Beartooth before!?”. However, by the time their explosive set wound down to a close, there was no doubt that Beartooth had won over the majority of the crowd and left the stage to raucous applause and an exodus of new fans headed to their march table.
Now, before I get into the Underoath portion of the evening, I must admit that this band has always held a special place in my heart. My first show in 2001 featured Atreyu, Underoath (then touring behind the album The Changing Of The Times), XDeathstarX, God Forbid, and Scars of Tomorrow at the Mason Jar long before it became it became The Rebel Lounge. Throughout high school the memories piled on as I went to virtually every Underoath tour that passed through Arizona with all of my friends who obsessed over every line of They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line. My inner 16-year-old was just as astounded when the band opened up with “Everyone Looks So Good From Here” and “In Regards To Myself”, directly into “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door”, as when I first heard them blasting through the headphones of my yellow cd player back in 2004 and 2006 respectively.
The rest of the setlist was dominated largely by songs off these two albums, which makes sense given their recent reunion tour featuring both albums performed in full, but featured select songs from Disambiguation and Lost In The Sound Of Separation to add a bit of variety to the setlist for the diehard fans. Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie sounded even more in sync than on the reunion tour and proved themselves to be absolute powerhouse vocalists who have more than earned their legendary status as truly influential members of the metalcore scene who have made a lasting impact on everyone from The Devil Wears Prada to headliners Bring Me The Horizon.
Disclaimer: The author (yours truly) watched the entirety of Bring Me The Horizon’s set and was absolutely astounded by how tight they sounded as well as the sheer magnitude of their lighting production. However, due to loss of material and a minor concussion from a recent vehicle accident I was unable to recover my review of their set. Look forward to it in a future Party Dispatch and thank you for the patience.
Tucson, Ariz. — The Paper Kites rolled into town from San Diego to perform at the intimate Club Congress inside of the historic Hotel Congress. The 7 year old band of an indie folk-rock genre hails from Melbourne, Australia. The band supported headliner Passenger for this North American tour, however Tucson received the special treat of a show headlined by The Paper Kites.
Opening the night was local songwriter Jess Matsen, who chilled his way through his mellow acoustic set while some in the crowd chattered directly in front of him. In between songs, Matsen spoke to the crowd, stating that he hadn’t anticipated such a large turnout. Despite the noise, there were some attendees that clearly appreciated his performance, and shouted up front to ask for his name. Matsen released The Killing of Our Kind Ofin November of last year, and has also performed with local groups Dream Sick & J.R.M.
The Paper Kites directly followed Matsen with a sound that one fan was overheard describing as “ethereal”, and they brought passersby into the venue with their notable sound. The band’s harmonies are entrancing, particularly their signature duets between lead vocalist Sam Bentley and keyboardist/guitarist Christina Lacy.
In between songs, Bentley took the opportunity to chat with the crowd, commenting that the intimate venue was like playing a house show… except not, because it’s much fancier. He also joked about wishing he could take one of the cacti home, that he saw during the drive to Tucson from California. After he broke out his harmonica, he mused that everyone always gets excited about the instrument.
The venue afforded him the opportunity to interact with the crowd in a way not possible on the other dates of the tour in which they performed grand theaters such as The Wiltern in Los Angeles and Fox Theater in Oakland, CA.
With the lighting that Club Congress offers, it was pleasant to be able to observe every band member clearly. The least visible being bassist/synth player (synthist?) Sam Rasmussen, who was tucked in the back right corner behind the other musicians and instruments.
With impressive mastery of their musicianship and sound, there was nary a difference in sound between hearing The Paper Kites live and listening to one of their albums.
Amidst their set, following the song “Too Late”, came the most intimate segment of all. Bentley asked that the lights be turned off, and the room was then lit only by the faint glow of the exit signs. The next two songs were a unique and meditative period of visual deprivation. The first song in the darkness was “A Silent Cause”, which was fitting considering how silent the crowd felt obligated to become with the lights out.
The second song in the darkness was “Bloom”, which instead had the audience united in a beautiful chorus. Usually while the unison sing-a-longs at concerts are touching, tone-deaf vocals shout-sang by fans are commonplace. (It doesn’t matter, because it’s about the experience and showing love to the artists.) But The Paper Kites’ fans in Tucson have surprisingly good singing voices, as they fell into a delightful harmony.
Before the encore, the band played “Electric Indigo”, followed by “Featherstone” to close the show. Afterward, the band was so kind as to meet fans, autograph merch, and take group photos outside. It was not just a small concert, but truly an experience to be in attendance at The Paper Kites’ gig in Tucson, with such a personal connection both during and after their performance. No doubt fans were grateful for the rare opportunity before the band heads back to Australia.
PHOENIX — If I were to describe Sleigh Bells’ unique brand of feedback-laden experimental electro-pop, I’d probably tell someone to imagine the sound that the nighttime cinematography of the film Drive would make if given human form. While admittedly a bit obtuse, I couldn’t help but think of wet streets, leather, and neon once the guitar cabs kicked on and assailed a sold-out Crescent Ballroom with danceable abrasion.
From the moment the duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller hit the stage, every member of the audience was off their feet and dancing in a writhing chaotic mass. Touring as a two-piece in direct support of November’s Jessica Rabbit seemed like a potentially risky choice given the album’s emphasis on volume and upbeat power. Thankfully, the duo effortlessly executed their career spanning setlist with more energy and precision than is often afforded by an entire tour package.
Having not seen or closely followed the band since 2012’s Reign of Terror, I was impressed to see how the band had continued to expand on their signature sound while remaining true to the shredding meets dance floor aesthetic that Sleigh Bells fans have come to worship.
This manner of growth was perhaps most notable on Jessica Rabbit lead off track “It’s Just Us Now”. Played third in their setlist, the dramatic build of an almost Southern Rock riff alongside a surprisingly hip-hop leaning drum sample into a soaring vocal chorus over a tempo breakdown showcases the band at their absolute best. Even the title itself is reflective of the band’s confidence in themselves. They aren’t bound by hype, touring members, or notions of what they should sound like. They are simply two artists at the top of their game trying to push their music, as well as dance floors, to the absolute limits.
Above all, it was clear that the band was having just as much fun as the crowd. Alexis bounced from one side of the stage to the other, interacting with the crowd and positioning herself for photo ops, while Derek let his metalcore roots show as he headband at the front of the stage all night. Feeding freely from the energy onstage the crowd even broke into a push pit for a few songs, which seemed somehow natural despite it’s unusual setting.
As the evening finally wound down, Alexis brought opening act Tunde Olaniran onstage for a brief duet appearance before closing their set with A/B Machines from debut album Treats, then disappeared out the venue doors while the crowd finally paused to take a breath.
Highlight: Opening act Tunde Olaniran was absolutely astounding. Blending soul funk with trap EDM beats was the perfect way to set the crowd up early for an evening of high paced dancing while drawing even the most introverted audience member out of their shell for a night. Bonus shout out to the guy wearing an Agitator shirt who looked genuinely lost the entire night.
TEMPE, Ariz. — For a few hours on March 22nd, current and former orchestra geeks got to feel like the epitome of cool for one more night as Yellowcard wound down their 20 year career to a sold out crowd at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
After an acoustic opening set from former bassist Sean O’Donnell and a brief audio message humorously decrying the use of cell phones during the set, the house lights dimmed and Yellowcard exploded onto the stage with a fiery performance of Ocean Avenue lead off song “Way Away”. Despite setting the bar high with such a high-octane classic track, the band showed no signs of fatigue as they powered through a massive 24-song setlist featuring tracks from most of their 10-album catalogue.
While the band chose to spend the majority of their stage time blasting from song to song with scarcely enough time to breath between tracks, the few pauses afforded to the crowd were rife with a welcome wistfulness from lead singer Ryan Key as he reminisced on the band’s trajectory leading up to that night. Whether he was explaining how early shows at the Nile Theater in Mesa served to help the band cultivate their first true out-of-state fanbase, or pridefully detailing the various emotions surrounding each album, Key spoke from a place of true sincerity and love for the band which has encompassed the majority of his life.
An unassuming viewer could be easily forgiven for not realizing that Yellowcard’s performance that evening was their third to final show. Every member of the band was visibly having a great time flying around the stage with abandon as they effortlessly nailed every note. Violinist Sean Mackin in particular seemed to visibly buzz with energy as he leaped across the stage and even nailed his signature backflip from the bass cab with seemingly minimal effort. Lead guitarist Ryan Mendez was visibly having a great time playing the old songs as he added discords and dive bombs not present in the album versions, smiling ear to ear as the audience bounced up and down to the tempo.
For Yellowcard these final shows were clearly a celebration of a two-decade career still capable of churning out fantastic material, not the death toll of aging rockers far past their prime. Having loved Yellowcard since they played my junior high auditorium (seriously), it was definitely difficult to watch such an amazing set realizing it would be the last time I could do so.
However, the beauty of a band leaving on the power of their own strengths was a truly amazing site to behold, and one that every attendee will likely never forget for as long as they live.
Highlights: Despite being familiar with much more than Ocean Avenue, I truly have overlooked a great deal of Yellowcard’s albums from the middle section of their career. The sheer energy of this show has definitely lead me to further explore their discography with a newfound appreciation.
Low Points: For the first time in a long while, there truly aren’t any moments I can recall from this show that were anything other than ideal.
So let’s start by getting one thing straight, I love chaos. Whether it’s a basement full of people punching one another or taking ill advised jumps off bridges into a river, I vehemently believe that humanity is best served at it’s absolute wildest. As such, I found myself at crossroads when it came to how to best spend my Saturday night on March 25th. Do I head to Valley Bar for an evening of cinema themed powerviolence with Graf Orlock, or do I head over to The Pressroom for the Phx Am after party and scratch Denzel Curry off my Coachella to-do list early? Well I’m not one to do anything half-speed, so the only logical choice was clearly to just go to both shows and see if my mind could survive.
Thanks to an early start time of 6:30, I arrived in plenty of time to see Graf Orlock absolutely ravage the Valley Bar side room with their action movie sample heavy brand of grindcore. Unfortunately, due to the early start time and a considerable lack of promotion overall, the crowd for Graf was relatively thin and only featured moshing from a handful of dedicated fans who had shown up early for the occasion.
Thankfully, by the time headliners Horse The Band took the stage, the room had definitely filled up quite a bit with what looked to be a great deal of people who hadn’t left the house in quite some time, but had made the pilgrimage for one Horse’s infamously raucous live sets. It’s important to note that such a description is not intended as an insult. Horse The Band’s brand of post-modern humor mixed with nintendocore influenced metal is simply the sort of music that inspires a wide swath of people to venture out of their homes to drunkenly destroy everything in their sight.
From the moment the opening notes of “Heroes Die” rung out across the basement, to the closing mash up of “March Of The Pigs” by Nine Inch Nails with perennial favorite Cutsman, Valley Bar was turned into an absolute train wreck of spastic pushing and screaming reserved primarily for epilepsy and Horse The Band shows. Surprisingly, there was only one issue the entire evening, and that was the fault of a drunken fan who would not exit the stage when prompted.
As the bewildered venue staff struggled to collect their thoughts, as well as their hearing, I made my way up the stairs and set of to Pressroom to continue my evening of debauchery.
Now, it’s at this point in the night that so much wildness happened in such rapid succession that the only way to effectively encapsulate it is via bulleted list:
So much weed that it looked like the inside of the venue was on fire.
A crowd of mostly 16-19 year olds that literally moshed the entire time, including during a jazz set and multiple djs.
At least two children who were likely not even 10 years old despite the show being 16+
A rowdy patron who kept attempting to start fights get picked up by a group of 15-20 other concert goers who carried him out the front doors and literally threw him into the street.
Possibly the absolute worst musical performer I have ever witnessed by the pink haired guy rapping with C-Roy.
A fight between two 16 year olds so vicious that blood and teeth were flying before security had time to intervene.
Playboy Manbaby getting two full venue circle pits going during their set.
Regarding the performances, Playboy Manbaby played a set more than worthy of the 15 dollar ticket price. While their blend of Primus vocal delivery meets mid 80’s surf funk may have seemed an odd domination to a trap/grime rap show, the sheer energy of their stage presence more than won over the crowd who turned the entire venue into a mass of dancing and thrashing bodies perfect for a skate competition after party.
However, once Denzel Curry took the stage, he easily eclipsed every aspect of the preceding evening. Standing confidently at center stage and letting out a Super Saiyan scream, he proceeded to eviscerate the entire building with his trademark staccato delivery. By the time he played his massive single “Ultimate”, what little was left of the building was reduced to rubble by the onslaught of stage dives that broke out the second the beat dropped.
Exhausted and facing a 3 mile walk back to my car, I made for the exit while I checked my phone and lamented the fact that by the time I got home, I’d have only 3 precious hours to sleep before I needed to wake up and jump off a waterfall the next morning.
PHOENIX — Sundressed put on one hell of an LP release show Thursday night at The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix. I’d been anticipating the event since first hearing lead vocalist, Trevor Hedges during an unexpected acoustic performance at the Dashboard Confessional concert earlier this year. Many of you will remember the story of Chris Carrabba welcoming Hedges to the stage after Dashboard Confessional’s hit track “Stolen,” a display of vocal dexterity which was undoubtedly reminiscent of groups like Taking Back Sunday, The Starting Line, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Used and – you guessed it, Dashboard Confessional.
This was my first experience at The Rebel Lounge. I entered through a dark, narrow hallway plastered with peeling posters which wound around to the front of the merch tables where some pinback buttons featuring a colorful portrait of Sundressed guitarist, Forest Walldorf caught my eye. R&B singer-songwriter Trent (Trenton Clark) had just taken the stage and the room was filling fast. I settled in near the bar, notebook in-hand and listened closely as robust, velvety beats tingled beneath my feet.
The Rebel Lounge is an intimate venue, the kind of place that takes me back to the days of punk rock “thrash parties” in my friend’s garage. It’s a bit gritty, on the smaller side, and full of heart. Trent’s sultry, electrified beats caught me by surprise at first. I hadn’t expected to hear anything other than emo or alt-rock tonight. As Trent’s euphoric vocals melted in and out of the speakers I began to notice a slight resemblance to neo R&B duo Trak Joy, who were credited in recent years for stretching the boundaries of contemporary rhythm and blues with their “newly minted sound.” Trent’s was a quick set, but one charged with a unique, soulful intensity – lyrically focused on stories of love, sex and addiction.
After a quick changeover, alternative rock band Eclipses for Eyes took the stage with an instant authority that almost seemed to rival frontwoman Lexi Salazar’s petite stature. The moment Salazar’s voice met our ears, Lacey Sturm was at our lips.
“Look,” our photographer Katherine said holding out her arm, “I’ve got goosebumps!”
Besides displaying obvious audible similarities to alternative mega-powerhouse Flyleaf; Eclipses for Eyes is a group that commands the stage with an unstoppable energy, and one rooted in authenticity. In a 2014 interview with RiffYou.com the band was quoted saying,
“Our music and lyrics are honest and personal, which is something that we find is normally neglected in most modern music.”
The band’s stellar five-piece performance of “Left of You” from the upcoming Polaris EP affirmed that for us on Thursday, and it would seem for other Phoenix fans as well. With the crowd’s energy on overdrive, expectations were high. It was an appropriate transition for Phoenix-based emo rock trio, Way Under who kicked things off with some hardcore vocals and fast-paced guitar, playing through a series of tracks off their latest EP Alone and first solo release, The Way Under EP.
“This is going to be our last show for a long time,” vocalist, Aaron Villeda announced before kicking off their next song. Although some of the audience seemed eager for the main event of the evening, Way Under kept the pit jumping as anticipation continued to build.
The final opener of the night was indie rock group Saddles who boasts an unusual culmination of electronic beats, indie pop, experimental synth pop and classic emo rock. Their somewhat subdued vocals seemed to vibrate along the higher-pitched guitar notes giving the whole thing a Muse-like feel. As the set went on however, I found Saddles to be far more reminiscent live of Yellowcard or Dashboard Confessional with a variety of unique instrumentals beneath.
Between sets, fans flooded the bar to refill drinks or head to the patio for a smoke while others secured a spot close to the stage. About fifteen minutes passed before Sundressed’s vocalist Trevor Hedges finally stepped forward in a sea of fluorescent pink light to briefly thank everyone for coming out, almost immediately switching over to the opening lyrics for their latest single “A Little Less Put Together” off Sundressed’s most recent album under the same name. The crowd erupted, surrounding the stage from every angle while forming a sizable circle pit front and center. It was obvious Sundressed was what fans had been waiting for.
“Hey, we’re releasing a record,” Hedges said playfully, “let’s go fuckin’ nuts!”
I immediately recognized the next track from my Spotify playlist earlier that day. I always listen to bands while driving around on the day of a review to get pumped up, but today I’d been singing along – loudly. It was “Beck & Call” off their EP The Same Condition which according to the band, “touches on darker territory” involving heartbreak, depression, toxic relationships and “balancing intensely personal stories with universally relatable truths.”
The night’s energy was at its peak. I even saw a few people hanging from the rafters, which was precarious considering the risk of a foot-to-head collision with a crowd surfer below. (Katherine actually had a crowd surfer land head-first on her camera a few songs later! Thankfully, the camera survived.) It was the kind of free-spirited, no fucks given, rock show vibe fans live for and Phoenix was eating it up. Even the bartenders were jamming while mixing drinks, commenting on the quality of the music.
Next up was “Mill Ave and Broadway” off of their latest album which featured a fusion of ska-punk sound with a surprise trumpet breakdown. It was magic. The band continued to play through their latest album, leaving only a few songs to be discovered in order to make room for crowd favorites like “Ordinary Day” and “Good As You.” Although Sundressed’s set was packed with freshly released tracks it felt oddly familiar, as if we were rocking out to all our old favorites.
As the release party came to an end, Hedges said they had one more for us, a newly released track entitled “Something Good.” Hedges also said of it “this song means everything to me.” It was the perfect finale to a supercharged performance, but not without a surprise encore featuring a cover of Saves the Day’s “At Your Funeral” – during which Hedges was lowered into the crowd while the stage was swallowed by energetic fans singing along. It was an all-around phenomenal performance. And also a reminder of the impact that local music can and does continue to have on our community. We are certainly curious to see where this group is headed next, but one thing is for sure – this won’t be the last you’ve heard of Sundressed.
PHOENIX — As the relatively packed light rail rolled to a stop, I knew I was in for an adventurous evening as I was greeted by roughly 50 bridal gown clad men and women shotgunning Red Bulls on the platform as passersby confusedly took pictures for their Snapchat stories. Despite what the light rail’s human to personal-space ratio suggested, Viva PHX kicked off with a relatively mellow start. While there were certainly some larger packs of high school aged patrons eagerly hustling to get prime spots at all ages stages, specifically the 2nd Ave stage outside Crescent Ballroom, the pre-sundown streets were not quite fully alive with festival buzz.
After picking up my wristband in front of Comerica Theatre, I decided to follow the majority and head toward Crescent Ballroom to watch Rozwell Kid open the evening on the outdoor stage. While opening an unorthodox festival comprised primarily of people unfamiliar with your band can certainly provide a daunting challenge, Rozwell Kid showed absolutely no signs of nerves as they got the crowd bobbing along to their signature blend of old Weezer-style vocal patterns and bouncy pop-driven guitar lines while showcasing tracks from all three of their albums. They also seemed to have the most fun of any band as they dedicated several songs to the glowing AT&T sign they mistook for the moon as well as the users of the stage right port-a-potties. Judging by their post set mercy line, I wasn’t the only one impressed. At this point, the majority of my group was clamoring to go and lock down good spots for The Drums, so I embarked on the first of many trips between 2nd Ave and Comerica Theatre.
We arrived at Comerica to a much smaller crowd than anticipated and easily made our way down to the general admission pit area in time to catch the last few songs of The Mowglis. While they were certainly quite good and seemingly tailor-made for festival season appearances, I couldn’t help but think their music sounded as if it were the background soundtrack for The OC. Either way, they got the dance floor moving with everyone from mid 40’s moms to high school students decked out in their pre-Coachella best. Now, full disclosure, I must admit that I have never listened to The Drums so I didn’t quite have the same excitement as the majority of the crowd. I have nothing against their music, but as soon as the rest of my group made their way to the guard rail I pounced on the opportunity to run back to the 2nd Ave stage to watch The Menzingers deliver one of the absolute best sets of the night.
Kicking off their set with “Tellin’ Lies”, the lead off track from their newest album After The Party, the now packed crowd instantly chanted along with the chorus “Where we gonna go now that our Twenties are over?!”, a question that is becoming uncomfortably relatable. With little more than a pause to catch their breath, the band quickly launched into fan favorite ” Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore” and never letting up until their set came to a close. On a stage with primarily slower temp bands, The Menzingers made their punk rock pedigree very visible as they whipped the crowd into a frenzy of circle pitting and crowd surfing. As I walked back toward Comerica to rejoin my friends at The Maine while we waited for Girl Talk, I couldn’t help but notice that the breakneck dashing between stages was easily the strongest asset of Viva PHX. As opposed to single destination festivals like Coachella, the spread out confusion of various downtown Phoenix venues created a nostalgic energy and sense of adventure which could have easily been lifted from Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (or perhaps Dazed and Confused for the older crowd.)
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After a quick detour down Monroe Street for a Lucha Libre match and an average Ghost Pepper cheeseburger, I was dismayed at how quickly I grew bored watching The Maine play a largely lackluster set. While it is almost certain that many bands’ sound and style will evolve over time, it appears that The Maine’s attempts to transition their new material toward an almost Black Keys style is not yet ready to be properly manifested. Even when playing old material, attempts to update classic songs to the new format were met with a lackluster reception evidenced by the dull attempts to create a call and response vibe with the audience. As the set drug to a close, the band awkwardly called for the largely underage crowd to “break out the weed” and ended the set with a cacophony of feedback laden strumming before quickly exiting the stage.
Following The Maine, I made my way to the general admission pit floor area and worried aloud to my friends that the preceding set may have driven too many people to other stages and would result in a dismal turn out for Girl Talk. My worries were quickly dashed as Greg Gillis took to the stage and the floor immediately filled to capacity, as well as most available seats. Storming through a surprisingly Trap-heavy rendition of his signature mash-up style amidst toilet paper cannons and confetti blasters, the largely relaxed Comerica Theatre exploded with non-stop energy as everyone in attendance brought Viva PHX to a close worthy of a true festival experience. From the unhinged visuals streaming across the video wall at the back of the stage, to the 80 person deep mob of dancers strewn across the stage, Girl Talk’s set was that of a tried and true festival headliner worthy of his top billing alongside legendary acts Wyclef Jean and American Football.
With Comerica Theatre left in shambles and Monarch hitting capacity for Murs and Peanut Butter Wolf, I elected to leave downtown on the light rail amidst a group of fellow attendees comprised primarily of ASU students holding one another upright as they half heartedly spoke of trying to find afterparties, despite their sweat stained clothes suggesting that their physical abilities may not match those of their spirit. Until Pot Of Gold next weekend, their adventures had drawn to a sudden, yet fulfilling, close befitting a festival which had truly blossomed into something the Arizona music scene can truly be proud to host.
Low Points: The late start time led to a huge amount of headline quality artists overlapping. While the dashing between stages is sort of the point, I can’t help but think that starting earlier or possibly reducing the amount of stages may help to focus the fest a bit more.
Highlights: The team of Girl Scouts hustling cookies to people waiting in line to get into venues. I respect and applaud your hustle.
News & Reviews from the Fiery Mosh Pits of Arizona