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Mesa, Ariz. — Stabbing Westward has been rocking out for more than 30 years, but the energy they brought to the intimate Club Red was dynamic, like they were fledglings on their first tour. They brought 90s rock nostalgia to the crowd gathered inside the dark brick walls of the venue after their 14 year hiatus. This performance was part of their 30th Reunion show, which featured local openers; Paranova, There Is No Us, Amnestic and Swindy, who all performed with stamina and grit to wow the crowd.
Stabbing Westward keyboardist Walter Flakus and drummer Johnny Haro prepared for their set by carrying up multiple 12-packs of Coronas to the stage, and vocalist Christopher Hall walked out on stage during the sound check to record footage of the excited crowd for social media.
When Stabbing Westward took the stage, the crowd’s energy rose even more, with Hall embracing the space of the stage to engage the crowd during the opening song, “Drugstore.” During the second song, “Falls Apart,” guitarist Mark Eliopulos was playing so aggressively, pushing his guitar against the mic stand like a capo, that he broke his bottom E-string. When Hall asked him if he needed a break to replace it, Eliopulos replied, “…it was the one at the bottom, you know, the one no one uses,” and he played the rest of the show on only five strings.
They played “Lies” and “Nothing” off their 1994 Ungod album; “What Do I Have To Do?” and “Shame” off their 1996 album Wither, Blister, Burn & Peel; “Sometimes It Hurts” and “Save Yourself” off the 1998 Darkest Days album, in addition to six other songs from their expansive career. In between the songs, Hall poked fun at himself and his bandmates telling the crowd “old people” jokes and attributing it to their current lifestyle. However, with the way Hall strutted his stuff all over the stage and jumped down into the crowd, one could have guessed him only 25-years-old. Hall closed out the show with a proper drop-mic after announcing to the crowd, “We are Stabbing Westward bitches! Good night!”
Prior to headliner act Stabbing Westward, four local bands played opening sets to amp up the crowd. Each band brought diversity to the stage with their original songs and performance styles filled with vigor and moxie. The bands provided an eclectic, yet complimentary sampling of folk goth, industrial, metal and alt-rock styles.
Swindy was on first playing their ethereal folk goth and industrial-rock inspired songs. They started out with “Synergy” followed by the electro-tech “iBegin,” and a new song, “Animal.”
Lead vocalist Randall Swindell’s stage presence oozed sex appeal in his black, wet-look tee shirt and ripped, black denim skinny jeans, and even more when he stopped playing guitar mid-song to run his hands through his cheek-length blond hair.
During the show, it was announced that this would be vocalist Alyson Precie’s last show for a while as she recently enlisted in the Navy. Her strong voice and harmonizing vocals will be missed. Swindy also consists of members Tamara Jenney on keyboard, Mike Jenney on bass, and drummer Steven Escalante.
Swindell’s passion really came through with the song “Reflection,” as he opened his arms to metaphorically embrace the crowd and pull them in. They finished the set with “Just Don’t Like It,” and “Ignite My Love” from their self-titled EP Swindy.
Amnestic took the stage with their industrial electro-hard rock, which they self-describe as “angry robot noises.” Vocalist Brook Thomas’ growlesque screams set the tone for a post-apocalyptic robot revolt. Amnestic comprises two other members, keyboardist Sarah Elizabeth and guitarist Aaron Coldblood. The dark stage and bold red lighting cast a demonic glow over the band intensifying the message of their music. The trio played “Harbringer,” “Desensitization,” “Discipline,” and “Absent Affect” from their current album Future; as well as “Nervous System” from their album Real Bad Day.
There Is No Us
The third band to play, There Is No Us, came at the crowd no holds barred with their opening song, “Chemical Murder,” followed up by “Farewell to Humanity,” which is interspersed with snippets from tragic news broadcasts. Vocalist Jim Louvau’s aggressive vocals are a good representation of the societal angst reflected in their political lyrics.
The five person band consists of Andy Gerold (former guitarist for Marilyn Manson) and Jared Bakin on guitar, Eddie Lopez on bass and PHEET on drums. They played “Kings & Queens,” and “Angels Face with Devils Hands,” which Louvau described as a love song. Louvau finished out the set screaming at the crowd to throw their fists in the air for “In Violence We Trust,” getting the crowd pumped for the headlining band.
Right before Stabbing Westward, Paranova took the stage. Vocalist Owen Doheny walked on with an instrument one does not usually see at a rock or metal concert, a saxophone. They opened with the song “Lazarus,” and guitarist Dylan Ewing executed a flawless guitar solo. The band followed with “Hyperhollow” and “Sanctuary.” Bass player Erin Sperduti’s intense bass lines and drummer Logan Dolezal’s punchy drumming really bring their sound full circle.
The band covered NIN’s “March of the Pigs,” then finished out with their original songs “Enfilade,” and “Headline.” During the last song, Doheny pulled out the sax and gave it a short-lived appearance playing it for 15 seconds right at the end of the song. All songs, except the cover of NIN’s “March of the Pigs,” are on their album Hyperhollow.
The entire show was a high energy rock fest for the mid-size Club Red. Each opening band brought their original style and sound to the stage to work up the anticipation for Stabbing Westward’s performance. Thirty years together, they know how to put on one hell of a show. They’ve kept fans satiated, and gained new fans, as The Dreaming for 17 years. It’s unknown how long the guys will continue to tour as Stabbing Westward since their 2016 reunion kicked off, but it was a pleasure to have them back in Arizona playing the 90s rock that made them famous.
Photographer: Russ Broty
Stabbing Westward, Swindy, Amnestic, There Is No Us, Paranova – Club Red 1-12-18
Photography © Looking at You Too
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