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REVIEW: Snoop Dogg Makes Show a Personal Block Party at The Van Buren (12-11-19)

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PHOENIX — This past August, Snoop Dogg released his 15th studio album: I Wanna Thank Me. In the now 27 years since he first burst onto the scene alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop has never slowed down. He’s never stopped hustling, he’s never stopped releasing bomb-ass albums, and he’s never left the conversation for the greatest rapper alive. Simply put, Snoop is timeless and is a true hip-hop living legend. Now out on the “I Wanna Thank Me” tour with support from Trae The Truth, RJMrLA, and Warren G, Snoop brings his own personal party to every city he plays. To see him at The Van Buren, though, offered a rare chance to see him up close and personal: a megastar in a more intimate setting. 

Trae The Truth

Trae The Truth

Touring in support of his just-released album Exhale, Houston hip-hop veteran Trae the Truth opened the show. His rapid-fire chopper-style vocals, which date back in hip-hop to Kool Moe Dee’s days with the Treacherous Three, got the crowd moving. Throughout his 20-minute set, the bass in his tracks was like a hip-hop defibrillator. “Long Live The Pimp,” his 2012 collaboration with Future, was one of the high points in the set. With the rest of the night putting a spotlight on the West Coast, Trae’s Texas flavor was the perfect counterbalance.    

RJMrLA

RJMrLA

Brought out by DJ Goofy, the Los Angeles-born RJ (sometimes RJMrLA) rode the wave of momentum with the crowd, as he put his new spin on West Coast hip-hop. His opening track “On One” from his recently released Oh God, featured the line “I was taught to fear no one,” which feels like it should be RJ’s mantra. If “On One” was the ignition, “Flex” from his 2013 debut O.M.M.I.0 3 was the blast-off. Hip-hop is about the boast, and “Flex” was the ultimate boast in his short but explosive set.   

Warren G

Warren G

It is incredible enough to see one legend in Snoop Dogg live in concert, but to have Warren G as one of the openers is an undeniable bonus and a rap fan’s dream come true. His debut album, 94’s Regulate… G Funk Era was an instant classic of West Coast hip-hop. Even 25 years after its release, Warren G still has the same smooth vocals that made him an immediate star, and they were on display throughout his 30-minute set. Opening with “This D.J.” from his debut, the crowd jumped on the hook, “It’s kind of easy when you’re listening to the G-Dub sound/Pioneer speakers bumpin’ as I smoke on a pound.” 

With the crowd feeling it, he immediately launched into “Do You See,” with the crowd again singing along, as they waved their hands from side to side. Missing from the song was the departed Nate Dogg, Warren G’s long-time collaborator and friend. His presence hung over many of the songs, and he was honored by both Warren G and Snoop Dogg (the three started out together in the hip-hop group 213 in 1990). 

Warren G
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

A late-set request from the audience brought one of the night’s more spontaneous highlights. Following “Summertime in the LBC,” he asked the crowd if anyone had a lighter, and as soon as the words left his mouth, the stage was instantly showered with lighters thrown from every spot in the crowd. Jumping out of the way of a seemingly steady stream, he laughed and reminded the crowd he just needed one. He retrieved one of the lighters, and after lighting up, he tossed it back to its owner, a man named Luke. “Luke? Like Luke Skywalker,” he asked the man, before leading the crowd in an impromptu acapella sing-along of 2 Live Crew’s “We Want Some Pussy,” before launching into 213’s “Mary Jane.” 

Following “Nobody Does It Better,” Warren G closed out his set with the timeless “Regulate.” If hip-hop has a list of greatest sing-along songs, “Regulate” would be high on that list. When it came time for Nate Dogg’s vocals, instead of just playing it from the track, the crowd sang his parts, with prompting by Warren G. It may be celebrating its 25th birthday, but the song sounded as good as ever and was the best way he could close out his set. 

Snoop Dogg

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Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica
© All Rights Reserved

You may have seen some artists you truly love live in concert and felt that surge of excitement when they walked out to start their set, but Snoop Dogg is a certified living legend. When we talk about a person who is exceptional in any field, oftentimes they are described as a “rock star,” which instantly denotes that they have that certain extra something that defies simple categorization or explanation. Have no doubt about it, Snoop is a rock star, and when he came to the stage at The Van Buren, he did it with a swagger many of us wish we could have in our day-to-day lives. When Snoop came out, with his blinged microphone in hand, the atmosphere in the room instantly changed. While some people can make a party, Snoop is the party. 

Opening with “What U Talkin’ Bout” from his recently released 15th studio album I Wanna Thank Me, from which the tour got its name, the energy in the room instantly changed. The new songs stood proudly alongside the classics from across his career, and what commenced for the remainder of the evening was a party, Snoop style.

Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

His stage set up, with DJ Premium flanked on both sides by picnic tables and a large fire hydrant in front of his table, was immediately reminiscent of a block party, and that was the vibe Snoop brought upon his entrance. However, this wasn’t just any block party – this was Snoop Doggy Dogg’s block party. So in addition to those picnic tables and fire hydrant were two poles, each positioned at the far edges of the stage, with dancers on them on and off throughout the night. 

In his set, Snoop mixed his own songs with verses from his many guest appearances on other rappers’ tracks. His set was a mix of nearly every hit in his long career. His work with Dre was hit early, with “Next Episode” and  “Nothin’ But A ‘G’ Thang’” played back to back. His groundbreaking debut Doggystyle was best represented with “The Shiznit,” “Ain’t No Fun” (with Warren G coming back out to drop his verse), “Gin and Juice,” and “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” all making appearances in the set. “Countdown,” “P.I.M.P.” (his 2003 collaboration with 50 Cent), and “Sexual Eruption” were all set highlights. 

As he closed out his main set with “Snoop’s Upside Ya Head,” D.J. Premium told Snoop that since he didn’t have time to cover all of his hits in one night, he would play a mix of them, while Snoop took a break. With Snoop off the stage for a moment, Premium cut a mix of The Doggfather’s hits and guest appearances on other rappers’ tracks, while video snippets played on the screen behind him. 

After ten minutes, Snoop re-emerged and started his encore with “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” his 2004 hit. Following it up with “Snoop Dogg (What’s My Name Part 2)”  and “Take Me Away,” he then blew the roof off with his verse from D.J. Khalid’s “All I Do Is Win,” which for a crowd already hype, it was little an extra shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. 

Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

While “All I Do Is Win” is the perfect track to summarize Snoop’s career of hit after hit record, he wasn’t there just to remind the crowd of his greatness. On a tour named to celebrate his long career and with a multi-generational; multicultural crowd of fans there to help him do so, Snoop turned the attention away from himself and shined a spotlight on the many friends and contemporaries lost over the years, sharing his love for those lost with the crowd who loved them too. His mini-tribute set, included love for Eazy-E (“Boyz In The Hood”), Notorious B.I.G. (“Hypnotize”), and Tupac (“Gangsta Party”). 

The most poignant moment on a night that took time to honor so many gone-but-not-forgotten hip-hop legends came when Snoop honored his dear friend Nipsey Hussle with a moment of silence, while a video tribute to him played. Following this moment of silence, Snoop hit his verse from K2 Tun’s “One Love” for everyone lost. 

Snoop returned to the party atmosphere of the night, as he moved to close out the show with “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?,” his debut single from Doggystyle. “I love you Phoenix, and Snoop Dogg will keep coming back here any motherfucking time you want me to!” Though he didn’t play “I Wanna Thank Me,” the song is about honoring yourself for the positives and appreciating hard work and accomplishments. Over the 27 years since he first gained national attention with his verse on Dr Dre’s “Deep Cover (187)” in 1992 and across 15 albums, Snoop has earned every accolade and every bit of love the crowd gave to him and that he gave back. 

Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Phoenix, we about to get out of here, but before we go, sing along with me,” he implored, as he closed out his set with his 2011 collaboration with Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars “Young, Wild, and Free.” If any song should be hip-hop’s answer to any number of show-closing ballads from across the history of pop music, it’s “Young, Wild, and Free.” After 27 years, Snoop Dogg is an institution, still the gold-standard for what it means to be eternally cool, and his music will always serve as a fountain of youth for his audience. To see Snoop live is to be transported to a place where the party never stops and the vibes are always good because Snoop is the party from the moment he steps on stage to when he steps off of it.

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Photographer: Andrea Stoica

Snoop Dogg – The Van Buren 12-11-19

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Setlist

  • “What You Talkin’ ‘Bout?”
  • “Next Episode” (Dr. Dre cover)
  • “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” (Dr. Dre cover)
  • “Countdown”
  • “P.I.M.P.” 
  • “The Shiznit”
  • “Wrong Idea” 
  • “Focused” 
  • “Sexual Eruption” 
  • “I Wanna Love You” (AKON cover)
  • “D.O.G.’s Get Lonely 2”
  • “Smile Bitch” (Lil Duval cover)
  • “Ain’t No Fun” (with Warren G)
  • “I’m Fly” (with Warren G)
  • “Snoop’s Upside Ya Head” 

ENCORE

  • “Drop It Like It’s Hot” 
  • “Snoop Dogg (What’s My Name Part 2)” 
  • “Take Me Away” 
  • “All I Do Is Win” (DJ Khalid cover)
  • “Boyz In The Hood” (NWA cover)
  • “Hypnotize” (Notorious BIG cover)
  • “Gangsta Party” (Tupac cover)
  • “Gin and Juice” 
  • Nipsey Hussle Tribute
  • “One Love” (K2 Tun cover)
  • “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” 
  • “Young, Wild, and Free” (Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa cover)



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

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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)

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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

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

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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.

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Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-23-19

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
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REVIEW: The Building Brings Soothing Vibes to Downtown Phoenix Bar (11-13-19)

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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

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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

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

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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.

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Photographer: Andrea Stoica

AWOLNATION – Arizona State Fair 10-23-19

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REVIEW: Aesthetic Perfection’s Heavy Sonics Nearly Bring Down Seattle Bar (10-15-19)

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SEATTLE — For nearly two decades, producer Daniel Graves’ attention-grabbing and infectious industrial pop project, Aesthetic Perfection, has defied the world’s demands for definitions by blending genres and reinventing what it means to be a dark electro artist.

Last year, Aesthetic Perfection announced the “Into The Black World Tour 2019” to support their fifth studio album, Into The Black. The European leg of the tour commenced in the month of April in the UK, and the North American leg began in the beginning of September in San Diego. For the second date of this leg, they performed in Mesa, AZ — home of Burning Hot Events. Aesthetic Perfection’s North American tour made one of its last stops at Highline Bar with supporting acts Empathy Test and LAZERPUNK.

LAZERPUNK

LAZERPUNK, from Budapest, set an apropos dark and gritty tone, with electronic music so heavy that it feels like it resonates with your flesh and courses through your veins. The intensity of the music, especially as it was coming from just one man wearing an Adidas baseball cap, was nearly beyond comprehension.

LAZERPUNK
| Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Stepping into the environment of the club that night and being smacked with the power of these beats was like being dragged into an alternate universe. It was easily a reminder of why so many of us go out to industrial shows for the cathartic experience — communally flipping a switch that turns on a stifled side of our souls that is screaming and clawing to get out and rage during the mundane day-to-day, as we dismally watch our world socially and environmentally corrode around us. It is here we are uplifted, escape, and achieve balance in a combination of commiseration, unadulterated passion for music, and unjudged embracement of our dark, but not necessarily evil, sides.

Empathy Test

With Isaac Howlett’s British vocals that feel longing and aching, and an ethereal touch, synthwave act Empathy Test has no doubt drawn some associations to Depeche Mode innumerable times. As a blend of 80s sci-fi soundtracks, 90s guitar bands, and modern underground dance as influences, they are a duo in the studio (Howlett and producer Adam Relf), and currently a trio performing live. The beautiful thing about electronic music, as demonstrated by LAZERPUNK and Empathy Test, is that something so big can come from so few people. With the aid of Angel Metro on keys and Christina “Chrisy” Lopez on drums, the trio pulled the entranced audience at Highline into a galaxy of emotion. In between songs, Howlett brought some levity back to the room with charming, good-humored banter. Teeming with talent, Empathy Test are also responsible for their breathtaking artwork.

Isaac Howlett (Vocals), Empathy Test
| Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Aesthetic Perfection

When Aesthetic Perfection hit the stage, it wasn’t long before the integrity of the building structure was tested as the crowd unapologetically jumped with such force the floor could be felt bouncing under your feet — admittedly not the most comforting feeling when you’re on the second story of a building.

Daniel Graves (Vocals), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Consisting of the aforementioned vocalist and programmer Graves, Elliott Berlin on keys/guitar/bass, infamous drummer Joe Letz (formerly of Combichrist and a slew of other industrial bands), this trio contrasted Empathy Test with deliciously harsh aggrotech.

The band added a delightfully creative “speed dating” VIP upgrade experience for this tour in which fans got a guarantee to interact with every band number. Additionally, the package included a signed setlist, signed polaroid, signed poster, and VIP laminate — basically all of the essentials that any diehard fan is going to want to collect from a show, and a really smart offer on the band’s part to turn a profit on their tour.

Daniel Graves (Vocals), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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The diversity of Graves’ vocal techniques shine in sexy transitions between a vicious growl and a timbre that might be described as an approximate blend of Jay Godon (Orgy) and the late Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) — this vocal flux is exemplified in the track “Ebb and Flow”; there is a broody and agonizing cover of ‘NSync’s “Bye Bye Bye” (featuring guitarist Nikki Misery of New Years Day) in which he hits an impressively powerful high note with chest voice at the bridge, a beautiful falsetto in the new Into the Black opening track “Gods & Gold”, and even an OTEP-like quality in the theatrical track “Dark Ages”.

Berlin jumped back and forth between instruments, with hair flying wildly to no end, and making himself an entertaining spectacle each time he climbed upon his keyboard and thrashed around amongst the rising smoke.

Elliott Berlin (Keys, Bass), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Meanwhile, Letz made apparent why his percussive skills are so acclaimed, as the vigorous force of the backing beats that he was responsible for nearly brought down the house.

Joe Letz (Drums), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Holy shit,” was the sentiment that coursed through my head all night, and near the finale of their set, Graves showed that those in the crowd were not alone in sheer awe of the magnitude of the immense energy pervading the venue, as he let out a clearly sincere, “Holy shit Seattle!

Daniel Graves (Vocals), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Aesthetic Perfection will go on to tour in Germany from October 25th through November 2nd, with alternating and combined support by Empathy Test and Iris on select dates. If you’ve lost touch, this lineup is a mind-blowing reminder of what there is to love about industrial shows, that they are alive and well, and it is still a scene worth supporting.

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by Katherine Amy Vega

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Aesthetic Perfection, Empathy Test, LAZERPUNK – Highline Bar 10-15-19

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REVIEW: Bad Religion Brings Their Age of Unreason Tour to The Van Buren (10-5-19)

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PHOENIX — Bad Religion’s concert at The Van Buren, with support from Emily Davis and The Murder Police and Dave Hause & The Mermaid, was more than just a legendary punk band giving a show at an intimate venue in support of a new album. It was a night where their legacy was felt not only in the crowd but on the stage, too.

Their recent tour is in support of the band’s 17th album, Age of Unreason, released earlier this year. The reason for the band’s longevity is that from their initial formation in 1980 and first release, 1982’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, they have stayed true to their ethos and written righteous punk anthems exploring many of the same themes recurring in our society across those 39 years. Any doubt of their staying power could be quickly dismissed with a quick sweep of the audience, where longtime fans of the band loudly sang along and pumped their fists in the air, alongside kids ranging from teenagers and younger. At one point, a father hoisted his daughter up on his shoulders, so she could rock out hard to “Generator” late in the set. 

Emily Davis and The Murder Police

The show’s opener was Emily Davis with her backing band The Murder Police, consisting of Jose Macias, Jorge Torres, and Tomas Tinajero. Davis has three previous solo releases, and is touring in support of her debut album with the band, 2018’s Same Old World. Hailing from El Paso Texas, Davis managed to flip the initial impressions given off by the country-ish twang of her vocals, as the songs would quickly explode into all out rockers. Davis describes her songs as “aggressive, introspective folk music,” which could be heard as she and her band tore through seven tracks from the new album with an intensity reminiscent of Neko Case fronting The Attractions, in place of Elvis Costello.

Emily Davis (Vocals) and The Murder Police
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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Late in her set, she told the concertgoers what an honor it was to be touring with Bad Religion, adding that her introduction to them came via Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, which means “You” from their 1989 album No Control was her introduction to the band. She closed out her set with “Circles” and the album’s title track “Same Old World.” 

Dave Hause and The Mermaid

Up next was Dave Hause and The Mermaid, and if anyone didn’t already know his music (and you should), they might have been fooled by their sound from his quick soundcheck with his band, consisting of short bursts of riffs from songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Metallica, which drew some surprising whoops of approval from the punk crowd. When Hause (pronounced like pause or cause, for the record) and the band came back out to start their set proper, he took a moment to joke with the audience that despite their appreciation for the soundcheck, they wouldn’t be hearing covers from either band. “For the rest of the night, you’ll only be hearing songs by me and Bad Religion because this is a punk show!” The crowd roared in approval (although that didn’t stop someone from yelling out for Metallica mid-set). 

Dave Hause (Vocals) & The Mermaid
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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Hause and his band are touring to support of Kick, his fourth solo album since leaving his previous band The Loved Ones in 2009. His set drew heavily from the new album, save for one track from 2017’s Bury Me In Philly. Prior to forming his backing band The Mermaid, Hause performed most of his shows solo with a guitar, bantering with the audience between songs. Since forming The Mermaid, the sound is louder, but the impromptu moments of interactions with the fans have remained.

The band features Hause´s brother Tim on lead guitar, Miles Bentley (the son of Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley) on bass, and Kevin Conroy on drums. His stellar song-writing aside, Hause shines when it comes to instantly generating a rapport with his audience. Even when he encouraged everyone to put up a middle finger and direct it towards a particular politician in Washington, and an audience member booed the moment, Hause turned the moment around to something light: “Oh, do you not agree with me? That’s okay. We’re not always going to agree, so go start your own band and write songs about why you think he’s so awesome.” The crowd (including the person who booed) laughed, and Hause tore into “Dirty Fucker.” Hause closed out his set with Kick highlight “The Ditch.” He’ll be back to Phoenix to headline in February. 

Bad Religion

Any band that’s approaching their 40th anniversary would be excused if their live shows were a serving of pure nostalgia and built a set list around the songs the audience loved from years ago. While Bad Religion managed to cover points all along their discography, what stands out the most about one of their live shows is how prescient the songs feel, with thirty-year-old songs feeling like they were a three-minute prophecy of events yet to happen. All of this is because as a band, Bad Religion has railed against the same ills of society since the band’s inception. 

Led to the stage first by drummer Jamie Miller and guitarists Brian Baker and Mike Dimkich, original members bassist Jay Bentley and singer Greg Graffin came out last. Without a word, the band launched into “Them and Us” from 96’s The Grey Race. The song hit the room like an atomic bomb and sent everyone into a frenzy of moshing and crowd surfing. Security guards at The Van Buren earned their checks over the next ninety minutes, as they caught, set down, and guided out multiple people. 

Greg Graffin (Vocals), Bad Religion
| Photographer:
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We put out a new record this year, Age of Unreason,” Graffin exclaimed after “Them and Us” faded out,  “which is #17 for those of you who are counting, and we just wanted to get back to play for you before the end of history,” setting up a track from the new album. 

“End of History” was followed up by the to-the-point “Fuck You,” from 2013’s True North. Graffin complimented The Van Buren for being the perfect rock club. “How many of you have been to a lot of shows here before?” he asked. With everyone yelling out the number of shows they’ve seen, he joked, “Well, this will be the best one you’ve ever seen here!” This was followed by “Stranger Than Fiction,” the title track from their 1994 album, which in itself laughs at the absurdity of the real world. 

They next performed “Dichotomy,” “Recipe for Hate,” and “Chaos From Within,” before Graffin paused again to survey the sea of people, noticing the range of ages staring back at him. Spotting one kid in the audience, he asked how old they were, but after being told the kid was 12 and starting to say that has to be the youngest one, another kid called out she was only nine. Laughing for a moment, Graffin said, “Well, I’ve always said it’s the kids who are our future,” which might have been a double entendre, referring to either society or the band. The show’s next fifteen minutes was a sprint through the band’s catalogue, covering songs from 1989’s No Control through the recently-released Age of Unreason.

Mike Dimkich (Guitar) & Jay Bentley (Bass), Bad Religion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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To watch a Bad Religion show, you wouldn’t instantly know how long they’ve been playing together, as they bring the same energy to every song now as punk-rock elder statesman, as they did as kids starting out. Pausing after “Automatic Man,” Graffin looked around and asked the crowd where he was. “Oh yeah, that’s right: Phoenix! No matter where we all are, this is still the new dark ages,” as they played “New Dark Ages” from 2007’s New Maps of Hell, an album whose cover art and title served as a knowing nod to their first album How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, on its then-25th anniversary. 

Taking a jab at himself, Graffin mused that he was born in the 1980’s and was only two when he wrote the next song. Guitarist Brian Baker chimed in that he was born in 1981. The song was the timeless “We’re Only Gonna Die,” from that first album, a song that shows no signs of being a now 37-year old song. It was quickly followed by “No Control,” which reignited the crowd. “Generator” and “Conquer the World” were played with the same fervor as when they were new releases.

While playing “21st Century (Digital Boy)” from their 1990 album Against the Grain, there was a moment that showed just how much their music has connected to everyone in the grade, both young and old: As the crowd sang along, a kid no more than 15 crowd surfed while screaming the lyrics “I don’t know how to read, but I got a lot of toys!” like the song was written only for him and his generation, even as he passed over the heads of men and women easily three times his age who sang it with the same energy. Bad Religion is still here because their music doesn’t age. There’s no nostalgia in their set. Songs from their debut all the way through the new album live in the moment, just as each member of the audience experienced them the first time. 

Brian Baker (Guitar, Backup Vox), Bad Religion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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We’ve reached the climax of the show, and after you’ve reached the climax, you move into a refractory period. In this moment, we want to dedicate this next song to our favorite people: You!” After the No Control classic and “Paranoid Style,” Graffin told a story about their first album: “Back in the 80’s there wasn’t a whole lot of color choices, so we chose red with the shadowy figure of Los Angeles in the background, and we asked a simple question: How could hell be any worse?” The band’s original anthem led into “Sorrow” from 2002’s The Process of Belief, which was another sing-along across the generations in the crowd. As the song closed out, each member walked off the stage one-by-one, led by Graffin. 

For the next two minutes, the fans cheered, clapped, and called out for one more song, before the band emerged for an encore. “I could get all sentimental about Phoenix,” said Graffin, “It was the second city we ever went to play a show. This song is about you and me.” The band closed out the show with “Infected” from Stranger Than Fiction, and “American Jesus” from Recipe for Hate. Before leaving the stage, they took one final moment to acknowledge the audience, pulling up their set lists and giving them to the kids in the crowd, and solidifying the next wave of fans who will continue to carry them on as a band who defies time and continues to produce powerful, relevant music that unites fans of all ages. 

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: Bad Religion | | Dave Hause & The Mermaid | Emily Davis and The Murder Police

Bad Religion, Dave Hause & The Mermaid, Emily Davis And The Murder Police – The Van Buren 10-5-19

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Bad Religion Setlist

  • “Them And Us”
  • “End of History” 
  • “Fuck You” 
  • “Stranger Than Fiction” 
  • “Dichotomy” 
  • “Recipe” 
  • “Chaos From Within” 
  • “Los Angeles Is Burning” 
  • “Anesthesia” 
  • “My Sanity”
  • “Automatic Man” 
  • “New Dark Ages” 
  • “Lose Your Head” 
  • “Suffer” 
  • “Only Gonna Die” 
  • “No Control”
  • “Modern Man”
  • “Do What You Want” 
  • “Generator”
  • “Conquer the World”
  • “21st Century (Digital Boy)”
  • “You” 
  • “Paranoid Style”
  • “Fuck Armaggedon”
  • “Sorrow”  

ENCORE

  • “Infected”
  • “American Jesus”



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Photography © Reagle Photography
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REVIEW: Game of Thrones Is Reanimated In An Immersive Live Concert Experience at Comerica Theatre (10-1-19)

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PHOENIX —  Whether you are on team Stark, Lannister, Targaryen, or that one guy that is on team Bolton, this show transported you to world of Westeros through the songs and scenes of the characters we’ve grown to love and hate. This was the third tour that graced the stages of Arizona for the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience. This time the immersive journey through the show’s music, eloquently crafted by composer Ramin Djawadi, would include the songs from the eighth and final season. The majesty of the show was slightly scaled down for this round and Djawadi was noticeably absent for the Comerica show in downtown Phoenix. Conductor Michael Sobie took the reigns for this stop of the tour and did a fantastic job coraling the myriad of instruments, but anyone expecting to see Ramin Djawadi at the helm were sadly disappointed. (See tour dates)

Michael Sobie (Conductor) with orchestra,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

As the crowd shuffled in, the anticipation was high. The room felt a little cold; maybe winter was coming. A rotation of slides featured Dragonstone, Old Town, Winterfell, The Sept (before the wildfire), and other locales developed by producers David Benioff and DB Weiss. The amplified speakers droned an ominously disturbing symphonic ambiance that was void of melody or cadence. 

The house lights dimmed. It was time. The stage was bathed in blood red light except for the iron throne in the midst of the empty orchestra seats, which was the target of a beam of light as blue as the glint off Valyrian steel in “stark” contrast to the red. Unlike the shows that hide the orchestra in the “pit”, this show revered the musicians as the protagonists as they staked claim to center stage. Yes, they were supposed to be the stars of the show, but the inanimate giant screen still upstaged them and it’s almost sad to admit that our collective eyes would be spending more time focused on the GOT scenes than on the live “band” that was breathing life into the video. That screen was now engulfed with the face of Drogon, the alpha male of Danery’s three dragons (or could it have been Viserion, they’re hard to tell apart sometimes). Fireflies of brimstone danced around his menacing stare as the musicians took their seats and tested their instruments.

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Finally the undeniable voice of Queen Cersei (actress Lena Heady) filled the room with the ground rules for the show:

“Lords and ladies, eh, peasants, thank you for joining us tonight. I know some of you have come a long way to see your queen and your obedience touches me deeply. (pause) Silence your phones. Those who violate these rules will be boiled alive in the blood of their children. I do hope you enjoy the show and if you should see me afterwards do not approach. I find contact with my subjects extremely distasteful.”

And so it began. This show kicked off with the theme song that kicks off every episode HBO series. It’s less than two minutes long and affectionately known as “Main Title,” but it is the melody that everyone could hum along to. We were warned that there would obviously be spoilers ahead and I’ll relay that sentiment that there may be spoilers coming up in this article.  Though I doubt you would have read this far if you didn’t already know that Ned Stark didn’t make it past season one. Sobie polled the audience to ask who has never seen an episode of the show and there were dozens in the audience that responded. They would be treated to a first class “Cliff Notes” introduction to the entire show.

It was obvious that the majority of the audience were on the other extreme, hadn’t missed an episode of the show, and had probably read all of the books and watched all of the behind-the-scenes footage they could find on YouTube. As the orchestra played through a medley of the house themes, there were varying intensities of cheers as the sigils on each banner crossed the screen. The montage of each house was edited to seemingly reveal all of the characters from the entire series.

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The musicians on stage were comprised of a team of seven soloists who were part of the touring cast and the rest of the orchestra and choir seats were filled by local talent in each city of the tour. There were about three dozen Phoenicians in the orchestra and fifteen in the choir. The cello that is dominantly featured throughout Djawadi’s scores was played by Cameron Stone who dressed for the part in a sleeveless robe revealing pauldron armor and a necklace reminiscent of a maester’s chain.

Cameron Stone (Cellist) with orchestra & choir,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Rock shows often feature dueling virtuoso guitarists and this experience mirrored that element with Stone on cello and his counterpart, Molly Rogers, on violin. Rogers has played with many of the top names in the music business and rose to prominence in this show suspended on wires several stories high above the stage while playing the gentle melody of “Goodbye Brother”. The video screen played season one scenes of Winterfell while Roger’s dress extended from stage to proscenium in the guise of a weirwood tree with red leaves snowing from the gridiron.

Molly Rogers (Violinist) with orchestra & choir,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The next soloists to be featured were the percussion team of Alan Mark Lightner and Davey Chegwidden. While the cello cried out a phrygian melody, a scale that the ancient Egyptians may have borrowed from the Dothraki, Lightner and Chegwidden provided the cadence on taiko and djembe for “Love In The Eyes.” Lightner was spotlighted later too as he played the hammer dulcimer for the theme dedicated to Arya Stark, “Needle.”

Nayanna Holley (Vocalist) with orchestra,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Vocalist Nayanna Holley earned her spot on center stage from a diverse resume of performances on tours and television (see her link below). Dressed in a flowing red gown, Holley delivered the second famous song of the series entitled “The Rains of Castamere,” accompanied by Hsin Huang on keys.  The lyrics for this song were actually written by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin in the book A Storm of Swords and then Djawadi later set it to a haunting melody in the key of D minor.

And who, are you, the proud Lord said,
That I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
That’s all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
A lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
As long and sharp as yours.
And so he spoke and so he spoke.
That lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
With no one there to hear. 
Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall,
And not a soul to hear.

The song packs an emotional impact to fans of the show who remember hearing the song sprinkled throughout the series, most notable at the Red Wedding. This was arguably one of the most shocking scenes of the series and we went back in time to relive it again while the orchestra intensified the already intense scenes with “The Lanisters Send Their Regards.”

Michael Sobie (Conductor), Nayanna Holley (Vocalist) with orchestra & choir,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Shifting from Westeros to Essos, we left the Lanister-Stark rift and rejoined the Daenerys Targaryens story arc for the songs “Dracarys” and “Mhysa.” The audience revealed their love of the character and Emilia Clarke, the actress who played her, as she gave the command “Dracarys” that gave Drogo the permission to burn slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz to a crisp. This song was the heavy metal segment of the setlist and the distortion on the cello sounded like a mix between a Les Paul through a Marshall stack and the spine-chilling roar of a dragon.  Pyrotechnic flame cannons erupted on stage. Exciting!

Act one continued with John Snow dying and being resurrected, the Battle of the Bastards, and then wrapped up with the first song of the series to feature piano, “The Light of the Seven.” Conductor Michael Sobie proved his skills as a pianist which is his main task when Djawadi is conducting. The video played out the entire scene of Cersei’s trial that never comes to pass. The quiet piano passages evolved into organ chord progressions inspired by the horror of The Phantom of the Opera while the Phoenix choir was voicing chilling Gregorian chants…I guess they’re actually Valyrian chants. The act ends with the green wildfire imploding the Sept and the stage filled with smoke cannons immersed in lime green illumination.

Choir, Michael Sobie (Conductor), orchestra,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Even for those who had seen the previous tours, Act Two was new. It was all carved from the episodes of season eight. There was a lot of controversy about how the series wrapped up in the final season, but there was no controversy regarding the music that was unanimously praised. The songs culled up the scenes of the reunions at Winterfell, battles on the Narrow Sea, live dragons above the clouds and undead dragons below the ice, Arya’s dagger plunge to end the war, and of course the unbridled rage of another mad Targaryan.

Djawadi captured the spirit and the tempo of this myriad of emotions in the confines of the same twelve notes used by his childhood hero Elmer Bernstein. In an HBO behind the scenes featurette, Djawadi shows the humble beginnings of this larger than life music forming in his relatively small studio. He shares his process of finding the right tones and instruments, recording them in the computer until the filming is locked, and then, he says, “I go in and record it with real musicians and I feel that’s the most rewarding thing. I still get goosebumps when I hear them play the music.”  So did we.

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

One highlight for the second act was yet another song for which George R.R. Martin started the lyrics in the book A Storm of Swords, called “Jenny of Oldstones.” The song was featured on the series as Podrick Payne sang it before the massive “dark” battle and Florence and the Machine version sounded in the closing credits. The thirteen song set ended with a reprise of the main theme and the soloists lining up at the front of the stage for a final bow. As all of the musicians ghosted off the stage, the screen once again grabbed everyone’s attention and played a slide show of all of the major and minor characters from the Game of Thrones series. Finally the epic night of music and visual stimulation moved on to become additional audio-visions that will ever enhance our memories of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Game Of Thrones Live Concert Experience – Comerica Theatre 10-1-19

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Cast for the Evening

  • Michael Sobie – Conductor, Piano
  • Nayanna Holley – Vocals
  • Cameron Stone – Cello
  • Molly Rogers – Violin
  • Alan Mark Lightner – Percussion
  • Davey Chegwidden – Percussion
  • Hsin Huang – Keyboards
  • Plus the touring cast was supported by the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra

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2019 North American Tour Dates

  • 9/6 – Toronto, ON – Budweiser Stage
  • 9/8 – Chicago, IL – Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
  • 9/10 – Boston, MA – Xfinity Center
  • 9/12 – Philadelphia, PA – The Mann
  • 9/14 – New York, NY* – Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater*
  • 9/15 – Washington, DC – Jiffy Lube Live
  • 9/20 – Jacksonville, FL – Daily’s Place
  • 9/21 – West Palm Beach, FL – Coral Sky Amphitheater
  • 9/22 – Tampa, FL – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
  • 9/24 – Alpharetta, GA – Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
  • 9/26 – Dallas, TX – The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
  • 9/27 – Houston, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
  • 9/30 – Santa Fe, NM* – Santa Fe Opera
  • 10/1 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre
  • 10/3 – San Francisco, CA – Shoreline Amphitheater
  • 10/4 – Irvine, CA* – FivePoint Amphitheater
  • 10/5 – Los Angeles, CA* – Hollywood Bowl
  • * indicates shows where Ramin Djawadi will join the traveling cast

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved


REVIEW: Saints and Sinners Celebrated in the Mosh Ring of Fire with Flogging Molly & Social Distortion at Mesa Amphitheatre (9-29-19)

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Mesa, AZ — Flogging Molly, closing their “Life is Good” tour, and Social Distortion, about to hit the studio again, put on a spectacular show of endurance and exuberance for an all ages crowd at the Mesa Amphitheatre. Together, they demonstrated that punk’s not dead, but alive and well, with new albums and more tours to come for future fans in attendance that were not even born yet.

Openers  — Le Butcherettes & The Devil Makes Three

The opening bands, Le Butcherettes and The Devil Makes Three, did a fantastic job at getting the crowd pumped and ready for the headliners. With spastic moves and strong vocals, Le Butcherettes surprised and impressed the audience with their style and polished delivery. Then, the bluegrass punk mix brought in by The Devil Makes Three brought in their excellent performance, gaining fans throughout the audience that came in early enough to be rewarded by their unusual, yet fantastic musical talents. 

Social Distortion

Social Distortion’s Mike Ness and his 40 years of rock and roll experience kept the crowd cheering and fired up during their energized performance. Early into their set, Ness thanked the openers one by one, encouraged the crowd to cheer for them, as he then also shared how the Mesa crowd was so far superior from all the other ones, especially the recent night in Las Vegas. There were nonstop mosh pits during Social Distortion’s performance, staying true to the punk tradition of chaos and high energy.  

Mike Ness (Lead Vocals), Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Halfway through the set, Ness made an announcement that their fans were ecstatic to hear by saying, “I have some great news! Social Distortion is going into the studio in January to record a new album.” Since their last album release was Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes back in 2011, the crowd went crazy. Social Distortion rewarded their fans’ loyalty with a new song called “Over You” from the not-yet-recorded new album. 

Brent Harding (Bass), Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Ness connected with the audience between every song, telling stories about his musical journey and pouring his all into each song. One of the stories that stood out the most was about an assignment he received while in high school back in September of 1980 where he was told to read about WWII. Ness, with a smile, commented that he spent that time writing a song, and shortly after he dropped out of high school because it was getting in the way of his rock and roll life. That song is called “1945”.

Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As their set was nearing its end, they were joined by band members from The Devil Makes Three and Flogging Molly for the song “Sometimes I Do”. Social Distortion closed the last stop of their tour with an appropriate song for their 40th anniversary tour; “Story of My Life”. 

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly hit the stage to end what, for them, has been long 3 years of constant touring.  Their well-deserved break will include a couple of weddings and international trips: Spencer Swain, who plays the mandolin, banjo, guitar, and vocals, is to be married within a week of the show’s end; Nathen Maxwell, who plays bass guitar and vocals, is also getting married within a week after the show; finally, band leader Dave King — their lead vocalist who plays the acoustic guitar, and bodhrán, and his wife Bridget Regan, who provides backing and lead vocals and plays the violin and tin whistle, were going on a trip to Ireland almost immediately after the show at 7:30 the next morning.

Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

King and company rocked the stage and brought a performance to Mesa that was a prime example of fun, energy, and professionalism, demonstrating their 22 years of experience and true dedication to their fans. 

A memorable moment arose in the middle of their set as King wanted to give a special shout-out to a fan that flew all the way from Tokyo, Japan, just to see them play here. King greeted this young fan, Kazu, in what seemed to be fluent Japanese, causing an explosion of cheers and clapping from the audience. Flogging Molly played one of their most popular songs, “Tobacco Road”, for this traveling fan. 

Matt Hensley (Accordion), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As Flogging Molly played the energetic, musically and lyrically powerful song “Crush,” King stopped mid-song and said, “On the last day of our tour, after 3 years without emptying our suitcases, let’s have some fun,” and started to sing “We Will Rock You” by Queen with the crowd chanting loudly, then seamlessly went back to the song “Crush”. 

King then introduced each one of the 7 Drunken Pirates, as the band members call themselves, one by one and thoroughly thanked the entire crew. He stated that after touring for years, this was the best crew they’ve ever had — “except for this asshole right there,” he jokingly said while pointing towards the backstage area without specifically singling anybody out. 

Spencer Swain (Guitar), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

“If I Ever Leave This World Alive” was their last song, powerfully and beautifully performed from the stage to a cheering crowd that didn’t want to see this show end. These fans had been gifted with phenomenal performances from two of the most recognizable punk bands of our time. 

Dave King (Lead Vocals), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As their last song came to an end, the speakers began to play the theme song of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, a British comedic classic, with their positive and uplifting message: “Always look on the bright side of life.” The stage began to fill back up with the members of Flogging Molly and The Devil Makes Three as they said goodbye to their fans, throwing guitar pics, drumsticks, playlists, and anything else they could find to give away while King waved away his fans, ready for their well-earned break.

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: Flogging Molly | Social Distortion

Flogging Molly & Social Distortion – Mesa Amphitheatre 9-29-19

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved