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REVIEW: Taylor Swift Blows Away Opening Night of Reputation Stadium Tour in Glendale 5-8-18

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Reputation Album Cover - Click to Buy

GLENDALE, AZ – Taylor Swift kicked off her Reputation Stadium Tour in gorgeous Glendale, Arizona. Swift’s sixth studio album Reputation came out late 2017, and she’s worked tirelessly for months to perfect the album’s tour. Fans, or “Swifties” as they like to be called, poured into the University of Phoenix Stadium. They came armed with stuffed snakes, homemade signs declaring their love for Swift, and creative shirts with Swift’s image or impactful lyrics from different songs. Some fans had signs referring to Swift’s “Rep Room” hoping they might get lucky and be selected to meet Swift later that night. Inside the venue, Charli XCX and Camila Cabello warmed up the fans.

Charli XCX sang in a bright bubblegum pink raincoat and pants delighting fans with seven songs, two being cover songs – “I Love It” by Icona Pop, and ending with “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea. Cabello then took the stage, singing nine songs while wearing a white corset with glittery see-through sleeves and black pants with thigh-high slits. Cabello closed her set with her well-known song, “Havana”.

Swift started with a bang. First, “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts played over the sound system, followed by a video introduction addressing Swift’s reputation. Swift then emerged on stage singing “…Ready For It?”, the first track of her latest album, to the stadium of screaming fans.

Taylor Swift - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Taylor Swift
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Swift spoke to the crowd before the third song saying, “I wish you could see yourselves. You’re beautiful; more than beautiful… What would that be?” fading into the song “Gorgeous”. Swift later said, “I’ve done fourteen shows in Arizona in thirteen years. Not all of them were in arenas like this. Most were in shopping malls, clubs, then opening for other artists. Now I’m doing stadiums like this, breaking the record with 60,000!”

Taylor Swift - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Taylor Swift
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Using state-of-the-art production on three different stages, the center being the largest at 110 feet tall, Swift exceeded expectations for those thousands of fans. Colorful confetti rained down on fans, and another round of confetti was designed as mini newspapers with “Reputation” in bold, and “Taylor Swift” written all over it. There were firework-like flares, amazing choreography with sixteen dancers, and of course no show is complete without pyro.

Creatively, Swift had a tilted stage to go along with her song “Look What You Made Me Do”. This song’s music video gained over 43.2 million views during its first twenty-four hours on YouTube, breaking the record for the most-viewed music video in one day.

Taylor Swift - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Taylor Swift
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Before Swift went into “Delicate” she gave the crowd an uplifting speech, “Wow I missed you guys. Since I was sixteen I’ve lived on a schedule, make an album then go on tour. Over and over, five times in a row. This time I decided to break that record with this last album. I decided I wanted to see who I would be and what my life would be like if I didn’t have a spotlight on me all the time. It was important for me, but I really missed you.” Swift shared some profound thoughts on how brave it is to pursue relationships, knowing that there’s an incredible chance to find mutual love, and also the risk of heartbreak. “It’s just delicate, you know?” As she sang “Delicate”, she was lifted in a sparkly, swirled cage, to her second stage in the back of the stadium.

When she landed, she happily asked the hungry crowd, “What’s going on back here?” She then broke into “Shake It Off” with tourmates Chari XCX and Cabello joining her. Smiling, Swift spoke again, “How is it going on this side of the stadium?” She mentioned following what her fans were saying on social media and trying to put together what they wanted for this tour. She said, “One of my favorite things about you guys in fifteen years is the music industry tells you what they [the fans] want. You can’t sing with that person or make a pop album because your fans are Country and would never understand. And I would say to them, ‘I’m pretty sure I know them better than you do.’ You stuck with me with my musical change. Thank you for that. I still write the same way. I pick up an instrument and the words come.”  

Taylor Swift - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Taylor Swift
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

After “Blank Space” Swift ran off the stage across the field seating, touching fans’ hands along the way, to her third stage. There she asked fans, “Do you like my dress?” She was greeted with cheers as the song “Dress” began. Swift transitioned to “Bad Blood”, making the entire crowd dance. During each song, the light up bracelets each fan received pulsed with the beat.

Swift had giant blow-up snakes on all three of her stages, a snake-themed mic, and she was lifted from the third stage to return to the main one in a floating snake ribbed cage. Later in the show, Swift explained the reason behind the snake theme, which every Swiftie knew. She explained that someone called her a snake on social media, along with other things. “I went through some really low times because of it. I didn’t know if I’d be able to do this anymore.” she said. “Thank you for taking the time to get to know me. For seeing me as a human being,” she concluded. Swift played a blend of “Long Live” and “New Years Day” on a sleek black piano with the word “Reputation” written in gold.

Swift got everyone on their feet with “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” the lead single from her fourth studio album, Red. That song quickly became a hit and reached the top slot on iTunes’ digital song sales chart just fifty minutes after releasing, earning the “Fastest Selling Single in Digital History” for Guinness World Record.

Taylor Swift - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Taylor Swift
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Swift ended her incredible twenty-song setlist with “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” with a real water fountain on center stage. With beloved songs both old and new, Swift left her “Swifties” screaming and wanting more. Her opening night in Glendale was specular, and even if Swift is an artist who started in Country music and moved toward pop, that only made her a bigger sensation. Swift may even be one of the biggest pop stars in today’s music industry, and she doesn’t care about her reputation anymore. Swift told the crowd goodnight and high-fived her dancers before leaving the stage. The show ended with the words, “And in the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive” on the screens.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Taylor Swift – University Of Phoenix Stadium 5-8-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

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Impromptu Interviews with The Wrecks & All New Hopes at Graduate Hotel 5-4-18

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TEMPE, AZ – We caught The Wrecks after their incredible acoustic performance at ALT AZ 93.3’s Graduate Hotel Sessions. Before they needed to take off for their show, we spoke to them about their impression of the crowd, and going from opening to headlining free concerts at Tempe Marketplace.

Rising local band All New Hopes were just voted for Song of the Week on ALT AZ 93.3’s “Homegrown with Mo”! They told us about their upcoming EP release, fellow locals they love, their dream show, and what it was like to win Song of the Week.

REVIEW: Judas Priest Ignites Phoenix Fans With Legendary World Tour 4-24-18

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PHOENIX — Heavy metal legends Judas Priest drenched Phoenix fans in a fast-paced scintillation of velvety-strobing lights, squealing guitar riffs and the ear-splitting vocal prowess of leather-clad vicar Rob Halford, whose voice could be heard echoing through the streets of downtown outside Comerica Theatre. Priest announced English heavy metal pioneer Saxon and hard rock group Black Star Riders as openers for the U.S. leg of their 2018 “Firepower World Tour” earlier this year. Saxon is renowned for their influence on archetypal acts like Slayer, Metallica and Mötley Crüe and are noted for selling more than 23 million albums worldwide. Black Star Riders was formed in 2012 as “the next step in the evolution” of hard rock band Thin Lizzy. Their third and most recent album, Heavy Fire, reached #6 on the UK album charts in 2017.

In their announcement, Judas Priest also noted that thrash metal icon Megadeth would step in as the supporting act for the European leg of “Firepower”. As if that wasn’t enough, Judas Priest will also be appearing alongside Ozzy Osbourne on his farewell tour later this summer before co-headlining a tour with the infamous Deep Purple later this year.

Judas Priest’s 18th studio album Firepower’s explosive energy has shocked Priest fans, skyrocketing it to success and ranking the album at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart — the band’s highest-charting album in the United States to date.

With so much musical history under one roof, there were moments where the night truly felt like a spiritual experience. Black Star Riders took the crowd by storm early-on boasting a youthful stage presence, which positively intermingled with Thin Lizzy’s time-honored style.

Black Star Riders - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Black Star Riders
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

After a minimal set-change, Saxon followed quickly thereafter, bringing the house down with a mix of heavy-handed hits and highlights from their latest album Thunderbolt, which was released in February of 2018 under producer Andy Sneap who also joined Judas Priest on the “Firepower World Tour” to support Glenn Tipton, following Priest’s announcement that Tipton’s unfortunate battle with Parkinson’s had progressed to a level at which he cannot currently tour (Feb. 2018).

Saxon - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Peter “Biff” Byford (Vocalist), Saxon
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Among the audience were obvious diehard fans of all ages, including everything from seriously skilled air-guitarists energetically moving up and down the aisles, to children and families, headbanging all-together beneath an incredible display of vibrant, ever-changing lights which moved in-time to the note of each new song. One little girl, about 4 years old with tiny blonde pigtails, stood atop an empty seat with her father behind her, rocking out with every ounce of movement she had — proving once again that heavy metal music has a timeless quality to it that continues to bring together people of all ages and walks of life, challenging the status quo.

Judas Priest - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Rob Halford (Vocalist), Judas Priest
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

During the night’s first hidden set-change, a curtain displaying an impossible trident waved gently beneath the dimmed lights as red-orange flames swirled in the background. As the opening notes to Priest’s latest title track rumbled out across the crowd, the curtain shot upward to reveal Halford draped in gold from his suit pants to his tassel-adorned jacket. Sneap (Guitarist), Richie Faulkner (Guitarist), Ian Hill (Bassist) and Scott Travis (Percussionist) followed close behind, taking their place on stage among an illusion of pyrotechnic projections which were fitting alongside towering castle-like structures, topped off with a symbolic devil’s tuning fork which mirrored itself across the stage.

Judas Priest - Photography: Mark Greenawalt

Halford then transitioned into tracks “Running Wild”, “Grinder”, “Sinner” and “The Ripper” from albums Killing Machine, British Steel, Sin After Sin and Sad Wings of Destiny before turning attention back on to their latest album for “Lightning Strike” which highlights Firepower’s eclectic mix of classic Judas Priest sound, and something quite a bit different — a savage expansion on Halford’s incredible vocal talent (at 66 years old) also reminiscent of old school Iron Maiden or Motörhead.

Next-up on the night’s setlist were “Bloodstone” (Album: Screaming for Vengeance), “Saints in Hell” (Album: Stained Class), “Turbo Lover” (Album: Turbo) and”Freewheel Burning” (Album: Defenders of the Faith), each of which was signaled by a change in Halford’s eclectic collection of hell-bent-for-leather type jackets, each song rivaled by the energy of the last.

Halford stepped center-stage to address the crowd, “Thank you all for for coming out and keeping your heavy metal faith tonight. And thank you for supporting evilness, evilness… Because evil never dies!”

Judas Priest - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Richie Faulkner (Guitarist), Judas Priest
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Fans rejoiced in a sea of chants and fist-bumps, singing along to new crowd favorite, “Evil Never Dies” also off Priest’s latest album, before moving onto unbelievable performances of “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” and the ever-anticipated “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin”, succeeded by an intermittent recording of “The Hellion”, during which Halford and his bandmates momentarily disappeared backstage. Despite having already put on a thrilling hour-plus performance, Priest emerged once more for a staggering finale.

Seconds after the closing notes of “Electric Eye” (also off of Album: Screaming for Vengeance), Halford shot across the stage on a black-and-chrome chopper while clips from the 1978 track’s music video faded on and offscreen above. Halford passionately belted out the lyrics to“Hell Bent for Leather” from atop the bike, before closing the evening with a powerful performance of “Painkiller”. Halford had one last surprise up his leather-studded sleeve an earth-shattering encore. Fans were elated to see 70-year-old Tipton take the stage for three ultra-nostalgic and goosebump-worthy renditions of “Metal Gods”, “Breaking the Law”, and “Living After Midnight”.

After completing an astonishing 19-track setlist, it was clear that Halford and his bandmates show no signs of slowing down. Judas Priest proved to their fans once again that even after 40 years, they continue to ignite the fire.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Judas Priest – Comerica Theatre 4-24-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

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

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

© Kataklizmic Design.
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: 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!

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

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

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

Illuminati confirmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DCF

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

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

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

Chase Atlantic

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

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

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

LIGHTS

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

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

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

We Were Here Tour – Issue One

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

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

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

“Your weaknesses become your strengths” – Lights

We Were Here Tour – Issue Two

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

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

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

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

We Were Here Tour – Issue Three

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

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

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

Bonus Issue – The Encore

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Lights – Marquee Theatre 2-8-18

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

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: Breaking the Sound Barrier with Arch Enemy and Trivium at Marquee Theatre 12-1-17

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PHOENIX —  In the brisk evening air of December 1st, fans waited outside the Marquee Theatre in eager anticipation.  It was Friday night and fans were ready to throw their weekday woes away and get ready to listen to the raw sounds awaiting them.  On tonight’s agenda: long established metal bands Arch Enemy and Trivium.

Fit for an Autopsy - Photo Credit: Dale Hurt
Joe Badolato (Vocalist), Fit for an Autopsy
Photo Credit: Dale Hurt © All Rights Reserved

Fit for an Autopsy & While She Sleeps

The night opened with New Jersey’s Fit for an Autopsy whose bass lines seemed to tremble right through the floor into your very breath.  The stage splashed with red and blue light as they worked up the crowd. Next up was While She Sleeps, all the way from Sheffield, England.  Lead vocalist Lawrence Taylor was a whirlwind of energy headbanging and even crowd surfing. Calling to the audience, he challenged them to “meet him” by crowd surfing all the way to the pit. Needless to say, many met his challenge. Taylor was all over the stage, even standing atop the drum set.  After their set, the crowd was definitely ready for Arch Enemy.

While She Sleeps - Photo Credit: Dale Hurt
Lawrence Taylor (Vocalist), While She Sleeps
Photo Credit: Dale Hurt © All Rights Reserved

Arch Enemy

As equipment was set up and sound checks were made, more and more people crowded into the room, shouldering and squeezing into their own perfect spot.  A backdrop reflecting hell itself stared back at the audience, with twisted demons and a red glowing reflection.  As the music started, a laser show of lights flooded the stage and members of the Swedish band Arch Enemy descended.  Vocalist Alissa White-Gluz dominated the stage with her powerful voice and energy.  She was a force to behold in her skeletal ripped bodysuit and wild blue hair.  Alongside her, guitarists Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis did amazing fingerwork and left the crowd screaming after their amazing guitar duo.  

Arch Enemy - Photo Credit: Dale Hurt
Angela Gossow (Vocalist), Arch Enemy
Photo Credit: Dale Hurt © All Rights Reserved

Arch Enemy promoted their new album Will to Power, showcasing some amazing songs such as “The World is Yours” and “The Eagle Flies Alone.”  In one moment, Alissa called to the audience, before the song “Will to Power”, to shine a light – and her will was done as the audience swayed their phones in the air.  She closed off the set with one of her favorite songs, “Payday.”  It’s safe to assume many who came to see Trivium that night left an Arch Enemy fan as well.  

Arch Enemy - Photo Credit: Dale Hurt
Jeff Loomis (Guitarist), Arch Enemy
Photo Credit: Dale Hurt © All Rights Reserved

Trivium

After a short break for set changes, Trivium was about to take the stage.  In the dim lights, the audience got so excitedly impatient that they started chanting the band’s name: “Trivium!… Trivium!…” Their chants were met with red and white flashing lights, and Trivium took the stage.  The backdrop was the same as the cover of their new album, The Sin and the Sentence.  Blanketing the wall was solid black with clean gold lines and iconic images, a great reflection of the band.

Trivium - Photo Credit: Dale Hurt
Matt Heafy (Vocalist), Trivium
Photo Credit: Dale Hurt © All Rights Reserved

Lead vocalist Matt Heafy’s passionate and clean vocals were accented by the raw enraged voices of guitarist Corey Beaulieu and bassist Paolo Gregoletto.  While Trivium’s sound has changed over the years, the audience was in full agreement that they sounded amazing! Many fans sang along with the lyrics, Heafy’s clear and thought provoking words making this an easy task.  Songs like “The Heart from Your Hate” and “The Sin and the Sentence” are surprisingly addictive, with their fast paced melodies and powerful lyrics.   

Paolo Gregoletto (Bassist), Trivium
Photo Credit: Dale Hurt © All Rights Reserved

In Closing

The show was five straight hours of metal. There is something about metal that is cathartic, raw, and enticing; this show was no exception. Arch Enemy and Trivium helped take the week’s stress, ball it up, grind it into the ground and just let loose in the music, allowing everyone to start their weekend refreshed.   

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Dale Hurt

Trivium, Arch Enemy, & More – Marquee Theatre 12-1-17

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Photography © Dale Hurt. All Rights Reserved

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

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

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

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

Photo Credit: Shot by Jonny

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

Inevitable

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

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

Photo Credit: That Orko

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

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

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

Wild Like Fire

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

Better Than You Think

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

Photo Credit: Larry Alan

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

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

Erase You

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

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

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

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

Anything

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

Relevant

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

(Top featured photo by Tony Mandarich Creatives)