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REVIEW: Poppy Catches Phoenix in Her Interweb on Valentine’s Day at Crescent Ballroom 2-14-18

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PHOENIX – A rainy Valentine’s Day evening in Phoenix, Arizona – what a perfect night for one of the most bizarre acts to come through town. Moriah Rose Pereira, who goes by the name Poppy on the internet, is a multi-talented internet phenomenon. A young veteran in dancing, singing, acting, and creativity, Poppy was able to bring her peculiar act to the desert. Fans and onlookers of all shapes, sizes, and types gathered together at the Crescent Ballroom to see the internet come to life and behold the spectacle that is the Poppy.Computer Tour. It certainly did not disappoint.

What Exactly is Poppy?

Believed to be an android by many, a cult leader by some, and an all-around weirdo by “normies” on the internet, Poppy found massive notoriety over YouTube after releasing her infamous video “I’m Poppy,” which can be viewed here. Produced with the help of Titanic Sinclair, another well-known internet phenomenon, musician, and director, Poppy was quickly able to gain the attention of the modern world, mostly through her series of outlandish videos.

She eventually turned this YouTube sensation into an effective tool in the pursuit of her ultimate dream: becoming a pop star. In fact, Poppy even won a Streamy Award in late 2017 for “Breakthrough Artist.” However, it would likely be more apt to label her an anti-pop star, as her work seems to revolve around calling out the absurdities of contemporary popular culture, pop music, and fame in the modern world.

While Poppy originally claimed not to be in a cult a little over a year ago, with Titanic Sinclair vouching for the accuracy of this claim, the Poppy.Computer Tour seemed to prove otherwise. This humorous take on possibly spinning criticism on its own head and turned it into another powerful tool in their digital and cultural arsenals; Titanic Sinclair and Poppy seem to embrace this cultish mentality, and they certainly took it and ran with it.

This cultish theme led to some fabulously interesting and entertaining moments during the show; from the computer-rendered speech synthesis-style narration, to fans “drinking the Kool-Aid,” this cult-themed joke certainly balances itself on a thin line between satire and reality. Nonetheless, the screaming fans—aka “Poppy Seeds”—and fascinated observers did not seem to mind either way. After all, is this not the essence of modern popular culture? Undying fealty to those famous people all fans have sworn allegiance to.

Poppy.Computer Tour

The Poppy.Computer Tour is Poppy’s first time visiting real people as a musician, and it was originally planned to visit only 20 cities across North America, but likely due to its greater-than-expected success, the tour was expanded to include a stop in London, Tokyo, and 15 other stops in North America. Poppy and Titanic Sinclair planned this epic adventure in order to promote Poppy’s first official album, Poppy.Computer.

The most interesting aspect of this tour is that, with the exception of her Toronto show, there were no opening acts. Instead, Poppy substituted the time slot traditionally reserved for an opener for one of the characters off her YouTube channel – Charlotte the Mannequin. This same character also happens to be the main antagonist from Poppy’s new YouTube Red film, with a potential to become a series, titled I’m Poppy.

Poppy also traveled with two amazingly talented backup dancers, Alec and Jason. These two stole the spotlight during many points, yet they always made sure to give it back to Poppy when the time was right. They were their to support and augment her, after all, with their keytar dance moves, air drums, and even their own take on what looked like a Thousand Arms Dance. Complete with tutus, bleach blonde wigs, and face masks, they offered an unsettling yet oddly charming addition to the stage.

Charlotte the Mannequin

As fans eagerly awaited the unexpected, uncertainty swirled in the air. Would there be an opener? How would they start the show? What, exactly, was this going to be like? Those who knew Poppy from the internet likely had all sorts of wild ideas, and “Africa” by Toto was playing on loop as they contemplated the imminent future. As the song itself has become its own infamous meme, it seemed only fitting to fill the void of time while everyone waited for the show to start.

Charlotte Quin, or Charlotte the Mannequin, sat alone on the stage, aside a MacBook DJ setup and between two massive screens. She opened the show with a pre-selected audio set. While she isn’t the most animated character, she does have her very own YouTube channel where she occasionally copies Poppy’s ideas, makes her own versions of Poppy’s songs, and otherwise wreaks havoc on Poppy’s online presence. She also happens to have a diverse but excellent taste in music, sampling and playing songs of all genres and eras. There was certainly something for just about everyone in her playlist, and her transitions were seamless.

Songs and artists featured during this most interesting of opening DJ acts include: Daft Punk, Baha Men, Missy Elliot, N.W.A., Vanessa Carlton, TLC, Cake, Abba, Ke$ha, The B-52s, Of Montreal, Talking Heads, Madonna, Rihanna, LMFAO, Justin Bieber, Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5, Jimmy Eat World, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Dr. Dre, Cyndi Lauper, Ed Sheeran, Nena’s (Original German) “99 Red Balloons”, and Miley Cyrus.

Throughout this playlist, symbols resembling every meme about the Illuminati played, mixed in with some of the visuals from Poppy’s videos—most notably, “This Birdcage” and “Where is Poppy?”, a video made in collaboration with entertainment company and internet phenomenon Super Deluxe. Strung throughout the set were also sound clips from various Poppy videos, most notably increasingly-frequent statements of “I’m Poppy.” Charlotte’s own statements of “Hello Internet and how she is going to be the “Queen of YouTube.” It also featured some sound clips of Poppy and Charlotte discussing the Bible, internet meme sensation Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That, and an old Blockbuster commercial.

Towards the end of Charlotte’s set, there was some banter between her and Poppy, ending with Poppy stating she was “Uncomfortable,” with Charlotte replying, “Uncomfortable? I’ll show you uncomfortable!” Poppy called for “Security!” As the final two songs played, the unusual opening act ended with the question, “Are you ready for Poppy?” playing over and over. They then played just about every ending theme ever, and random noises or themes, from things such as: The Simpsons, Castle Rock Entertainment, Windows ME, Viacom, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and so on. It was hard to keep track of since they were only samples given in rapid succession, but the result was immensely entertaining.

Initiating

To capitalize on this hype, Titanic Sinclair came out on stage just before the show began. He presented what was most likely a delicious Poppy beverage (Kool-Aid) prior to sampling some himself. He then set down the pitcher and prepared the crowd for initiation. Warning messages popped up on the screens, and then fans were inducted into the Cult of Poppy over three different Programming Sequences, complete with all the necessary digital and broadcast noises to make it just weird enough. Titanic Sinclair proceeded to pour cups of the delicious Poppy beverage during this time.

With all the grace granted to an android, Poppy slowly and quietly proceeded on stage with her two gender-ambiguous backup dancers, taking her place center stage with her back facing the audience. Her fans were ravenous, but Poppy is the master of timing and patience. Once the appropriate time came, she began to perform her iconic song and first single from her new album, “I’m Poppy“. She followed this up with “Computer Boy,” the second single from her new album.

P O P P Y I’m Poppy!

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

These backup dancers have the BEST job in the universe!

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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

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

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

Illuminati confirmed.

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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

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

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

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

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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

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

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

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

Upload Complete

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

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

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

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

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

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

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

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

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

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

DCF

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

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

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

Chase Atlantic

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

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

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

LIGHTS

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

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

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

We Were Here Tour – Issue One

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

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

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

“Your weaknesses become your strengths” – Lights

We Were Here Tour – Issue Two

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

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

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

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

We Were Here Tour – Issue Three

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

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

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

Bonus Issue – The Encore

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Lights – Marquee Theatre 2-8-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

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

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

Photo Credit: Shot by Jonny

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

Inevitable

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

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

Photo Credit: That Orko

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

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

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

Wild Like Fire

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

Better Than You Think

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

Photo Credit: Larry Alan

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

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

Erase You

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

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

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

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

Anything

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

Relevant

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

Photo Credit: Tony Mandarich Creatives

(Top featured photo by Tony Mandarich Creatives)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And now a song about anal sex!”

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

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

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

(But seriously, watch the documentary Blood Into Wine)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

A Perfect Circle – Comerica Theatre 4-10-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Underoath – Comerica Theatre 4-7-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Sleigh Bells – Crescent Ballroom 3-27-17

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REVIEW: No ‘Wasted Tears’ at Haley Reinhart Show 6-9-16

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PHOENIX — Haley Reinhart played at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Thursday as part of her latest tour to promote her new album, Better, which hit record stores on April 29 of this year. The show opened with melodic vocals and soft acoustic guitar tunes from Miller James followed by a hybrid mix of soul and R&B songs by Jacob Luttrell who’s also Reinhart’s keyboardist. By the time Reinhart took the stage, the intimate venue was packed.

Jacob Luttrell © Kataklizmic Design
Jacob Luttrell © Kataklizmic Design

Reinhart started the night with “Talkin’ About” from her new album. “It’s a party in here tonight. I can feel it,” she said before continuing with “Behave.” With little persuasion, Reinhart had the room swaying and clapping to the beat. Reinhart followed it up with “Keep Coming Back” from her 2012 debut album, Listen Up!

Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic Design
Haley Reinhart – Crescent Ballroom

Reinhart and the band had a great energy together. When the song didn’t end, Reinhart turned to Luttrell, “You just don’t want to quit this one, do you?” she smiled, then got the audience to dance with her while the band just kept jamming. “We’re having so much fun with you guys that we’re just making stuff up,” Reinhart laughed when the song finally ended. Afterward, she sang “Wasted Tears,” dedicating it to all the ladies in the house.

“It was so nice to meet a lot of you earlier,” Reinhart said during the concert. The former American Idol star seemed to genuinely enjoy engaging with her audience. She even held a meet and greet session with fans before the show. “She was really down-to-earth,” one delighted fan commented about the experience. When she finally sang the title track of her new album, “Better,” she changed opening lyrics to “Now I’m right where I want to be, out on the road to Arizona.” At one point, she brought a hula-hoop up onto the stage that had been given to her by a fan and hula-hooped while the band played.

Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic Design
Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic DEsign

Before singing “Love Is Worth Fighting For,” Reinhart spoke to the audience about having the courage to chase their dreams, something that you could say Reinhart has spent her whole life doing. “Channel whatever you’re feeling in life and follow that,” she told concert-goers. Despite being dropped by major record label Interscope Records in 2012 after the disappointing reception of her debut album, Reinhart has continued to pursue her musical career. Since then, she has expanded her agreement with her music publisher, Ole, and in March of 2016, Reinhart also signed with ICM Partners.

Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic Design
Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic Design

The playful and fun mood of the show lasted the whole night. When the room started to get uncomfortably warm, Reinhart and the band spontaneously broke into an interpretation of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” for a couple minutes at one concert-goer’s suggestion. Reinhart also covered “Black Hole Sun” in her unique jazzy style, performing it as a duet with Luttrell. After singing “Bad Light,” a delighted Reinhart accepted a flower from a fan at the front of the stage and placed it in her hair. “If it falls out, just know that it falls out with love,” she said while she secured the purple daisy in her hair.

Other songs Reinhart performed included “Good or Bad,” “Check Please,” and “I Belong to You.” “It was like I was entranced,” Reinhart said of writing “I Belong to You.” “I felt all the kinds of emotions you feel when you’re falling in love,” she said before delivering a passionate performance of the new track. She finished with “My Cake,” ending the song by introducing the band, each with their own solo.

When Reinhart returned to the stage for an encore, she gave concert-goers just what they had been waiting for. “I have a question for you. Have you ever seen an Extra gum commercial that made you cry?” she asked before singing her cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Reinhart initially recorded the cover for a Wrigley’s Extra gum commercial, which exploded on YouTube, garnering over seven million YouTube views and more than 78 million Facebook views within a week of its digital release. By the time the song ended, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

Haley Reinhart's Setlist - Crescent Ballroom
Haley Reinhart’s Setlist – Crescent Ballroom
Click to Enlarge

Fortunately, Reinhart didn’t end the night with sniffles. “We’ve got one more song for you, and it’s kind of important too. We live on a beautiful planet, don’t we?” Reinhart asked. “It’s up to all of us to protect it. We’re all in this together,” she said before singing, “Listen.” The upbeat rhythm had the room dancing and swaying one last time before the night was over. Afterward, Reinhart stood arm in arm with the rest of the band on the stage and bowed to thunderous applause.

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega

Haley Reinhart & Jacob Luttrell – Crescent Ballroom 6-9-16

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Photography by Katherine Vega, © Kataklizmic Design
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REVIEW: Say Anything’s New Album “I Don’t Think It Is”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lacey Sturm at Pub Rock
Lacey Sturm © Kataklizmic Design

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

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

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

Lacey Sturm at Pub Rock
Lacey Sturm © Kataklizmic Design

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

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega

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

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Photography by Katherine Vega, © Kataklizmic Design
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