Tag Archives: Phoenix

REVIEW: Portugal. The Man Kicked It Like It Was 1986 at The Van Buren 10-12-17

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PHOENIX – Thursday, October 12th, was a much-anticipated night for fans of indie rock band Portugal. The Man. While many people may have heard of Portugal. The Man, or PTM for short, over the years since their inception in 2004, the band truly found fame after releasing their hit single “Feel It Still” from their new album, Woodstock. Almost overnight, “Feel It Still” became a widely played hit and currently sits at a comfortable 6th place spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list, inclusive of all genres of music.

This unexpected and sudden boost in attention may explain why their show at The Van Buren quickly sold out, and it may also explain a shirt they had on display at their merchandise booth with the message, “I LIKED PORTUGAL. THE MAN BEFORE THEY SOLD OUT.” This was just one of many interesting shirts and various other accessories they had on sale, with some items featuring their iconic and fascinatingly styled artwork. The lead singer, John Gourley, is the artist, and his style is quite unique.

The Van Buren is a new establishment, but it is quickly establishing its dominance in the Phoenix Metro area. Many people visited The Van Buren for the first time on Thursday evening, and many people in the crowd could be overheard discussing how great this new space is. Since the show was entirely sold out, they had the house cleared out as much as possible and even set up an auxiliary bar located house right, close to the side exits to the restrooms. This made for 3 bars inside to complement the bars out on the patio. The crowd was definitely hydrated, and the drinks were flowing — everyone was getting ready for the time of their lives.

The Chamanas

By the time The Chamanas started playing, the house was filling up fast. People were well lubricated, and cans of PBR could be seen in hands throughout the rapidly-growing crowd. While they were enjoying their beverages, The Chamanas treated them to a soothing mix of several of their distinctly varied songs. Paulina Reza, lead singer of The Chamanas, has a beautiful voice and a powerful set of lungs which she employed to their fullest throughout the show.

The Chamanas are considered a “Fronterizo pop fusion ensemble,” and their name is part English, part Spanish, and part portmanteau; all together, they represent a physical manifestation of the magical, spiritual qualities that music may sometimes bring into the world. Their goal? To change the way people may think or feel by bringing a positive outlook and spreading love through their songs. What better way to celebrate the idea of people coming together across borders to celebrate common interests and emotions? The members come from both Juarez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas, making this a fantastic fusion of cultures, languages, and styles.

Reza brings vocals that are at once unique, but also reminiscent of many famous singers who may not be well known in the US. In fact, the style of her voice in many of her songs brings hints of Jeanette, the famous British-Spanish pop artist who spent much of her own musical career bridging cultural gaps through music. The rest of The Chamanas are also reminiscent of similarly-minded bands, such as Calexico, who will be playing at the upcoming Lost Lake Festival on Friday, October 20th, as well as Chicano Batman, who will be playing at The Van Buren on Saturday, November 4th.

During The Chamanas’s performance, Reza took a moment to tell the crowd, “We love music. We love to do this.” She continued to share positive thoughts like this throughout their performance, both in Spanish and English; “Music is the answer,” she said; it can become a cure for discrimination across the country.

Towards the end of The Chamanas’s time on stage, Reza also shared that, when using Portugal. The Man’s recording studio, Sonic Ranch, they became quite friendly with one another. After a while, PTM asked The Chamanas to perform some of their songs in Spanish to help bridge the gaps between genres and cultures. Reza and the band were thrilled to do so.

This lead to a stunning rendition of “Purple Yellow Red & Blue” in mostly Spanish, with a few famous lines still in the original English — most notably, the lyrics from the chorus that are the same as the title of the song. They also played their version of “Feel It Still,” which was phenomenal as well. This was a great way to get the crowd excited for Portugal. The Man, and Reza further hyped the crowd by asking if they were excited to see PTM later. The crowd screamed their approval.

Portugal. The Man

After a short break consisting of eager fans pressing ever-closer together towards the stage, the lights went out, and “Unchained Melody” by Righteous Brothers began to play. The crowd’s eager cheers soon gave way to gentle swaying, and a few people pulled out their lighters. Several others joined with their cell phones, but the effect was not the same. Some began to sing along, especially as the song reached its climax, so to speak:

“Are you
Still mine
I need your love
I need your love
Godspeed your love to me”

Just as the song reached the peak of its climactic crescendo, one of the Portugal. The Man logos was projected onto the backdrop along with their title, “The Lords of Portland.” Their desert kingdom awaited them.

Following their royal title was a message for their loyal subjects: “We are not very good at stage banter, so tonight’s performance will feature some slogans written by our management. Thank you for your continued understanding. PTM.” They followed this projected message with a verbal greeting: “What’s up Phoenix? We’re Portugal. The Man.” Immediately after this, they went right into their cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” complete with ominous bells preceding stellar instrumentals.Those guys can rock out with the best of them.

The next song in PTM’s lineup was their second most famous song, “Purple Yellow Red & Blue.” It was clear that fans in the crowd loved hearing one of their favorite songs performed live, and many sang along. While much of the song was the same as the radio or album versions, they did add quite a few instrumental intermissions. This showed off their passion for progressive rock, which they would dive into again frequently throughout the remainder of the show.

Their penchant for progressive rock is rivaled by their love of psychedelic rock, so of course they had to cover Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” — if the singing heard from the crowd was any indication, the rest of the room definitely seemed to approve of this addition to the show. “Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone!” This was quite fitting because many might say Portugal. The Man is quite similar to a contemporary version of Pink Floyd, though they definitely have their own, signature style.

To couple with all the alternative, psychedelic, progressive, and experimental tunes Portugal. The Man were playing, they treated the crowd to an equally-psychedelic light show, complete with a section of “Purple Yellow Red & Blue” transitioning into an entrancing display of alternating rainbows reaching out towards the audience. Naturally, they also threw in purple, yellow, red, and blue lights, perfectly timed with their accompanying lyrics.

Hypnotic lasers, flashing lights, and rainbow hues were not the only visual accoutrements during the show; Portugal. The Man brought some fascinating visuals to display on the backdrop behind them. These frequently featured nightmarish images of bodies, heads, and eyes, and each song had a unique combination of one or many of these features. Diamonds and other geometric shapes also found their way into the visual feast on the projector. One thing is for certain — these graphics were unforgettable, hollow eyes and all.

As advertised, occasionally, the “management” threw up more messages throughout the show. Some of these messages stated things like, “We are Portugal. The Man! Just making sure you’re at the right concert,” and “Thank you for buying and/or stealing our new album.” Their self-awareness and reticence (or perhaps just pure love for playing music) were quite refreshing, and these textual messages were more than enough stage banter for this show.

Other amusing messages included the following series: “Smokin’ Weed???” “Gettin F*cked Up???” “Discussing Politics at Family Gatherings” and, finally, “That’s F*ckin’ Bad Ass.” The most important message throughout the entire show, however, was most likely the message that read, “That’s right kids. No computers up here. Just live instruments.”

After playing “Feel It Still” and many other hit songs, and after bringing some Woodstock vibes to Phoenix, it was time for a Portugal. The Man style encore. The crowd was greeted with a customized PTM version of the old-school “Indian-head test pattern” that used to play on broadcast TV: “Please Stand By.” Fans of the Fallout video game series may also recognize it quite well. This take on the interim between main show and encore was different and, again, self-aware, but everyone knew they’d be coming back out for a few more songs anyway. They must have wanted to be efficient about it.

Almost as soon as Portugal. The Man had swept into The Van Buren, the show was over. After their last song, the band quickly dispersed and left the stage without as much as a farewell. However, this is their style, so this is the way it must be. PTM fans were not bothered by this one bit, and many could be heard after the show eagerly chatting about how this was “the best concert of all time.” One thing is for sure: they put on a damn good show, and Phoenix is definitely feeling it still.

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

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

ROMES

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

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

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

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

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

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Colony House

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUTEMATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seizures imminent. @si_bonobo

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

Their first time in Phoenix! 😁

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Featured photo (top) by Neil Krug

REVIEW: Bleachers, Bishop Briggs, New Politics, and Others Rock Mesa for Dia De Los ALT! 9-22-17

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MESA — As the first day of fall descended upon the Phoenix metro area, locals were preparing for a much-anticipated event hosted by local alternative radio station ALT AZ 93.3, featuring many wonderful bands and headlined by Bleachers. While it was maybe a little long for a concert, and a little short for a music festival, it was just the perfect length of time for music fans attending the Dia De Los ALT music festival in Mesa Amphitheatre on Friday, September 22, 2017. Luckily, the weather this year also seemed to participate, with a lower-than-average high of 86 degrees. A beautiful afternoon of music entertained a slowly-growing crowd, preparing them for a fantastic night of great alternative bands and temperatures in the 70s. What a wonderful way to welcome these musicians to the Valley of the Sun.

Dia De Los ALT may have been headlined by Bleachers, but 5 other incredible bands also blessed Mesa Amphitheatre with their presence – and their tunes. The lineup included local band Rival Coast, Los Angeles/Seattle band Tangerine, Los Angeles-based Sir Sly, the Copenhagen/New York musical sensation New Politics, and finally the London (by way of Los Angeles) queen of alternative, Bishop Briggs. Each band brought their unique style and sound to the festival, showing how truly diverse and interesting alternative music can be. This was also reflected by those in attendance – Dia De Los ALT was a wonderful way for all types to come together and enjoy beautiful music and a fantastic time.

Rival Coast

First up was Rival Coast, a young yet capable local Phoenix band. The festival started at 4pm, and with the recent venue change and rush hour traffic in Phoenix, the venue was just starting to gain a sizeable number of attendees. While Rival Coast are still just getting started, they just recently released their first EP – Red Lights. These young men may have only recently graduated from high school, but their talent and love for music are both crystal clear. Since they have all been friends since childhood, it was also easy to see that they love playing music with one another.

Each band member totally rocked the stage and entertained a small yet enthusiastic crowd. They only had the spotlight for 20 minutes, but they made ample use of the time they were allotted. They have likely gained at least a few new fans after their stellaalr performance. They are energetic and enthusiastic, and they pair fantastic vocals with excellent instrumentals. The highlight of their performance was definitely their last song, “Shiver,” a portentous yet spirited tune with a fun, memorable chorus. It was certainly a great choice with which to end their brief performance.

Tangerine

After a brief break and a word from some of the ALT AZ hosts who thanked everyone for coming out early, the next band – Tangerine – was introduced. They started with great energy, fun vibes, and a very chill stage presence. Their music is considered alternative pop, and they certainly have a unique sound. The band consists of two sisters, Marika and Miro, and their best friend Toby. It was easy to tell how close they are to one another, and this made their performance a seriously enjoyable experience.

Tangerine has been making music for quite a while, but they have yet to release a full album. They do have singles and EPs out, however, and their latest song ”Sly Moon” was released last month. Other highlights from the show include the songs “Sunset,” “Girls Like Us,” and “Nothing Better.” They seriously brought out some fun and chill vibes for the growing crowd near the stage as others found seating in the shade around Mesa Amphitheatre; attendees were throwing beach balls around, eating some snacks, enjoying some beverages, or getting some free face painting done with various Sugar Skull themes. Their music perfectly complimented the easy-going nature of the festival. Prior to playing their last song, they threw in a wonderful comment: “We love Phoenix so much! This is our second time here.” It was great to have them visit again – Phoenix loves you too, Tangerine!

Sir Sly

Between shows, ALT AZ played some select songs from Bleachers, New Politics, and Bishop Briggs to hype up the valley for their performances later in the evening. However, Sir Sly was on next. Sir Sly dominated the stage with their interesting music and fantastic stage presence, bringing the energy levels of the festival up a few notches. The synth music was out in full force, and the bass was certainly bumping. There were some tinges of 80s music in there, but this was certainly a unique musical experience. Landon, the vocalist, concentrated all of his energy into moving around the stage and sharing his fantastic vocals with the crowd. Most importantly, he shared his smooth dance moves with the audience, with a PBR in hand. That man can move!

Sir Sly recently released a new album – Don’t You Worry, Honey – and played a few of these new songs during their set. The best part was that the band members are very close to one another, and Landon said it was wonderful to create this new music with his best friends, Jason and Hayden. He also shared that “it’s good to be back once again,” as their very first show outside of California was here in Phoenix; it obviously holds a special place in their hearts, so being back was a truly special experience for everyone that night.

It was clear Sir Sly loved performing their music, and some highlights were new songs “Altar” and “Change.” The songs were full of fun, yet sometimes sardonic and cutting lyrics and backed up with lots of bass, guitar, drums, and synth. They also employed some voice filters to interesting effect during songs. The highlight of their performance, however, was when they played the song “&Run” just as the sun began to set over Mesa; they sang the lyrics, “Heavy as a setting sun…” and “I’ll run into the setting sun…” at the perfect moment. This truly made their presence at the show truly unforgettable.

During another brief break, as dusk set itself upon the Phoenix metro area, more people began to arrive to the Mesa Amphitheatre. The temperature was dipping into the 70s, and people were getting excited for New Politics coming on next. People were grabbing more beers and cocktails, more people were getting some face painting done, lots of people were finding spots to sit down or hang out with one another, and entire families were enjoying one another’s company; in fact, there was one family with small children playing with one of the many beach balls floating around the amphitheater. One young boy had ear protection on and a shirt that read, “HERE TO ROCK.” I’m sure he wasn’t alone!

A beautiful evening and a very happy crowd. #altaz #diadelosalt #altaz933 @altaz933 @newpoliticsrock

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New Politics

Just as twilight was setting in, New Politics came on at about 6:30pm. They were the first to have a dramatic entrance onto the stage, and dramatic it was – they played some epic background music while the band members came on stage one at a time. First up was the drummer, Louis Vecchio, followed by guitarist Søren Hansen, and finally, lead vocalist David Boyd. The crowd was screaming, and they did not waste any time getting into things. They started the show with a huge bang, rocking out pretty hard and getting the crowd jumping. Now that it was getting dark, it was time for some fantastic lighting, and New Politics’ light show definitely delivered.

New Politics was great at getting the crowd involved, and everyone certainly loved the attention and engagement. They discussed how it was great to be back in Phoenix, how they have a new album coming out next month (Lost In Translation), and sang one of their new songs, “CIA.” During this song, David threw his hat off to really get into the mood of rocking out and moving all over stage with his ridiculous yet entertaining dance moves while sporting his bright red microphone. He even told the audience he hoped they had their dancing shoes on so they could join him. During the show, they played some of their greatest hits, such as: “West End Kids,” “One of Us,” and “Just Like Me.” They also played a new song, “Color Green,” while illuminating the entire stage in green lighting (of course).

Not only did New Politics play some amazing songs, but they also brought a message of hope and love. They thanked ALT AZ for having them and bringing everyone together, citing them as the main reason they were all there that evening. They also praised ALT AZ for spreading music and love, how they love alternative music because it is truly the best. Continuing on this theme, they also discussed how, when we all have each other, through all the bad stuff like hurricanes and earthquakes, we’re here for each other; “All it is is just a lot of good people listening to music and sharing love.” This is when they started singing “One of Us,” which was perfect timing.

The most beautiful moment of New Politics’ performance was when they busted out the ukulele sang “Fall Into These Arms,” at which point a little girl popped up on her parents’ shoulders towards the front of the crowd. In the middle of the song, David pointed out to her and said, “I LIKE YOU!” The little girl was overjoyed, but that wasn’t the end of this beautiful moment. David also, quite literally, fell into those arms by gently diving into the crowd. The excitement levels of the crowd were off the charts by this point, and it was such a wonderful moment where everyone truly was brought together by some beautiful music.

Sadly, at about 7:15pm, New Politics’ time was up. Before parting ways, they announced that Bleachers were coming up later, but first, the “most beautiful woman in alternative rock” was coming on – Bishop Briggs. They then got together at the front of the stage, bowed to the audience, and threw some guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd for a few delighted fans to catch. After that, they were off, and after another short break consisting of an awkward word from the show’s sponsors, Bishop Briggs took the stage.

Bishop Briggs

First on the stage were Bishop Briggs’ band members, and the lighting was quite dark. They started playing music, and after a few moments, Bishop Briggs herself jumped out on stage with incredible energy. Dark purple lighting flooded the stage, but right at the perfect moment, the big 93.3 ALT AZ banner in the back was lit up in bright red right as Bishop Briggs started singing the first lyrics of her first song of the night.  It may have been a bit difficult to see anything on stage, but what stood out were her signature dual hair buns and jumpsuit – a black Adidas tracksuit that evening, with bright white iconic stripes down the sides. This was just the outfit she needed, because not only was she singing, she was also running! This made the show feel a bit like a high energy workout routine, but it certainly made the audience move and jump too.

The first song Bishop Briggs played was “Dark Side,” containing the lyrics “Welcome to my dark side, it’s gonna be a long night;” perhaps that’s why the stage was so dark during her show! Regardless, the intense beats and maximum bass were perfect accompaniments to her high-energy lyrics and her almost-non-stop jogging and jumping around the stage. What also stood out was her massive smile the entire time, and it was easy to tell she was truly enjoying her time up on stage. She also had a unique style of inserting a little scream into the perfect moments in her lyrics and just talking to the crowd, with such moments like “How is everybody DOING?!” followed by an enthusiastic “GOOD!!!

Her music was loud, aggressive, and entertaining, and there were even guests staying in the nearby Marriott hotel who came to their windows to look down at the amphitheatre to see what all the commotion was about. Hopefully they enjoyed their free view of the show! The crowd definitely did – everyone seemed to be jumping up and down, dancing, and singing along with Bishop Briggs’ songs. To show her appreciation for everyone, she stated that she was “so honored to be in this lineup. It’s great to be alive in this little bubble we have going on here.” On that note, she ended her show with her wildly famous hit single, “River.” The crowd went wild!

During another short break, it was easy to feel the anticipation in the air; clearly, there were many people at Dia De Los ALT who were there to see Bleachers. During this break, one could hear the final calls of the Lemonade man, who had been shouting all evening: “Lemonade, Lemonade, like Grandma… made!” Attendees had grown accustomed to him and his impressive set of lungs, particularly those who had been in the amphitheater since the doors opened at 3pm. During this time, technicians took down the huge 93.3 ALT AZ banner and replaced it with the new stuff for Bleachers’ elaborate stage setup.

Bleachers

Finally, at about 8:50pm, the moment many had been waiting for had arrived. Bleachers came out on stage to the screams, shouts, and claps of the audience. They started out with the fact that they are from New Jersey and that they have never headlined in this part of the world before, so this was a very special night for them. They also continued to hilariously decide if it was okay for them to call everyone “Phoenix” since they were in Mesa, and they asked if that was offensive. They decided, “f*ck it, we’ve never headlined in Arizona before. All of AZ is here tonight!

Their high-energy, anthemic songs uplifted and roused the crowd; their music was coupled with one of the best light shows possible, which added a new level to the experience and pumped the crowd up even more. Their songs encourage people to sing along in many ways, compounded by the fact that four out of five of the band members pipe in from time to time to sing along with Jack Antonoff. Not only that, but Jack frequently encouraged the crowd to sing along with shouts like “SING IT LOUD!” and “holy sh*t, you guys don’t f*ck around!

After a few of their songs, Jack ripped off his jacket; things were getting serious now. They also had a huge surprise for everyone that night – Jack announced they had a birthday in Bleachers very recently. The crowd cheered a bit, but to his displeasure, not loud enough: “Come on, you can do better than that! Do you guys not give a sh*t?! There was a birthday, like, a WEEK ago!” The cheering got much louder at this point, to which he shouted, “That’s more like it!” At this point, everyone sang happy birthday together with the band to one of its drummers, Mike Riddleberger. Jack then brought out a cake and handed it to the crowd, stating “You all can share it.

Jack then followed the birthday celebration up with how he knows Bleachers hasn’t been to Arizona enough, but he considers Phoenix a home away from home; it meant a lot for them to be there at Dia De Los ALT. After a few more songs, Jack punctuated the show with another little personal story. He first made the crowd get quiet, and then he made bass guitarist and keyboardist Mikey Hart stop all background music. Everyone then listened to how quiet it was outside in Mesa, and then Jack had Mikey start playing a low, humming sound. He then went on to explain how he loved Yaz (Yazoo) when he was young, and he heard this beautiful yet sad synth humming sound in the song “Only You.”

He became obsessed with that sound, and he bought the type of synth Yaz used to make it. He would play it all night long in his bedroom, which inspired him to write the lyrics to the songs that would one day become Bleachers. He wanted to make sad sounds, sad lyrics, and sad stories sound beautiful. He then stated that it would “sound something like this,” and then the other sounds of the beginning of their massively popular song “Rollercoaster” began to play. The crowd instantly screamed and cheered; this was truly one of the greatest build-up moments, and the crowd loved it. They were hanging off Bleachers’ every note, every lyric, and every word. Of course, Jack inspired the audience to sing it with him, and they most definitely sang along.

Since Jack has been a part of many beautiful moments in recent alternative music history, including being a part of the band Fun., they just had to include a slowed down version of “Carry On.” The crowd enjoyed this lull in the hype, sang along, and swayed solemnly. This more somber moment was followed up by additional slower songs, such as “Foreign Girls.” After this point, Jack discussed how they were excited to be touring with Bishop Briggs again in November, and they asked, “How are we doing on time? Someone give me a sign… I don’t want to f*ck this up.” Someone in the audience jokingly announced that it was over, to which Jack replied, “Oh, that’s it? Okay, I guess we’re done then!” However, they were far from done.

Jack next shouted out to the audience, “We’ve gotta keep it moving!” and inspired the crowd to pick up the pace once more. Next up was the song “You’re Still a Mystery,” which certainly brought the energy back again. After this, it was time to introduce the band, which was a significant moment in the show. They did a musical introduction to each member, along with a fun fact about each. Some even got to do a sort of musical solo after being announced.

Some exceptional moments were when the audience found out that Sean Hutchinson lived in Phoenix for a few years. We also learned how Mike Riddleberger is the “original Jersey hipster;” apparently, he started the entire movement! Finally, Mikey Hart was introduced, and the crowd learned he has a brother who lives in Phoenix. Mikey then treated the audience to a wickedly awesome saxophone solo, which was met with raucous applause.

Bleachers ended the evening strong, with two high-energy songs: “I Wanna Get Better” and “Don’t Take the Money.” While the crowd desperately wanted an encore, time was unfortunately up, and the festival had to come to an end. The guests staying at the adjacent Marriott were likely relieved, at least!

Closing Thoughts

All in all, despite the last-minute venue change from Fear Farm on the west side of the valley over to the Mesa Amphitheatre, Dia De Los ALT was a raging success! Citizens of the Phoenix metro area truly did come together to share love and music, and it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages and types enjoying these bands and the beautiful fall weather together. With any luck, the Phoenix area will continue to enjoy beautiful weather from here on out, and it would be great for all the bands from the Dia De Los ALT lineup to return and play in Phoenix again soon. After all, many of them seem to love Phoenix, and many of them did throw Phoenix into their lyrics as frequently as possible!

That's a wrap! What a great show! 😁😁😁 Good night! #altaz #diadelosalt #altaz933 @altaz933 @bleachersmusic

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REVIEW: Phoenix Lassoed in the Marquee Theatre Crowd with Their Electrifying Performance 6-13-17

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Marquee Theatre was heated up by Phoenix’s electric performance on June 13th. Just four days earlier, Phoenix released their sixth studio album Ti Amo and played a few songs from it. It was an unusually cool night (well, as cool as Arizona in June can get), and everyone was lining up to enter into the venue. The atmosphere was filled with excitement as the Marquee was quickly filling up, and looked to be a nearly sold out show.

The venue seemed to be filled with mostly ages 21 and over, as many people had a drink in their hand as they watched the opening act, The Lemon Twigs, perform. The Lemon Twigs owned the stage with their vintage style and sound. Brothers Michael (Lead Vocalist/Guitarist) and Brian (Drummer/Backing Vocalist) D’Addario front the band; with Megan Zeankowski on bass, and Danny Ayala on keyboards/backing vocals. Michael D’Addario commanded the stage with his flare pants and teal shaggy hair. He did numerous high kicks into the air and had a reminiscent look and presence of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards combined. They played a song “Bay Baby”, which gave a 70s feel-good heartbreak vibe. The Lemon Twigs are about to take the music industry by storm, so make sure to check them out!

After a long anticipated wait, Phoenix walked onto stage and the crowd roared with excitement. They started with “Ti Amo”, the title-track of their newly released album Ti Amo. Next came “Lasso” which was met by a pleased crowd that cheered after hearing the first few seconds of the song.

Thomas Mars, Phoenix - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Thomas Mars (Vocalist), Phoenix
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Phoenix played “Entertainment”, and were immersed in an incredible light show during parts of the song. White lights created a curtain cover and our concert photographer, Katherine Amy Vega, described it as being like a holographic effect. The lighting really complemented the electric rock sound. Strobe lights of white, red, blue and yellow filled their set. During some songs, there was a rainbow lighting effect, which may have hinted to Phoenix’s support of the LGBTQ community during Pride Month.

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

Phoenix seemed to have one of those awe-struck moments as the band paused after playing “Lisztomania”, and smiled at the crowd. During most of the set, balloons with a heart and “Ti Amo” printed on floated through the air amongst the crowd. The whole band put on an energized performance and played their part in creating a music loving atmosphere.

Christian Mazzalai (Guitarist), Phoenix - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Christian Mazzalai (Guitarist), Phoenix
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

One of the most amazing intimate moments of the show was during the encore when Thomas Mars (Lead Vocalist), climbed off the stage and came to the barricade while singing a stripped-down version of “Countdown” to the crowd as guitarist Christian Mazzalai played on stage.

Phoenix played many fan favorites including “1901” and “Fior Di Latte”. The band took over the stage and created an exhilarating atmosphere. Constant dancing, singing along, cheering and pure happiness filled the venue. It was a concert where you couldn’t help but feel joy because the band projected their happiness and love for music onto the crowd.

Laurent Brancowitz (Guitarist), Phoenix - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Laurent Brancowitz (Guitarist), Phoenix
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

To end the show, in the BEST way, Thomas Mars came off stage and joined the crowd in the final song “Ti Amo Di Piu”. He walked through the full crowd with his microphone connected to a glowing red cable that the crowd held up; and he said “Thank you!” over and over again, showing his gratitude to the loving fans. At one point he seemed to be hoistered on someone’s shoulders, possibly a fan, and said “Thank you!” again; followed by crowdsurfing back up to the stage . It was truly a moment no one will forget!

Phoenix put on an amazing performance that rocked the Marquee. Fans will definitely be awaiting the next time they come to Arizona!

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Phoenix (The Band) – Marquee Theatre 6-13-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Sleigh Bells – Crescent Ballroom 3-27-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sundressed LP Release Setlist
Sundressed LP Release Setlist
Click to Enlarge

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

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

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

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Review: Viva PHX 2017 – Downtown Music Festival Retrospective 3-11-17

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PHOENIX — As the relatively packed light rail rolled to a stop, I knew I was in for an adventurous evening as I was greeted by roughly 50 bridal gown clad men and women shotgunning Red Bulls on the platform as passersby confusedly took pictures for their Snapchat stories. Despite what the light rail’s human to personal-space ratio suggested, Viva PHX kicked off with a relatively mellow start. While there were certainly some larger packs of high school aged patrons eagerly hustling to get prime spots at all ages stages, specifically the 2nd Ave stage outside Crescent Ballroom, the pre-sundown streets were not quite fully alive with festival buzz.

Viva PHX 2017 Lineup Flyer
Click to Enlarge

After picking up my wristband in front of Comerica Theatre, I decided to follow the majority and head toward Crescent Ballroom to watch Rozwell Kid open the evening on the outdoor stage. While opening an unorthodox festival comprised primarily of people unfamiliar with your band can certainly provide a daunting challenge, Rozwell Kid showed absolutely no signs of nerves as they got the crowd bobbing along to their signature blend of old Weezer-style vocal patterns and bouncy pop-driven guitar lines while showcasing tracks from all three of their albums. They also seemed to have the most fun of any band as they dedicated several songs to the glowing AT&T sign they mistook for the moon as well as the users of the stage right port-a-potties. Judging by their post set mercy line, I wasn’t the only one impressed. At this point, the majority of my group was clamoring to go and lock down good spots for The Drums, so I embarked on the first of many trips between 2nd Ave and Comerica Theatre.

A post shared by Rozwell Kid (@rozwellkid) on

We arrived at Comerica to a much smaller crowd than anticipated and easily made our way down to the general admission pit area in time to catch the last few songs of The Mowglis. While they were certainly quite good and seemingly tailor-made for festival season appearances, I couldn’t help but think their music sounded as if it were the background soundtrack for The OC. Either way, they got the dance floor moving with everyone from mid 40’s moms to high school students decked out in their pre-Coachella best. Now, full disclosure, I must admit that I have never listened to The Drums so I didn’t quite have the same excitement as the majority of the crowd. I have nothing against their music, but as soon as the rest of my group made their way to the guard rail I pounced on the opportunity to run back to the 2nd Ave stage to watch The Menzingers deliver one of the absolute best sets of the night.

gettin pumped for this tour guys 💪🏽

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Kicking off their set with “Tellin’ Lies”, the lead off track from their newest album After The Party, the now packed crowd instantly chanted along with the chorus “Where we gonna go now that our Twenties are over?!”, a question that is becoming uncomfortably relatable. With little more than a pause to catch their breath, the band quickly launched into fan favorite ” Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore” and never letting up until their set came to a close. On a stage with primarily slower temp bands, The Menzingers made their punk rock pedigree very visible as they whipped the crowd into a frenzy of circle pitting and crowd surfing. As I walked back toward Comerica to rejoin my friends at The Maine while we waited for Girl Talk, I couldn’t help but notice that the breakneck dashing between stages was easily the strongest asset of Viva PHX. As opposed to single destination festivals like Coachella, the spread out confusion of various downtown Phoenix venues created a nostalgic energy and sense of adventure which could have easily been lifted from Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (or perhaps Dazed and Confused for the older crowd.)

Phoenix! We’re on at 9 at Viva Phoenix festival tonight. Come hang!

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After a quick detour down Monroe Street for a Lucha Libre match and an average Ghost Pepper cheeseburger, I was dismayed at how quickly I grew bored watching The Maine play a largely lackluster set. While it is almost certain that many bands’ sound and style will evolve over time, it appears that The Maine’s attempts to transition their new material toward an almost Black Keys style is not yet ready to be properly manifested. Even when playing old material, attempts to update classic songs to the new format were met with a lackluster reception evidenced by the dull attempts to create a call and response vibe with the audience. As the set drug to a close, the band awkwardly called for the largely underage crowd to “break out the weed” and ended the set with a cacophony of feedback laden strumming before quickly exiting the stage.

Following The Maine, I made my way to the general admission pit floor area and worried aloud to my friends that the preceding set may have driven too many people to other stages and would result in a dismal turn out for Girl Talk. My worries were quickly dashed as Greg Gillis took to the stage and the floor immediately filled to capacity, as well as most available seats. Storming through a surprisingly Trap-heavy rendition of his signature mash-up style amidst toilet paper cannons and confetti blasters, the largely relaxed Comerica Theatre exploded with non-stop energy as everyone in attendance brought Viva PHX to a close worthy of a true festival experience. From the unhinged visuals streaming across the video wall at the back of the stage, to the 80 person deep mob of dancers strewn across the stage, Girl Talk’s set was that of a tried and true festival headliner worthy of his top billing alongside legendary acts Wyclef Jean and American Football.

With Comerica Theatre left in shambles and Monarch hitting capacity for Murs and Peanut Butter Wolf, I elected to leave downtown on the light rail amidst a group of fellow attendees comprised primarily of ASU students holding one another upright as they half heartedly spoke of trying to find afterparties, despite their sweat stained clothes suggesting that their physical abilities may not match those of their spirit. Until Pot Of Gold next weekend, their adventures had drawn to a sudden, yet fulfilling, close befitting a festival which had truly blossomed into something the Arizona music scene can truly be proud to host.

Low Points: The late start time led to a huge amount of headline quality artists overlapping. While the dashing between stages is sort of the point, I can’t help but think that starting earlier or possibly reducing the amount of stages may help to focus the fest a bit more.

Highlights: The team of Girl Scouts hustling cookies to people waiting in line to get into venues. I respect and applaud your hustle.

PHOTOS: Unagi Usagi – The Rhythm Room 2-16-17

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PHOENIX — Last night, locals Unagi Usagi performed at The Rhythm Room. They opened the gig with the high-energy “Holy Valkyrie”, which takes the audience by storm without a buildup, and shows them they’re in for something delightfully insane right off the bat.

From start to finish, Unagi Usagi brought constant power and animation from each band member. The vocalist, who goes by Ghostrick Alucard, brings oozing charisma and animation to the stage.

In the midst of their set, “It’s Your Fault I Have Issues… You Stupid Bitch” is a crowd favorite, as all stand together in solidarity for glorious bitterness. The breakdown during the song, which might be their hardest and heaviest instrumentals, unexpectedly blows first-timers away and brings sweet satisfaction to fans.

Setlist

  1. Holy Valkyrie
  2. Pigs!
  3. It’s Your Fault I Have Issues… You Stupid Bitch
  4. You Suck
  5. Reason
  6. Heart In The Graveyard

Unagi Usagi debuted a song called “You Suck”, which is distinguished from their other songs by an infusion of ska. It really rounds out their set list by offering an upbeat sound and comic relief, while retaining their signature angst.

“Heart In The Graveyard” was a fitting closing song, finishing things off with both Big Jake (bassist) and Austang (guitarist) down on the floor, wildly emoting… while, astonishingly, Dead Wesley (drummer) shows no sign of fatigue up to the end.

Every crowd becomes noticeably impressed and intrigued shortly after the band begins playing, and they are always enthusiastically applauding and cheering by the end of the set. Unagi Usagi just keeps getting better and they’re gaining traction in the Phoenix scene, so follow them on Facebook to see what comes next.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Unagi Usagi – The Rhythm Room 2-16-17

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PHOTOS: Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-12-16

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PHOENIX — Lindsey Stirling, the awe-inspiring dancing violinist, brought her Brave Enough Tour to Comerica Theatre last night. Hailing from Gilbert, Arizona, it’s no surprise that the venue posted low ticket warnings on social media, and a horde of fans came out to see her live.

High production light shows and other grand visual effects are a staple of her concerts, and they make for a truly magical experience. Watching her spirit take flight when she does what she was meant to do, and fought to succeed, sends chills through your body. Lindsey Stirling is a strong inspiration and encouragement for her fans, especially in Arizona, to aspire for great things and persevere.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-12-16

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

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