All posts by Brandon Biallas

Writer, Audio Engineer, Web Designer, and Music Teacher. Plays guitar in The Banter and bass in Hostile Work Environment. Big fan of his 3 cats, Mexican food, and exploring the northern Arizona wilderness.

REVIEW: Tool Prove to be Sharp as Ever In Latest Comeback (10-23-19)

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Glendale, AZ — Tool stopped in Glendale night to play the Gila River Arena to an ocean of patiently adoring fans that could not have been more excited to hear the band rip into their ear drums. However, little did everyone in attendance know that what transpired next would be far beyond even what their lofty expectations could prepare them for.

One might think after a 13-year hiatus from recording new music, that a band might be well past their prime but fortunately for Tool, they’re clearly an exception to the rule. With the release of their latest album, Fear Inoculum, this is a band that has proven they won’t compromise their artistic vision for the sake of putting an album out every two years or so. They take their time perfecting a raw, mysterious sound that fans have come to revere over the years.

UK veterans Killing Joke kicked off the night and proved to be an excellent opening act, getting the crowd pumped up with their whiplash-inducing brand of quasi-metal and goth rock sounds. They were definitely an interesting choice for the opening band, but Tool has always brought their friends and greatest musical influences along with them on tour. It was fascinating to observe and clear how Killing Joke’s unique take on music clearly influenced Tool’s own iconic sound as their set went on. Notably, Killing Joke has had many lineup changes throughout the years. But recently, all of their original members are officially back in the band. This brought an inspiring energy to the night that would only flourish in intensity as the time grew closer for Tool to take the stage.

Tool fans awaiting the band’s entrance.
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Fans of Tool know very well the law of the land at their concerts: no photos or videos. One might find this to be disappointing, but in many ways, it enhances the concert experience as people allow themselves and others to become fully engaged in the moment. As the lights fell to black, the sounds of cheering cut in front of the ambient noise with the swiftness of a starving octogenarian jumping to the front of the line at an early-bird dinner buffet. You could reach out and touch the energy in the room, and just when it seemed like the arena would burst from the crowd’s anticipation, guitarist Adam Jones played the opening swells to the new album’s title track, “Fear Inoculum.”

Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

This was a very good choice for the opening number, not only because it’s the first song on the new album, but also because it represents the first example of new music they presented to the world after a 13-year drought. The song was recreated beautifully in the live setting, and it was accompanied by some of the most impressive Alex Gray-inspired visuals to date. Incredibly long threads formed around the stage in a circular formation as intensely colorful images were projected onto the screen towering behind the band. These threads also allowed the images projected on stage to glide across them in a pseudo-3D effect that was nothing less than spectacular for  lucky enough to capture it firsthand.

Danny Carey (Drums), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Familiar clay aliens and faceless men in business suits adorned the screen as fans were treated to the corresponding music videos for each of the band’s older songs. One particular highlight included a full live rendition of “Parabol/Parabola” in all of its 9-minute glory, to the uncontainable delight of many fans in attendance. The drums punched through the mix with a primal fury not seen from many other bands around today, thanks to the incomparable Danny Carey behind the monstrous kit. His effortless playing and ad-libbing enhanced the songs without it sounding too busy or as if he was showing off. Every single drum strike was as tasteful as the last, which is no small feat when you have such a large kit at your disposal to tempt a less stoic individual into overplaying.

Adam Jones (Guitar), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor were also both in exceptional form throughout the night, proving their playing only continues to improve. The ear-piercing squeals of Jones’ dark Les Paul mixed with Chancellor’s thunderous yet melodic bass lines are truly a match made in heaven.

Justin Chancellor (Bass), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Other notable highlights of the night included the second song of the set “Ænima”, introduced by singer Maynard James Keenan happily declaring “Alpha Omega. AZ. It’s good to be home. We just got back from LA.” Immediately followed by the familiarly breathy “hey” repeated throughout the intro of the song about a great flood of biblical proportions consuming the entirety of Los Angeles in all of its perceived decay and decadence. This was followed by excellent performances of “The Pot”, “Jambi”, and “Schism”, with the latter incorporating an unexpectedly sped-up bridge section that had to be heard to be believed.

Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Tool have achieved what so many other bands who have been together for as long as they have only dream of doing successfully: standing the test of time. So many bands of yesteryear lapse into obscurity or worse yet, self-parody, as they make their comebacks. Tool is not one of them. They continue to deliver unprecedented, phenomenal live shows and mind-blowing visuals that only get better as time flows onward. If you get the chance to see them live, do yourself a favor by not missing out, because they deliver every single time.

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Tool – Gila River Arena 10-23-19

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved


REVIEW: Third Eye Blind, Jimmy Eat World Deliver Nostalgia With A Modern Spin (7-31-19)

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PHOENIX — What comes to mind when you think of the 2000’s? Motorola RAZRs? MTV’s Pimp My Ride? Undoubtedly, your mind also went to the music that defined the decade: bands like Jimmy Eat World and Third Eye Blind. It might surprise you to learn that both of these groups are still going strong and loving every minute of it, as evidenced by their incredible performances at the Ak Chin Pavilion in Phoenix this past Wednesday evening.

Both bands are refreshing examples of groups that have not only outlasted their respective peaks of fame, but have continued going strong in spite of it. Jimmy Eat World playing timeless classics like “Sweetness”, “The Middle”, and “Hear You Me” to ear-piercing cheers and thundering applause is all the proof you need. Obvious musical and songwriting talents aside, a big reason for the longevity in Jimmy Eat World’s career is the sheer gratitude they express to their fans at nearly every show.

Jim Adkins (Vocalist), Jimmy Eat World
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

There are countless examples throughout musical history of artists who gain big heads from their fame but this band, and especially Jim Adkins, could not have been more humble, crediting their fans for helping them get to where they are now. About halfway through the set, Jim strapped on a beautifully shining acoustic guitar and as he was tuning for “Hear You Me” he warmly addressed the crowd: “I remember when we were sitting out on the lawn watching shows and dreaming about being on this stage. Now, here we are and it’s all thanks to you guys and your support.” This would become a common theme throughout the night as he so graciously engaged the audience and made them feel as welcome as they so clearly made him and the rest of the band feel in return. 

Ra Ra Riot began the show with an uncharacteristically energetic set for an opening band; the crowd couldn’t get enough and the band definitely got the job done getting people out of their seats.

Wes Miles (Vocalist), Ra Ra Riot
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The stage chemistry and musicianship of each member shined through during key moments, like the crisp backing vocals of bassist, Mathieu Santos blending seamlessly with lead vocalist, Wes Miles. Guitarist, Milo Bonacci and his versatility with guitar FX pedals created mind-bending soundscapes of delayed and chorused chords, and even allowed him to smoothly recover from a brief tussle with some nasty feedback. Ra Ra Riot are entertainers in the truest sense of the word and are definitely one to watch out for.

Mathieu Santos (Bassist, Vocalist), Ra Ra Riot
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Jimmy Eat World continued to amaze the audience by mixing in a pleasant blend of old and new songs, with the old songs sounding just as fresh as the new. It’s difficult to make a song like “The Middle”, released in 2001, not sound slightly dated when it appears in movies or TV shows for example, but live, this song takes on entirely new life, as those same familiar four power chords envelop you in pure nostalgic delight. It’s honestly incredible – a true testament to their abilities as a band to stand the test of time by continuously putting out timeless song after song.

Jim Adkins (Vocalist), Jimmy Eat World
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Third Eye Blind closed out the night with a highly engaging set that the vast majority of fans never wanted to end. Lead singer/guitarist, Stephan Jenkins, displayed a level of energy and charisma not often seen in a 54-year-old man. The music keeps him young at heart, and the same can be said of his fans as they screamed every single word along with him.

Stephan Jenkins (Vocalist, Guitarist), Third Eye Blind
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Third Eye Blind effortlessly charged through songs like the latest collaborative effort with Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells, “Screamer”. This track has a harder modern rock vibe that they transition into deftly from their classic sound. Hearing a band continue to reinvent themselves is a sign that they don’t intend to give up on music anytime soon; which is good news for many.

Kryz Reid (Guitarist, Vocalist), Third Eye Blind
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Third Eye Blind also treated the crowd’s ears to a clever medley of songs “Back To Zero”, “Can You Take Me”, and “London”, strung together so well you’d think they were back to back on the same album. The band was obviously well-rehearsed, and executed each song down to the last screaming note. Playing songs from the first album like “Motorcycle Drive-by” and “Graduate” served as an endearing homage to their past, which acknowledges that they haven’t forgotten where they came from and how they arrived where they are today. This was a more understated approach to showing the fans gratitude: by treating them with more hidden gems on the early albums, which went over very well overall.  

Stephan Jenkins (Vocalist, Guitarist), Third Eye Blind
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

A more cynical observer might write off a joint tour between Jimmy Eat World and Third Eye Blind as an attempt to revive a dying genre; however this could not be further from the truth. Both bands are timeless examples of pop-rock bands of the early 2000’s that bring unique qualities to their music that only serves to guarantee their respective longevity. The “Summer Gods” tour is an aptly named one because these bands have successfully become immortalized through their music. And honestly, isn’t that what any band ultimately strives for?

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Third Eye Blind, Jimmy Eat World, Ra Ra Riot – Ak-Chin Pavilion 7-31-19

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Photography © Reagle Photography
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REVIEW: Black Pistol Fire Engulf Phoenix Fans In Rock n’ Roll (7-19-19)

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PHOENIX — Time and again, rock n’ roll has proven that it’s a genre that staunchly refuses to die. Two good reasons for this phenomenon were proudly on display this past Tuesday evening at Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix; the opening act of the night, Seattle rock band Thunderpussy, and the incomparable two-man rock powerhouse known as Black Pistol Fire.

Thunderpussy

The evening couldn’t have kicked off better as Thunderpussy took the stage by storm, captivating the audience immediately with their slick style along with some effortlessly proficient musicianship. Lead vocalist, Molly Sides (a Tucson native) had undeniable charisma and grace from the moment she strode across the stage towards her iconic Elvis-style microphone.

Molly Sides (Vocalist) & Leah Julius (Bassist), Thunderpussy
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Donning a vibrant, glittery and flowing outfit, she was the centerpiece that completed the unmistakably rock n’ roll spectacle the band was giving off. As her darkly-colored vocals soared to the stratosphere with an excellent cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”, she dazzled fans with her fluid dancing that seemed far too natural to be choreographed.

Molly Sides (Vocalist) & Leah Julius (Bassist), Thunderpussy
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The charisma didn’t stop there either; it comes pouring out of each member as you see them thoroughly enjoying themselves on stage. Lead guitarist, Whitney Petty opened the show wielding a violin bow, grazing it across the strings in ways that would make Jimmy Page’s jaw drop. The rhythm section could easily hold their own with the best of them as Leah Julius’ bass and the battering proficiency of the drums made up a rock-solid foundation supporting the rest of the music. The band was an excellent choice for an opener and definitely one to keep your eyes on as they inevitably ascend to greatness.

Black Pistol Fire

As palpable as the excitement in the room was for the main attraction, it was still hard to imagine the night getting much better. However as soon as singer/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen rushed the stage, it was obvious that the night had only just begun.

Kevin McKeown (Vocalist, Guitarist), Black Pistol Fire
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Ripping into the first lines of “Suffocation Blues”, you could feel the desperation behind every note being bent out of McKeown’s beautiful SG guitar. Deeply rooted in the blues and garage rock of the dirtiest varieties, Black Pistol Fire must feel right at home back in the thriving Austin, Texas music scene. As a rock duo featuring no bassist, the superficial comparisons to other famous rock duo groups like The White Stripes and The Black Keys are inevitable, but don’t be fooled; Black Pistol Fire brings many unique qualities to the table in a genre saturated with copycats.

Eric Owen (Drummer), Black Pistol Fire
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Owen’s creative contribution of playing the synth bass while he simultaneously drums with one arm is a sight that must be seen to be fully processed. This is not something that can be pulled off easily but he makes it look like the easiest thing in the world, which is a testament to his raw musical talent. Shockingly, this also does very little in simplifying his drum parts because his merciless whacks on the toms and snare drum are just as strikingly heavy as if someone were playing with two burly arms.

McKeown’s vocal and guitar chops are both solid, with attitude aplenty. It’s so powerful to see how the themes behind the lyrics of songs like “Hipster Shakes” directly translates through his guitar into this emotional downpour of soulful distortion. The songs exude this fiery, sensual energy that’s simply magnetic and is sure to make anyone loosen up a bit. He screams with this begging and pleading tone that perfectly complements the gyrating motions he does on stage. It’s almost as if you’re watching someone go through an exorcism the way he shakes, tearing away at the pain of past experiences and shedding them from existence. There was even a moment when McKeown’s exorcism took him off the stage and into the crowd with the help of a dedicated stagehand. This personal journey of his took him all the way from the back end of the room onto the bleachers, all the way to standing on top of the bar as the bartender proudly handed him a splash of whiskey, all during the same guitar solo.

Kevin McKeown (Vocalist, Guitarist), Black Pistol Fire
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Crescent Ballroom proved to be the ideal venue for the performance of both bands, balancing high sound quality with the intimacy that only it’s dark walls can provide. The light show was also complimentary without it being too blinding or distracting for the audience. The reactions you gather from watching both of these bands are visceral ones and each of their reputations are definitely elevated because of it. Black Pistol Fire and Thunderpussy are as rock n’ roll as they come.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Black Pistol Fire & Thunderpussy – Crescent Ballroom 7-16-19

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Photography © Reagle Photography
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REVIEW: Slayer Reassert Metal Dominance in Phoenix on “Final World Tour” (05-02-19)

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PHOENIX — One word continuously comes to mind when one thinks of metal music: catharsis. According to Google dictionary, catharsis can be defined as “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.” Look around the audience at any metal show and you will see catharsis taking place in many forms. Maybe it’s the down-tuned, insanely heavy guitars palm-muting and blasting you with power chords, or the syncopated rhythms of the double bass drums beating fan’s ears into submission. Whatever it is about the music, metal brings people together and serves as a one-stop shop for the release of myriad types of emotions; happiness, anger, sadness, etc.

There’s a sort of camaraderie between fans at metal shows as people bond over their love for the music and in some cases, their equally great love for alcohol. The evidence supporting that love for metal is alive and well could not have been greater last night at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix as heavy metal forefathers, Slayer took the stage in front of about 22,000 in attendance after several intense opening sets from Lamb Of God, Amon Amarth, and Cannibal Corpse.

Picture this: flamethrowers perfectly synced to the frequent stops of the music with heat you can feel on your face from the audience, a giant, banner adorned the back wall of the stage replete with a devious-looking Baphomet among other satanic imagery, bright strobe and giant spot lights occasionally resembling double helix shapes. These were only a few of the visual treats fans were given Thursday night as some stared silently in awe, while others rarely stopped screaming their favorite lyrics to take a breath. Slayer has been around a very long time and yet despite their collective ages, their energy has not wavered in the slightest. From the opening speed metal riffs of the first song, “Repentless”, to the final onslaught of songs culminating in “Angel Of Death”, Slayer proved that they’re still masters of their metal domain.

Slayer - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Tom Araya (Vocalist, Bassist), Slayer
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Vocalist and bassist, Tom Araya has always had a distinct vocal style; it’s not singing but it’s not your average metal-scream either. It’s visceral, primal shouting from a man who otherwise comes off very kind and cordial on stage during the quieter moments in between songs. He’s a living legend, as are the other members; longtime guitarist Kerry King, recent stand-in guitarist and Exodus alumni Gary Holt, and drummer Paul Bostaph. Last night at Ak-Chin Pavilion, these four, with their powers combined, recreated some of the heaviest music ever written. King and Holt’s blisteringly fast riffs caused fans to headbang themselves into a state of whiplash, while Bostaph’s drumming undoubtedly caused plenty of heart arrhythmia from the sheer force with which he hits the many pieces of his instrument of choice.

Slayer - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Gary Holt (Guitarist), Slayer
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Watching Slayer is a musical experience of course but also one you can feel; physically and metaphorically speaking. Their lyrics are some of the most brutally honest words shrieked into microphones worldwide. For example, “World Painted Blood” (the 3rd song into their set) contains the lines “Gomorrah’s dream to live in sin, has reached its critical mass, man himself has become God, and laughs at his destruction…”, which gives an unrepentant glimpse into what’s on the band’s minds. Death, destruction, the unstoppable collapse of humanity due to its own ignorance; the band frequently come off as messengers of the impending doom that will surely befall humanity should we choose to ignore it. This serves for a powerful concert experience that’s not to be missed should you ever get the chance to see them perform.

Slayer - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Kerry King (Guitarist), Slayer
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

It’s worth mentioning that the supporting bands all brought the energy to critically high levels long before Slayer even took the stage.

Florida death metal legends Cannibal Corpse started off the evening with incredible stage presence and easily one of the best renditions of “Hammer Smashed Face” played to date.

Cannibal Corpse - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Erik Rutan (Guitarist), Cannibal Corpse
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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Next, Swedish natives Amon Amarth brought along their trademark viking theme, with the drummer sitting atop a replica of a viking ship complete with glowing red eyes. Their unique take on metal and lead vocalist, Johan Hegg’s friendly demeanor, was warmly received by fans.

Johan Hegg (Vocalist), Amon Amarth
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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Finally, Lamb of God stole the show with an insanely heavy set despite a few technical difficulties with the wireless guitar rigs. The other band members never missed a beat and effectively carried on regardless of any technical glitches entirely out of their control.

Lamb of God - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Randy Blythe (Vocalist), Lamb of God
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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These are the marks of great live performance and each band, in their own unique ways, served as the perfect appetizers to temporarily appease everyone’s metal palate.    

Other high points of the night included one of Slayers more ambitious songs, “Seasons In The Abyss” as well as other brutal numbers like “Mandatory Suicide”, “Hate Worldwide,” “Disciple”, “Temptation”, and “World Painted Blood”. Slayer saved most of the classics like “Raining Blood”, “Hell Awaits”, and “South Of Heaven” for the very end of the night, which made for an extremely captivating finale to a great show on their “Final World Tour”.

KUPD - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Fitz Madrid (Afternoon Announcer), 98KUPD FM
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Local 98KUPD FM afternoon announcer, Fitz Madrid, prefaced Slayer taking the stage by announcing their imminent arrival as well as commenting on how he first saw the band in 1991 and that he considered it one of the best concerts he’d ever seen. That’s saying a lot coming from a person who has frequently attended many shows because of his line of work and love for music. Slayer’s music left a powerful impression on Fitz after witnessing what they could do live. That impact surely carried itself over to just about everyone else in attendance at Ak-Chin Pavilion last night, many of whom will one day describe their experience of this show as equally life-changing.

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Photos by Rodrigo Izquierdo

Openers: Cannibal Corpse | Amon Amarth | Lamb of God

Slayer – Ak-Chin Pavilion 5-2-19

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Photography © Reagle Photography
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REVIEW: Minus The Bear, Tera Melos Give Tempe Fans A Lesson In Math Rock (12-7-18)

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Tempe, AZ —  At face value, thinking about a period of seventeen years does seem like a long stretch of time. Contrarily, Minus the Bear frontman, Jake Snider, has a different take on the idea because about halfway through the set on their farewell tour at the Marquee Theatre last night, Snider gave the audience some insight into their seventeen year-long career as a band, “Seventeen years feels like almost no time has passed. We appreciate all of you for being here. We’ve got the best fans of anyone.

Minus the Bear - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Jake Snider (Vocalist), Minus the Bear
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

This served as a beautiful footnote at the end of the influential band’s creative streak consisting of 6 studio albums and 12 EPs, as well as countless national and international tours. They’ve been highly influential in the math rock genre and are largely considered pioneers of the style, their beginnings predating many noteworthy math rock bands like This Town Needs Guns and Chon.

They clearly expressed their gratitude to the audience, and the feeling was undeniably mutual as the sounds of cheering and clapping rarely died down over the course of the evening. Every crowd has its black sheep though, demonstrated towards the end of the show as one inebriated concert-goer threw a full can of beer at bassist Cory Murchy. To the relief of many, the band didn’t hold the rudeness of one person against the rest of the audience as Snider calmy chimed in over the mic “Please don’t throw your f*ucking beer can at us. Thanks, we love you guys.

Tera Melos

The unforgettable night began with an excellent introduction of the complex music to come thanks to the opening act, Tera Melos. The Sacramento, California-based band pummelled the audience with a frenetic 40 minute set that never once let up in energy.

Tera Melos - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Tera Melos
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

It all began when Nick Reinhart, the guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist of the band, gave the other members a quick, nearly imperceptible glance, and then they were off with their first song, “Don’t Say I Know”. The band continued their set without uttering a word or letting out a breath between songs while only occasionally looking at each other for brief acknowledgement of what was coming next. This was astounding because of the technicality and otherworldly sounds emanating from Reinhart’s guitar; it takes incredible musicianship to even follow what’s going on as a listener, let alone a Tera Melos band member.

Tera Melos - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Nick Reinhart (Vocalist, Guitarist, Keyboardist), Tera Melos
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Interspersed between songs were spastic, electronic guitar lines that could often be described as computer beeping in 5/4 time. Some of these sounded reminiscent of dubstep while others bordered more along EDM territory. It was surprising to many fans in attendance that it was coming from a guitar, as well as those more familiar with the band as you’d frequently hear someone new shouting “What?!” or “How?!” from around the room as Reinhart stomped on a new combination of guitar FX pedals.

Tera Melos - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Tera Melos’ FX pedals
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Another highlight of their incredible set was “Slimed”, with Reinhart screaming “Something about my face, always makes me sick!” as the band followed along perfectly without missing a note. On these merits alone, Tera Melos is not, nor will they ever be, a band to be missed.

Minus the Bear

After fans had about 20 minutes to recover between sets from the mind blowing experience of Tera Melos, Minus the Bear picked up right where the opening act left off.

Minus the Bear - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Minus the Bear
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The band’s embrace of classics like “Pachuca Sunrise”, “The Fix”, and “The Game Needed Me” from their second album Menos Del Oso scattered throughout the set among more recent favorites, such as “Last Kiss” from their final 2017 release, VOIDS served as an anachronistic tribute to their incredible evolution as a band over time. It was a nice touch and always kept you guessing as what was to come next. The band’s sound was also finely tuned to the venue’s sound system, a huge relief considering anything less would have proven unacceptable for a band so musically polished themselves.

Minus the Bear - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Dave Knudson (Guitarist), Minus the Bear
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Guitarist Dave Knudson was a finger-tapping machine, only taking both his hands off the guitar neck to kneel down and adjust knobs on his plethora of FX pedals. If Knudson and Reinhart were to face off in a gladiator-esque guitar FX duel, it would be impossible to tell who would come out on top. Knudson and keyboardist Alex Rose were the icing on the cake of the intricately layered music, as bassist Murchy and touring drummer Joshua Sparks provided a solid backbone for the songs to breathe new life into the hearts of many listeners.

Minus the Bear - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Alex Rose (Keyboardist), Minus the Bear
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

While farewell tours will always carry bittersweet connotations, this inspiring show served as a proper send-off for some of math rock’s founding fathers with the grateful support of an up-and-coming math rock band. It’s hard to picture it going any better than it did, and many fans stayed until the very end of the show, absorbing every beautiful moment. The legacy of Minus the Bear will live on through not only their own music, but in the hearts and minds of fans worldwide and other math rock bands reinventing the sound that was so new only seventeen short years ago.

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Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Minus The Bear & Tera Melos – Marquee Theatre 12-7-18

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Review: Underoath Warms Up “Erase Me Tour” at Marquee Theatre, Captivates Crowd (11-09-18)

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Underoath - Erase Me album artwork

Tempe, AZ — Underoath, touring in support of their latest release Erase Mebrought remarkable energy to Marquee Theatre.  When asked about one of the opening bands, The Plot in You, local fan and concertgoer, Curtis said, “I’ve never seen a band play so hard,” which is an apt description for every band that took the stage on this night. In addition to The Plot in You, Underoath’s supporting acts on the “Erase Me Tour” include Dance Gavin Dance and Crown the Empire.

 

Dance Gavin Dance stunned the audience with one of the most polished, musically proficient, and engaging sets of the night. It wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to say that they stole the show with their absolutely commanding presence on the Marquee stage. Lead clean-vocalist Tilian Pearson and unclean vocalist John Mess made an excellent team, trading off between Pearson’s angelic high notes and Mess’ primal, guttural screams. Their body language couldn’t be more different and yet it’s so complimentary to the other performer that it comes off as a natural contrast. Pearson dances across the stage with a snake-like charm, moving his body in fluid motions reminiscent of Michael Jackson while Mess stands firm like a monument, tightly focused on the crowd and his microphone and he delivers his powerful vocals.

Dance Gavin Dance - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Dance Gavin Dance
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Guitarist Will Swan was an indisputable highlight in a band full of unrelentingly talented musicians. His hands move so fast as to seemingly blur at times and aside from throwing his head back and forth in bobble-head like fashion to the music, he stands completely still. For a performer to remain almost entirely stationary while still bringing so much energy to the band’s sound is truly an incredible feat. His effortless transitions between finger tapping on “Chucky Vs. The Giant Tortoise” to speedy flurries of dissonant power-chords hint at a subtle mastery of his instrument.

Dance Gavin Dance - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Dance Gavin Dance | Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Before leaving the stage, Pearson thanked the crowd for being so welcoming and quickly added “you guys are f*cking crazy!”. This was apparent being in the crowd and witnessing what some concert-goers were capable of without getting thrown out of the show, although this was nothing compared to what came next.

As stagehands went to work striking the other band’s props and equipment, people marveled at the visual spectacle coming to life before their eyes. The drums and keyboards sat atop a giant riser on stage-right and left respectively, which was illuminated by ubiquitous screens that covered most of the stage. Dozens of rotating lights mounted on stage trusses strongly indicated that the audience was about to witness epileptic-rainbows of flashing color fill the room.

Underoath | Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As Underoath’s set begin, the lights went dark and shortly thereafter, the screens and lights came to life. The screens cast blindingly-delightful floods of color into the retina of adoring fans who screamed their hearts out. The electronic hum of Christopher Dudley’s keyboards set the foreboding tone of the hour as drummer and vocalist, Aaron Gillespie began the intro to “On My Teeth” at machine-gun speeds. The energy was increasingly palpable as lead vocalist, Spencer Chamberlain ran on stage so fast as to almost fly into the crowd upon entering.

The night continued with this level of energy until it suddenly increased at an unstoppable pace when the band broke into an old favorite, “In Regards To Myself”. People lost their minds and formed mosh pits that felt tumultuous yet far friendlier and safer than most. Eventually following this were other notable song highlights in “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”, “Reinventing your Exit”, “Rapture”, and “It Has To Start Somewhere”.

Underoath - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Spencer Chamberlain (Vocalist), Underoath
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Chamberlain commanded the crowd with the ease of a sorcerer manipulating matter as he moved his hands in a circle and instructed them to mosh. He also had an admirable way of engaging the audience on deeply, personal levels when he went into a beautiful speech about his own experiences with drug addiction and how he used music as one form of therapy and a creative outlet for his emotions. He credited Gillespie as the one he called first when he was at his lowest point in life and realized he needed to get help. After that he implored the audience to applaud as he expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his bandmate and close friend. It all felt really genuine and inspiring as he concluded his speech with “You’re not weak for seeking out help when you need it.”

Underoath - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Underoath | Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Overall, Underoath and Dance Gavin Dance both proved beyond a shadow of doubt that they are musical forces to be reckoned with and can still draw enthusiasm from crowds after 10+ year careers doing what they obviously love to do. It will surely be exciting to see what the future holds and what comes next from each of these talented bands.

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Underoath & Dance Gavin Dance – Marquee Theatre 11-8-18

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: System of a Down Mezmerize Phoenix Fans (10-16-18)

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PHOENIXFor a band as dynamic as System of a Down, one would expect their live performances to be equally, if not more engaging, than their studio releases. Gaining popularity from classic songs like Chop Suey for example, which features a quickly strummed acoustic guitar intro leading directly into a frenetic musical meltdown. This is arguably one of the defining attributes of the band and last night’s show at Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix was certainly no exception.

El Paso rock band, At The Drive In, set the tone of the night with energetic grooves and polished musicianship; a nice preview of what was to come later on. Their set wasn’t without its technical hiccups however, as lead vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala wildly gyrated his arms in an upward motion towards stage left during the first song. This was a clear indication that his vocals weren’t loud enough in the mix and he most likely couldn’t hear himself. The band didn’t miss a beat and continued on into the next few songs, but not without Bixler-Zavala interrupting himself mid-lyric to say “turn up the vocals!” He was obviously frustrated with the technical side of things, but this didn’t take away from their overall performance. With Bixler-Zavala and the rest of the band continuously powered through and made sure the people got what they came to see. Roaring reception from the crowd and an ever turbulent ocean of bodies in the open floor area indicated they were delivering on that promise for many fans.

Following Cedric’s politically charged closing announcement after the final song, that the band was “going backstage to hang out. Don’t call ICE on us,” there was a quick tear-down period as various stage hands took their gear away and made room for the main attraction. Soon after, the lights darkened and System of a Down broke into “Innervision”, a song I didn’t expect as an opening number but a great decision nonetheless. This song has a slow-burning intensity that served as an excellent preamble for what was about to hit the audience next.

Immediately after “Innervision”, lead guitarist, Daron Malakian hit the immensely-heavy opening power chord to “Prison Song”. As if this song alone wasn’t enough of a reason to get the crowd filled with excitement, the band faked everyone out by hitting the opening chord a few more times than expected which stirred up the suspense and generated added fervor.

It’s worth noting that by the time System of a Down took the stage, the sound was immediately dialed in and they sounded absolutely perfect. Every single instrument was balanced well with one another, and both Serj Tankian and Malakian’s vocals had achieved just the right volume levels to allow their harmonious vocals to soar and blend in beautiful ways.

From this point on, each song flowed smoothly into the next with virtually no time in between, allowing them to pack as many songs into the night as possible. The third song played was “I-E-A-I-A-I-O”, which was followed by yet another acronymic song “B.Y.O.B.” Behind the band was a giant jumbotron displaying many visually arresting images including bombs exploding, girls dancing in chorus lines, and inflamed cars driving down the highway at light speeds.

Bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan held down the rhythm section with machine-like musical precision while still remaining animated on stage and engaging with the crowd when necessary. Odadjian particularly stole the show at many points during the set with his excellent bass tone cutting through the mix and his charismatic dance moves.

Odadjian was not the only one who visibly enjoyed himself on stage either. Both Tankian and Malakian employed their own dance routines of hopping around on one foot and spinning around in circles. This struck me as particularly impressive when you consider how fast and technical each of their roles in most of the songs are. Malakian also had me laughing at multiple points during the show when he chose to introduce the song “Psycho #13” by singing his own rendition of “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. He had a lot of excellent banter with the audience during other songs too, like chanting the words “everybody spin around” to the tune of the outro guitar riff in “Toxicity”. This gave way to a maelstrom of people swirling around in one of the biggest mosh pits I’ve ever witnessed. The power that the band and their songs have over their fans is undeniable and an incredible thing to witness in person.

Other notable highlights of the night were “Aerials”, “Question!”, “Deer Dance”, and especially the closing song “Sugar”; an excellent choice to cap off the night and a highly memorable setlist. System of a Down have proved once again that despite a 24-year music career, their enthusiasm has yet to wane. Over 10 years after the band’s last double album release Mezmerize/Hypnotize, they have teased new music with various contradictory information coming from different band members over time. However, one thing I certainly take comfort in is that regardless of whether or not we ever get to experience new music from the band, they’ve left a lasting musical legacy that has left an indelible impression on me, as well as many other fans from around the world.