TEMPE, Ariz. — For a few hours on March 22nd, current and former orchestra geeks got to feel like the epitome of cool for one more night as Yellowcard wound down their 20 year career to a sold out crowd at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
After an acoustic opening set from former bassist Sean O’Donnell and a brief audio message humorously decrying the use of cell phones during the set, the house lights dimmed and Yellowcard exploded onto the stage with a fiery performance of Ocean Avenue lead off song “Way Away”. Despite setting the bar high with such a high-octane classic track, the band showed no signs of fatigue as they powered through a massive 24-song setlist featuring tracks from most of their 10-album catalogue.
While the band chose to spend the majority of their stage time blasting from song to song with scarcely enough time to breath between tracks, the few pauses afforded to the crowd were rife with a welcome wistfulness from lead singer Ryan Key as he reminisced on the band’s trajectory leading up to that night. Whether he was explaining how early shows at the Nile Theater in Mesa served to help the band cultivate their first true out-of-state fanbase, or pridefully detailing the various emotions surrounding each album, Key spoke from a place of true sincerity and love for the band which has encompassed the majority of his life.
An unassuming viewer could be easily forgiven for not realizing that Yellowcard’s performance that evening was their third to final show. Every member of the band was visibly having a great time flying around the stage with abandon as they effortlessly nailed every note. Violinist Sean Mackin in particular seemed to visibly buzz with energy as he leaped across the stage and even nailed his signature backflip from the bass cab with seemingly minimal effort. Lead guitarist Ryan Mendez was visibly having a great time playing the old songs as he added discords and dive bombs not present in the album versions, smiling ear to ear as the audience bounced up and down to the tempo.
For Yellowcard these final shows were clearly a celebration of a two-decade career still capable of churning out fantastic material, not the death toll of aging rockers far past their prime. Having loved Yellowcard since they played my junior high auditorium (seriously), it was definitely difficult to watch such an amazing set realizing it would be the last time I could do so.
However, the beauty of a band leaving on the power of their own strengths was a truly amazing site to behold, and one that every attendee will likely never forget for as long as they live.
Highlights: Despite being familiar with much more than Ocean Avenue, I truly have overlooked a great deal of Yellowcard’s albums from the middle section of their career. The sheer energy of this show has definitely lead me to further explore their discography with a newfound appreciation.
Low Points: For the first time in a long while, there truly aren’t any moments I can recall from this show that were anything other than ideal.
PHOENIX — Sundressed put on one hell of an LP release show Thursday night at The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix. I’d been anticipating the event since first hearing lead vocalist, Trevor Hedges during an unexpected acoustic performance at the Dashboard Confessional concert earlier this year. Many of you will remember the story of Chris Carrabba welcoming Hedges to the stage after Dashboard Confessional’s hit track “Stolen,” a display of vocal dexterity which was undoubtedly reminiscent of groups like Taking Back Sunday, The Starting Line, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Used and – you guessed it, Dashboard Confessional.
This was my first experience at The Rebel Lounge. I entered through a dark, narrow hallway plastered with peeling posters which wound around to the front of the merch tables where some pinback buttons featuring a colorful portrait of Sundressed guitarist, Forest Walldorf caught my eye. R&B singer-songwriter Trent (Trenton Clark) had just taken the stage and the room was filling fast. I settled in near the bar, notebook in-hand and listened closely as robust, velvety beats tingled beneath my feet.
The Rebel Lounge is an intimate venue, the kind of place that takes me back to the days of punk rock “thrash parties” in my friend’s garage. It’s a bit gritty, on the smaller side, and full of heart. Trent’s sultry, electrified beats caught me by surprise at first. I hadn’t expected to hear anything other than emo or alt-rock tonight. As Trent’s euphoric vocals melted in and out of the speakers I began to notice a slight resemblance to neo R&B duo Trak Joy, who were credited in recent years for stretching the boundaries of contemporary rhythm and blues with their “newly minted sound.” Trent’s was a quick set, but one charged with a unique, soulful intensity – lyrically focused on stories of love, sex and addiction.
After a quick changeover, alternative rock band Eclipses for Eyes took the stage with an instant authority that almost seemed to rival frontwoman Lexi Salazar’s petite stature. The moment Salazar’s voice met our ears, Lacey Sturm was at our lips.
“Look,” our photographer Katherine said holding out her arm, “I’ve got goosebumps!”
Besides displaying obvious audible similarities to alternative mega-powerhouse Flyleaf; Eclipses for Eyes is a group that commands the stage with an unstoppable energy, and one rooted in authenticity. In a 2014 interview with RiffYou.com the band was quoted saying,
“Our music and lyrics are honest and personal, which is something that we find is normally neglected in most modern music.”
The band’s stellar five-piece performance of “Left of You” from the upcoming Polaris EP affirmed that for us on Thursday, and it would seem for other Phoenix fans as well. With the crowd’s energy on overdrive, expectations were high. It was an appropriate transition for Phoenix-based emo rock trio, Way Under who kicked things off with some hardcore vocals and fast-paced guitar, playing through a series of tracks off their latest EP Alone and first solo release, The Way Under EP.
“This is going to be our last show for a long time,” vocalist, Aaron Villeda announced before kicking off their next song. Although some of the audience seemed eager for the main event of the evening, Way Under kept the pit jumping as anticipation continued to build.
The final opener of the night was indie rock group Saddles who boasts an unusual culmination of electronic beats, indie pop, experimental synth pop and classic emo rock. Their somewhat subdued vocals seemed to vibrate along the higher-pitched guitar notes giving the whole thing a Muse-like feel. As the set went on however, I found Saddles to be far more reminiscent live of Yellowcard or Dashboard Confessional with a variety of unique instrumentals beneath.
Between sets, fans flooded the bar to refill drinks or head to the patio for a smoke while others secured a spot close to the stage. About fifteen minutes passed before Sundressed’s vocalist Trevor Hedges finally stepped forward in a sea of fluorescent pink light to briefly thank everyone for coming out, almost immediately switching over to the opening lyrics for their latest single “A Little Less Put Together” off Sundressed’s most recent album under the same name. The crowd erupted, surrounding the stage from every angle while forming a sizable circle pit front and center. It was obvious Sundressed was what fans had been waiting for.
“Hey, we’re releasing a record,” Hedges said playfully, “let’s go fuckin’ nuts!”
I immediately recognized the next track from my Spotify playlist earlier that day. I always listen to bands while driving around on the day of a review to get pumped up, but today I’d been singing along – loudly. It was “Beck & Call” off their EP The Same Condition which according to the band, “touches on darker territory” involving heartbreak, depression, toxic relationships and “balancing intensely personal stories with universally relatable truths.”
The night’s energy was at its peak. I even saw a few people hanging from the rafters, which was precarious considering the risk of a foot-to-head collision with a crowd surfer below. (Katherine actually had a crowd surfer land head-first on her camera a few songs later! Thankfully, the camera survived.) It was the kind of free-spirited, no fucks given, rock show vibe fans live for and Phoenix was eating it up. Even the bartenders were jamming while mixing drinks, commenting on the quality of the music.
Next up was “Mill Ave and Broadway” off of their latest album which featured a fusion of ska-punk sound with a surprise trumpet breakdown. It was magic. The band continued to play through their latest album, leaving only a few songs to be discovered in order to make room for crowd favorites like “Ordinary Day” and “Good As You.” Although Sundressed’s set was packed with freshly released tracks it felt oddly familiar, as if we were rocking out to all our old favorites.
As the release party came to an end, Hedges said they had one more for us, a newly released track entitled “Something Good.” Hedges also said of it “this song means everything to me.” It was the perfect finale to a supercharged performance, but not without a surprise encore featuring a cover of Saves the Day’s “At Your Funeral” – during which Hedges was lowered into the crowd while the stage was swallowed by energetic fans singing along. It was an all-around phenomenal performance. And also a reminder of the impact that local music can and does continue to have on our community. We are certainly curious to see where this group is headed next, but one thing is for sure – this won’t be the last you’ve heard of Sundressed.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Eyeliner-tinged catharsis and angst were alive and well at the Marquee on Friday night when AFI made their Arizona stop on The Blood Tour with support from Nothing, and Souvenirs.
Souvenirs got the night started with a set heavy on tracks from their newest album Posture Of Apology. With stark emotional lyrics focused on understanding, loss, and forgiveness, Souvenirs struck the perfect balance between the 90’s Sub Pop records catalogue and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me-era Brand New. Overall, while their set may not have astounded many of the ardent AFI fans in attendance, it served as the perfect transition to Nothing’s reverb-heavy set which followed after a speedy changeover.
Nothing proved to be an exceptionally polarizing band for the sold-out crowd. With awkward stage presence, dedications to the memory of George “The Animal” Steele, and rambling half-mumbled banter between songs, it would be easy to simply write off Nothing as a band trying to emit a false rockstar facade. However, as they worked their way through a reverb-drenched set of songs that called to mind My Bloody Valentine’s vocal delivery layered over instrumentals which would have felt right at home amongst the Smashing Pumpkins discography, or even Incubus’ Morning View, they revealed themselves to be truly adept performers and songwriters who deserved their spot supporting AFI on a large scale tour. Though Domenic Palerno’s airy, trance inducing vocals may have seemed out of place opening for the concussive ball of energy that is AFI, the fact that they were able to hold a largely unfamiliar crowds attention for a 45 minute set is testament to their well-deserved presence on the Relapse Records roster.
Following Nothing, the stage lights were tuned to an ominous purple while the hazers were ratcheted up to blanket the stage in heavy fog. Finally, the lights dimmed and AFI took the stage to a cacophonous roar from the packed Friday night crowd. Opening with a near-soulful rendition of “Strength Through Wounding” from legendary album Black Sails In The Sunset, Havok and company quickly ratcheted the energy up to a thousand by launching directly into “Miss Murder”, launching the crowd into a frenzy that never relented for the rest of the evening.
Most impressively, songs from the recently released Blood album received just as much of an explosive crowd response as tried-and-true Sing The Sorrow–era favorites. “Aurelia”, “Snow Cats”, and “So Beneath You” all found great strength in a live setting where Davey Havok’s powerful vocal flourishes combined with a wall of guitar tone, propelled them beyond an album sound which many felt was a bit too “clean” for a band which has consistently based their career on raw emotion.
The setlist also made a direct point to showcase how much pride the band takes in their material from each album by sandwiching Blood album lead single “Snow Cats” between The Art Of Drowning‘s legendary tracks “The Despair Factor” and “The Days Of The Phoenix”. Whether calculated, or simply a serendipitous surprise, this pacing showed that with age, AFI at their core is still focused on the same message of sorrow, regret, pain, and love.
Throughout the career-spanning set, Davey continually launched himself off of every available surface, while Jade Puget pirouetted effortlessly across the stage; making it clear that nothing about their performance or career would be slowing down at any point in the near future.
Highlights: Deep cuts from Sing The Sorrow, including “This Celluloid Dream” and “Paper Airplanes”, dedicated to anyone who had seen them at The Nile long ago.
Lowlights: An oddly-aged and very drunk crowd, who continued shouting for “Miss Murder” long after it had been played.
PHOENIX — Last night, locals Unagi Usagi performed at The Rhythm Room. They opened the gig with the high-energy “Holy Valkyrie”, which takes the audience by storm without a buildup, and shows them they’re in for something delightfully insane right off the bat.
From start to finish, Unagi Usagi brought constant power and animation from each band member. The vocalist, who goes by Ghostrick Alucard, brings oozing charisma and animation to the stage.
In the midst of their set, “It’s Your Fault I Have Issues… You Stupid Bitch” is a crowd favorite, as all stand together in solidarity for glorious bitterness. The breakdown during the song, which might be their hardest and heaviest instrumentals, unexpectedly blows first-timers away and brings sweet satisfaction to fans.
It’s Your Fault I Have Issues… You Stupid Bitch
Heart In The Graveyard
Unagi Usagi debuted a song called “You Suck”, which is distinguished from their other songs by an infusion of ska. It really rounds out their set list by offering an upbeat sound and comic relief, while retaining their signature angst.
“Heart In The Graveyard” was a fitting closing song, finishing things off with both Big Jake (bassist) and Austang (guitarist) down on the floor, wildly emoting… while, astonishingly, Dead Wesley (drummer) shows no sign of fatigue up to the end.
Every crowd becomes noticeably impressed and intrigued shortly after the band begins playing, and they are always enthusiastically applauding and cheering by the end of the set. Unagi Usagi just keeps getting better and they’re gaining traction in the Phoenix scene, so follow them on Facebook to see what comes next.
PHOENIX — Local “Anime-themed Punk” band Unagi Usagi (Japanese for Eel Bunny) performed at The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix on January 12. Oozing with animated and charismatic stage presence, and energy reminiscent of some of our favorite rock bands from the early 2000s, Unagi Usagi has great potential and persona build a solid following, and mature into a band that will sell a lot of records!
We previously discovered this band during an open mic night at a coffee shop while working on a behind-the-scenes post for Burning Hot Events’ Patreon. Between the folksy acoustic and hiphop lyricism in the background that we tuned out as we worked on our post, Unagi Usagi started up on stage and they were a force to be reckoned with, commanding our attention and sending goosebumps across the surface of our skin. (Become a patron to read the post from when we discovered them: For the Love of Music: Sum 41 and Open Mic Night)
Presumably meant as self-deprecating humor, during the show Unagi Usagi proclaimed themselves as weaboos – people who are overly obsessed with Japanese culture to the point where they become annoying. But the following is a more flattering and clarifying descriptor, taken from their Facebook bio:
Unagi Usagi is a rock band from Chandler, Arizona. Catchy melodies and excellent songwriting are no stranger to this band, as they create the unique blend of Pop Punk, Post-Hardcore, and Japanese Rock Music that’s unique and fresh in the saturated music scene of today. Complemented by an eye catchingly beautiful visual presentation heavily influenced by anime, and joined by an eccentric live performance with plenty of energy, the band is creating a must-see phenomenon that is original, and unique to this group only.
It’s refreshing to have a fresh band in the local scene that garners such enthusiasm. While they have a ways to grow, keep an eye on these guys and do not underestimate them! We hope to see them get into the recording studio sooner than later. With the right support, they will go far!
TEMPE, Ariz. — Swedish indie group The Sounds rocked the house at Tempe’s Marquee Theatre Saturday night with their 10th anniversary performance of sophomore album, Dying to Say This to You. Following energetic sets by spirited openers Zipper Club and My Jerusalem The Sounds guitarist, Felix Rodriguez took over the stage beneath a vibrant purple cloud of light. As soon as the first few notes of “Song With a Mission” dropped, the crowd went wild. Although it wasn’t a full house, there was a clear sense of communal nostalgia that seemed to supercharge the audience.
Next up on the set list was crowd favorite, “Queen of Apology” which kicked off with a signature Maja-esque display of her gives-no-fucks attitude, backed by airtight guitar and a stagelight-shift which illuminated fans as they sang along to every word. Hit after hit, The Sounds proved that ten years hasn’t slowed them down a bit, boasting a stage presence that could rival some of Rock and Roll’s most iconic female-fronted acts.
“Arizona, I love you… We’re back, baby. We’re fucking back!” Maja yelled, igniting an outburst of claps and shouts throughout the venue. Maja’s pop-rock sound has been countlessly compared to that of Blondie and Missing Persons, and rightfully so! Personally, I also picked up on some similarities in tone between her and The Submarines’ vocalist, Blake Hazard.
The Sounds finished out their live revival of “Dying to Say This to You” with a gritty, electrified reproduction of “Running Out of Turbo” before topping off their forty-five minute tribute with an additional 9 tracks including everything from classics like “Living in America” (from their debut album) to the group’s recent single “Thrill” which features an impressive display of Maja’s vocal diversity in addition to fast-paced drum beats, a reverberant dual guitar solo and some subtle synth-heavy, 80’s era keyboard.
It was truly a night to be remembered, especially considering the intimate audience size and Maja’s up-close-and-personal stage persona. By the show’s end, each track was visually pulsating through the audience as they fist-bumped, clapped and headbanged to the final songs of the night, “Rock N Roll” and “Hope You’re Happy Now” which Maja energetically concluded with one middle finger to the sky, and a cigarette in her other.
As the Burning Hot Events team exited the venue, we happened upon a couple who had actually travelled all the way from Kansas to see The Sounds in Tempe that night. It was a powerful reminder of just how impactful music can be, especially with a group like The Sounds who have an unbelievable, authentic connection to their fans.
Photos of local “Sci-Fi driven Punk/Sludgecore” band Quantum Colossus performing at Chopper John’s in Phoenix, Arizona on December 9, 2016. Quantum Colossus really got the bar crowd moving to a high-energy show after midnight!
PHOENIX — Lindsey Stirling, the awe-inspiring dancing violinist, brought her Brave Enough Tour to Comerica Theatre last night. Hailing from Gilbert, Arizona, it’s no surprise that the venue posted low ticket warnings on social media, and a horde of fans came out to see her live.
High production light shows and other grand visual effects are a staple of her concerts, and they make for a truly magical experience. Watching her spirit take flight when she does what she was meant to do, and fought to succeed, sends chills through your body. Lindsey Stirling is a strong inspiration and encouragement for her fans, especially in Arizona, to aspire for great things and persevere.