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

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

ROMES

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

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

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

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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

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

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Colony House

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUTEMATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seizures imminent. @si_bonobo

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

Their first time in Phoenix! 😁

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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

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

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

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

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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

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

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

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

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

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

Featured photo (top) by Neil Krug

REVIEW: Falling For The 1975 at ALT AZ’s Spring Fling 4-22-17

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MESA, Ariz. — As I approached Mesa Amphitheatre on the hot Arizona day, I saw many of the almost-5,000 people walking in to fill out the sold out show to see The 1975. I was surprised to see the wide range of fans who filled the venue. A very different scene from when I first saw The 1975 at Comerica Theatre in 2014 where the venue was filled mostly teenagers. This shows how much the band has grown in reaching their music to a broader audience.

The first opener, Pale Waves set the indie pop mood for the night. The up-and-coming British indie pop band got the crowd moving with their catchy guitar riffs and the lead singer’s enchanting voice. Pale Waves played a song called “Kiss” which had an ‘80s pop nostalgia vibe that I loved. The strong female presence was amazing with the lead singer and drummer both being girls. With a sound reminiscent to The 1975, it was no wonder they were opening for the band. Pale Waves is definitely a band you’ll want to listen to.

Phantogram

came out next and the crowds excitement roared when they walked out on stage. Lead singer, Sarah Barthel, commanded the stage with her electric voice and 70’s fringe, Stevie Nicks, inspired outfit. Her captivating psychedelic-pop voice hypnotized the crowd. Energized guitar solos, powerful drums and added keyboard for a synthesizer effect got the crowd moving.

The 1975 finally came on, and to say the crowd was excited was an understatement. Pink lights flooded the stage and the beginning of “Love Me” caused the crowd to scream with excitement, myself included.  It was the perfect opener, showcasing the new image and sound of the band.

Phantogram Phone pic from Mckayla Hull
Phantogram
Phone pic from Mckayla Hull

Throughout the set, when the band played songs from their first self-titled album, the lighting fit the aesthetic of a darker mood with darker colors. During the transition to “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It”, the lighting consisted of neon pink and white. I loved how the band made it a point to showcase the different album styles through lighting.  Not to mention how amazing their backdrops were! The 1975 is definitely an aesthetically pleasing band.

A post shared by The1975 (@the1975) on

Lead singer and frontman, Matty Healy, commanded the stage and engaged the eager fans as he climbed on top of the speaker and lit a cigarette, while singing “A Change of Heart” to mesmerized girls. Before playing “Falling For You” Matty asked for “no phones”, adding, “let’s live right now”. The sheer silence and lack of phones, with the exception of the few fans who couldn’t possibly resist capturing how beautiful Matty looked, made “Falling For You” a unforgettable song. The outside venue made this moment even more magical because for just a few minutes the outside seemed calm and everyone free of any worries.

A post shared by The1975 (@the1975) on


One of the most captivating moments of the concert was when “Loving Someone” started play and suddenly the lights projected the LGBT flag colors into the crowd. I couldn’t help but smile and feel comfort in knowing one of my favorite bands is using their music to show support.

The band played many fan favorites including “Robbers”, “Sex”, “Girls”, and “Somebody Else”. They ended the set with “The Sound”. On the last verse, Matty asked for everyone to jump. Seeing close to 5,000 people jumping and singing along will definitely be one of my favorite sights I’ve witnessed. In that moment, nothing but pure joy exuded from the crowd.

A post shared by The1975 (@the1975) on

As I walked out of the venue, I couldn’t help but smile. I overheard girls telling their friends about the experiences they had with Matty being so close to them and the happiness they felt. It’s so amazing how The 1975 never fails to impress. Seeing them live is an experience that leaves me speechless every time.

REVIEW: Bayside Co-Headlining Show Has Low Vacancy at Marquee Theatre 4-21-17

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Tempe was bursting with anticipation Friday night as fans of co-headlining Bayside and Say Anything gathered early outside Marquee Theatre, pushing their way inside to claim their spot in the front row.There was a tangible buzz in the air as people of all ages lined up to be checked by security outside the theatre.

The air was crisp in my lungs as I walked rather quickly behind Burning Hot Events concert photographer Katherine towards Will Call to claim our press passes for the evening. As we arrived for Bayside in the nick of time following some transportation chaos, the opening band, Reggie and the Full Effect, had set a fast-paced tone for Bayside to take the stage after them. As the set change became evident, audience members rushed to claim their place before the stage, rumbling with shouts and claps in a flurry of excitement; and I hurriedly followed suit to find my place in the front corner near the security barrier.

As I quickly worked to get my things in order, I could feel the deep rumbling of the bass move from beneath my converse and slowly encompass the rest of me as the band did a quick warm up. The vast, dual-level concert area makes for great acoustics, which they used to their advantage as they dove into their set with the ever-popular “Already Gone.” The breakneck tempo of this A Day to Remember-esque song sent the crowd into a frenzy of cheers and metal hands as the band members danced around the stage to the opening chords.

Bayside - Photo Credit: Kataklizmic Design
Anthony Raneri (Lead Vocalist, Guitarist), Bayside
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

What’s up Phoenix?! We came to sing with you and dance with you!,” vocalist Anthony Raneri shouted into his mic, attempting to rouse the crowd even more. This song comes from the band’s fifth album Killing Time, which was released back in February of 2011, and it was obvious why they chose to open with it. The exuberant crowd danced and sang along in unison, receiving copious opportunities to sing back the words they’ve come to know so well. Raneri made it known immediately to everyone there that the rest of this particular set was going to be filled with high energy and vivacious songs. And they did not disappoint.

Bayside - Photo Credit: Kataklizmic Design
Nick Ghanbarian (Bassist), Bayside
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

This being my first time seeing Bayside live, I can honestly say I didn’t know what to expect, but the next 12 songs following the opener all had one thing in common: they were meant to make you move. Wanting to keep the electricity flowing, Raneri continued to captivate the crowd with other old favorites such as “Sick, Sick, Sick”, “Masterpiece”, and “Blame it on Bad Luck.”. Guitarist Jack O’Shea and bassist Nick Ghanbarian could be seen dancing around stage the entire performance, singing passionately as they moved fluidly from one song to the next.

They even included a few songs off of their new album Vacancy, and while it “isn’t a breakup album”, the songs were written to portray a very uncertain time in vocalist Raneli’s life. That doesn’t mean they have to sound that way, however, and as “Mary” followed hastily by “I’ve Been Dead All Along” were blasted through the speakers I was standing precariously close to, the frenzied tempo was enough to keep everyone moving.

Bayside - Photo Credit: Kataklizmic Design
Jack O’Shea (Lead Guitarist), Bayside
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

While the set was primarily focused on the music as opposed to engaging the crowd, Raneli did pause about halfway through the set to discuss their new album. “CDs are expensive to make and even more expensive to buy” he stated matter-of- factly, and went on to inform the concert goers that the band has created a $5 version of their new album that is available for purchase now. The roar in response was deafening, and all the motivation Raneli needed to jump into the next set of fiery songs that would steadily keep the energy of the room at maximum level right up to the final song “Devotion and Desire” off their very first album.

Bayside - Photo Credit: Kataklizmic Design
Bayside
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

As I left the Marquee that evening, I couldn’t help but notice how quickly I moved, or the extra spring in my step. This band had even found a way to keep the energy flowing through me, even after their set was over. They show true passion in their music on and off the stage, and gave me the motivation to be as fluid with my writing. This was admittedly my first time writing a concert review for Burning Hot Events, but I can easily say that if every show is like Bayside, I will definitely be back for more.    

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Bayside – Marquee Theatre 4-21-17

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All Content © Kataklizmic Design.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO STEALING

PHOTOS: Dreamcar – Crescent Ballroom 4-20-17

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Dreamcar Setlist Crescent Ballroom 4-20-17
Dreamcar Setlist
Crescent Ballroom 4-20-17
(Click to Enlarge)

PHOENIX —The No Doubt & AFI hybrid Dreamcar drove into Crescent Ballroom and put on a colorful show! This band was everything fans expected of the union of Davey Havok & the No Doubt instrumentalists, and more! With a new single named “Kill for Candy”, this band of legends is solid and refreshing new ear candy that fans would kill for!

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Dreamcar – Crescent Ballroom 4-20-17

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

All Content © Kataklizmic Design.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO STEALING

REVIEW: A Perfect Circle Illuminates The Valley After Dark With Articulately Barbed Musical Oration 4-10-17

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PHOENIX — It’s around 7:30 PM on a Tuesday night and the streets are busy on 4th Ave and Washington. The throngs of people milling around are desperately searching for the end of the impossibly long line that will eventually lead them to the entrance they are only feet away from at the moment. The lights from the large electronic marquee reads “A Perfect Circle TONIGHT!” and casts a glow on the faces passing below. For many standing there on that night, this was a long anticipated show.

Oh my god, she just left her fuckin boyfriend back there!”, I heard a woman blurt out as I sat on a bench next to the box office at Comerica Theater. With lines stretching around the corner for several blocks, people of all different backgrounds are shuffling slowly past me toward the entrance gates. There are goth teens, soccer moms, bikers and hipsters all standing together in line. They’re chatting excitedly, talking about the last time they had seen the band perform and even dancing to Sublime’s “Wrong Way” as the sky gets darker.

I prepared myself for what would be the second time I would see A Perfect Circle since Lollapalooza 2003–the year they released their second album Thirteenth Step. In the nearly 14 years since that show, they’ve come a long way. Although the lineup has changed slightly, lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan of Tool-fame and lead guitarist Billy Howerdel have remained the central force of the band since its inception. Current bassist Matt McJunkins, who joined in 2010, has played with the likes of Thirty Seconds to Mars, Maynard James Keenan side band Puscifer and The Beta Machine, a band he formed with current APC drummer Jeff Friedl. McJunkins was also the touring bassist for Eagles of Death Metal during the Le Bataclan attack in Paris, France on November 13th, 2015. The audience was attacked by terrorists wielding automatic rifles, grenades and suicide vests, killing 89 fans including the band’s merchandise vendor. Rounding out the group is former Smashing Pumpkins alumnus and founding member James Iha on rhythm guitar, a superstar in his own right.

As the line seemed to shorten to a visible end, I took my place to be screened by security. It was a relatively short process. I got through the entrance within maybe 5 minutes of entering the line and spotted another long line snaking up the stairs to the second floor balcony. A friend remarked, “That’s the line for merchandise.” After purchasing my respective Cola and water bottles, I finally found my assigned seat just moments before the house lights come down and the uprising of applause and whistles begin. Smoke begins to seep from across the foot of the stage and everyone in attendance knows that this rocket is about to blast off.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Billy Howerdel (Guitarist), A Perfect Circle
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The first notes of “The Package” begin to trickle melodically from the speakers behind a hazy white cloth that encompasses the entirety of the stage. Hidden beyond the opaque white veil, the band members’ silhouettes can be seen in various distorted sizes dancing as the lights produce their shadows. With little silence to buffer, each of the beginning three pieces all vaguely kind of bleed into the other. This first medley, The Package, The Hollow, and The Noose perfectly set the tone for the remainder of the show.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
A Perfect Circle
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

It was then that Keenan finally addressed the crowd, explaining that this was their first show since their three show Vegas tour kickoff at the Palms Resort and Casino Pearl Concert Theater. “Normally we try to do this first so we don’t make a bunch of fuckin’ mistakes and then you guys judge us…”

“And now a song about anal sex!”

Keenan playfully muses into the mic as the band launches into “Weak and Powerless”, another track from Thirteenth Step, their 2003 sophomore masterpiece, followed by “Rose” from their debut album Mer De Noms. As the show goes on I feel as though I’m transported to a time when I first started listening to a group whose lead singer sounded like that guy from Tool. It would be months after first being introduced to this new band until I would find out who it was behind those vocals, and would ultimately turn me on to Tool after hearing A Perfect Circle, and not the other way around.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), A Perfect Circle
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Deslgn. All Rights Reserved

Keenan has been an eccentric figure in both his professional and personal life. Army veteran, musician, winemaker and entrepreneur; he is one of the most eclectic artists ever grace a stage. With a residence in Jerome, Arizona near his Merkin vineyard in Cornville, where he produces his Caduceus Cellars blends of wine; Keenan has singlehandedly raised the profile of Arizona wine nationally and internationally to break it out of mediocrity and make it a truly respectable region in the wine world… But that’s another story. We’re here to talk about the music.

(But seriously, watch the documentary Blood Into Wine)

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Billy Howerdel (Guitarist), A Perfect Circle
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Deslgn. All Rights Reserved

The fourth movement and majority of the body of the show begins with a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” from 2004’s eMOTIVe album, in a style that one could only expect from A Perfect Circle. It’s brooding and not without the quintessential melancholy that only APC can produce. Truly a beautiful cover. As I ruminated on that thought, I scanned the crowd behind me. Not a single sarcastic smirk. The audience seemed to think it was as beautiful as I did. The show continues with several more amazing tracks from previous albums and including their incredible cover of Depeche Mode’s “People are People”. Keenan prefaces this performance with a few words to the audience regarding forgiveness.

“It’s those moments that forgiveness is the only thing that’s gonna get you through it, so, forgive each other, forgive yourself. Move to the light.”

For some people it was an emotional experience. I saw a woman across the aisle from my section wiping tears from her eyes during that particular track. It was evident that it meant something to her that only she understood. This band holds a special power that allows them to tap into the listener’s psyche. The feeling and raw emotion they emote entrances these fans with melodious distortion and precision combined with Keenan’s articulately barbed lyrical style. A Perfect Circle masterfully ends the main body of the show with “Blue” and Keenan once again addresses the masses before introducing all the players to their venerate fans.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Billy Howerdel (Guitarist) & Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), A Perfect Circle
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The final medley of the concert is comprised of two tracks from Thirteenth Step, and a new song they debuted in Las Vegas during the first dates of the tour. Keenan describes the first song, “The Outsider,” as song “sung from the perspective of an asshole who has no compassion, so think of the whole album as being parts in a play and this is the Rodney Dangerfield…. Being a dick.”

“So anyway, look out for each other. Don’t be a dick”

At this point, James Iha is introduced and expresses his distaste with the desert.

“The sand, it permeates my clothes. I don’t like it.”

A Perfect Circle setlist
Comerica Theatre 4-10-17
(Click to Enlarge)

The monologue goes on a little longer and almost seems necessary to lift the crowd back up from getting too cathartic and deep. It’s certainly a fun interlude as the final trio of pieces signals the beginning of the end of the show. By the close of “Feathers”, the final song and A Perfect Circle’s newest unreleased track, everyone is on their feet and cheering as Keenan speaks one last “Thank you”, and the band gives their final humble bows amid the silken forest of pillars amongst them and walks off stage.

Iha throws several handfuls of guitar picks into the front rows and the band disappears, never to be seen again by those hoping for an encore. Those dreams were dashed when the house lights immediately hit like a blast of reality and signaled that it was indeed time to go. I sauntered out into the streets and walked down Jefferson toward Squid Ink to wait for my Uber, and savored the sights and sounds I had just beheld.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

A Perfect Circle – Comerica Theatre 4-10-17

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REVIEW: Underoath’s Powerhouse Performance Still Astounds Longtime Fans in Phoenix 4-7-17

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PHOENIX — As I finished my coffee outside Comerica Theater, I watched the ever expanding line of eager concert goers and couldn’t help but marvel at how much the demographic for Underoath and Bring Me The Horizon had changed over the years. Bands who once suffered mile after mile in cramped vans to play to maybe 200 people on a good night were now riding in full size tour buses and playing 5,000 capacity venues decked out in state of the art stage production. Rooms full of angsty scene kids were now joined by radio ticket winners and suburban families all venturing into downtown Phoenix for a Friday night of metalcore’s biggest contemporary acts.

As I made my way down to the venue floor, Beartooth was two or three songs into their opening set and were doing an admirable job of getting the crowd moving and engaged while many were still trickling down to their seats or waiting in the (literally) two story tall merch line. Despite having played multiple sold-out shows at The Nile, sets at KUPD’s Ufest, and enjoying regular radio airplay, the crowd was largely silent when asked “Who here has seen Beartooth before!?”. However, by the time their explosive set wound down to a close, there was no doubt that Beartooth had won over the majority of the crowd and left the stage to raucous applause and an exodus of new fans headed to their march table.

Now, before I get into the Underoath portion of the evening, I must admit that this band has always held a special place in my heart. My first show in 2001 featured Atreyu, Underoath (then touring behind the album The Changing Of The Times), XDeathstarX, God Forbid, and Scars of Tomorrow at the Mason Jar long before it became it became The Rebel Lounge. Throughout high school the memories piled on as I went to virtually every Underoath tour that passed through Arizona with all of my friends who obsessed over every line of They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line. My inner 16-year-old was just as astounded when the band opened up with “Everyone Looks So Good From Here” and “In Regards To Myself”, directly into “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door”, as when I first heard them blasting through the headphones of my yellow cd player back in 2004 and 2006 respectively.

Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Aaron Gillespie (Drummer, Clean Vocalist), Underoath
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

The rest of the setlist was dominated largely by songs off these two albums, which makes sense given their recent reunion tour featuring both albums performed in full, but featured select songs from Disambiguation and Lost In The Sound Of Separation to add a bit of variety to the setlist for the diehard fans. Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie sounded even more in sync than on the reunion tour and proved themselves to be absolute powerhouse vocalists who have more than earned their legendary status as truly influential members of the metalcore scene who have made a lasting impact on everyone from The Devil Wears Prada to headliners Bring Me The Horizon.

Underoath - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Grant Brandell (Bassist), Underoath
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

Disclaimer: The author (yours truly) watched the entirety of Bring Me The Horizon’s set and was absolutely astounded by how tight they sounded as well as the sheer magnitude of their lighting production. However, due to loss of material and a minor concussion from a recent vehicle accident I was unable to recover my review of their set. Look forward to it in a future Party Dispatch and thank you for the patience.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Underoath – Comerica Theatre 4-7-17

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REVIEW: Sleigh Bells SLAY at Crescent Ballroom 3-27-17

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PHOENIX — If I were to describe Sleigh Bells’ unique brand of feedback-laden experimental electro-pop, I’d probably tell someone to imagine the sound that the nighttime cinematography of the film Drive would make if given human form. While admittedly a bit obtuse, I couldn’t help but think of wet streets, leather, and neon once the guitar cabs kicked on and assailed a sold-out Crescent Ballroom with danceable abrasion.

Sleigh Bells - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Alexis Krauss (Vocalist), Sleigh Bells
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

From the moment the duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller hit the stage, every member of the audience was off their feet and dancing in a writhing chaotic mass. Touring as a two-piece in direct support of November’s Jessica Rabbit seemed like a potentially risky choice given the album’s emphasis on volume and upbeat power. Thankfully, the duo effortlessly executed their career spanning setlist with more energy and precision than is often afforded by an entire tour package.

Sleigh Bells - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Alexis Krauss (Vocalist), Sleigh Bells
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

Having not seen or closely followed the band since 2012’s Reign of Terror, I was impressed to see how the band had continued to expand on their signature sound while remaining true to the shredding meets dance floor aesthetic that Sleigh Bells fans have come to worship.

This manner of growth was perhaps most notable on Jessica Rabbit lead off track “It’s Just Us Now”. Played third in their setlist, the dramatic build of an almost Southern Rock riff alongside a surprisingly hip-hop leaning drum sample into a soaring vocal chorus over a tempo breakdown showcases the band at their absolute best. Even the title itself is reflective of the band’s confidence in themselves. They aren’t bound by hype, touring members, or notions of what they should sound like. They are simply two artists at the top of their game trying to push their music, as well as dance floors, to the absolute limits.

Sleigh Bells - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Derek Miller (Guitarist), Sleigh Bells
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design

Above all, it was clear that the band was having just as much fun as the crowd. Alexis bounced from one side of the stage to the other, interacting with the crowd and positioning herself for photo ops, while Derek let his metalcore roots show as he headband at the front of the stage all night. Feeding freely from the energy onstage the crowd even broke into a push pit for a few songs, which seemed somehow natural despite it’s unusual setting.

As the evening finally wound down, Alexis brought opening act Tunde Olaniran onstage for a brief duet appearance before closing their set with A/B Machines from debut album Treats, then disappeared out the venue doors while the crowd finally paused to take a breath.

Sleigh Bells - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Sleigh Bells
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

Highlight: Opening act Tunde Olaniran was absolutely astounding. Blending soul funk with trap EDM beats was the perfect way to set the crowd up early for an evening of high paced dancing while drawing even the most introverted audience member out of their shell for a night. Bonus shout out to the guy wearing an Agitator shirt who looked genuinely lost the entire night.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Sleigh Bells – Crescent Ballroom 3-27-17

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REVIEW: Sundressed Supercharges Fans with LP Release at The Rebel Lounge 03-06-17

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PHOENIX Sundressed put on one hell of an LP release show Thursday night at The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix. I’d been anticipating the event since first hearing lead vocalist, Trevor Hedges during an unexpected acoustic performance at the Dashboard Confessional concert earlier this year. Many of you will remember the story of Chris Carrabba welcoming Hedges to the stage after Dashboard Confessional’s hit track “Stolen,” a display of vocal dexterity which was undoubtedly reminiscent of groups like Taking Back Sunday, The Starting Line, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Used and – you guessed it, Dashboard Confessional.

This was my first experience at The Rebel Lounge. I entered through a dark, narrow hallway plastered with peeling posters which wound around to the front of the merch tables where some pinback buttons featuring a colorful portrait of Sundressed guitarist, Forest Walldorf caught my eye. R&B singer-songwriter Trent (Trenton Clark) had just taken the stage and the room was filling fast. I settled in near the bar, notebook in-hand and listened closely as robust, velvety beats tingled beneath my feet.

The Rebel Lounge is an intimate venue, the kind of place that takes me back to the days of punk rock “thrash parties” in my friend’s garage. It’s a bit gritty, on the smaller side, and full of heart. Trent’s sultry, electrified beats caught me by surprise at first. I hadn’t expected to hear anything other than emo or alt-rock tonight. As Trent’s euphoric vocals melted in and out of the speakers I began to notice a slight resemblance to neo R&B duo Trak Joy, who were credited in recent years for stretching the boundaries of contemporary rhythm and blues with their “newly minted sound.” Trent’s was a quick set, but one charged with a unique, soulful intensity – lyrically focused on stories of love, sex and addiction.

Lexi Salazar (vocalist), Eclipses for Eyes - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lexi Salazar (vocalist), Eclipses for Eyes
© Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

After a quick changeover, alternative rock band Eclipses for Eyes took the stage with an instant authority that almost seemed to rival frontwoman Lexi Salazar’s petite stature. The moment Salazar’s voice met our ears, Lacey Sturm was at our lips.

Look, our photographer Katherine said holding out her arm,I’ve got goosebumps!

Besides displaying obvious audible similarities to alternative mega-powerhouse Flyleaf; Eclipses for Eyes is a group that commands the stage with an unstoppable energy, and one rooted in authenticity. In a 2014 interview with RiffYou.com the band was quoted saying,

Our music and lyrics are honest and personal, which is something that we find is normally neglected in most modern music.

Lexi Salazar (vocalist), Eclipses for Eyes - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lexi Salazar (vocalist), Eclipses for Eyes © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

The band’s stellar five-piece performance of “Left of You” from the upcoming Polaris EP affirmed that for us on Thursday, and it would seem for other Phoenix fans as well. With the crowd’s energy on overdrive, expectations were high. It was an appropriate transition for Phoenix-based emo rock trio, Way Under who kicked things off with some hardcore vocals and fast-paced guitar, playing through a series of tracks off their latest EP Alone and first solo release, The Way Under EP.

This is going to be our last show for a long time,” vocalist, Aaron Villeda announced before kicking off their next song. Although some of the audience seemed eager for the main event of the evening, Way Under kept the pit jumping as anticipation continued to build.

The final opener of the night was indie rock group Saddles who boasts an unusual culmination of electronic beats, indie pop, experimental synth pop and classic emo rock. Their somewhat subdued vocals seemed to vibrate along the higher-pitched guitar notes giving the whole thing a Muse-like feel. As the set went on however, I found Saddles to be far more reminiscent live of Yellowcard or Dashboard Confessional with a variety of unique instrumentals beneath.

Between sets, fans flooded the bar to refill drinks or head to the patio for a smoke while others secured a spot close to the stage. About fifteen minutes passed before Sundressed’s vocalist Trevor Hedges finally stepped forward in a sea of fluorescent pink light to briefly thank everyone for coming out, almost immediately switching over to the opening lyrics for their latest single “A Little Less Put Together” off Sundressed’s most recent album under the same name. The crowd erupted, surrounding the stage from every angle while forming a sizable circle pit front and center. It was obvious Sundressed was what fans had been waiting for.

Hey, we’re releasing a record,” Hedges said playfully,let’s go fuckin’ nuts!

Sundressed - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Sundressed © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

I immediately recognized the next track from my Spotify playlist earlier that day. I always listen to bands while driving around on the day of a review to get pumped up, but today I’d been singing along – loudly. It was “Beck & Call” off their EP The Same Condition which according to the band, “touches on darker territory” involving heartbreak, depression, toxic relationships and “balancing intensely personal stories with universally relatable truths.

Trevor Hedges (vocalist), Sundressed - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Trevor Hedges (vocalist), Sundressed © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

The night’s energy was at its peak. I even saw a few people hanging from the rafters, which was precarious considering the risk of a foot-to-head collision with a crowd surfer below. (Katherine actually had a crowd surfer land head-first on her camera a few songs later! Thankfully, the camera survived.) It was the kind of free-spirited, no fucks given, rock show vibe fans live for and Phoenix was eating it up. Even the bartenders were jamming while mixing drinks, commenting on the quality of the music.

Trevor Hedges (vocalist), Sundressed - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Trevor Hedges (vocalist), Sundressed © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

Next up was “Mill Ave and Broadway” off of their latest album which featured a fusion of ska-punk sound with a surprise trumpet breakdown. It was magic. The band continued to play through their latest album, leaving only a few songs to be discovered in order to make room for crowd favorites like “Ordinary Day” and “Good As You.” Although Sundressed’s set was packed with freshly released tracks it felt oddly familiar, as if we were rocking out to all our old favorites.

Mosh Pit, Crowdsurfing - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Mosh Pit and Crowd Surfing with Sundressed © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

Sundressed LP Release Setlist
Sundressed LP Release Setlist
Click to Enlarge

As the release party came to an end, Hedges said they had one more for us, a newly released track entitled “Something Good.” Hedges also said of it “this song means everything to me.” It was the perfect finale to a supercharged performance, but not without a surprise encore featuring a cover of Saves the Day’s “At Your Funeral” – during which Hedges was lowered into the crowd while the stage was swallowed by energetic fans singing along. It was an all-around phenomenal performance. And also a reminder of the impact that local music can and does continue to have on our community. We are certainly curious to see where this group is headed next, but one thing is for sure – this won’t be the last you’ve heard of Sundressed.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Sundressed & Eclipses For Eyes – The Rebel Lounge 3-16-17

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REVIEW: AFI Brings Despair, Blood, and 26 Years to Tempe 2-17-17

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Eyeliner-tinged catharsis and angst were alive and well at the Marquee on Friday night when AFI made their Arizona stop on The Blood Tour with support from Nothing, and Souvenirs.

Souvenirs got the night started with a set heavy on tracks from their newest album Posture Of Apology. With stark emotional lyrics focused on understanding, loss, and forgiveness, Souvenirs struck the perfect balance between the 90’s Sub Pop records catalogue and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me-era Brand New. Overall, while their set may not have astounded many of the ardent AFI fans in attendance, it served as the perfect transition to Nothing’s reverb-heavy set which followed after a speedy changeover.

Nothing proved to be an exceptionally polarizing band for the sold-out crowd. With awkward stage presence, dedications to the memory of George “The Animal” Steele, and rambling half-mumbled banter between songs, it would be easy to simply write off Nothing as a band trying to emit a false rockstar facade. However, as they worked their way through a reverb-drenched set of songs that called to mind My Bloody Valentine’s vocal delivery layered over instrumentals which would have felt right at home amongst the Smashing Pumpkins discography, or even Incubus’ Morning View, they revealed themselves to be truly adept performers and songwriters who deserved their spot supporting AFI on a large scale tour. Though Domenic Palerno’s airy, trance inducing vocals may have seemed out of place opening for the concussive ball of energy that is AFI, the fact that they were able to hold a largely unfamiliar crowds attention for a 45 minute set is testament to their well-deserved presence on the Relapse Records roster.

Following Nothing, the stage lights were tuned to an ominous purple while the hazers were ratcheted up to blanket the stage in heavy fog. Finally, the lights dimmed and AFI took the stage to a cacophonous roar from the packed Friday night crowd. Opening with a near-soulful rendition of “Strength Through Wounding” from legendary album Black Sails In The Sunset, Havok and company quickly ratcheted the energy up to a thousand by launching directly into “Miss Murder”, launching the crowd into a frenzy that never relented for the rest of the evening.

Jade Puget (guitarist), AFI - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Jade Puget (guitarist), AFI © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

Most impressively, songs from the recently released Blood album received just as much of an explosive crowd response as tried-and-true Sing The Sorrowera favorites. “Aurelia”, “Snow Cats”, and “So Beneath You” all found great strength in a live setting where Davey Havok’s powerful vocal flourishes combined with a wall of guitar tone, propelled them beyond an album sound which many felt was a bit too “clean” for a band which has consistently based their career on raw emotion.

Davey Havok (vocalist), AFI - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Davey Havok (vocalist), AFI © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

The setlist also made a direct point to showcase how much pride the band takes in their material from each album by sandwiching Blood album lead single “Snow Cats” between The Art Of Drowning‘s legendary tracks “The Despair Factor” and “The Days Of The Phoenix”. Whether calculated, or simply a serendipitous surprise, this pacing showed that with age, AFI at their core is still focused on the same message of sorrow, regret, pain, and love.

Hunter Burgan (bassist), AFI - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Hunter Burgan (bassist), AFI © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

Throughout the career-spanning set, Davey continually launched himself off of every available surface, while Jade Puget pirouetted effortlessly across the stage; making it clear that nothing about their performance or career would be slowing down at any point in the near future.

Highlights: Deep cuts from Sing The Sorrow, including “This Celluloid Dream” and “Paper Airplanes”, dedicated to anyone who had seen them at The Nile long ago.

Lowlights: An oddly-aged and very drunk crowd, who continued shouting for “Miss Murder” long after it had been played.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

AFI – Marquee Theatre 2-17-17

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