Tempe, Ariz. — Social Distortion are no strangers to touring, and after a one and a half months long summer tour and 8 weeks of recuperation, they were back at it again and kicking off their Fall 2018 tour to a sold out Monday at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Known for bringing along with them some promising new talent to get the crowd revved up before they make their grand entrance, this tour is no different. Accompanying the band for their September shows is Justin Townes Earle, as well as Valley Queen,to be followed by Will Hoge and Pony Bradshaw for the month of October.
Half an hour before the theater doors were set to open, and the parking lot was nearly full. With hopes of snagging a great vantage point, several generations of Social D fans braved the 100 degree heat while standing in line, donning their page boy caps, Black Kat Kustoms shirts, tattoos, and multi-colored hair.
The Los Angeles-based group Valley Queen were the first to take the stage, giving fans a sampling of songs from their recently released debut album, Supergiant.
The four-piece group, with an excellent energy and apparent cohesiveness, seemed to truly enjoy what they do. With a voice reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor and a carefree flit about the stage, front-woman Natalie Carol lit up the room with an unparalleled vibrance. Not long into their second song, amidst the sound of Shawn Morones’ slide guitar and Neil Wogensen’s energetic bass licks in alignment with Mike DeLuccia’s drumbeats, Natalie broke a string for the very first time on a guitar she stated she’d had for over 6 years and chalked it up as an omen of great things to come.
Next up was singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who connected with the audience on a level that few musicians are known to do. With a smirk and eye contact with the folks up front, he touched on the motivation behind each song he’d written before he performed it.
Accompanying him were bassist Mike Luzecky from Denton, TX, and drummer Bill Campbell from Brooklyn, NY, who had only met that day and had one rehearsal prior to playing together — not that anyone would be able to tell, however, which is a true testament to their talents. It is apparent that this second generation music star is definitely forging his own successful path in the industry; from the fun, upbeat “Champagne Corolla” and “Short Hair Woman”, off of his most recent album Kids in the Street, to the deeply genuine “White Gardenias”, from his album titled Single Mothers. “White Gardenias” was preceded by a shout out to Billie Holiday and all others affected by the opioid epidemic.
The roadies took to the stage to ensure everything was perfectly set as the crowd inched closer to the front in anticipation of Social Distortion’s arrival. Impatient fans gained some visual stimulation from strategically placed items around the stage, like signs that said “funeral, no parking” and “inmates stand here,” as well as boxing gloves, a RCA dog statue, and mannequin parts with lingerie.
Without a warning, the band swiftly took to the stage and went right into their opening song, “Reach For The Sky”, followed by “Highway 101” and “Don’t Take Me For Granted”, all from the 2004 album Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The seemingly endless sea of rowdy fans swayed as Mike Ness, Jonny Wickersham, Brent Harding, and David Hidalgo, Jr. entertained with seamless precision, as Social D is known to do.
Preceding the 12th and final song of the set, frontman Ness opened up in a heartfelt monologue about having written the next song in 1994 about racism and dedicated “Don’t Drag Me Down” to the Chicanos in the audience.
No show is complete without an encore performance, and Social Distortion did not disappoint. After their flawless performance of “Angel’s Wings”, Ness explained his friends’ unfavorable reactions years ago when he told them he was going to record a Johnny Cash song. He said they all asked, “Why?” to which he quipped, “because it’s cool and I want to,” and asserted that Johnny Cash deserves to be back on the top where he belongs. The crowd roared as the band finished up with a double dose of Cash with “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire”.
Though Ness did mention that he doesn’t know a whole lot of places that Social Distortion could sell out on a Monday night, it seems evident that with the fervor of the fans filing in to see them perform live, it’s bound to happen more often than he may think.
Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Social Distortion, Justin Townes Earle, & Valley Queen – Marquee Theatre 9-10-018
PHOENIX — If there was any doubt in your mind that Shania Twain could ever make a comeback after being out of the limelight for over a decade, rest assured, she’s back. There are over 18,000 seats in Talking Stick Arena, and it was filled to capacity. The roar of the crowd made them oblivious to microburst thunderstorm hovering overhead outside. Their focus was on the stage waiting for their queen of “country pop” to appear. Queen’s “We Will Rock You” was pounding through the PA, foreshadowing the next surprise. The music stopped and the lights went down, but there was no one on stage. The We-Will-Rock-You beat filled the room again as a spot light landed on a second stage in the middle of the arena, where drummer Elijah Wood flailed her blond hair along with her drumsticks. The sleight of hand continued then as Twain magically appeared, coming down the steps at the back of the arena, greeting her majesty’s minions as she crossed the distance to the stage.
As she found her way to center stage wearing a black shimmering long dress, she asked, “Are you ready Phoenix?” Behind her was a projection screen that must have been more than 5-stories tall, so that even those in the nosebleed seats could see her up close. Twain kicked off the show with “Life’s About To Get Good”, the first single from her new album entitled Now.
The projection screen was retracted to reveal a truly impressive and dynamic stage set of larger-than-life video cubes. Throughout the song, the show’s cast began to populate the stage, starting with the backup singers and dancers. The musicians were introduced during the second song, “Come On Over” from her third album of the same name, released in 1997. This was the album that cemented her in country music history by going 18x platinum, and scoring three number 1 singles.
The video cubes doubled as riser platforms and Twain climbed the stairs to tower over the stage floor as she sang “Up!” Her vocals were flawless all night, and it was amazing how she replicated the recordings that were so familiar to our collective memories. Her signature sound, especially in the lower registers, was especially showcased when the energy level dropped for an intimate moment singing the heartfelt “Poor Me”. The song is a reminder of the tumultuous relationship with her ex-husband that seemed to hover like a cloud over her career, but her burgeoning success and musical independence should eventually overshadow that storyline.
Like a slow wave, everyone had taken their seats during the calm moment of the show. That all changed when the dueling fiddles began “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)”. Hands were in the air and everyone was singing along (some more in tune than others). That ended the proverbial Act 1, led to a set change, and Twain’s first costume change.
In the video for “That Don’t Impress Me Much”, you may remember that she wore a sexy leopard print outfit (boots, hooded long jacket, long flared pants, and a little top that revealed her midriff). Well, that was nearly 20 years ago so she didn’t wear that, but she did pay homage with a leopard print dress with a flowing cape-like night robe.
The setlist included 7 songs from the Now album. Next up was “Let’s Kiss and Make Up”, which was reminiscent of her earlier material, and had a calypso feel. The song seemed well-received, and as the end faded, Twain was lowered into a trap door in the stage. A brief drum solo culminated into that We-Will-Rock-You beat again and the crowd was getting revved up. When the guitar riff started though, it was apparent that this was actually an Any-Man-Of-Mine beat.
Costume change number 2 produced Shania Twain in a black cowboy hat, a black leather jacket, a black dress with sheer sides and candy apple red boots. “Any Man of Mine” segued into her breakthrough hit, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” The dancers two-stepped with mannequins made of spring coils that wore red cowboy hats and comically bounced to the music. “Honey I’m Home” continued the country music vibes.
With such a string of hits there is no question that Shania Twain is a gifted songwriter. The focus of the next two songs shifted from staged theatrics, to melody and lyrics, with “I’m Alright”and “Soldier” from the Now album. The first was a masterclass in weaving in and out of minor and major keys, and the second, a lyrical tribute to our troops that tugs at the heartstrings. She sang “Soldier” while suspended in the air, riding on a open acoustic guitar case, floating across the venue to the center stage by the soundboard.
This was a very special moment, and it gave the folks in the back a chance to be “up front” and see her next costume change into a white dress with a ruffled low-cut collar, a sheer black robe, and white boots inspired by ancient Rome. The great songwriting continued with her number one song “You’re Still The One”. She went back up above the crowd with her magic flying guitar case, but this time she took an acoustic along which reminded everyone that she plays guitar too. This performance was beautiful and moving.
Two lucky fans were picked from audience once Twain landed her flying trapeze, and were escorted with her up on stage for some light conversation and a once-in-a-lifetime selfie. This part of the show was a bit awkward, but we were soon back to the music and mischief as the Sun’s gorilla mascot came out and lifted Twain onto the piano as she broke into the song “More Fun”, another song from Now that hints of Beatlesque influences.
An amazing blue laser show filled the arena as the music began for “From This Moment On”. A video of an ever-evolving lotus flower played on the screen, while Twain emoted the lyrics, alone on the stage. It was like the best karaoke version ever without the band on stage, but it would have been even more fantastic if Bryan White would have been there to duet with her — no such luck. Another costume change had her in a glimmering black catsuit with a flowing black overcoat.
That was the end of the slow stuff, and the stage set became more robust as the video cubes would rise and fall and become characters in the show. Lasers and illuminated costumes for the dancers added to the festival of light as Twain belted out “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!”
Swiss singer/songwriter Bastian Baker was the opening act for the show, and Twain invited him back to the stage to sing the duet “Party for Two” with her, and then he stuck around to play guitar on “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed”.
Twain removed her top layer and strutted around in her catsuit that looked like a superhero outfit and showed off her figure. She turned on the sex appeal with “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here”, and ended it with a bang of graffiti canons that poured over the audience and left them in suspense for an encore. Panning around the arena, everyone was out of their seats and it didn’t seem they could get any louder…but they did.
Da-Da Da Da-Da Da-Da
Those seven notes that kicked off the anthem for women and lead into the line, “Let’s go girls,” produced 10,000 primal screams from fans. “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” did not disappoint. This was the last costume change, and it gave an appreciated nod to the video with all-black thigh high boots, long-sleeve gloves, a choker, and of course a short skirt. Like the massive eruption at the end of a fireworks display, this song left no holds barred as the lasers, video screens, dancers, musicians, and Shania Twain left it all out on the stage.
PHOENIX – Covet, touring with special guests and friends HOLY FAWN and Vasudeva, bloomed in a magnificent way at The Rebel Lounge and shared their sublime sounds during the hottest period of the unrelenting desert summer. Luckily, nobody was a pile of goo by the time the show started.
This esoteric collection of musicians was a sight to behold, sharing a fascinating mix of influences from genres such as post-rock, math rock, ambient music, alternative rock, indie rock, experimental sounds, and many more. While stage banter and lyrics may have been at a minimum, fans certainly have a lot to talk about after witnessing this stunning bouquet of musical aptitude.
Kicking off the evening was local band HOLY FAWN, self-described as “four creatures making loud heavy pretty noises.” They certainly lived up to their description, as the noises varied from gentle electric sounds to earth-shattering riffs and screams. They were also the only band of the evening to feature some vocals in their songs, but for the most part, they fit right in with a heavy focus on unique instrumentals.
HOLY FAWN began their set with some ambient music playing over a dark stage covered in laser lights. The darkness and the soothing sounds made for some great ambiance, but soon it was time to rock. Without really announcing themselves, HOLY FAWN made their way to the stage from the merch booth area — not a long walk at all in the cozy, intimate Rebel Lounge. One member said “alright, let’s do this,” as they prepared for the show.
As HOLY FAWN began to play along with the ambient music, their energy slowly rose until climaxing with some epic, loud sounds. The vocals were hard to discern in The Rebel Lounge, but the music was still enjoyable. It was all about the instruments, with some screaming thrown in every once in a while for good measure.
Vasudeva took the stage shortly after HOLY FAWN, and they brought a different sound to the room. Their approach is purely instrumental, and each band member can play their instruments brilliantly. Watching all three of them on stage is a beautiful sight, and it is clear they love playing music together. Not only is their music beautiful and enjoyable, but so is their presence on stage. Their commitment to the craft is hypnotic.
Vasudeva spent most of their time on stage rocking out and sharing their captivating sounds with the crowd, but they were sure to add a quick “thank you” after each song was over. They were also sure to throw in a few other tidbits, such as “this is dope,” “this is so cool,” and “righteous.” They were also sure to thank Covet for asking them to go on tour together. Vasudeva said, “Our friends Covet are on after us. Give it up for them! We’ve been touring with them for about a week now. Wish it was longer.”
Each member of Vasudeva was really into the music and the performance, and they finished their set with an energizing finale. While many people may have come to The Rebel Lounge to see Covet, Vasudeva certainly gave them their money’s worth. The crowd was prepped for more scintillating instrumental music, but it was clear that everyone had immensely enjoyed the show so far. Unfortunately for Vasudeva fans, merch was sparse; as they said, “we’ve been on tour for a while, so we’re running low on merch. We have 2 records left. It’s crazy.” That didn’t stop people from rushing to buy things later, though.
At long last, it was time to effloresce. Similar to how HOLY FAWN began, there was ambient music playing — a prologue to the epic odyssey that was about to commence. Covet took the stage by gentle storm, with David Adamiak coming out to join the ambient music and add some bass currents to the mix. Shortly after that, Yvette Young and Forrest Rice joined him on stage to a ton of applause.
As Covet says, they are “just 3 people making music” — this is the best way to describe their performance on stage. Rather than one person taking center stage, with the others supporting them, Covet is a group of musicians who somehow share the spotlight evenly. What could easily devolve into a discordant mix of conflicting instrumentals becomes a truly majestic melody.
Rice, the drummer, truly rocked The Rebel Lounge into oblivion. His performance was spectacular, and by the look on his face, he loved every second of it. He gave the music so much energy, and his massive smile could pierce even the darkest of sorrows. Meanwhile, Young was in the zone, hyper-focused on plucking the strings on her collection of beautiful, unique guitars. Tying it all together was Adamiak, traipsing around the stage with his bass guitar, really getting into the music and the moment.
Young has made waves in recent years with her unique style of playing the guitar, and she has also recently been featured in a few interesting articles that reveal some insights into her artistic powers. While she plays many instruments, the way she plucks the guitar strings is quite unique; the sounds this technique creates are fascinating and entrancing. Not only does this show off her sheer mastery of guitar, but her immense creativity as well. It is no wonder she has been called a true “Renaissance woman” by many.
Adamiak brought his own creative spin to the show as well. While he merrily wandered all over stage, he made sure to engage with the audience whenever possible. If he didn’t make eye contact with every single person in The Rebel Lounge, it must have been close! He also seemed to have a great time making silly faces at people, as well as jumping out at the crowd from time to time to really rock out. At the end of the show, he made sure to dispense plenty of high fives to those at the front, too! Rice ran up to join him in the high fiving at that point, so there was plenty of love to go around.
Covet had such a pleasant presence on stage and infected the entire crowd with their joy. Along with spreading the music love, they also shared some beautiful stories and useful information. They referred to HOLY FAWN and Vasudeva as their “ultra homies,” told a story about the importance of staying hydrated, and thanked the audience profusely for joining them that evening. As Adamiak said, “thanks for staying out so late with us, on a Sunday night of all nights.” He repeated similar sentiments at the end of the show.
At the end of the show, Covet performed “Howl” from their new album effloresce, which just came out on July 13th; this song is a great way to send a crowd on their way, as it is full of phenomenal energy truly worthy of a grand finale. After, Adamiak said “you guys make us really happy” and mentioned they’d all be by the merch later if anyone wanted to say hi. However, the crowd chanted “one more song” for a brief timeafter they had left the stage, so the grand finale wasn’t so final after all.
They came back on stage, and Adamiak said “y’all are a bunch of sweethearts, thank you.” As he was letting his hair down, he added, “we’re gonna do one that doesn’t require hair ties.” Then, “on a very serious note,” he introduced the song “Ares” as their actual final song for the evening. While not quite as thunderous as “Howl,” it is still a superb way to end a show.
When the show was over, Covet, Vasudeva, and HOLY FAWN were all hanging around the merch area waiting to greet fans, sign merch, and say some farewells. For fans of HOLY FAWN, the farewell isn’t so long either — earlier in the show, Adamiak also added that HOLY FAWN will be having an album release at The Rebel Lounge on September 21st, so mark that one on your calendar!
Photos by Rodrigo Izquierdo
Covet, Vasudeva, & HOLY FAWN – The Rebel Lounge 7-22-18
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Wintertour. 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
PHOENIX — Pop recording artist Miss Krystle has just released the six-song EP Inevitable as the follow up to her successful Woman In Motion CD. This night was a showcase of the new songs along with an offering of music from her first three studio CDs. The intimate VIP party was held in a controlled private studio called the Premier Room at Premier Studios on Indian School Road. Guests arrived in anticipation of the live show and explored the venue and the well-stocked merchandise booth while networking with friends and industry associates.
Miss Krystle lit up the room at 8:30pm when she hit the stage dressed all in black; a dramatic contrast to her signature fiery red mane. The set started with “Right Movement” a collaboration with KJ Swaka (Pendulum and Destroit) and “Take Me Home” which was produced by Zion Brock. The hard-hitting electronica tracks are brought to life by the solid rhythm section of That Orko on bass and Brent Hensley on drums. This music transcends labels of pop or electronic dance music. It is edgy and in-your-face, but it is uniquely Miss Krystle. With lyrics like, “I’m a wolf, not a sheep,” she has no regrets in blazing new trails forging her own sound.
Miss Krystle commands the stage and pours her soul into each line. The fans in the audience are under her spell and sing along with the next two songs from Woman In Motion; “Dukes Up” and “Pressure”. The high energy has been non-stop and her performance has been an aerobic workout, but still the vocals are spot on. From assertive lines of angst to soft soaring notes she is matching the studio versions of the songs note for note.
At the end of this introductory frenzy, there is a catharsis. The band exits the stage and Miss Krystle is left alone with keyboard and a spotlight. This is where we learn that Miss Krystle is more than a pretty face with rock star vocals as she demonstrates her classical training on piano and delivers some of her original songwriting. The three-song solo “acoustic” set starts off with her song “I Don’t Cry” from the Run CD. This song has a beautiful music video where she performs in elegant body paint and has over 200,000 views. The crowd cheers as she begins singing. Next up is “Relevant”; the first song played from the new EP. In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Miss Krystle described the message of this song saying “The only person who should make you feel relevant and loved is ultimately you.” The studio version of the song has a sonically big production that conveys the emotional message, but ironically this stripped down piano/vocal version may have emoted even more heartfelt emotion. The third song in the set was a totally unexpected cover of “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. This brought a smile to everyone’s face and it seemed to be a true expression of love to some lucky person in the room.
The band returned to the stage and the energy again cranked up for two more songs from the new EP, “Inevitable” and “Wild Like Fire.” Miss Krystle has been very prolific at self-producing high quality music videos and her latest is for the song “Inevitable.” In an industry where record deals seem to have lost their teeth, she has been successfully gaining celebrity through self-promotion and a lot of hard work. Her new songs are collaborations with her musical partner, That Orko, who has helped to elevate her production sound and inspired her to write songs that she says are some of her “best music to date.”
Miss Krystle isn’t relying on sex appeal to connect with her audience, but she definitely isn’t trying to hide it either. There is a seductiveness to her moves that matches the message in “Focused All Night” from Woman In Motion. She strips one layer of black and eventually focuses on each person in the room, one at a time, making eye contact and making a personal connection. One can envision her doing this same performance on a national stage with backup dancers, lights and pyrotechnics, a 10-piece band, and a stadium crowd. Although her surroundings were much more reserved, her performance proved that she is ready for prime time.
The 14-song set culminated in trio of covers that kept in sync with the high energy of the evening with “Lap Dance” by NERD, “Breath” by The Prodigy, and an homage to Beyonce with “Crazy In Love” that had everyone moving. Lastly, it was back to an original for the final song of the night which was “Unforgettable”…literally and figuratively. This song’s haunting melody is addictive and complements the lyrical intent to never fade into anonymity, “Burning in your memory you know I’m unforgettable…On your mind and in your dreams I’m a part of history.” The band left it all on the stage and there was no holding back to put on a fantastic show.
This was a VIP experience so everyone had their chance to meet the band, take selfies, and get their CDs, prints, and t-shirts autographed. The venue was a perfect place for a band showcase and the sound was appropriately loud while remaining clear. The only annoyance was the automated lighting chase that wasn’t synched to the music and each scene was monochromatic. Other than that, the space was a perfect venue to promote the new EP from Miss Krystle. Look out for her next music video release for the song “Relevant” coming soon to her bustling Youtube channel.
PHOENIX — Nothing More put on an explosive performance in Phoenix Wednesday night at the city’s eye-catching new venue, The Van Buren; named in honor of the historic Martin Van Buren. Once inside, it was a pretty swanky setup: grandiose crystal chandeliers dripping from the ceiling, marble double-sided bars wrapping around the room and on the back wall, an enormous, technicolored mural of the Sonoran Desert surrounded the stage — a fitting theme considering the band was formed out of San Antonio, TX. Interestingly, Nothing More frontman Jonny Hawkins is actually an Arizona native. This is a fact he shares with drummer Ben Anderson who is known for his presence in local success story Digital Summer.
After stirring performances by Hell or Highwater, My Ticket Home, and Palisades, it was obvious the crowd’s anticipation was at its peak. All eyes were on the stage as the lights dimmed and the introduction to “Christ Copyright” rumbled out from beneath Anderson’s drum set. In a flash of white light, Hawkins entered the stage rocking his classic barefoot, shirtless style while yelling, “What’s up Phoenix?!”, as the remainder of the band stepped on stage behind him.A haze of blue and red light filled the room as the band moved right into meteoric performances of “Let ‘Em Burn”, “Mr. MTV”, “Don’t Stop”, and “Ripping Me Apart”; kicking things off with a mixture of heavy-handed tracks from Nothing More’s fourth and fifth studio albums, Nothing More and The Stories We Tell Ourselves.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves was an immediate favorite among fans after its release in mid-September of this year, coming in at 15 on the Billboard 200. And rightfully so, as the band’s live stage presence is both wildly unapologetic and deeply emotional.
Their set featured a variety of face-melting solos by each of the band’s highly talented members, but after their hit single “Go To War”, Hawkins and lead guitarist Mark Vollelunga decided to slow things down a bit. Midway through the night, the duo came together for a heart-wrenching acoustic performance of track “Just Say When”, which moved some neighboring fans and myself to tears. It’s a song that Hawkins said “almost didn’t make it onto the record” because they thought it might be “too sappy“. As is the case with many classic emo-toned favorites, the sad love story of the troubled rock star hit us right in the feels.
As “Just Say When” came to an impassioned end, the remaining members of Nothing More took the stage once again, throwing themselves into songs “I’ll Be Okay”, “Here’s To The Heartache”, and “Do You Really Want It”. Fans visibly rejoiced as bassist Daniel Oliver strapped his instrument into the infamous “Bassinator” while Vollelunga and Hawkins aggressively plucked and tapped along the fingerboard. They were, presumably, pumping up the audience for a prolific performance of profoundly personal track “Jenny”, the third single off Nothing More’s self-titled album which spotlights Hawkins’ sister’s struggle with mental illness — a topic that hits hard for many of the band’s listeners.
Just as we sang along to the closing lyrics of “This Is The Time”, Hawkins stepped forward to address the crowd for one of the last times that evening. “Well it’s that time of the night; it’s our last song. Who has seen us before? [Cheers] Who has never seen us before? [Cheers] We are a band that does not give encores because one: they’re fake, and two: they’re fake. We’re just going to play our last song instead, and give it all we’ve got.“
And just like that, Hawkins was back at it again, flinging his water bottle into the crowd and jumping all over the stage as he and his band mates poured their souls into iconic track “Salem – Burn The Witch”, standing atop their latest mega-futuristic, one-man-band machine – a 400-pound, 14-foot tall instrument. The members of Nothing More dubbed it as “The Scorpion Tail” in an interview with local radio station 98 KUPD earlier this week. The crowd went absolutely insane for it, cheering Hawkins on as he not only drummed with his feet, but sang as well. Even employees of the venue gathered to watch in awe, some with their fists thrust into the air.
To say this performance was “impressive” would be to sell it short. Nothing More swept us off our feet yet again, and Phoenix will absolutely be back for more.
PHOENIX — Evanescence brought a whole new level to their performance by teaming up with several orchestras around the US and Canada to promote their new album with the “Synthesis Live” Tour. The band’s fourth album Synthesisis set to be released in the fall of 2017, specifically November 10th. Downtown Phoenix was buzzing Tuesday, October 17th as fans eagerly anticipated the start of the show. Anyone who is familiar with this band knows that their music all has the same major trait to it: it’s intense. Whether it’s a soulful ballad or a heart pounding rock anthem, vocalist Amy Lee knows how to excite a crowd and keep them on their feet. This tour, however, was set to be a whole new experience from any other in the past.
Inside the concert area, center stage could be seen decked out with typical instruments; microphone, drum set, and a piano. The full orchestra surrounded them, warming up on a dark stage lit only by a hint of a purple hue. As the rest of the lights dimmed to signal the beginning of the show, the orchestra took it’s moment first to shine as it guided the audience through a symphony of sound. Wooden bows mixed with the sounds of brass and percussion shook the concert hall for several songs before turning the stage over to Lee. Met with rousing applause, Lee stepped up to the piano and played “Overture” off of their unreleased album.
Transitioning into “Never Go Back” from their 2011 self-titled album, everyone remained in their seats as her velvet-like vocals spilled into the crowd, and entranced them with explosive melodies and vocals that still possessed the true Evanescence sound. And even though the audience being stationary is not the norm at her shows, Lee made it known that even without the head banging and stage dancing, this show was going to rock. “Thank you for being here tonight”, she said out into the darkness. “I just want you to know… Just because there’s an orchestra here, just because we’re sitting, doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to MAKE NOISE!!” This was met with thunderous cheers from the audience, ready to see what was in store for them next.
As the sixteen song (plus three-song encore) setlist progressed, the audience was taken through every level of nostalgia imaginable. Performing songs from each of their four albums, Lee’s ever present talent was really put into the spotlight. Almost like that of a rock opera, she gave off a Sarah Brightman vibe, from her outfit to her unfaltering voice as she belted the lyrics to her most popular tunes. Not having to do the intense movements a typical Evanescence show calls for worked in her favor as well, allowing her to focus more intently on her vocals. She took to the piano for several songs, singing her soul-searching ballads under a single spotlight as she expertly ran her fingers across the ivory keys. As if that weren’t enough to completely draw the crowd in, her beautifully haunting music was accompanied by a spectacular light show that emphasized the tempo and important parts of each song.
Following “Imaginary”, and before performing “Secret Door”, Lee took a moment to express appreciation for her fellow band members for stepping outside of their comfort zones to accomplish something new. “It’s a lot of fun for me. I think we’re all having fun up here. I want to give it up for my amazing band right now who had to go all the way outside the box! Beautiful, personal, amazing musicians who trusted me. Thank you.” She also later thanked the fans for trusting them.
As the set was nearing an end, there was one song that stood out in particular. With a sense of duality, Lee segued from the piano solo “In-Between” to the contrasting “Imperfection”; the second single from Synthesis. A pianist seamlessly replaced her at the piano bench, while she returned to center stage and unleashed the fierce song that combines the band’s current sound and channels the band’s original rock essence. It was able to fill the room with a powerful energy reminiscent of the time Evanescence came by storm with Fallen in 2003 (certified 7x Platinum); up through their time spent on the Family Values Tour in 2007 with the likes of Korn, Atreyu, Flyleaf, Trivium, and more. The light tech went all-out for this one as well, blanketing the room in a sea of color and shapes that perfectly aligned with the melody.
Before the first song of the encore, she asked the audience to indulge her before she played a solo song, “Speak to Me”, which she said they’ve only played live once, “so be nice.” Following this humble expression was a seemingly flawless performance of the song. The intensity and emotion was enough to send chills, especially as she hit the high note in the last instance of the lyrics, “Hear me call your name.”
Wanting to interact more before she closed out the set, Lee took some time to get more personal, vulnerable, and authentic with the crowd. She talked about having nagging self-doubt, and that regardless of it, you have to persevere and overcome it. She related with every person in that room by telling them that she too has these feelings of doubt and uncertainty.
“This is silly that I’m starting to talk now, after all of this time… You guys ever have that thing, where you don’t exactly know your place, and you’re just constantly inside, like, second-guessing yourself… ” One audience member shouted out, “Every day”. She continued, “…Here comes the punchline… wondering if you’re good enough? …You gotta fight that voice in your head. I fight that voice in my head every day. We all have to fight that voice in our head, we are good enough, you do belong here. One day at a time, ‘kay? Thanks for sticking with me.”
Her sweet words of encouragement and love were met with resounding response, fans screaming her name, and a few tears. These uplifting sentiments were a tie-in the the song that followed; “Good Enough.”
After the closing song, “Swimming Home”, Lee expressed, “Tonight has been so special to us, thank you, we love you.” By now the audience could no longer contain themselves, and Lee was met with a standing ovation from the entire theater. As she exited the stage, she bowed with the orchestra instructor and blew a kiss to her fans.
Lee and her band not only managed to put on another incredible, unforgettable show, but they also were able to give their fans a bit of encouragement to take home with them. There is no doubt that Evanescence will only have more surprises for their fans when they tour next, and that Phoenix should be ready when they do.
PHOENIX — The city’s weather was perfect on Thursday, October 12th as it enthusiastically welcomed Halestorm to the stage. People of all ages swarmed the Arizona State Fairgrounds for one of two reasons; fun rides and fried food, or heading to the Coliseum for a show that would allow them to experience rock at its pure essence.
Lzzy (Elizabeth) Hale is and has been the lead vocalist since the band came into existence in 1997. Anyone who has been to a Halestorm show can confirm that she posses a stage presence unlike any other female artist in the industry. From the moment she stepped up to the mic, there was a fierce connection between her and the crowd that remained throughout the entire show.
Even as the music shifted from fast-paced, bass pumping rhythms to slower, more haunting ballads and back again, her passion for their music poured from her. Literally and figuratively in this case, as sweat dripped from every pore, whether she was dancing around the stage during “I Am the Fire” or aggressively playing her piano for her more emotional ballad “Dear Daughter.” One would think she would steal any show completely, but with this band that is simply not the case.
Midway through their set she did something often seen at a concert by pausing midway through one of their main hits titled “I Like it Heavy”, from their third album Into the Wild Life, to introduce Arejay Hale, who is her little brother and Halestorm’s drummer. He is also an original member of the band, asking his sister over breakfast, at 10 years old, if he could play drums for her when she was telling her parents about wanting to start a band. Without returning to the song, Arejay instead spent the next six minutes in an intense, heart-pounding drum solo that shook the Coliseum walls and drove the crowd insane. “WHAT’S UP PHOENIX?!”, he yelled into his mic as he brought the solo to an end. He then took out chopsticks and proceeded to prove his pure talent as he effortlessly played the drums with them as if used them everyday. People cheered loudly, and it was obvious this bit is a crowd favorite. Still not finished, he pulled out broomsticks next and successfully played the same beat he just had with much smaller sticks. The crowd was losing their minds with amazement at this point, so Lzzy Hale took the stage once more to finally bring the song they had started playing nearly fifteen minutes before to an end. It was truly a unique transition of focus and made for an unforgettable introduction.
One other thing Halestorm always makes clear when they perform is the love they have for their fans. After spending a good portion of the last half of the show playing upbeat, intense songs, Lzzy took a moment to toast the crowd with these words; “Thank you Phoenix for having us. Here’s to Rock and Roll, here’s to us being excellent to one another, and here’s to Arizona!”, which received thunderous applause and exuberant screams that were quickly drowned out as she launched into the beginning chords of “Here’s to Us.” This song brought out more emotion in the crowd than any song had yet. There were people pumping their fists and they sang back the lyrics they knew so well next to people hugging one another as they also sang along.
This band really knows how to evoke emotions from a crowd. Even as they closed their set with the ever popular “I Miss the Misery” everyone was out of their seat, head-banging along to the beat and dancing with their hands in the air. The band didn’t give on their end either, wrapping up their final song with so much intensity from the music and the light show you could feel it at your core. “Thank you so much Arizona, we fucking love you!”, Lzzy said, which was met with roaring applause and a room full of metal horns.
The band bowed together as one and exited the stage. As the lights came on and everyone began to file out of the Coliseum, various chatter had already started about the show and how unforgettable it was. For never meeting a majority of their fans, they have a way of making every one of them feel like family. So it’s only natural that Phoenix will anxiously await the next time Halestorm returns to rock this city, and our hearts.
PHOENIX — While genre-bending musician & DJ Bonobo was electrifying The Van Buren downtown, The Rebel Lounge was being taken over by post-hardcore, indie, and alternative rock. On the bill were co-headlining classic Drive-Thru Records artists The Movielife & The Early November, along with Racquet Club, & locals Daylight Heist.
Phoenix was the first night that Racquet Club joined this tour, and they will continue through to the last show on October 14. Racquet Club features members of Knapsack, The Jealous Sound, and Samiam. They released their debut self-titled album on September 29, just 4 days before this Phoenix show. Fans of local legends The Format, whose lead vocalist was Nate Ruess, may have recognized vocalist Blair Shehan from The Jealous Sound when they performed together in 2003 along with Limbeck and The Like.
The Early November
The Early November played their debut album, The Room’s Too Cold, in it’s entirety, to the delight of the crowd that sang 3/4 of the songs. The band took a break from 2007 to 2011, and has been active up until the present, with their fifth studio album Fifteen Years released in January of this year. The Early November performed as part of the Taste of Chaos line-up at Comerica Theatre in July of 2016; alongside Saosin, Taking Back Sunday, & Dashboard Confessional. (View our review & photos here.)
The Movielife released their first new album in 14 years, Cities in Search of A Heart, on September 22. Their 2014 reunion was a dream come true for fans who didn’t expect their return 11 years after their 2003 break-up, those who never had a chance to see them before, and for Phoenix fans who didn’t expect the band to play outside of New York.
Daylight Heist, who were on after The Movielife, are the official resident DJs of EmoNightPHX, which has been taking place at The Rebel Lounge, but will next be at The Van Buren on October 21. You can check them out, along with out all-emo cover band Hands Down, and other special guests (TBA) that night. Some of the special guest DJs that EmoNightPHX has had this year include: Buddy Neilsen of Senses Fail (9/27), Ryan Key of Yellowcard (7/20), and JT Woodruff of Hawthorne Heights (6/22).