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REVIEW: In This Moment Thrills Phoenix Fans With ‘Ritual’ Style Performance 4-16-18

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PHOENIX — Amidst their “The Witching Hour” tour, shock rock quintet In This Moment had fans spellbound during a thrilling visually-charged performance at historically-located venue The Van Buren. Openers on the bill included The Word Alive  — a metalcore group from Phoenix who’s most recent album Deceiver reached No. 97 on the Billboard 200 (2010), and fellow AZ-based nu metal band Ded, who’s been on the rise since the release of their wildly successful debut track “FMFY” in 2016. Audience members were elated to hear that In This Moment had offered both opening groups the option to extend their setlist for the night, in celebration of the obvious outpouring of support from local fans.

After a vigorous crowd sing-along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” ferocious frontwoman Maria Brink dawned the stage through a storm of purple-red smoke, spookily cloaked in all-black attire which was somewhat reminiscent of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

As Brink positioned herself center-stage, horror-esque slivers from In This Moment’s music video for title track “Blood” spliced on and off on a large overhanging screen. Current members Chris Howorth (Lead Guitarist & Founding Member), Travis Johnson (Bass Guitarist), Randy Weitzel (Rhythm Guitarist) and Kent Diimmel (Percussionist) followed close behind her also dressed to shock and impress in true gothic metal fashion.

The group transitioned into a haunting yet brutal performance of “Blood”, which was seamlessly followed by “River of Fire” from In This Moment’s latest album, Ritual (2017). In between these first two songs, Brink seductively shed her dark ceremonial garb for a ghostly white dress that shimmered beneath the spotlights.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

With a mix of fire and wind enveloping her silhouette, Brink immediately dominated the stage with her display of unique showmanship and incredible ability to personify her lyrics through purpose-driven theatrics. Her gruff throaty screams and eerily dazzling vocals are a fitting accompaniment for the band’s vehemently aggressive rhythms, sludgy guitar and relentlessly rhapsodic percussion.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Chris Howorth (Guitarist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Although In This Moment’s 2017 album is in fact less sexualized than albums in previous years, Brink’s outlook on the highly-debated topic remains the same. The singer changed from costume to extraordinary costume throughout the show reappearing on-stage in everything from skin-tight bodysuits and ritual garb, to Krueger-like talons, a top hat, and faceless creature masks. Backup dancers morphed from demons and witches to twinning alter-egos as the show’s storyline evolved before our eyes, exquisitely interpreting the lines of each song. Brink seduced the crowd with ease, gripping the audience with infectious performances of “Adrenalize”, “Roots” and “Burn”, which preceded a chilling vocal performance of ballad “Lay Your Gun Down.”

After an official band introduction, Brink disappeared from the stage leaving Howorth, Johnson, Weitzel and Diimmel in the spotlight for a savage Metallica tribute beginning with the opening instrumentals to “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and leading into a monster drum solo harnessing the chunky classic rock vibes that we all crave.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Kent Diimmel (Drummer), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Next, Brink stepped center stage once again beneath a large crescent-shaped entryway, which appeared as two halves of a glowing moon, altar-style. The opening scene from “Black Wedding” featuring Rob Halford (of Judas Priest) strobed in and out to church music, teasing the energized duet between Brink and Ded frontman Joe Cotela which was to follow. The night finished strong with blazing performances of fan favorites “Big Bad Wolf”, a cover of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”, “Sick Like Me”, and “Oh Lord” which had fans raging.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment & Joe Cotella (Vocalist), Ded
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

However, there was still one song yet to be desired. Audience members roared as Brink stepped out from behind the curtain for one final song this time wearing the infamous blood-smeared dunce hat as featured in “Whore”, which Brink described to Steppin’ Out Magazine as “an empowering, beautiful song for women.” On-stage, as oversized balloons began bouncing across the crowd, she went on to explain that “Whore” is about reclaiming control of what hurts us and rising above it:

I was told that I would amount to absolute shit”, she told the crowd. “That I would become nothing at all. So, you see this next song, this last song is about rising above other people’s expectations, all of these ideas about who and what we should be. This song is about taking other people’s hate and turning it into something powerful and liberating within. So tonight, ladies and gentlemen, if I can inspire just that, turning hate into love, then I am proud to say to you Phoenix tonight, I will be your whore!

The song’s title “Whore” is actually an acronym created by Brink to further communicate its underlying purpose:

Women Honoring One Another Rising Eternally


It seems that with their most recent album, Brink and her bandmates have finally perfected the delicate balance between their sultry sex appeal and crust punk approach to the ideals of empowerment and strength embedded in their music. “The Witching Hour” tour is more than an unforgettable performance; it’s a wakeup call. We truly cannot wait for more.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

In This Moment – The Van Buren 4-16-18

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© Kataklizmic Design.
All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Nightwish Celebrates Decades of Music at Marquee Theatre 4-15-18

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Tempe, AZ – On April 15th, Nightwish enchanted the Marquee Theatre with their music, and also delighted fans with a free two-disc CD of their Decades album featuring an archive of songs from 1996-2015 to celebrate their “DECADES: WORLD TOUR 2018”. For those unaware of Nightwish, they are a symphonic metal band from Finland. The band was formed by keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, and former lead singer Tarja Turunen in 1996. In 2005, Nightwish said goodbye to Turunen. In 2012, Nightwish had to say goodbye to a second lead singer, Anette Olzon, but former Revamp singer Floor Jansen graciously filled in to finish the North American tour that year. Since then, Jansen became the lead vocalist for Nightwish’s album Endless Forms Most Beautiful and continues to tour with the band.

It was a cool night in Tempe, fans entered the venue and filled the entire floor. Everyone patiently waited for the music to begin. Nightwish greeted the fans with an audio recording, asking fans to go back to simpler times when they would not use phones to take pictures and videos during the show. They wanted everyone to enjoy the moment. Many phones went dark, but some fans couldn’t resist the urge to take a few shots of their favorite band. After that message, a one minute countdown began. As the seconds dropped to single digits, the crowd began to shout as each second decreased. Once it hit zero, the screen changed to gears, and one by one, the members of Nightwish took the stage, greeted by cheers.

Nightwish - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Floor Jansen (Vocalist), Nightwish
Photography
 Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Being Nightwish’s “Decades” tour, they picked their greatest hits from all eight of their studio albums. Nightwish didn’t achieve popularity in the United States until their 2004 album Once, and it sold more than one million copies. The biggest hit single from Once, “Wish I Had an Angel”, received MTV airplay and was the second song on their set list that night. As the first chords played, the crowd clapped and screamed. One fan held his hands to his face, in awe of the live performance he beheld. As Jansen sang, the video board had the well-known angel statue from the album cover seen through a gate, as if we were entering a cemetery.

As the first four songs played, fans mouthed the words and jumped to the beat. The video screen went perfectly with each song. For “10th Man Down”, the video soared over gravestones. For “The Kinslayer”, the video showed red candles as crimson light illuminated the band.

Nightwish - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Floor Jansen (Vocalist), Nightwish
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Before starting their fifth song, “Gethsemane” from the album Oceanborn, Jansen spoke to the fans, welcoming everyone to the “Decades” tour. She said she spotted some familiar faces in the crowd. The last time Nightwish visited the Marquee was May 2, 2015 for their “Endless Forms Most Beautiful Tour”. Jansen then asked who was seeing them for the first time. Hands all around the venue went up. Jansen smiled and said, “Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Nightwish - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Emppu Vuorinen (Guitarist), Nightwish
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

The band grew quiet for a moment as Jansen addressed the crowd before going into the beloved song “I Want My Tears Back”, from the album Imaginaerum; she said “Tempe is already warm, but let’s make it hot!” During the uilleann pipes solo midway through the song, Jansen urged the crowd to dance and throw their fists in the air. Jansen herself danced on stage and then said, “Tempe! Turn this place into a volcano!” After the song concluded, Jansen spoke again, “It is hard to dance in a volcano. You did a good job though. Thank you!

It was vocalist and bass/acoustic guitarist Marco Hietala’s turn to address the crowd. He had a smile a mile wide as he asked, “How are you doing?” The crowd cheered and people put up devil horns to show their excitement. Hietala laughed and said again, “I’m not quite sure yet. How are you doing?” The crowd screamed louder. “Sounds like we’re having fun. Ready to rock!” Hietala replied as the song “Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean” from the album Oceanborn filled the air.

Nightwish - Photography: Andrea Stoica
Marco Hietala (Bassist, Vocalist), Nightwish
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

What a night. It’s good to be back,” Jansen said later, “This one’s for the dreamers.” Just then, the instrumental of “Slaying the Dreamer”, from the album Century Child, swelled into the room.

Nightwish had an incredible nineteen-song set, and the fans were full of joy for every single note and lyric. After Nightwish finished their last song for the night, “Ghost Love Score” from the album Once, they left the stage, and in the darkness fans cried out for more. The band members came back to take a final bow and toss some lucky fans guitar picks and drum sticks. Nightwish had done it again — amazed another crowd and filled their hearts with beautiful music.

PHOTO ALBUM

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

Nightwish – Marquee Theatre 4-15-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: New Politics, Dreamers, & The Wrecks Help the Phoenix Crowd to Lose Themselves 3-11-18

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PHOENIXUnity, love, and an all-around good time were the three main focuses of the Lost in Translation Tour’s stop in Phoenix. “Don’t ever forget that each and every one of you here has the power to do anything you set your heart on,” said David Boyd, lead singer of New Politics.

New Politics, Dreamers, and The Wrecks put on an sensational sold out show at Crescent Ballroom, with each band bringing the energy of a headliner.

The Wrecks

The Wrecks - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
The Wrecks
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design
View The Wrecks Photo Album

The Wrecks were first in the lineup with an electrifying set. Lead singer Nick Anderson’s unique voice took the crowd to a new level. The energy from the five piece band was reminiscent of early 2000’s pop punk. Their new EP Panic Vertigo, just released last month, showcased the growth of the band. The Wrecks played an unreleased song “Live”, and Anderson said the band only plays it when people in the audience have enough energy to give back. They ended with the upbeat angst filled song “Favorite Liar” which has been played frequently on 93.3 Alt AZ. The Wrecks hinted at wanting to do a headline tour with a stop in Phoenix soon.

The Wrecks - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
The Wrecks
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design
View The Wrecks Photo Album

Dreamers

Dreamers - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Nick Wold (Vocalist), Dreamers
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design
View Dreamers Photo Album

Their band name describes their set: dreamy. The three-piece band played fan favorites such as “Painkiller” and “Sweet Disaster”, which have been on rotation on 93.3 Alt AZ as well. With catchy guitar riffs from lead singer and guitarist Nick Wold, strong rhythm from bassist and back-up vocalist Marc Nelson, and striking drums from drummer and back-up vocalist Jacob Lee Wick, the band amped up the crowd.The upbeat set proposed the feeling for New Politics’ upcoming performance. Their song “Bleed Through”, Wold explained, is about people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and coming back from that ledge; also for any who has fallen.

New Politics

New Politics - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
New Politics
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

Inspiring the crowd to raise their hands immediately, the energy exuded by the three piece band from Copenhagen, Denmark, was mind-blowing, to say the least. With Boyd sporting pants that could have been inspired by Beetlejuice, and a John Lennon style hat, his charisma got the crowd rocking.

The trio started their set off with “Istanbul” from their latest record Lost in Translation, which was released last year (2017). Their set consisted of a variety of songs that showed how diverse they are.

“Girl Crush”, “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens)”, and “Dignity” were noticeably among the crowd-favorites.

“Tonight You’re Perfect”, “One of Us”, and “Harlem” are among the most well-known songs from the trio.

One of the more intimate songs played during the set was “Color Green”, which Boyd dedicated to his newborn daughter.

Guitarist and lead/backup vocalist Søren Hansen and drummer Louis Vecchio, were highly animated throughout the 20 song set. It was impressive to see the same energy that  Boyd offers in Hansen and Vecchio.

New Politics - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
New Politics
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

Boyd knows how to perform. The lead singer engaged the crowd from all angles, and got intimate with the crowd multiple times by resting his leg in fans’ hands as he sang. It also seemed as if he would sing directly into fans’ phones. ULTIMATE FANGIRL DREAM.

By mentioning unity more than once, it was clear that Boyd places importance on giving fans a unifying experience. He showed his gratitude to the fans at the end of “One Of Us” by making bowing gestures toward them, suggesting that this experience is just as meaningful to him.

New Politics - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
New Politics
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

I don’t want this to end”, Boyd exclaimed before the final song. “There’s only one thing we’re gonna have to do, is come back soon, right?”, he continued. “So what we’re gonna do right now, ‘cause endings are so sad, we’re gonna do the opposite. We’re gonna take this energy here, and we’re gonna celebrate that we f***ing did it! Alright? And we’re gonna cherish every memory of tonight, and we’re gonna even make it better, and there will be a surprise…

The band certainly knows how to end a show with a grand finale, by playing the explosive “Yeah Yeah Yeah”, with Dreamers’ Wold singing the first verse, and The Wrecks’ Anderson coming back to rap during the second verse.

How to end a show: with Hansen crowd surfing as he plays his guitar solo. √ CHECK

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

New Politics, Dreamers, & The Wrecks – Crescent Ballroom 3-11-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

© Kataklizmic Design.
All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: P!nk Launches Into World Tour in an Unforgettable Performance at Talking Stick Arena 03-01-18

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PHOENIX P!nk kicked off her Beautiful Trauma World Tour in an unreal musical experience that rocked the Valley of the Sun. Following the release of her seventh studio album, aptly named Beautiful Trauma, came the announcement that she would hit the road once again to share her exquisite sound with the world. With anticipation of her first album release in five years, it came as no surprise that the Phoenix show was completely sold out. Fans flooded Talking Stick Arena, sporting the artist’s color in everything from bedazzled wigs to homemade jumpsuits. Inside the arena KidCutUp could be heard spinning his usual mashup of hip hop and party songs in order to rouse the crowd before the main act.

P!NK - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
P!NK
Photography: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

From start to finish, P!nk put on a show that left the crowd wanting more, even after a 21-song setlist. Her energy is tangible as soon as she appears before the crowd, launching into the show with one of her biggest hits of all time “Get the Party Started.” What was seen as the curtain dropped at the start of the song could only be described as unbelievable. Breathtaking acrobatics featuring her in a full body sequined jumpsuit paired with incredible dance numbers involving an array of mobile props on stage and back-up dancers. It made for a mind-blowing start to what would be a truly unforgettable set.

Paying ode to her newest album release, P!nk segued straight into “Beautiful Trauma,” serenading the audience with her haunting lyrics before taking them right back in time with old favorites like “Just Like a Pill” and “Who Knew?”

Hello!”, she shouted into the mic, taking a moment to address the audience, “I can’t believe tonight’s finally here! Just like you guys, I have no idea what’s going to happen!” Her excitement rang through the arena, the frenzied crowd cheering the whole time. That energy remained, with those on stage and those in the crowd, for the entire performance. She played several more songs off of her new album such as “Revenge”, “Barbies”, and “I Am Here”, while also including additional top hits “Try” and “Just Like Fire.” Whether old fan or new, everyone in the arena was able to sing along.

P!NK - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
P!NK
Photography: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

P!nk collaborated with artists such as Eminem and Phoenix’s own Nate Ruess, who both made appearances in creative ways. A video of Ruess was displayed on a screen, while Eminem was made into an enormous inflatable puppet that was guided across the stage by her dancers as P!nk sang along beside it.  

One thing that makes P!nk stand out as a performer amongst others is that each song is, in and of itself, like a unique mini concert. From the band to the dancers and backup vocals, there was a passion that could be felt from all of them. Beautiful costumes were accompanied by expert dance sequences and enormous, detailed props were used on and off the stage to help create a multi-level experience. With each new song came a sense of wonder as to what magic would take over the stage next.

Another thing that makes her stand out as an artist is her fierce dedication to being herself and her love for people. Throughout the show, she takes time to shed light on important messages and reminds everyone about things like love and unity, connecting with her fans on a level unlike many other music artists.

P!NK - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
P!NK
Photography: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

As the show neared its end, she amped the energy up to the maximum level and brought the crowd to its feet once again with her smash hits “Raise Your Glass” “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” and “So What.” She spent a majority of that time soaring far and wide throughout the arena sporting her same sequined jumpsuit. Lights flashed in every direction as confetti shot from mini cannons on stage. Fans watched in wonder as she flipped through the air past all of the sections. “Thank you all, remember to love one another,” she said as she was lowered to the ground for the final time.

Concertgoers left amazed with the show they had just witnessed, although it was clear that they would have stayed all night if they could. P!nk puts on a performance unlike any other artist in today’s music scene, and that is partially due to the immense love she has for her fans and a driving desire to make a difference in the world. She truly is the beauty and strength that resonates in her music, and she uses that as a driving force to give her beloved fans an unforgettable experience.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

P!NK – Talking Stick Resort Arena 3-1-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

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

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!

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

These backup dancers have the BEST job in the universe!

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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.

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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! 😂💃🕺

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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

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

REVIEW: Stabbing Westward’s 30th Reunion at Club Red, ft. Swindy, Amnestic, There Is No Us and Paranova 1-12-18

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Mesa, Ariz. — Stabbing Westward has been rocking out for more than 30 years, but the energy they brought to the intimate Club Red was dynamic, like they were fledglings on their first tour. They brought 90s rock nostalgia to the crowd gathered inside the dark brick walls of the venue after their 14 year hiatus. This performance was part of their 30th Reunion show, which featured local openers; Paranova, There Is No Us, Amnestic and Swindy, who all performed with stamina and grit to wow the crowd.

Stabbing Westward

Stabbing Westward keyboardist Walter Flakus and drummer Johnny Haro prepared for their set by carrying up multiple 12-packs of Coronas to the stage, and vocalist Christopher Hall walked out on stage during the sound check to record footage of the excited crowd for social media.

Photography: Russ Broty © All Rights Reserved.

When Stabbing Westward took the stage, the crowd’s energy rose even more, with Hall embracing the space of the stage to engage the crowd during the opening song, “Drugstore.” During the second song, “Falls Apart,” guitarist Mark Eliopulos was playing so aggressively, pushing his guitar against the mic stand like a capo, that he broke his bottom E-string. When Hall asked him if he needed a break to replace it, Eliopulos replied, “…it was the one at the bottom, you know, the one no one uses,” and he played the rest of the show on only five strings.

Stabbing Westward - Photography: Russ Broty
Carlton Bost (Bassist), Stabbing Westward (View Band Photo Album)
Photography:
Russ Broty © All Rights Reserved

They played “Lies” and “Nothing” off their 1994 Ungod album; “What Do I Have To Do?” and “Shame” off their 1996 album Wither, Blister, Burn & Peel; “Sometimes It Hurts” and “Save Yourself” off the 1998 Darkest Days album, in addition to six other songs from their expansive career. In between the songs, Hall poked fun at himself and his bandmates telling the crowd “old people” jokes and attributing it to their current lifestyle. However, with the way Hall strutted his stuff all over the stage and jumped down into the crowd, one could have guessed him only 25-years-old. Hall closed out the show with a proper drop-mic after announcing to the crowd, “We are Stabbing Westward bitches! Good night!

Stabbing Westward - Photography: Russ Broty
Christopher Hall (Vocalist), Stabbing Westward (View Band Photo Album)
Photography: Russ Broty © All Rights Reserved

Prior to headliner act Stabbing Westward, four local bands played opening sets to amp up the crowd. Each band brought diversity to the stage with their original songs and performance styles filled with vigor and moxie. The bands provided an eclectic, yet complimentary sampling of folk goth, industrial, metal and alt-rock styles.

Swindy

Swindy was on first playing their ethereal folk goth and industrial-rock inspired songs. They started out with “Synergy” followed by the electro-tech “iBegin,” and a new song, “Animal.”

Lead vocalist Randall Swindell’s stage presence oozed sex appeal in his black, wet-look tee shirt and ripped, black denim skinny jeans, and even more when he stopped playing guitar mid-song to run his hands through his cheek-length blond hair.

Swindy - Photography: Russ Broty
Randall Swindell (Vocalist, Guitarist), Swindy (View Band Photo Album)
Photography:
Russ Broty © All Rights Reserved

During the show, it was announced that this would be vocalist Alyson Precie’s last show for a while as she recently enlisted in the Navy. Her strong voice and harmonizing vocals will be missed. Swindy also consists of members Tamara Jenney on keyboard, Mike Jenney on bass, and drummer Steven Escalante.

Swindy - Photography: Russ Broty
Alyson Precie (Vocalist), Swindy (View Band Photo Album)
Photography:
Russ Broty © All Rights Reserved.

Swindell’s passion really came through with the song “Reflection,” as he opened his arms to metaphorically embrace the crowd and pull them in. They finished the set with “Just Don’t Like It,” and “Ignite My Love” from their self-titled EP Swindy.

Amnestic

Amnestic took the stage with their industrial electro-hard rock, which they self-describe as “angry robot noises.” Vocalist Brook Thomas’ growlesque screams set the tone for a post-apocalyptic robot revolt. Amnestic comprises two other members, keyboardist Sarah Elizabeth and guitarist Aaron Coldblood. The dark stage and bold red lighting cast a demonic glow over the band intensifying the message of their music. The trio played “Harbringer,” “Desensitization,” “Discipline,” and “Absent Affect” from their current album Future; as well as “Nervous System” from their album Real Bad Day.

Amnestic - Photography: Russ Broty
Amnestic (View Band Photo Album)
Photography:
Russ Broty © All Rights Reserved

There Is No Us

The third band to play, There Is No Us, came at the crowd no holds barred with their opening song, “Chemical Murder,” followed up by “Farewell to Humanity,” which is interspersed with snippets from tragic news broadcasts. Vocalist Jim Louvau’s aggressive vocals are a good representation of the societal angst reflected in their political lyrics.

There Is No Us - Photography: Russ Broty
Jim Lovau (Vocalist) & Andy Gerold (Guitarist), There Is No Us (View Band Photo Album)
Photography:
Russ Broty © All Rights Reserved

The five person band consists of Andy Gerold (former guitarist for Marilyn Manson) and Jared Bakin on guitar, Eddie Lopez on bass and PHEET on drums. They played “Kings & Queens,” and  “Angels Face with Devils Hands,” which Louvau described as a love song. Louvau finished out the set screaming at the crowd to throw their fists in the air for “In Violence We Trust,” getting the crowd pumped for the headlining band.

Paranova

Right before Stabbing Westward, Paranova took the stage. Vocalist Owen Doheny walked on with an instrument one does not usually see at a rock or metal concert, a saxophone. They opened with the song “Lazarus,” and guitarist Dylan Ewing executed a flawless guitar solo. The band followed with “Hyperhollow” and “Sanctuary.” Bass player Erin Sperduti’s intense bass lines and drummer Logan Dolezal’s punchy drumming really bring their sound full circle.

Paranova - Photography: Russ Broty
Owen Doheny (Vocalist), Paranova (View Band Photo Album)
Photography:
Russ Broty © All Rights Reserved

The band covered NIN’s “March of the Pigs,” then finished out with their original songs “Enfilade,” and “Headline.” During the last song, Doheny pulled out the sax and gave it a short-lived appearance playing it for 15 seconds right at the end of the song. All songs, except the cover of NIN’s “March of the Pigs,” are on their album Hyperhollow.

In Closing

The entire show was a high energy rock fest for the mid-size Club Red. Each opening band brought their original style and sound to the stage to work up the anticipation for Stabbing Westward’s performance. Thirty years together, they know how to put on one hell of a show. They’ve kept fans satiated, and gained new fans, as The Dreaming for 17 years. It’s unknown how long the guys will continue to tour as Stabbing Westward since their 2016 reunion kicked off, but it was a pleasure to have them back in Arizona playing the 90s rock that made them famous.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Russ Broty

Stabbing Westward, Swindy, Amnestic, There Is No Us, Paranova – Club Red 1-12-18

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Photography © Looking at You Too
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: ANTI-MELODY by American Standards Gets Real About Grief, Loss, & Suicide

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Phoenix-based hardcore punk-infused metal band American Standards is known for their “piss and vinegar” sound, boasting a well-crafted amalgamation of heavy-handed, technical instrumentals, and brutal yet poetic lyrics that confront societal divides such as corporate greed, media corruption, loss, materialism and personal struggle. Presumably due to their focus on DIY ethics, the group attracted a devoted following in response to their leadership of what has come to be known as the “guerrilla punk” movement in Phoenix. Think of the gritty, raw basement shows we all know and love, except this time American Standards would be there to distribute self-produced compilation CDs as a method of raising money for local causes and charities. Pretty rad, isn’t it?

Online you’ll find American Standards listed as “chaos-driven noise punk” also noting themselves as self-proclaimed “purveyors of fine noise” and “Voted Least Likely to Succeed in 2011″ – the year the band was formed. Don’t let their humor fool you though, the message packaged within the chaos tells something of a deeper story. The group has since been recognized in the form of a regular presence on local radio stations like 98KUPD, RadioPhoenix and TheBlaze in addition to sharing the stage with acts like Atreyu, Comeback Kid, Norma Jean, Every Time I Die and many more.

American Standards’ most recent album “ANTI-MELODY” (which premiered in Revolver Magazine, Alternative Press and Lambgoat) is the group’s fourth release, delving into topics that are undeniably more personal than ever before for its members while simultaneously continuing to deliver on what the band has always been known for: pungent commentary on societal divides and anti-consumerism. This time around however, the development of this album is a distinct reflection of American Standard’s ability to focus through times of struggle while baring it all despite battles with depression after the loss of founding guitarist Cody Conrad to suicide, followed shortly after by the loss of the vocalist Brandon Kellum’s father to cancer.

What would have broken so many other bands transmuted into a powerful point of resonance for American Standards, empowering them to produce an album that not only cuts deep, but holds true to the spirit of the band’s fiercely integral essence.

The Tracks

Writers Block Party

“Writer’s Block Party” might at first sound like pandemonium to an unfocused ear, but with closer listen you’ll quickly discover a lyrical contrast that highlights societal pressures imposed on those who desire success or any place in the limelight. The song immediately portrays the immense impact of these pressures through the band’s eyes; “dancing around like we’re marionettes, a stutter in our step, a cadence in our breath, to the unimpressed…”

This is an opening number that comes out swinging, keeping things hyped while immediately addressing the lyrical heart of the matter which made it an ideal choice for a single. And despite seeking an “easy fix” it’s clear things weren’t so simple as the song goes on to say, “I gave up my heart to find a soul… The clouds came in and the lights went out. We were guided by the roar.”

The metaphorical nature of their lyric choices leave much to interpretation and making space for further connection with their ever-growing fan base, but it can be speculated that this track alludes to the many struggles of avoiding corporate sponsorship in the music industry and beyond. This line in particular encapsulates the track well:

“Remove the spine and the heart. Safe bet, mindset. And claim what’s left as art.”

Carpe Diem, Tomorrow

Although brief in content, the technical aspect of  instrumentals included in “Carpe Diem, Tomorrow” are placed well as both a striking opener and stout interludes that highlight a wake-up call just beneath the surface:

“Concrete minds cannot change. Don’t stand still, keep moving. You’ll become what you say you hate.”

Encouraging fans to seize the day, this track utilizes the concept of time to motivate listeners and warn them of the consequences of stagnancy in life. Audibly this track has an underlying rhythm that is a bit similar to that of System of A Down, Throw Down, or Tool; while offering unique lead guitar, which in contrast offers similarities to bands like From First to Last, Trivium, and Hatebreed.

Church Burner

“Church Burner” starts off with an eerie chorus which repeats throughout, but not before laying down some seriously chunky guitar riffs that bring a daunting undertone. The lead guitar and bass notes are undeniably the highlight here, although this is the first sing-scream track to be found on ANTI-MELODY which is to be noted as well.

Lyrically this track is beautiful in the simplicity of its resounding metaphor while still managing to communicate the intensified angst that American Standards fans long for.

“An extremist in boldface type. We’re all people, but compassion doesn’t sell. And there’s no time for independent thought. There are no divisions outside the ones that we create.”

While chaos and hardcore don’t exactly scream “empowerment”, American Standards is clever in the execution of their message. They scatter calls to action throughout each song and foreshadowing for what is to come if the previously mentioned social obstacles aren’t addressed in a way that keeps things moving, so-to-speak. The lyrics go on to say:

“Tear down the walls and build a bridge… We don’t want another title to tell us who we are.”

Bartenders Without Wings

“Bartenders Without Wings” slows things down a bit, sounding more like a classic punk ballad that explores a struggle between man and self. The energy of this track is especially solemn, suggesting the song may be addressing the unexpected loss of founding guitarist Cody Conrad as well as Kellum’s father. “Bartenders Without Wings” also spotlights some inarguable similarities to the sound of now infamous As I Lay Dying.

According to Kellum, ANTI-MELODY is the result of “what started as social commentary on the growing divide in our society” but then became much more personal due to the loss of Conrad and Kellum’s father amidst recording; this track communicated that effortlessly.

Kellum went on to say that the band “went back in to re-record much of the album and in a lot of ways used it as therapy to cope with the experiences.”

Danger Music #9

“Danger Music #9” is a smashing reminder of the dreadful state of conglomerate corporate takeover and a return to the classic American Standards sound, fueled by the pain and grief that lurked in the shadows for these four bandmates at the time. It can be inferred from the lyrics that they are not simply addressing a grandiose idea of anti-consumerism, but more specifically an issue with the intentions and treatments of our healthcare system. Though often choosing to communicate through lyrics that are poetic and/or satirical in nature, “Danger Music #9” takes an unprocessed approach to its confrontation of western culture particularly medicine, making the lyrics that much more savage in nature.

“You make a beautiful statistic, diamond eyes. Giving incentives to move these units. Prescribe more illness. And we’ll become the money they count behind closed doors. A half a million dead. A third of us next.”

Cancer Eater

The title may have tipped you off as to what this track is about. The tragic loss of Kellum’s father is uttered through every verse of “Cancer Eater”, tearing from word to word with an energy unmatched by any other song on the album. Instrumentally, “Cancer Eater” is equally as brutal, once again highlighting lead and bass guitar.

Lyrically, however, this track has got to be the most poetic:

“We’re taken hostage by the ones we love, that leave us behind. I can’t be as tough as nails, with this paper skin. And organs that fail. But life moves on, and I’ll go on too… I lived like him. I’ll die like him. Remember me, remember.”

Broken Culture

“Broken Culture” is self explanatory in its purpose, erupting with energy right from the start with strategically coalesced vocals and a true hardcore sound that are again unique in their likeness to other tracks on the album if you listen close. Themes of anger, fear and isolation resurface once again, but this time with a more somber tone in wake of its preceding track “Cancer Eater”.

“We had more guns than bullets so, we made pistols with our hands. Where’s the good; there’s evil we must fear. So, pull the trigger and pray the rounds land.”

Chicago Overcoat

“Chicago Overcoat” takes all the energy from the seven songs before itself and delivers that consolidated energy as one swift punch in the ear drums before ending on a beautiful piano note. The track is in itself, a crescendo of all-encompassing instrumentals accompanied by a dominating vocal performance by Kellum.
“Chicago Overcoat” starts off with the focus on bass and drums as opposed to vocals and lead guitar, making for a pleasantly unrefined, and super-sludgy combo. And yet, there is a tone of desperate release, resentment, and determination to rise above through and through.

In Closing

ANTI-MELODY took things to the next level for American Standards, allowing fans to get to know the individuals behind these powerful words that leave us feeling a little less misunderstood and a little more at home in the world.

Ever-brutal. And ever-poetic.

It seems, although incredibly tragic, the struggles that American Standards experienced during the making of ANTI-MELODY created a vacuum of emotion yielding an outcome no fans could have predicted. We’re looking forward to seeing where this intimate breakthrough takes them, and eager to listen in as they continue to evolve.


ANTI-MELODY is available now on iTunes, Google Music, Amazon and Spotify or you can pick it up along with exclusive merchandise through the
American Standards Bandcamp page.

BANDCAMP | ITUNESAMAZON | GOOGLE MUSICSPOTIFY | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | YOUTUBE | INSTAGRAM

REVIEW: Lindsey Stirling Spreads Christmas Cheer with “Warmer in the Winter” Tour Finale in Phoenix 12-23-17

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PHOENIX — It was nearly Christmas Eve as Lindsey Stirling’s fans gathered at Comerica Theatre. Donning their Santa caps and winter scarves, they fell down the rabbit hole that is the visually stunning show on the Warmer in the Winter tour. The last show on Stirling’s tour landed here, in her hometown of Phoenix, and fans couldn’t be happier to welcome her back home for the holidays. Stirling has recently competed on “Dancing with the Stars”, and her dance partner Mark Ballus was opening for her on the tour with his band Alexander Jean. It was the last show on her tour, and she didn’t slow down for one second, inspiring the audience to follow their dreams, break boundaries and defy industry.

Lindsey Stirling - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lindsey Stirling
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Stirling emerged from a curtained archway, sparkling in ruffles of metallic purple, silver and gold playing “All I Want for Christmas”. Surrounding her were snow-covered illuminated houses, straight from a children’s book.  She was joined by her four dancers, and together they ignited the audience with their smiles and choreography.

Lindsey Stirling - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lindsey Stirling
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

For the next number, snowflakes swirled in the background as the notes to “Frosty the Snowman” and “Let it Snow” were merged.  The dancers twirled with black umbrellas that sprinkled snow as they glided across the stage.  The Christmas spirit was alive and swelling inside the theatre as Stirling performed “Warmer in the Winter”, in which she both sang and played violin, and the classic fiddle song “I Saw Three Ships.” Visions of the ocean and pirates flickered on the screen as dancers appeared in plaid skirts with bouncing steps.

Lindsey Stirling - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lindsey Stirling
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

After a short musical break, Stirling reemerged in a stunning sheer dress adorned with sparkling silver sequins. She and her bandmates sat down on the floor toward the front of the stage for a special treat.  Stirling had laid out “instruments” for them all to play: two kazoos, a toy piano and a tiny violin.  She told the crowd that she had an advantage because her instrument wasn’t a toy, it was the violin that most children start playing on at the age of 5. She laughed, saying “this one’s name is Pickles” as she held the tiny violin in the air.  Together the group serenaded the crowd with a medley of tunes starting with “Jingle Bells”, merging into the Harry Potter theme, and winding down with a saucy “Santa Baby”.

Lindsey Stirling - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lindsey Stirling
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved
Lindsey Stirling - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lindsey Stirling
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

At the end of the group’s medley, the pianist Kit challenged Stirling to play “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the tiny violin, claiming “it’s what the audience is really wondering.” And she smiled, rising to the challenge as she played about 20 seconds of the fast-paced classic fiddle song. The crowd erupted in cheers as they quickly cleared the little instruments from the stage.

The first few notes of “Crystalize” fell over the crowd, mesmerizing them as Stirling elegantly danced across the stage in a mist, with slivers of light casting eerily beautiful shadows over her. The audience listened as if under a spell, being broken only by Stirling herself, as she addressed the crowd before her next number. She spoke powerful words about her own experiences with anorexia and self-esteem.  She reminded the crowd, as they listened to the next song, to remember that even if they don’t see the beauty in themselves “someone sees the beauty in you.” She then went on to perform “Hallelujah” with the curtain closed and only her guitarist to accompany her. The curtains then opened as dancers joined her on stage to perform “Angels We Have Heard on High”, wearing swaths of white fabric that draped and swirled around them as though they were angels themselves.

Lindsey Stirling - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lindsey Stirling
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

For the last part of the show, Stirling emerged once again in a different costume; a shining pink strapless dress, with her iconic marching band hat, with white feathers reaching towards the sky. The show pulsed with excitement as lights and sound were pushed to an impressive high. After a stunning rendition of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, Stirling went right into “The Grinch”, where her dancers flowed across the stage in red sequins. They held giant red feather fans. At one point covered Stirling, who emerged from the fans in shorts after shedding her ruffled skirt, ready to dance about on the stage. They continued with “Carol of the Bells” as the stage lights flickered with the beat, a visual feast for the eyes and ears.

Lindsey Stirling - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lindsey Stirling
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Before the last number, Stirling addressed the audience one more time and shared her family tradition of wearing matching PJs every year. “Christmas C’mon”, with a track of vocals by Becky G, rang through the theatre, as lights and dancers in matching pajamas spum around the stage.  Once finished they left the stage, but the audience waited, clapping and yelling. Stirling reappeared to the ample applause of the crowd and shared a very personal story. She said while she usually likes to leave a crowd with a big number so she can read on their instagram that they just “went to a violin concert and got their face melted off.” This time, however,  she was going to close on a more personal note. She shared the story of the loss of her father last year around this time, and that this song was very dear to her. She asked the audience to remember those they loved and hold them close, and played “Silent Night” to close out the night.

The “Warmer in the Winter” Tour was like a traveling snow globe, shaken up with a wonderland of lights, sounds, and dancing. Stirling touched hearts with her words and music, and spread smiles with her jokes and shining personality. As people poured from the theatre that night, they were ready to celebrate not just Christmas, but their family, friends and loved ones and everything that they held dear.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 12-23-17

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All Content © Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Lita Ford Brings 80s Glam Metal to BLK Live 12-16-17

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Scottsdale, Ariz.Lita Ford and her band performed their last show of 2017 in Scottsdale at BLK Live on Saturday, December 16. Closing out the night after two opening acts, Dead West and Shadow and the Thrill.

Ford still has it,
because she never lost it.

Lita Ford - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt, Burning Hot Events
Lita Ford (Vocalist, Guitarist)
Photo Credit:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Dressed to impress and complement her polished red guitar, Ford took the stage like a rock and roll queen of hearts in her silver studded, red and white ensemble. Ford sported a red velour coat with ruffled bell sleeves and a glorious train. Underneath was a red and white bustier with studs and matching flare jeans. The ruffles and bows were a gorgeous juxtaposition to her aggressively shredding metal guitar riffs in her opening song, “Gotta Let Go.”

Ford and her band followed with songs; “Larger Than Life,” “Relentless,” “Living like a Runaway,” “The Bitch is Back” (written by Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin), “Hungry for Your Sex,” and “Play with Fire” from her Dangerous Curves album.

To amp up the energy on stage, Ford invited Micki Free, a friend of Ford’s since age 18, onstage to play guest guitar for “Can’t Catch Me”, a song co-written by the late Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead. During this song, Ford’s drummer, Bobby Rock, relished being the center of attention; pausing to take a video of the crowd, and take a selfie from the stage during his drum solo. Bass player Marty O’Brien and lead guitarist Patrick Kennison, not wanting to be outdone, stood back-to-back playing their instruments above their heads.

Micki Free & Lita Ford - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt, Burning Hot Events
Micki Free (Guitarist)  & Lita Ford (Vocalist, Guitarist)
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Ford followed up the intensity that was “Can’t Catch Me” with two slower-paced metal ballads, “Falling In and Out of Love,” co-written by Nikki Six of Mötley Crüe, and the somberly romantic “If I Close My Eyes Forever,” originally performed by Ozzy Osbourne, in which Kennison performed in his stead.

To bring the energy back, Ford played the title track “Out for Blood” off her first album. This album was her first release after The Runaways disbanded, and the song speaks to how Ford’s personal style developed in the 80s glam metal scene.

Ford went out with a bang, playing two great hits, “Cherry Bomb” on the original guitar she used when performing with The Runaways; and “Kiss Me Deadly” off her 1988 album Lita, using a pearl white, multi-neck guitar.

Patrick Kennison (Lead Guitarist), Lita Ford (Vocalist, Guitarist), & Marty O'Brien (Bassist) - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Patrick Kennison (Lead Guitarist), Lita Ford (Vocalist, Guitarist), & Marty O’Brien (Bassist)
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Opening bands were Dead West and Shadow and the Thrill. Both acts complemented the musical style and energy of Ford’s performance.

Dead West - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Matt Peterson (Guitarist), Vinny Sky (Vocalist), & Connor Sutton (Lead Guitarist), Dead West
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Dead West is an Arizona local band formed in 2014 that performs in a mash-up style of what can only be described as cowboy metal and blues-rock. They played a lineup of original songs, and debut their newest song “Helldorado!”

Shadow and the Thrill - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Tony Cardenas-Montana (Vocalist, Guitarist), Shadow and the Thrill
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Shadow and the Thrill played original songs with a mix of classic to modern covers such as “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals and “Crazy” by Cee Lo Green. Their sound is a mash-up of blues, metal, and classic rock.

The lead singer, Tony Cardenas-Montana, has roots in Arizona. He talked fondly of visiting his grandparents who resided in Bisbee. He then played his original song, “Tombstone Shuffle” as homage to the Wild West town he would visit as a child.

All three bands performed a high-energy show from start to finish. Ford said she plans to perform another show in Arizona come 2018. No dates have been announced, but our guess is she will be back sooner rather than later!

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Lita Ford – BLK Live 12-16-17

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved