All posts by Nate Wert

Food & Beer Blogger with a passion for small businesses, Craft Beer Aficionado, Music & Concert Lover, Video Games & Sci-Fi Addict, Arizona Native, Traveler to distant lands... like Tucson. Currently owned by 3 rescue dogs.

REVIEW: New Politics, The Mowgli’s, Plain White T’s — 3 Dimensions of Music Come to The Van Buren (12-1-19)

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

PHOENIX — The weekend after Thanksgiving can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to energy levels. Between possibly overindulging on turkey (or tofurkey) and pie, grinning nervously through family dinners, and running through the aisles of the local electronic store, it is indeed easy to feel completely worn out by the time Sunday night rolls around. However, this year there was a cure for the fatigue: The “3 Dimensional Tour” at The Van Buren. Triple-headlined by the New Politics, The Mowgli’s, and Plain White T’s, it was a night filled with energy and noise, and a perfect antidote to the anecdotes you heard over the helpings of holiday fixings.

Plain White T’s

Plain White T’s started the night, as a backdrop lit up with the cover of their latest album Parallel Universe, before drummer De’mar Hamilton came out and sat down to set the tone for the rest of the night. Hamilton is an exceptional drummer, and it was truly fun to watch as he laid down a solid beat throughout the set. As the first notes of “Light Up The Room” were played, lead singer Tom Higgenson strode to the microphone with a huge smile on his face and said, “What up Phoenix?! Let’s have some fun!” Higgenson and the rest of the band delivered on that promise, with Mike Retondo deadpanning “Thank you for liking my bass,” as Higgenson asked the audience to applaud Retondo after “Rhythm of Love”. Higgenson interacted and joked with the audience extensively throughout the night, taking time to thank everyone for coming out, and taking notice that “It looks like you’re having a good time! Everyone in the front is smiling!

Tim Lopez (Guitarist), Plain White T’s
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Indeed, it is hard not to feel jovial at a Plain White T’s show, as Higgenson keeps smiling throughout the night. As the set started to wind down – entirely too soon, it seemed – Higgenson and the band started to play “Hey There Delilah,” the song they are best known for. The crowd took over singing for him as he backed away from the microphone with a look of joy and gratitude on his face. After “Our Time Now,” he thanked the audience once more and the band left the stage.

The Mowgli’s

After a quick stage change, The Mowgli’s came out while a video played in the background, showing clips from movies meshed with scenes that gave a bit of a psychedelic vibe to the start of the show. In fact, the video continued throughout the set, and at certain points, it displayed the lyrics of the songs. As the first song “Spacin’ Out” started, the shift in energy was very apparent: where the Plain White T’s generate the audience energy through engagement with fans and having fun, while The Mowgli’s generate energy via the audience by turning the stage into a massive dance party. 

Katie Earl (Vocalist, Percussion), The Mowgli’s
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Vocalist Katie Earl never once stopped moving, even imploring the audience multiple times to dance along. It was a challenge to stay still as they played songs like “Real Good Life,” “I’m Good,” and “San Francisco,” and so the crowd gladly obliged her requests. She also talked about the need to talk through the tough conversations to come to an understanding with another person. The Mowgli’s have quite a bit of fun on stage. At one point during “Talk About It,” — off of their latest EP American Feelings — almost the entire band switched positions, with everyone playing a different instrument. As the last notes of “San Francisco” faded, Hogan and Earl jumped off the stage, high-fived some in the crowd, and shook hands with others. There was a great deal of appreciation from the band toward the audience.

New Politics

The show ended with a loud, chaotic set from the New Politics. David Boyd pranced onto the stage while rapping the opening lyrics to “Unstoppable,” the first song off of the new album An Invitation to an Alternate Reality. Boyd has a stage presence that is unforgettable, as he prowls and dances like an uncontainable bundle of energy around the stage. At one point during “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” Boyd jumped over the barricade and had the audience gather around and jump together with him.  Those in the crowd were visibly exuberant as they interacted with Boyd and circulated energy amongst each other.

David Boyd (Vocalist), New Politics
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

During another song break, he promised everyone that the band would sit in the back after the show and sign everything that was purchased at the merch table. While it became a bit difficult to see the stage at some points due to the amount of smoke, the show was incredibly high energy, even when things didn’t quite go as planned. Guitarist Soren Hansen threw his guitar into the air, and while it didn’t hit the stage, it also apparently didn’t do what he had hoped it would do. He recovered quickly, brushing off the mishap as if nothing had happened. 

David Boyd (Vocalist), New Politics
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Part of the magic of a New Politics show is the apparently inexhaustible front man: As the show came closer to the end, Boyd seemed to only become more energetic — At one point, right before “Harlem” started, Boyd started breakdancing, ending up on his head in an impressive pose. As the last notes of “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens)” faded, Boyd stood on the drum kit — his back to the audience — and did a backflip, sticking the landing and getting a massive cheer from the astonished fans.It was the perfect end to a night of noise and energy, a night that saw three extremely talented bands take the stage and leave the audience energized, with the food coma of the recent holiday in the rearview mirror. The “3 Dimensional Tour” wraps in Sioux City, IA on December 20th, and is a show that should not be missed. (View Tour Dates)

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: New Politics | The Mowgli’s | Plain White T’s

New Politics, The Mowgli’s, Plain White T’s – The Van Buren 12-1-19

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Lindsey Stirling Enthralls in Hometown Show at Comerica Theatre (11-23-19)

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 2
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    2
    Shares

PHOENIX — There is an age-old argument over when exactly the Christmas season starts. Some would say that the day after Halloween is the official date that you can start preparing for Christmas, and others argue that the day after Thanksgiving, and not a day before, is the proper date to throw some Christmas music on and start feeling festive. It should be postulated that neither of these are correct: The first day that it officially feels like Christmas is the day of the first concert in Lindsey Stirling’s annual winter tour.

The tour is in its third year now, first named “Warmer in the Winter” in 2017, “The Wanderland Tour” in 2018 and now “Warmer in the Winter” again. Stirling, an Arizona native, noted during the show that the name came from all of the warm winters she spent here in Arizona. “The Wanderland Tour” bypassed Arizona, which may possibly explain why the tour changed names last year.

Arizona winters are indeed warm, and this one was no exception up until earlier this week. As the doors opened and the public began pouring into Comerica Theatre in Downtown Phoenix, there was a chill in the air, one that announced that winter actually does come to Arizona. In the moments leading up to the first wisp of smoke from the machine on stage, the audience filtered into the theatre and found their seats with a growing buzz of anticipation, as excited conversations built toward a crescendo as showtime drew closer. All ages had come out to see Lindsey Stirling, from the wide-eyed young girls who wore dresses that looked much like the dresses that Stirling wears in her music videos, to the older fans who looked like they were ready for a Sunday morning church service. For the young, they had come to see their hero. For the older, to see an artist who has redefined what it means to be a violinist. No one left disappointed. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The “Warmer in the Winter” tour was a delight in every way possible. From the first few moments after the smoke machines kicked on to announce the start of the show until the final notes of the last song, “I Wonder While I Wander,” each and every second was packed with magic. Stirling and her dancers moved effortlessly through incredibly difficult maneuvers, drawing the crowd in. She is well known for her violin skills and her dancing, but she is also an incredible singer with a wicked sense of humor. Backed by a talented band including Kit Nolan on the keyboard and Drew Steen on the drums, Stirling danced, sang, and cracked jokes throughout the night. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The production includes special effects, props, and costuming that inspire awe and joy. The backdrop was a massive screen, which was one of the key elements to the show. Throughout the night, it would be used to show a clip of Stirling’s alter ego Phebla, become a backdrop of the universe while she played “Between The Twilight” from her newest album Artemis, and finally to have us fly through a field of mushrooms as a nod to Alice In Wonderland during “Carol of the Bells.” She explained that she named the album after Artemis because Artemis is the Goddess of the moon, and the moon brings light into the darkness. 

Her concerts are always an inspirational and moving experience because heartfelt speeches in between songs are a regular part of the show. She told the audience, “I want you to think about how amazing you are, because I think that’s something you may not tell yourself enough…every single person in this room is incredible and powerful…as I play this song, maybe even close your eyes and see yourself for how beautiful you are and for your own light, because the world needs every single person to shine.” As she started to play “Between The Twilight”, the spotlight turned off, and the screen behind her showed the universe, or the stars in it at least. The ethereal sound took the audience on a journey of light, of sound, of beauty.

Stirling is also a fierce advocate for her fans. After a visually stunning “We Three Gentlemen,” She gave an emotional speech, talking about her journey to get where she was. She then told the audience “Nobody else can write your story. Never let anyone else tell you what you can do, what you can’t do, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at — because you’re the only one who knows what you can do, what’s inside of you.” She admitted that her insecurities had not changed from before she found fame until now. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Stirling spoke at length, her voice quivering a bit as she talked about losing her best friend to cancer 4 years ago, and her dad 3 years ago. It was an emotional, vulnerable speech. She spoke about angels and how she felt they surrounded her. This led into “Angels We Have Heard on High,” during which she stood at the top of the stairs in front of the screens with a mesmerizingly beautiful light that followed her every move with her bow. It was the most impactful song of the show. 

She spoke with gratitude of how much she appreciated the shows in Arizona, saying that she looked forward to them because, “I feel like this is my family.

“Thank you guys so much for coming! It’s only because of you guys and the support I had from home from the very beginning that I am here. Thank you.” 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

During Stirling’s “favorite song to play,” “Hallelujah,” the tone switched away from happy, jovial, and infectious. The entire venue was utterly captivated by the otherworldly beautiful sound of the violin and backing guitar. There were some in the audience wiping away tears as the last notes faded away and Stirling again thanked everyone.

There are those that dedicate their life to the mastery of the violin, and others who train to lead the dance troupe at the theatre. To be able to do both at once – and do it well – is rare indeed. As the show started it became apparent the immense amount of planning and attention to detail that went into each and every step of this spectacular display. Each costume change was so well-planned that it would not be noticed or delay the show, and each dance move was tightly choreographed. Stirling has a zest for performing, a love for the fans, and a respect for her craft that lends itself to a show that would be hard to equal. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Everyone had gathered for a concert, but those in attendance received so much more than that. Viewing the show through the eyes of one who has seen many, it was an incredible, exciting show — one that lingers in the back of the mind. She is a wonderful role model to the young that view her as a giant. They aspire to one day reach her greatness after witnessing the impact of her beauty and grace.

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Stirling has a self-awareness that gives strength and power to those around her, saying what people need to hear before they even know they need to hear it. She is, in a word, rare. She is a once in a generation talent who has captured the imagination of the young, inspires the broken and gives peace to all who hear her. As the show ended and we walked into the cold night air of her hometown, it was hard not to feel refreshed and ready to celebrate the season. And that, in the end, is the magic of Lindsey Stirling.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-23-19

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: The Building Brings Soothing Vibes to Downtown Phoenix Bar (11-13-19)

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    1
    Share

PHOENIX — In the middle of downtown Phoenix is a nondescript alley with a door halfway down it. Over that door is a neon sign with the words “Valley Bar” spelled out. It casts a stark and yet warm glow into the alley. It is not an easy venue to find, but it is absolutely worth the trek if you’re looking for great music. For this particular event, Heather Woods Broderick and The Building was playing on a Wednesday night.

Valley Bar entrance sign
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

The Building is fronted by Anthony LaMarca, a talented and accomplished music veteran. He is currently the guitarist for the band The War on Drugs, and has played drums for St. Vincent on tour. He also has his own record label, named Primary Records. Broderick has toured with Sharon Van Etten as part of her backing band and has also played in bands such as Horse Feathers. To be able to see musicians as talented as these two in a venue as intimate as the Valley Bar is indeed a treat.

By the time the show started just after 8:00pm, the entire audience had shown up. There were fewer than 20 people in attendance — likely due to a somewhat hard to find venue and a midweek show. For those of us fortunate enough to be in attendance, we were treated to a downright solid show.

Heather Woods Broderick (Vocals, Guitar, Keys)
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Heather Woods Broderick

Broderick took the stage first with Andrew Carlson on the bass guitar, and Dean Anshutz on the drums. Carlson and Anshutz would be on stage for most of the evening, since they play in The Building as well. Broderick started with an acoustic guitar. Her fingers flew across the strings as a nearly ethereal sound came from the guitar — a sound that would be present for much of the evening. Her otherworldly vocals are enough to find your mouth agape. There is a beauty in the melancholic, enthralling tone of Broderick’s music.

While most of the songs are slower, she turned up the tempo with “Quicksand” from the album Invitation, which is a song that is rather drum heavy and a very nice change of pace. Anshutz was a joy to watch during the show because of his precision on the drums and how much he gets into it, but he was even more so during this song. Broderick also played “I Try” and ended the show on “Invitation”. With the voice of an angel and impressive control, Broderick yodeled through the closing notes of the final song, which is a delight that can only be experienced live since these fluctuations are not heard on the studio recording of the song.

Mid-show, she mentioned that she was surprised at how warm it still was outside and what there was to do in downtown Phoenix. Later on, she also spoke about touring with The Building, and said “They’re very sweet people and I love hearing them play their stuff every night.” It was also mentioned that there was a week and a half left in the tour.

The Building

The Building took the stage shortly after 9:00pm, and LaMarca greeted the audience with “We’re called The Building, we’re from Youngstown Ohio, thanks for being here!” and launched into the first song. He seemed to forget the lyrics after the first line of the song, but instead of powering through and going to the next line, he stopped the song and cracked a joke about the mistake. He noted that it was better to acknowledge the mistake and fix it, saying “It’s like when you go to a sandwich shop and you order turkey on a sandwich but instead they give you fish and it’s just not as good.” The song was restarted, and the night was back on track.

Anthony LaMarca (Vocals, Guitar) & Dean Anshutz (Drums), The Building
Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

There is a bit of a wistful feeling to these songs, perhaps owing to the fact that the drums were rarely used throughout the set. Watching Carlson play the bass grants a new appreciation for how precise each note needs to be. There is also a mellowness to the songs that feels a bit like quiet reflections in musical form. The soothing mood of the music would pair well with The Paper Kites on a relaxation playlist. 

Midway through the show, LaMarca stopped to chat with the audience. He noted that this was their first time in Phoenix and then asked if anyone had any dogs. Surprisingly, only one person indicated she did, and they had a conversation about the three dogs she owned. The latest album is named after LaMarca’s dog Petra, a German shepherd. There is a story on their website about the name of the record and his dog Petra, and it is one we highly recommend reading.

As the night drew to a close, LaMarca announced the final song as “Peace’s Eternal Truth Renews All,” or “PETRA”. Each of the songs off of the latest album are quite personal, as he has battled Multiple Myeloma twice in the past few years and this was written and recorded during his latest battle, but PETRA feels more personal than the others. As the last notes faded, the show ended, and the few of us fortunate enough to be there made our way up the stairs and back into the alley in downtown Phoenix. Watching LaMarca and The Building in such a small venue is not an opportunity that should be taken for granted. All members of the band are extremely talented, and as such, the music was excellent.

The Building Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

The Building & Heather Woods Broderick – Valley Bar 11-13-19

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: DIVISIONS — STARSET Takes Us on a Journey Through the Future

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 5
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    5
    Shares

Released on September 13th, 2019, DIVISIONS is the third studio album by STARSET. Fronted by Dustin Bates, STARSET is known for their elaborate shows and their detailed, cinematic rock albums. To watch STARSET live is to watch a spectacle of light and sound that leaves you in awe. There is an augmented reality app, aptly titled STARSET, that was first meant to be used during the live concert. This has since been updated to have some functions outside of the concert setting. During the “Immersion: Part One” tour, Bates and his bandmates wore spacesuits. Bates, in fact, has a significant tie to space: he was a teacher at the International Space University Space Study Program at one point, and has solidified his image of being both an extremely imaginative and talented musician and an accomplished scientist.

DIVISIONS — set on Earth in 2049, in a dystopian future that involves mind control via an implant. Four music videos were released in the lead-up to the album release: “MANIFEST,” “WHERE THE SKIES END” “STRATOSPHERE,” and “DIVING BELL.” Watching them helps understand the story behind the album, which in turn is linked to their show.

You do not listen to Starset —
you experience them.

As you travel through the journey that is DIVISIONS, you will hear more than just the songs. “WHERE THE SKIES END,” for example, is bookended by audio clips from a video called “A New Horizon” that played at the 1939 Worlds Fair in New York. The name of the exhibit was “Futurama,” and was a vision of the future – a future that came true in many ways. Ronald Reagan can be heard in “STRATOSPHERE,” taken from a speech he gave in 1987 to the UN about war, in which he said “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing a threat…From outside this world.

The first track is only Bates speaking with synth playing, building until the end of the song. “A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FUTURE” lays out the rest of the album:

This place is a desert for the mind
Devoid of emotion and barren of thought
No real thought, at least
It’s no surprise
Most minds here have long since atrophied from lack of use
They wait in flatline for the next rushing jolt of synthetic stimulation
The real world can’t compare, even if it were allowed to
Contemplating the real world leads to seeing the world for what it is: a prison... (Continues)

MANIFEST” is a mix of heavy rock riff and poppy sounding choruses. It leaves you off balance a little, though it is a very enjoyable song, and it just takes a couple of listens to get used to the genre switch. It showcases the genius of Bates: as the music switches between rock and pop, the lyrics describe a love that seems to be a bit unstable:

Every time I’m onto you
You change it up‚ you always do

The song ends with a cadence of crashing guitars and drums, leaving the listener with a second or two of silence to regroup a bit before the synth beginning of “ECHO”.

“Echo” is a symphonic song, soaring behind lyrics that seem to be steeped in Greek Mythology. From the mention of the Odyssey at the beginning, up to and including the lyrics:

I call and I can hear you sing
But oh, it’s only my echo
It’s only my echo

In Greek Mythology, Echo was cursed by Hera to only be able to repeat the last words that another would speak. She met, and fell in love with Narcissus, who fell in love with himself. That ended rather poorly for both of them. The song seems to be more than just the story of Narcissus, it indeed seems to be told from the viewpoint of a narcissist:

I thought it was destiny
I was gonna conquer the sky
Then plummet to the ground and be
Anchored by your side
But when every time I found myself upon new heights
I would climb again and leave you in the moonlight

It should be noted that the person referred to here followed the singer silently for most of the song, so the accusation of giving up early toward the end rings quite false. It is, again, a well-crafted song by Bates.

WHERE THE SKIES END” seems to be a near defiant look at the future, a musing that is sung over music that alternates between a heavy riff and synth. The lyrics speak of the change between the current and the previous generations — one that could possibly apply to today as well:

These aren’t the dreams of our fathers
There’ll be no wishing on stars
We are the sons and the daughters
Let them come test who we are

PERFECT MACHINE” is far more synth heavy, the music slowing down a bit, and seems to be a tragic song in some ways. In the first verse it becomes quite apparent the protagonist is not exactly the nicest person in this scenario; in fact, they sound downright manipulative:

And if I bend just right
I can make it
I didn’t want you
I wanna watch you change
From a butterfly and into chains

By the end of the song, the subject seems like they have reached the point where they have acknowledged their faults and are trying to protect the other person from them. 

As the outro plays, you can hear what sounds like a subway, or perhaps a bus station, and a disembodied voice in the background repeating propaganda. It is a masterful touch to remind you that this is set in a dystopian future

TELEKINETIC” is absolutely connected to “A Brief History Of The Future”. This is a heavy, heavy song, reaching past the rock genre and going into the metal, with a scream punctuating the song. One cannot help but to be reminded of the band RED during this song. Bates weaves in a comparison of being a puppet and voodoo, and in between it all, the mention of the hit of the chemicals in the brain that popped in the first song.

Fake
I’m just a puppet in your play
You pull the strings and I obey
High, that oxytocin hit me just right there
It’s counterfeit
Zombie, zombie, could it be a hex?

As the song ends, as your ears are possibly still ringing, “STRATOSPHERE” starts. This is the first true pop rock song on the album. In the first half, the drum kick is the heaviest element of the song, unless you listen closely to the lyrics. It is indeed a beautiful, tragic song; a song of longing and missing someone that you once loved.

There is duality between “STRATOSPHERE” and “FAULTLINE,” with the latter sounding more like a sarcastic, angry song about a hurt partner pushing back against the other in the relationship:

First you gotta know
How to play the victim
Hate to tell you so
But you repeat the symptoms like an aftershock
And I only want to make it stop

It is such a sharp contrast in music style and lyrics that it feels out of place, and yet it will resonate with anyone who has ever gone through a rough breakup, and indeed with anyone leaving an abusive relationship.

SOLSTICE” has a bit of a heavy sound to it, with a great beat with some EDM behind it, though it quickly becomes very repetitive. Musically it’s a great song, lyrically it leaves one wanting more. It is the least impactful song on the album, though it is still an enjoyable song musically.

TRIALS” is, quite simply, a song of defiance — a story of looking straight into the teeth of the darkest days and triumphing. Set over a driving drumbeat, it is another song that reminds me a bit of RED and moves closer to metal and away from rock. 

WAKING UP” shares the same kind of driving drumbeat, though the message changes quite a bit. There is a near EDM feel to this song as well, and seems to be more about the message of someone throwing off the mind control device. It is truly enjoyable, though there is some repetition.

OTHER WORLDS THAN THESE” is one of the most enjoyable songs on this album, both in music and in message. There are many concepts being explored here, one of which is a mind that has been awakened and is now contemplating the vastness of the universe, and that there may indeed be other worlds out there.

DIVING BELL” is a beautifully juxtaposed song. It feels relaxed, but has an urgent question

If I stare into the abyss
Will it stare into me?  

It is not often that you witness the process of living with depression and trying to push away from those who love you. It is a perfect end to one of the most well-put-together albums of 2019.

STARSET is amidst their “DIVISIONS: 2019” tour in support of this album, and unsurprisingly, the show looks just as incredible as previous tours. Finishing the U.S. leg of the tour in Newport, KY, they will be embarking on a European leg starting February 8th, 2020.

View tour dates: HERE

Get the album, allow your imagination to take you on the journey that STARSET has laid out before you, and then go see them live.
You will not regret it.

STARSET Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter
Instagram | YouTube


REVIEW: Surviving — Jimmy Eat World’s Subtle Masterpiece

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Released on October 18th, Surviving is the tenth studio album by Jimmy Eat World. Available in every imaginable format; it can be streamed, purchased as a download, a CD, vinyl pressing, and if you really wanted to throw it way back (as frontman Jim Adkins loves to do) it can be found as a cassette tape. Surviving is an expertly crafted journey, one that explores the time Adkins spent battling depression and self-doubt. There are ten songs on the record — a theme, perhaps, given the release in the tenth month of the year.

From the first notes of the driving guitars, before the kick of the drums, before the ever-recognizable voice of Adkins kicks in, it is apparent that this will be familiar but new ground. The first lines of the title track “Surviving” appear to confirm this:

Don’t hide your face, what you were before
it doesn’t have to be you anymore

The song “Surviving” could be considered a confrontation of sorts. One could interpret it as the singer confronting his past, and simultaneously the listener could perceive it as a confrontation of their own past. It is relatable in every line, and because of that, powerful.

“Criminal Energy” was my favorite to watch live at the Crescent Ballroom a few weeks ago, and the album version is just as good, if not somewhat muted compared to the live version. That is not to say it is bad in any way; rather, this is a song that is designed to get the blood pumping and the crowd dancing. And it is delightful — Adkins’ voice soaring behind the crashing guitars and drums. Just as quickly as it comes, it fades to a softer, slower song in “Delivery”.

While “Delivery” is paced more slowly than “Criminal Energy”, it is deep. There is a subtle beauty in the lyrics, an essence of yearning for the love of the years gone by. This is the genius of Adkins: the ability to relate to each listener even without meeting them, and to draw a picture in such a way that they don’t always realize the scope of the art. 

Adkins continues this in “555”. The art could be lost if you got lost wading through the shock that longtime Jimmy Eat World fans will undoubtedly feel: the shock of a song that sounds more like it came from M83. However, it fits with the message from this song so very well. The expectation of Adkins, and in turn Jimmy Eat World, is that there will be an album that sounds much like what has been done before. There is a danger in that expectation, and it is daring to break it. That is exactly what they do, with synth clapping as the backing and one of the oddest and yet entertaining videos you will ever see.

“One Mil” starts the ramp up back into the heavier songs on the album. The story of wasted chances will resonate with the masses, though I would argue that most of them have never fallen for a camera girl.

Camera girl, you still there?
If I look you’ll disappear
Worse, you might wanna talk
I’m so underprepared

To some it is the classic story of the introvert attempting to find love and upon finding a chance at it, wasting it. To others, it is like a remnant of teenage love, which we would all like to think that we eventually grow out of.

Wish I had mastery of wit, luck and fearless confidence
Then shred majestically to your heart

This story changes in “All The Way (Stay)”, a song that is raw, raw in sound and lyrics, the clang of a guitar and then the echo of a snare drum your only companions at first. It is not comfortable in the first 30 or so seconds, and that discomfort draws you in to listen to lyrics like:

 We get discouraged by the pointlessness
And we’re pretty quick to judge things pointless
There’s what I want and what I need
And the latter takes a while to see

Behind it all, you realize that this is again urging the listener to show who they really are, to allow others, or possibly just one other, to see under the layers where you hide. While the song starts with a crashing drum that may force you to shift uneasily, by the end you will find yourself swaying to the catchy beat and powerful vocals. It is a great lead into a song that has a far more comfortable feel, “Diamond”.

“Diamond” is the song you didn’t know you needed to help you through a really rough time. Hopes, dreams and careers take time, and it’s easy to want to take the easy way out and get a quick payout. After over a quarter of a century playing with Jimmy Eat World, Adkins can say with the utmost confidence in the lyrics:

That’s how a diamond grows, yeah
Give yourself the right chance over time
Don’t believe them
If they try to sell you something quicker, yeah

This theme extends to “Love Never”, where Adkins vocals are on display second only to “555”. This is another life lesson, this time a reminder about love, set over a near frantic beat. Depending on your stage in life, it either serves as a warning for those who still romanticize the ideal love and the idea that cute, fat angels will shoot you with an arrow shortly before you meet the perfect match, or a reminder that love looks a whole lot more like you summoning the strength to not murder your partner for not picking their socks up. At any rate, it is a fantastic, underrated song on this album. 

“Recommit” feels like something that all of us have wanted to sing, or yell really, at that one person in our lives who sits on the fence when push comes to shove. To some, the music may feel a little underwhelming in comparison to the rest of the tracks. However, one can appreciate its beachy pop revivalist vibe that flows and ebbs from the verses to the contrasting heavier chorus that barrels in between them.

The album closes out with “Congratulations”, a song that seems so far out of place that it is a bit jarring. Unlike much of the rest of the album, this seems to almost take a political stance, with lyrics such as:

Suspiciously, through editing
The facts are disappearing
With discipline and message
You’ll take awkward possession
Of nothing you really wanted
Welcome, congratulations

The defiance and air of dissonance present throughout the rest of the album melts into the background, as sarcasm seems to run rampant in this unusual and yet enjoyable song. It should also be noted that Davey Havok of AFI and Dreamcar lent his vocals to this song, something subtle you can pick up on once you know to listen for him.

Surviving is an incredibly solid album overall. It harkens back to the energy we all bore witness to in the fantastic journey that was Bleed American (later re-released as Jimmy Eat World). Adkins is a master of self-awareness, weaving life lessons into the verses in much the same way a master weaver would work threads into a rug. While the frontman has been given much praise in this review, the entirety of the band deserves recognition for this album. While it is the norm for the music world to decide to try to build an architectural masterpiece like the Empire State Building, often falling far short of that lofty goal, Adkins and his bandmates decided to build a comfortable mansion in the Midwest overlooking a lake. The band succeeded in doing exactly what they set out to do, giving the world a sometimes odd but overall enjoyable work that will stand the test of time.

Featured photo (top) by Oliver-Halfin


REVIEW: AWOLNATION Conquers the Coliseum at AZ State Fair (10-23-19)

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

PHOENIX — AWOLNATION returned to Phoenix after a nearly year long absence, playing at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum for the first time. The energy and the noise that AWOLNATION brought with them felt like it would bring down the Coliseum. AWOLNATION took a bit of a break from touring in 2019, only playing a total of four concerts all year thus far. This does not mean they sat back and took a year off; rather, they used this time to record. A teaser clip of “The Best” was released on social media on October 15th, and it will be released on November 5th. Next year’s tour dates should be released soon, and per frontman Aaron Bruno, will include another stop in Phoenix. (UPDATE: Despite Bruno’s comments during the concert, Phoenix was not included when the tour dates were announced.)

The Arizona State Fair concert series are unique in that they are shorter, are often only a single band and under an hour and a half in length. AWOLNATION only needed 70 minutes to nearly shake the roof off the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. There was a small crowd on hand when the lights dimmed and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” started to play. Halfway through, it was cut short by the start of “Run”, creating a juxtaposition of the peaceful and the loud, of the lyrics, “And I think to myself what a wonderful world,” and, “I am a human being, capable of doing terrible things.” It was attention-grabbing. it was jarring. It was fantastic.

AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

There are very few artists who can control the energy of an audience like Bruno does. He spoke to the crowd throughout the show, inviting them to dance right before launching into “Hollow Moon (Bad Woof)”. Right after finishing up “Kill Your Heroes”, he announced that he, “Came to party with you tonight!”, as the first notes of “People” were being played. It was indeed a party, a dance party to be precise: “We’re trying to throw a dance party tonight! I’m looking for the best dancer in the building, someone doing something I’ve never seen before!”

If one were to scan the crowd while “Not Your Fault” was playing in the moments after that pronouncement, they would find the old and the young doing everything they could to show him something that he had not seen before. He slowed the dance party down from an all-out frenetic dance to what he called a “perfect opportunity to have an old school slow dance” with Table for One” — a slower track that lends itself to just that.

Aaron Bruno (Vocals), Michael Goldman (Bass), Isaac Carpenter (Drums), AWOLNATION
Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

AWOLNATION did not keep the energy down for long, quickly bringing it back up with “Miracle Man”. Bruno had another request midway through this song: “I want everybody to jump with me. You don’t have to, but it’d be a lot cooler if you did.” In a matter of seconds the stands were shaking.

Zach Irons (Guitar), AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

While much of the focus is on Bruno and his ability to connect and energize the fans, it is very important to note that the rest of the band is incredibly talented. In fact, Bruno seemed to insist that we recognize this, stepping out of the spotlight a couple of times so the entire focus was on the band. The first was “The Buffoon”, a song that starts slow and works the tempo up until one must wonder if it is humanly possible for Isaac Carpenter to play the drums much faster. The second was for a cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, with Zach Irons absolutely shredding on the guitar, leaving many mouths agape.

The show ended with “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!”, played for the first time in concert since mid-2017, and finally Bruno looking out at the crowd and saying, “So. What should we do now?” “Sail”, of course. The song that really introduced the world to AWOLNATION closed out this incredible show.

If you missed out on this concert, fear not. AWOLNATION made it very clear that they will be back next summer, and you will not want to miss this one. Keep an eye out for the tour announcement, and buy your tickets to see this amazing band as soon as they go on sale.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

AWOLNATION – Arizona State Fair 10-23-19

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Jimmy Eat World Launches “Surviving” Era with Hometown Show at Crescent Ballroom (10-6-19)

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

PHOENIX — Jimmy Eat World announced on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on October 1, 2019 that they would be playing a hometown show at Crescent Ballroom in support of their 10th and newest studio album “Surviving”, which will be released a couple of weeks later on October 18th. The tickets went on sale at the same time the show was announced, and those lucky enough to be on social media at that time managed to snag a ticket or two to what would turn out to be one of the most incredible shows the valley would see in 2019. The opener was Gabriel Sullivan, a Tucson native who also was playing in support of a new album, his 4th: Black Crow, released on September 27th this year.

Gabriel Sullivan

Crescent Ballroom in Downtown Phoenix was less than half full when Sullivan took the stage, his band playing a nearly ethereal opening few notes with the stage bathed in blue light before he bounded onto the stage. Gabriel has a passing resemblance to a younger Eddie Money, his low, growling voice reminiscent of Nick Cave, with a sound that would be at home in a Quentin Tarantino movie. He is, in short, what one would think of if someone mentioned music that sounded like the desert.

By the time the final note had played, he had the crowd’s rapt attention and had many heads bobbing along to the music. Mid show, he raised a can and talked about how incredible it was to open “for your hometown heroes, Jimmy Eat World!” He also made mention of Casey Golden, who had played in the lounge before the show and told everyone to grab the record of a fellow Tucson native.

Jimmy Eat World

 As the stage was prepared for Jimmy Eat World, the anticipation in the crowd built, with a near electric feeling prevalent in the room. Finally, the time came for the band to take the stage, with frontman Jim Adkins wasting no time in starting the show: “Howdy y’all! We’re Jimmy Eat World from Mesa, and this is Surviving!”. The title track off of the upcoming record had a retro sound and yet was brand new. This was the magic of the evening; 21 songs, some new, some old, all sounding timeless and explosive.

Jimmy Eat World just reached 25 years as a band, a milestone that is no small feat, and in that quarter of a century of existence they have released nine records with Surviving being the tenth. To say that they have released some incredible songs over those years would be an understatement, and many songs have resonated with fans in various stages of life. To that end, as past hits such as “Pain”, “Sweetness” and “The Middle” played, Adkins’ face would light up as the fans sang every single word back to him, matching his passion and his energy. Very little time was spent talking to the audience, but every word he said was full of gratitude. Repeatedly, he would wait until the applause died down and would say, “Thank you so much!” At one point, while wiping sweat off his face, he told the audience, “you guys are fantastic. It’s just better when we have our fans.

Jimmy Eat World
| Photo courtesy of Nate Wert

Seven of the songs on the expansive setlist were from Surviving. “All The Way (Stay)” and “Love Never” were already familiar to much of the audience, as they were singles that were released when the album was announced on September 23rd. Others, like “Surviving”, “Criminal Energy” and “555” were new and well-received, with the latter two being heavy, and yet soaring songs, a sound that has traces of “Integrity Blues” and traces of the time Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who produced the album, spent with Nine Inch Nails.

Jimmy Eat World has played many venues all over the world, from the majestic Red Rocks in Colorado, to the enormous music festivals such as Kaaboo Del Mar in San Diego and the massive Rock am Ring in Germany. They can, and do, sell out massive amphitheaters, and yet they appear to still be in awe when they return to their hometown and play a concert in a cozy venue such as the Crescent Ballroom.

Saw some old friends. Made some new friends. Pretty solid afternoon. 🙏@rockamringofficial #rockamring

Posted by Jimmy Eat World on Friday, June 1, 2018


The respect they have for the fans could be witnessed multiple times throughout the night. After “Bleed American” Jim asked the audience to give themselves a hand because “That was really cool!”. Later on he would thank the Crescent Ballroom for allowing them to play, and announced, “We’ll be on Jimmy Kimmel next Thursday! Is it Thursday? It might be Thursday.” As the last notes of “The Middle” were still fading away, members of the band shook the hands of the fans in the front of the stage, gave some high fives, and thanked everyone for coming out again.

One of the coolest parts of the night did not happen on stage. Rather, it happened by the merch booth, where Adkins stood and took pictures and talked to fans up until the point Gabriel Sullivan took the stage. Jimmy Eat World came from a Phoenix music scene that was rough in the 90s, and rose to the top of the nationwide charts. However, as this show proved, they have not and will never forget their roots. This show was a love letter of sorts, a thank you to the fans in their hometown.

There will be a Surviving listening event on October 18, with a Zia Records/Jimmy Eat World pop-up shop, while DJ Chelsey Louise (of Fairy Bones) spins emo classics at Arizona Wilderness. Don’t miss it!

It’s finally here. Can’t wait for you guys to give this a spin. #Surviving #vinyl https://smarturl.it/Surviving

Posted by Jimmy Eat World on Wednesday, October 9, 2019