Category Archives: Reviews

REVIEW: Jim Adkins Returns to Phoenix 4-30-16

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Phoenix, Ariz. – Jim Adkins, lead singer of Jimmy Eat World, returned home to Arizona last night, bringing his solo project super chill “dude-with-a-guitar” gig to Valley Bar. The show sold out at least a month in advance, which is no surprise considering the success of the band he fronts, the success of his recent European tour,  and the special place he holds in the hearts of those in his hometown.

Set Times - Jim Adkins at Valley Bar 4-30-16
Set Times – Jim Adkins at Valley Bar 4-30-16

A refreshing deviation from the norm, the show unexpectedly opened with stand up from Anwar Newton instead of an opening band. Recruited by Adkins, he loosened up the crowd before it was going to “get emo”. Newton succeeded in garnering laughter from the audience with off-color humor about topics like self-righteous coworkers, a carjacker who couldn’t drive manual,  separation of food and politics, and paying taxes versus giving blowjobs (in his opinion… there’s no question, BJs FTW). For those that came to see Adkins, this was an engaging act, and time passed quickly before Adkins took the stage. It was unique that, as the headliner, he was the second act of the night with more bands following.

Jim Adkins at Valley Bar 4-30-16
Jim Adkins © Kataklizmic Design

As emotional as Adkins’ music is, he brought a very lighthearted, slightly goofy stage presence to Valley Bar. He was excited to be playing at Valley Bar for the first time! Despite 23 years in Jimmy Eat World, he is arguably the least pretentious major musician you could ever meet. Adkins effortlessly tapped into the vulnerable emotions of his music, while still interjecting his quirky sense of humor between songs. One moment he was singing heart-wrenching lyrics like, “Are we too damaged now to possibly connect?”, and the next, he was joking about learning Slayer songs to play upon request.

Jim Adkins setlist - Valley Bar 4-30-16
Setlist – Click to Enlarge

For the set, Adkins played songs from his “I Will Go” EP, as well as select J.E.W. songs and covers. Without falter, his vocals delivered exactly what you would expect from listening to his records, with the only noticeable difference being intentional changes to the melody for the performance. Adkins’ guitar is like an extension of himself, which lends itself to his ability to fully invest in the nuances of his vocal performance. He is a seasoned musician with the ability to genuinely connect with his adoring audience on the same level.

Jim Adkins at Valley Bar 4-30-16
Jim Adkins © Kataklizmic Design

For some solo projects, such as Nate Ruess and The Band Romantic or Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra, the artist performs with a full live band. For Adkins’ solo endeavors, he may be only one man with an acoustic guitar on a big empty stage, but these humble, low-key vibes are exactly what he goes for.

In a 2015 interview, Adkins told Substream Magazine that, “…planning out an encore makes me feel like an asshole.” So it was unsurprising that when Adkins exited the stage, that was the end of his set. He loaded up his equipment himself afterward, which he joked is what rock ‘n roll really is. Some in the crowd were overheard asking, “Why is he carrying out his stuff himself?”

Jim Adkins is a totally normal guy who happens to be a world-famous musician, and Arizona is proud to call him our own.

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega

Jim Adkins – Valley Bar 4-30-16

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Photography by Katherine Vega, © Kataklizmic Design
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (THAT MEANS NO STEALING)

A special thank you to Debbie Malone for editorial. You’re legit… Please forgive me for ignoring a few small bits of your advice!

REVIEW: Say Anything’s New Album “I Don’t Think It Is”

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Artist: Say Anything
Album: I Don’t Think It Is
Release Date: February 5, 2016

Like every Say Anything album, “I Don’t Think It Is” lays it’s cards on the table from the first note of the raucous intro “Give A Damn”, and sets the tone for a strong outing that is at once a return to form and a massive leap in sheer willingness to push their songs beyond any easily categorizable structure. Lyrically, the song showcases Max Bemis’ traditional vitriol toward both himself and his critics. However, the song structurally revolves around a much more lo-fi garage rock vibe than has ben shown in any previous Say Anything album. This burst of high energy post-punk stems directly from the influence of members from bands such as The Blood Brothers, At The Drive-In, and Mutemath; as they each provide their own unique take on the tried and true Say Anything formula. Since the release of “In Defense Of The Genre”, Say Anything as a band has evolved into a collective of sorts with Max Bemis at the helm. Whether through a slew of special guest features (“In Defense Of The Genre”) or a bold decision to release an album without any guitarist (“Hebrews”), Bemis’ creativity and unhinged passion always shine brightest when he surrounds himself with his peers and idols.

Perhaps the most impressive feat this album manages to pull off is a return to the bold sassiness, hilarity, and angst that characterized the early albums without coming across as an awkward old man trying to rekindle the sound of his youth. Above all, there is a refreshing burst of anger on this release that could only be created by an artist who simply does not give a damn what critics, fans, or anyone other than himself thinks about the songs he has crafted. Perhaps this mindset is what allowed for the much talked about collaboration with Kanye West wherein Bemis and West sat down and listened to one another’s at-the-time unreleased albums together and each other.

As with all things Say Anything, there really is no way to truly ever separate truth from facetiousness unless you were actually present for any of the events, but it is very difficult not to notice parallels between the two artists. “Goshua” in particular sounds like an indie B-Side of the “Yeezus” album, and is the moment the album became a masterpiece. “We’re divided by a wavering expression. And I drink too much to cut the tension. You think I live for attention? Man, look what I do for a pension.” is a verse that could have just as easily shown up during “Black Skinhead”, and shows a bravado noticeably missing from the previous two albums. Max Bemis is confronting his own creativity with every line and through doing so manages to save Say Anything by simply returning to what he does best, brutally and comedically self-deprecating his own shortcomings and successes. In short, Say Anything managed to succeed where “Life Of Pablo” fell short.

A surprise release full of bravado and grandeur that actually delivered on the self-congratulatory hype of it it’s creator.

Check out our review and photos of Say Anything’s concert!
REVIEW: Say Anything Brings It to Tempe 4-22-16

BUY ALBUM

REVIEW: Say Anything Brings It to Tempe 4-22-16

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Say Anything came to the Marquee Theatre Friday night and gave fans exactly what they came for. The show opened with sets from mewithoutYou, Teen Suicide and Museum Mouth. Directly preceding the Los Angeles pop-punk headliner, mewithoutYou along with their high-energy barefoot drummer, Rick Mazzotta, was the perfect act to get concert-goers warmed up for what was to come.

mewithoutYou - Marquee Theatre
mewithoutYou © Kataklizmic Design

Even as the backline crew prepared the stage for the main act, attendees couldn’t contain their screams of anticipation when Say Anything’s backdrop fell open.

Say Anything - Marquee Theatre
Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design

When the house lights finally dimmed to herald Say Anything onto the stage, the screams were deafening. From the first song to the last, lead vocalist, Max Bemis, brought raw, hard energy to the stage. The group opened with “Give a Damn” from their new album, “I Don’t Think It Is,” released earlier this year in February. And with hardly a breath between songs, they continued into “Say Anything” from their 2012 album.

Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design
Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design

Smiling and swinging the mic around by its cord between lyrics, it was evident that Bemis and the band were genuinely having fun on the stage. With a sea of hands raised in the air, Bemis alternately sang and screamed the words to “Woe” before thrusting the mic toward the audience. The crowd sang in unison, every word committed to memory.

Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design
Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design

 

Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design
Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design

It was clear that even as concert-goers were feeding on Bemis’s energy, he was feeding on theirs too, and their enthusiasm was fueling the performance. But what’s perhaps most striking about Say Anything is their sincere love for their fans. At the end of the song, while concert-goers applauded, Bemis applauded them.

Say Anything’s set included other favorites like “Six Six Six” from their 2014 album “Hebrews” and “Death for my Birthday” from their self-titled 2009 album. Bemis then doled out some sage advice to one 14-year-old he spotted in the audience, advising him not to listen to the next song. “If you can relate to it, that’s awesome,” Bemis said. “Otherwise, you don’t want all this. Trust me,” he said before launching into “17 Coked Up Speeding.”

At one point during the night, Bemis confessed that he was glad to see that so many fans had connected with their latest album, despite the band’s two-year hiatus before the album’s surprise release. Many of the lyrics in Say Anything’s songs relate to Bemis’s troubled past and his struggle with bipolar disorder. But the passion he brings to the stage and the emotions that come through as he sings are what make it real. And it was that realness that concert-goers connected with Friday night.

Sherri DuPree-Bemis
Sherri DuPree-Bemis © Kataklizmic Design

The highlight of the show came when Bemis’s wife, Sherri DuPree-Bemis took the stage for “So Good” from the band’s 2012 album, “Anarchy, My Dear”. Her voice was hauntingly beautiful as it grew in intensity, perfectly complementing Bemis’s own vocals. Their affection for each other is readily apparent when they’re on the stage together, and it was easy to see that fans were engaged, not only with the music, but also with the story behind it.

 

At the end of the night, Bemis sweetly announced, “one more song for you” before playing “Belt” from the band’s 2004 release, “…Is a Real Boy”. But it wasn’t the last song. After exiting the stage to screams of “encore” and people chanting “one more song,” the band came back out. Bemis, rejoined by his wife, Sherri, sang “Two of a Crime,” a duet from the album of the same title that the two recorded together as Perma in 2013. It was followed by “Varicose Visage”.

But something was missing.

Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design
Say Anything © Kataklizmic Design

“One more, for real,” Bemis said. “If you know this song, sing along. If you don’t know it, I don’t know why the fuck you’re at this show.” Say Anything closed out the night with their most popular song, “Alive with the Glory of Love”. Before leaving the stage for the last time, Bemis thanked concert-goers for making it a fun show. And in one last display of affection for their fans, drummer Reed Murray took out his phone to snap a shot of the audience before disappearing backstage.

For concert-goers who came for a night of high-energy punk music that rocked hard and didn’t quit, Say Anything didn’t disappoint.

Check out our review of Say Anything’s new album!
REVIEW: Say Anything’s New Album “I Don’t Think It Is”

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega

Say Anything – Marquee Theatre 4-22-16

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Photography by Katherine Vega, © Kataklizmic Design
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO STEALING

REVIEW: 4-24-16 CHVRCHES Cuts Its “Sermon” Early in Tempe but Saves the Faith

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TEMPE, Ariz. — CHVRCHES, Scottish synthpop / indietronica band, began their set at Marquee Theatre with the first track of their Every Open Eye album, “Never Ending Circles”. The power of their performance was a force to be reckoned with. Lauren Mayberry’s vocals were very impressive and unique, which could especially be appreciated live. The show was sold out, and the energy of the crowd was beautiful. The high-production light show behind the band was dazzling.

CHVRCHES at Marquee Theatre 4-24-16
Mobile Photo of CHVRCHES performing at Marquee Theatre

It was during only the second song, “Keep You On My Side”, that something seemed to be amiss; as Lauren’s vocals started cracking suspiciously early into the show for vocal strain to be an issue. In the midst of “Empty Threat”, Lauren stopped singing for what one might have assumed was exacerbation about an equipment failure. Her band mates continued playing a bit longer, until it was clear that she just wasn’t having it. They looked over at Lauren with clear concern and made haste to put the show on pause, explaining that she was very sick.

If a vocalist pushes to perform when they are truly too sick to be singing, they can permanently damage their voice. Any true fan, or person with a shred of compassion for that matter, should be glad that she was taking care of herself instead of running that risk. It must have sucked for the band and crew too, since they were producing a motion picture about the band at this concert; as indicated by a print-out at the box office window.

A personal opinion: The experience of the first 2 and 1/2 songs alone was enough to satisfy.

The crowd waited in anticipation for a few minutes, before CHVRCHES came back on stage. Determined to give their fans a show worth their time and effort to make it out, Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty traded places. Martin sang “We Sink”, which is normally sung by Lauren, and he BROUGHT IT! This was Martin’s time to shine, as he saved the night owning the performance with magical energy and ear candy vocals. Concert-goer grins were huge as they were cheering him on for taking  the role, and the roar of the crowd was deafening!

That atmosphere carried through as Martin fronted two more songs that he regularly sings – “High Enough to Carry You Over” and “Under the Tide”. We were all thrilled and united in heartfelt support, and didn’t feel shafted.

Lauren came back to sing for the last song on their set that would be cut short. She told us she would be taking measures to avoid vomiting on stage. Speaking of her performance up until then, she shamefully confessed and apologized that she didn’t have pitch due to the illness. Fans nearby could be overheard speaking in a tone of surprise about how they hadn’t noticed. She gave a heartfelt monologue expressing their gratitude to fans, and assuring that their tickets would be good when CHVRCHES comes back to Arizona in October.

CHVRCHES closed their concert with “The Mother We Share”, after which the crowd quickly funneled out. In my opinion, this wasn’t a terrible time to finish, considering it was Sunday night… Any 9-to-5ers can typically relate to this sentiment. Of course CHVRCHES was, without a doubt, worth coming out. And even though they gave us 7 songs vs. their full set, that sentiment certainly rang true to the dense crowd.

No regrets. We are grateful that CHVRCHES did everything they could to satiate hungry fans, and their live concert was incredible regardless of the length (…which really wasn’t that short). Get well soon Lauren! We appreciate your professionalism, and you don’t need to apologize. You are human – take care of yourself! Arizona will eagerly anticipate your return!

Update: The make-up show is Thursday, October 6. Your ticket from the April 24th concert will be accepted for entry.

If you would prefer to have a refund issued, contact the Marquee box office by phone at 480.829.1300 (M to F, 12p-6p) or by email at orders@luckymanonline.com no later than May 18 to process a refund. Have your ticket confirmation # handy.

A special thank you to Dustin Mitchell for contributing the setlist for this review.

REVIEW: Lacey Sturm at Pub Rock 4-7-16

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Lacey Sturm at Pub Rock
Lacey Sturm © Kataklizmic Design

Lacey Sturm is a girl after our hearts, with a clearly compassionate desire to heal them through her music. Her graciousness and gratitude for her fans and career were impossible to go unnoticed throughout her performance at Pub Rock last night. You can tell that all of her heart pours into her songs, and I suspect that it is a very emotional and therapeutic experience. She is one of those musicians whose live vocals sound just like her produced music, if not better due to the live emotion. And you could tell the live band genuinely loves playing this music, and has a real bond with one another.

I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Lacey before her performance, and was able to express to her how her tracks “Vanity” and “Rot” really resonated with me, having previously been in an abusive relationship. Lacey thanked me for telling her, and gave me a tight and loving hug before being pulled away. You can tell Lacey has some loving people in her entourage who can see how precious she is and want to safeguard her.

Later on, I picked up her book “The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living” from the merch table; and read the back blurb about how she was once a suicidal atheist who had been abused, depressed, and disgusted with Christianity. Whether you are Christian or not, a story of someone’s experience with hitting bottom and recovering is inspirational and sorely needed for many of us to hear; I can’t wait to read it!

Lacey Sturm at Pub Rock
Lacey Sturm © Kataklizmic Design

The essence of Lacey as she is performing transcends human… She truly feels like a little angel with immense power. It is really fascinating to see this meek woman transform into a “rock princess”. Before playing “Faith”, Lacey said that it was one of her favorites; and it was really magical to see her bright grin as she danced and jumped around while performing the song. It is no doubt that Lacey Sturm has a vast amount of fans who are thankful that she is with us to share her wisdom, her gift, her hard work and talent, her massive voice.

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega

Lacey Sturm & Openers – Pub Rock 4-7-16

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Photography by Katherine Vega, © Kataklizmic Design
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No Stealing