Category Archives: Reviews

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REVIEW: Halestorm Brings the Mayhem to Rock the Coliseum at the Arizona State Fair 10-12-17

PHOENIX The city’s weather was perfect on Thursday, October 12th as it enthusiastically welcomed Halestorm to the stage. People of all ages swarmed the Arizona State Fairgrounds for one of two reasons; fun rides and fried food, or heading to the Coliseum for a show that would allow them to experience rock at its pure essence.

Lzzy (Elizabeth) Hale is and has been the lead vocalist since the band came into existence in 1997. Anyone who has been to a Halestorm show can confirm that she posses a stage presence unlike any other female artist in the industry. From the moment she stepped up to the mic, there was a fierce connection between her and the crowd that remained throughout the entire show.

Halestorm - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Lzzy Hale, Vocalist – Halestorm
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Even as the music shifted from fast-paced, bass pumping rhythms to slower, more haunting ballads and back again, her passion for their music poured from her. Literally and figuratively in this case, as sweat dripped from every pore, whether she was dancing around the stage during “I Am the Fire” or aggressively playing her piano for her more emotional ballad “Dear Daughter.” One would think she would steal any show completely, but with this band that is simply not the case.

Joe Hottinger, Guitarist &
Lzzy Hale, Vocalist – Halestorm

Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
© All Rights Reserved

Midway through their set she did something often seen at a concert by pausing midway through one of their main hits titled “I Like it Heavy”, from their third album Into the Wild Life, to introduce Arejay Hale, who is her little brother and Halestorm’s drummer. He is also an original member of the band, asking his sister over breakfast, at 10 years old, if he could play drums for her when she was telling her parents about wanting to start a band. Without returning to the song, Arejay instead spent the next six minutes in an intense, heart-pounding drum solo that shook the Coliseum walls and drove the crowd insane. “WHAT’S UP PHOENIX?!”, he yelled into his mic as he brought the solo to an end. He then took out chopsticks and proceeded to prove his pure talent as he effortlessly played the drums with them as if used them everyday. People cheered loudly, and it was obvious this bit is a crowd favorite. Still not finished, he pulled out broomsticks next and successfully played the same beat he just had with much smaller sticks. The crowd was losing their minds with amazement at this point, so Lzzy Hale took the stage once more to finally bring the song they had started playing nearly fifteen minutes before to an end. It was truly a unique transition of focus and made for an unforgettable introduction.

Halestorm - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Arejay Hale, Drummer – Halestorm
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

One other thing Halestorm always makes clear when they perform is the love they have for their fans. After spending a good portion of the last half of the show playing upbeat, intense songs, Lzzy took a moment to toast the crowd with these words; “Thank you Phoenix for having us. Here’s to Rock and Roll, here’s to us being excellent to one another, and here’s to Arizona!”, which received thunderous applause and exuberant screams that were quickly drowned out as she launched into the beginning chords of “Here’s to Us.” This song brought out more emotion in the crowd than any song had yet. There were people pumping their fists and they sang back the lyrics they knew so well next to people hugging one another as they also sang along.

Halestorm - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Halestorm at Veterans Memorial Coliseum – AZ State Fair
Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

This band really knows how to evoke emotions from a crowd. Even as they closed their set with the ever popular “I Miss the Misery” everyone was out of their seat, head-banging along to the beat and dancing with their hands in the air. The band didn’t give on their end either, wrapping up their final song with so much intensity from the music and the light show you could feel it at your core. “Thank you so much Arizona, we fucking love you!”, Lzzy said, which was met with roaring applause and a room full of metal horns.

The band bowed together as one and exited the stage. As the lights came on and everyone began to file out of the Coliseum, various chatter had already started about the show and how unforgettable it was. For never meeting a majority of their fans, they have a way of making every one of them feel like family. So it’s only natural that Phoenix will anxiously await the next time Halestorm returns to rock this city, and our hearts.


Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Halestorm – AZ State Fair 10-12-17

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: MUTEMATH’s “Play Dead” Live Brings New Life to The Van Buren 10-10-17

PHOENIX – Tuesday, October 10th, was yet another perfect early-fall evening in downtown Phoenix. MUTEMATH, during the latter half of their US “Play Dead Live” Tour, graced The Van Buren with their ethereal presence. Joined by the relatively new band ROMES and Tennessee indie rock band Colony House. Together, they filled The Van Buren with an interesting mix of different styles of music, approaches to live performance, and interaction with fans.


ROMES was first up; these young musicians came to Phoenix all the way from Toronto, Ontario and Wicklow, Ireland — all four met while attending school over the pond. This was their first time in Phoenix, and their enthusiasm and excitement to be at The Van Buren was palpable. The lead singer, Jacob Alexander, even sported a Phoenix Suns t-shirt to show his love for the city.

The members of ROMES had a few lights, including a lit-up sign of the band’s name, behind them on stage, but they relied mostly on their stage presence and energy to entertain the crowd. Their music was an interesting mix of styles, and they identify as indie, alternative, soul-pop or alternative pop. Their single, “Believe,” is a great introduction to their unique style. While they may be relatively new to the music scene, they have just released their self-titled debut album on October 6th.

The handsome and talented @romes hanging out with us at @thevanburenphx for their first visit to Phoenix

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

Jacob Alexander, Nicolas Amadeus, James Tebbitt, and Andrew Keyes provided fantastic stage presence, energy, instrumentals, and vocals to the crowd. Their performance was a great warm-up for the incredible MUTEMATH show to come later, but ROMES certainly could hold their own. It was clear these guys are quite close, and you could feel the camaraderie on stage as they played their favorite songs. Their smiles were infectious, and their positive, friendly, welcoming aura certainly set the mood for the rest of the evening.

@romes rocked the stage at @thevanburenphx as the first opening band this evening

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

Colony House

After a short break, Colony House’s time had come. Their set-up was a bit irregular, with the drummer on stage right and close to the audience. This provided everyone with a clear view of each band member’s performance, which was a nice addition. They certainly made excellent use of the entire stage. They also displayed a huge sign with their band name and logo behind them, which many in the audience thought looked a bit like a nice coffee shop or brand’s logo. They also provided a moderate amount of stage lighting, including what appeared to be four lighthouse beacons. At the very least, the audience could rest assured that no boats would be approaching too closely during the show.

@colonyhouse was the second opening band this evening at @thevanburenphx — eagerly awaiting @mutemath now!

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Colony House is from Franklin, Tennessee, which is also home to MUTEMATH lead singer Paul Meany’s record label, Teleprompt Records. While Colony House is not a part of this record label, it is clear they are quite close with MUTEMATH. They performed admirably, further lighting the fire under the crowd and increasing the energy. The highlight of their show was their hit song, “Silhouettes,” and the crowd certainly sang along with them. Later on in the show, the lead singer Caleb Chapman told the crowd to sing along with another song; after all, “it sounds so much better with your voices in it.” This was a nice way to get the audience involved.

@colonyhouse performimg their hit song “Silhouettes” at @thevanburenphx

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Colony House is considered indie rock, and they currently have two albums out. The most recent, Only The Lonely, was released in January of this year. Some of the singles off the new album are “You Know It,” “Lovely,” and “This Beautiful Life.” Chapman, his brother Will Chapman, and their friends Scott Mills and Parke Cottrell have been playing music together since high school, and once again, it was clear they are close with one another, just like ROMES. It is always wonderful to see a band composed of members who genuinely seem to love and respect one another.

Once Colony House was done playing, it was time for another break. This time, the break was a bit longer than last; MUTEMATH had a lot of equipment to set up. During this recess, the crowd continued to increase size as latecomers finally arrived to The Van Buren. Slowly but surely, people started packing in closer and closer to the stage, eager with anticipation. Meanwhile, The Van Buren was setting up for what was to be a truly impressive light show, projecting light towards the stage from the back of the house, illuminating the backdrop as well as the crowd.


After what seemed an eternity, New Orleans-based MUTEMATH finally arrived on stage. The crowd instantly went wild, and they were greeted by a band clad in purely white outfits. Aside from looking uniform in their comfortable outfits, their attire also served to complement the visuals being projected on to the stage and the massive silver backdrop. Their first song was “War,” joined by plenty of interesting visuals that either matched the song or captured the audience’s attention — soldiers, rising fists, a spiral galaxy, and various machines of war. Fans of the band who have seen the music video for this song may have recognized some of the imagery.

MUTEMATH continued the show with very different images across the board; each song brought something new, and just about every color of the rainbow was covered in the light show. In fact, this concert was less live music and more performance art. The band itself, primarily Meany, performed admirably. Their energy levels were truly unprecedented — perhaps even over 9000. They were all over the stage, dancing and playing all sorts of instruments, aside from the drummer. It was interesting to watch multi-instrumentalists performing a menagerie of fascinating instruments.

Meany’s featured instrument of choice seems to be the keytar, which he plays exceptionally well. Mixed with his bizarrely charming dance moves, unconventional voice, and the entrancing light show, the keytar is clearly the perfect weapon of choice for this artist. Later on, however, he also played his Rhodes keyboard, electric guitar, a bizarre stringed electronic instrument, and even the drums along with 2 other band members.

Meany did not just rely on his dancing and singing to entertain the crowd. He also resorted to surprise attacks in the way of headstands on top of his keyboard, the swinging of an LED light on a chord to mimic the display on the projector, getting up close and personal with the front row of fans, standing on top of his keyboard to absorb graphics being projected onto himself and the stage, and a few more surprises.

One of the most touching moments of the show was the shocking moment when Amelia Meany, Paul’s daughter, came out on stage. She had ear protection, for anyone who might worry about her little ears. She joined her dad in singing the song “Pixie Oaks,” containing these lyrics in its chorus:

My Amelia, my Amelia,
My Amelia, my Amelia,
She’s a killer, she’s a healer,
I believe her, my Amelia…

While the true meaning of the song is likely a personal thing, it is clear that his daughter has inspired much of his recent music and lyrics. She seems like an awesome kid, and her dance skills may one day rival her father’s.

In the middle of the show, MUTEMATH seemed to be finished. They had played for about an hour, after all, and vacated the stage. The crowd was not happy with this and continued to cheer for quite a few moments. After a short break of ambient background music and interesting graphics projected onto the screen, MUTEMATH came back on stage. What at first appeared to be an encore turned out to be an entire second act, so this must have been an intermission of sorts. Nobody in the audience was upset by the second hour of music, of course.

During the second half of the show, Meany, Todd Gummerman, Jonathan Allen, and their new drummer David Hutchinson somehow increased their energy levels and truly blew the crowd away. Their stage presence is nearly unparalleled, and for those up front, it was a fully immersive experience. Aside from Meany getting up close and personal with those close to the front at various points in the show, he also pulled out that interesting stringed electronic instrument and let a few people in the crowd play it with him. He passed it out to the crowd, let it float on the sea of hands for a while, and then quickly took it back.

The second most touching moment of the show came when Meany decided to jump down into the crowd while singing. When he wasn’t too focused on vocals, he began handing out high fives to those in the crowd. He proceeded down the center of the crowd, coming across a lucky individual whom he high fived and then proceeded to embrace him in what must have been one of the best hugs ever given. A few others in the crowd wanted in on this, so he gave out several more hugs before heading back to the stage. Those who received a hug seemed to be stunned in disbelief due to this intimate moment Meany shared with them.

While there were many incredible moments throughout the show, one thing is for certain — MUTEMATH rocked The Van Buren well into the night, providing an experience the crowd will not soon forget. They may have lost their beloved drummer, Darren King, and his iconic duct-taped headphones during live shows, but the new drummer did an admirable job. In fact, there was so much going on during the show that it was easy for people to forget about Darren King’s unfortunate departure from the band.

While the show blew everyone away, it was not without its faults. One attendee and long-time MUTEMATH fan, Jim S., mentioned a few concerns: “The live mix wasn’t great. The vocals were washed out. Might have to do with the mic technique.” Despite this minor concern, he was not at all let down. He proceeded to say, “The music complimented the stage presence. They have some really amazing songs and they sound good live, other than the mic mixing, but the stage presence really put the whole show over the top.” This was perfectly put, and a few others who attended the show agreed with Jim after discussing it once the show was over.

MUTEMATH is in a league of their own. They’ve gone through so many changes since 2002, and they have had some tough times, but fans old and new alike are so happy MUTEMATH is still making music and touring. In fact, people in Phoenix already seem to be prepared for their next stop — hopefully at The Van Buren again! Their new album, Play Dead, was just released last month and is a worthy successor to Vitals. Five albums and counting so far, and fans are certain to be eagerly awaiting new songs and albums in the future.

PHOTOS: The Movielife & The Early November with Racquet Club at The Rebel Lounge 10-3-17

PHOENIX — While genre-bending musician & DJ Bonobo was electrifying The Van Buren downtown, The Rebel Lounge was being taken over by post-hardcore, indie, and alternative rock.  On the bill were co-headlining classic Drive-Thru Records artists The Movielife & The Early November, along with Racquet Club, & locals Daylight Heist.

Racquet Club - Photography: Russ Broty
Blair Shehan (Vocalist, Guitarist), Racquet Club
Photography: Russ Broty, Photo Editor: Katherine Amy Vega
© All Rights Reserved

Racquet Club

Phoenix was the first night that Racquet Club joined this tour, and they will continue through to the last show on October 14. Racquet Club features members of Knapsack, The Jealous Sound, and Samiam. They released their debut self-titled album on September 29, just 4 days before this Phoenix show. Fans of local legends The Format, whose lead vocalist was Nate Ruess, may have recognized vocalist Blair Shehan from The Jealous Sound when they performed together in 2003 along with Limbeck and The Like.

The Early November

The Early November played their debut album, The Room’s Too Cold, in it’s entirety, to the delight of the crowd that sang 3/4 of the songs. The band took a break from 2007 to 2011, and has been active up until the present, with their fifth studio album Fifteen Years released in January of this year. The Early November performed as part of the Taste of Chaos line-up at Comerica Theatre in July of 2016; alongside Saosin, Taking Back Sunday, & Dashboard Confessional. (View our review & photos here.)

The Early November - Photography: Russ Broty
Arthur “Ace” Enders (Vocalist, Guitarist), The Early November
Photography: Russ Broty, Photo Editor: Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The Movielife

The Movielife released their first new album in 14 years, Cities in Search of A Heart, on September 22. Their 2014 reunion was a dream come true for fans who didn’t expect their return 11 years after their 2003 break-up, those who never had a chance to see them before, and for Phoenix fans who didn’t expect the band to play outside of New York.

Vinnie Caruana (Vocalist), The Movielife
Photography: Russ Broty, Photo Editor: Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Daylight Heist

Daylight Heist, who were on after The Movielife, are the official resident DJs of EmoNightPHX, which has been taking place at The Rebel Lounge, but will next be at The Van Buren on October 21. You can check them out, along with out all-emo cover band Hands Down, and other special guests (TBA) that night. Some of the special guest DJs that EmoNightPHX has had this year include: Buddy Neilsen of Senses Fail (9/27), Ryan Key of Yellowcard (7/20), and JT Woodruff of Hawthorne Heights (6/22).


Photographer: Russ Broty | Photo Editor: Katherine Amy Vega

The Movielife & The Early November With Racquet Club – The Rebel Lounge 10-3-17

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Photography © Looking at You Too
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Bonobo’s Desert Migration Electrifies The Van Buren 10-3-17

PHOENIX – Tuesday, October 3rd, gave way to a beautiful early fall evening despite the higher temperatures during the day. This weather lead to what locals likely hoped was an adequate welcome for musical visitors from across the pond. Either way, Bonobo and his live band were greeted with immense enthusiasm by Phoenix music lovers.

Bonobo - Photo Credit: Neil Krug
Photo Credit: Neil Krug

Bonobo was one of the first shows announced for The Van Buren when the new downtown venue initially revealed its opening date, and many Phoenix area fans bought tickets as soon as they heard about this stop on Simon Green (aka Bonobo) and his band’s world tour.

Early in the evening, the diverse and interesting crowd that gathered within The Van Buren’s gorgeous walls seemed excited. One could easily sense the anticipation in the air. Many people were hanging out in the lobby area or enjoying the beautiful weather on the patio outside. Once the lights dimmed, people rushed to fill the floor, looking for the best spots available. It was a packed show that was nearly entirely standing room only, and people seemed hesitant to get close to one another at first. By the end of the evening, this part would change.

As the first few songs came on, heralded by pure white stage lights and a bright white Bonobo logo on the backdrop, people were tentatively interested. Fans or acquaintances of Bonobo already know that his music is quite chill and ambient most of the time, and he certainly started out with a couple of rather calm songs. Looking around the crowd, one might notice people gently swaying, bobbing their heads, and perhaps even wiggling around a little; otherwise, they seemed a bit unsure of how to properly enjoy the show.

Seizures imminent. @si_bonobo

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This uncertainty did not last long, however. Soon, Bonobo and his wonderful travelling companions warmed up the crowd with increasingly energetic beats. Shortly after the beginning of the show, they were also joined by the immensely talented and stunningly gorgeous Szjerdene. She began serenading the crowd, making for an entrancing accompaniment to the surreal tunes of Bonobo. Her dress was perfect for the interesting lighting as well, as more and more colors were added. The dress was made up of huge, bright white, vertical stripes that reflected the blues, purples, oranges, and reds of the light show. Overall, the entire stage took on a dreamlike quality. This gave the performers a mysterious presence on stage, shrouded in light and smoke.

Their first time in Phoenix! 😁

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

After a few songs, Szjerdene took a break – likely to rest her vocal chords after such a marvelous performance. During the next segment, Bonobo was able to truly show off his mastery of building energy up and transitioning between different songs. The transitions were just about perfect; it was obvious that the order of songs was carefully considered, and they were performed with expert precision. The impeccable execution of these transitions became the true highlight of the show. In some instances, these transitions should have been jarring, but they were superbly timed. The crowd responded well, of course, and by the middle of the show, they were moving around much more than before.

With each seamless transition, the crowd hyped up more and more. The cheers and shouts grew louder, and many people raised their glasses high into the air. It was interesting to observe who got excited for each new song, as it seemed that everyone in the crowd had favorites by Bonobo. His immense library of released music did not allow for nearly enough of his songs to be performed, even within the nearly 2 hours they played, but it was clear that the crowd was having a great time throughout.

All around, people were dancing or enjoying the music in their own ways. Some were standing as still as possible, truly enchanted by the show and the energy surrounding them. Some were standing or swaying with their eyes closed, absorbing the music itself, perhaps further immersing themselves within the energy of the room. Others still were dancing with as much vigor as their space allowed – even in such close quarters with other concert-goers, many found ways to show off their best dance moves.

Thought someone was going to be teleported. #energize #twotobeamup @si_bonobo

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

It is prudent to mention how much the light show amplified the music as well. While the music, the musicians, Bonobo’s DJ skills, and Szjerdene’s singing and dancing all made for a wonderful experience, they were all enhanced by the streams of light and smoke floating and shooting around them. At one point, it even seemed as if Simon was going to be teleported onto the Enterprise. While the light show would certainly not be ideal for those who may have light sensitivity, for those who were able to witness it, it was an almost-transcendental experience. It helped to energize the crowd and augment those incredible transitions between songs.

While Simon Green did not speak much at all during the show, he did mention how this was his first time visiting Phoenix after over 15 years of making music and touring as Bonobo. He also made sure to introduce everyone in the band, which was an admirable quality. They truly helped to make his music something else entirely when heard live, as people who are fans of his recorded music may have noticed. The live instruments and vocals were wonderful touches, and Simon himself even picked up an electric guitar during a few moments of the show. There was even a drum solo, and at one point, the concert felt like a fantastic heavy metal show. This was certainly not the average DJ show, and Simon/Bonobo is definitely not the average DJ. All in all, Bonobo live was such an intense, interesting, unique, and diverse experience, much like his music.

This tour was to celebrate Bonobo’s new album, Migration, which came out in January of this year. Next up on Bonobo’s tour, they are stopping by Tucson and then moving on to several locations in Texas before making a final US stop in Florida. From there, Simon and the band will move on to visiting several countries in Europe before heading over to Singapore. The last legs of the tour include Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Next year, they will return home to London and perform a few shows there, once this epic world tour has come to an end.

If anyone is going to be in an area close to one of these upcoming shows, they are highly encouraged to attend, even if they aren’t very familiar with Bonobo’s music. This show was an experience like no other, making it an entirely enjoyable experience. The nearly 2 hours of continuous, non-stop music was absolutely impressive. Their stamina, as well as their devotion to their music and the crowd, was nearly unparalleled. Seeing Bonobo live was such a rare treat to be cherished, and Phoenix and The Van Buren hope they will be back again someday soon.

Caught someone making a ❤️ with their hands up front 😍😂

A post shared by Sean Tingle (@music_seen) on

Featured photo (top) by Neil Krug

REVIEW: DaDadoh + The P.o.C. “You Can’t Rap Forever” EP Release at The Trunk Space 9-25-17

DaDadoh - Photo Credit: Lnin Oo
Photo Credit: Lnin Oo | Editor: Katherine Amy Vega
© All Rights Reserved

PHOENIX — With an Arizona summer solar-powered surge of ambition, Tempe-based Alternative HipHop artist DaDadoh started recording the 6-track You Can’t Rap Forever in June of this year. In only four months between then and the release show, he worked with a perfectionistic fervor to re-work and refine his songs that had already proven popular. Regardless of unwavering confidence in the songs he’s written, DaDadoh honed his insatiable appetite for challenging himself to accomplish beyond what he thought feasible before. In fact, he mixed and mastered the album, and performed all of the songs including all of the instrumentals, himself. The result was reaching the same kind of new heights as an artist that he is regularly helping other artists achieve as a music producer with his record label TVLiFE Entertainment.

Although You Can’t Rap Forever is a cohesive addition to DaDadoh’s discography, the release brings a fresh sound that comes with his growth and evolution as an artist and a person. Lyrically, he continues to cleverly inject commentary into his verses, using music as his platform to have a voice in matters. Steering away from his cocky, comedic, and sex-saturated themes of the 2016 release Radical, he takes a more sober tone, and channels angst into his music. The new release is both melodic, and infused with punk rock. The album feels sincere and intense – like it’s made of his very soul. Get ready to get f*cked up when you dive in.

You can buy You Can’t Rap Forever on Bandcamp as a digital download only, or with a physical copy in CD format: Here


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DaDadoh & The P.o.C. - The Trunk Space 9-25-17

View Album in Separate Window

While DaDadoh is a charismatic (and somewhat-eccentric) staple in the Phoenix local music scene, he isn’t one to boast; despite the fact that one might consider him a hiphop-flavored renaissance man. If you’re not familiar with his projects and you’re reading this now, it might have taken some online sleuthing to discover that on top of his solo project and music production, he also hosts “Before The Show: The Podcast,” and is a member of bands including Exxxtra Crispy and Militia Joan Hart. And during the four months leading up to the EP release, he helped local musicians even further by recruiting 3 live band members – now known as The P.o.C. – Andy Warpigs (Guitar & Vocals), Jimmie Lewis (Bass), and Daviid Giiron (Drums).

The more you learn about DaDadoh, the more you come to understand that he passionately pours 100% into his artistic projects, and how important the community is to him. Although this release show was his time to shine, his gratitude for his new bandmates, and all of the fans and media people swarming around The Trunk Space venue, was no secret; nor was their willingness and enthusiasm to support his release show – and THAT reciprocal community is what Burning Hot Events is all about.

Catch DaDadoh’s next show,
with Amuck, Wait for the Sun, & TOSO,
at Rogue Bar on October 10!


by Katherine Amy Vega

DaDadoh + The P.o.C. – Trunk Space 9-25-17

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All Content © Kataklizmic Design.

REVIEW: Soaring to New Heights at the Ben Folds Paper Airplane Tour at Marquee Theatre 9-22-17

Tempe, Ariz. — Even before a band took the stage there was a sense of friendship and camaraderie sweeping the room at the Marquee Theatre that Friday, September 22.  Ben Folds’ Paper Airplane tour had come to town, and the audience smiled and laughed as they waited excitedly for the show to start.

Tall Heights

Tim Harrington and Paul Wright of the duo Tall Heights sauntered on stage, carrying their instruments: a guitar and a cello.  The electrofolk group from Boston serenaded with haunting harmonies that lulled back and forth as an ocean’s tide, pulling the audience in and releasing them once again.  Their emotive lyrics of songs like “Spirit Cold” and “Iron in the Fire” weighed on hearts and the duo used creative sounds like cell phone feedback to accompany the song Cross my Mind. The spell was eventually broken as their set came to an end, signalling to the crowd to usher forward for the main event, Ben Folds.  

Tall Heights - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Tall Heights
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Ben Folds

Ben Folds - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Ben Folds
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

After holding the audience in eager anticipation Ben Folds entered the stage and seated himself at the piano, gave a short wave and sheepish grin to the crowd, then immediately slammed fingers to keys, playing “Annie Waits.  Arms slipped over shoulders and the audience sang along.  It was as though everyone was invited to an intimate house party, every song a precious memory as it poured over the audience, friendly reminders of days now past.  

Ben Folds warmly shared stories, talking about his father as a construction worker and being cornered by his Uncle Walter who talked about what he would do if he were president.  Occasionally Ben Folds would stop singing and just listen to the audience sing instead.  He stood and happily conducted the crowd in a five part harmony singing “Not the Same”.  Tall Heights came back to the stage joining Ben Folds to sing “Still Fighting It.

Ben Folds & Tall Heights - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Ben Folds featuring Tall Heights
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

 For the grand finale of the first half of his set he started playing a drum while walking across the stage and continued playing an amazing drum solo as they set up the remaining set around him. The stunned audience continued to watch intently, impressed into silence broken intermittently by hoots and screams.  When it was over, a brief intermission began, but there was a catch.  

Ben Folds - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Ben Folds
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The audience was instructed to go into the lobby and get a piece of paper.  Write a request on it and fold it into a paper airplane to be sailed across the Marquee landing gently on the stage, where Ben Folds would take it and play what was written on it.   People rushed to get their paper and pushed their way close to the stage, hoping that their paper would make it, and more importantly, that their paper would be chosen.  It was none other than Arizona’s own Alice Cooper who came on to the stage, swinging red lights and wearing his signature black hat, who initiated the count down. The crowd chanted “10, 9, 8…” and at 0 the entire audience sailed airplanes towards the stage.  The planes that didn’t make it were picked up by strangers and thrown again, everyone helping to get all the paper planes to the stage.

Alice Cooper with Paper Airplanes in the air - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Alice Cooper at Ben Folds Concert
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Ben Folds did explain he might not be able to sing every song, or occasionally a song wasn’t even written on the paper, making it impossible to play.  However, the highlight of the second half of the set was when just that happened.  He started to play a song that no one recognized, and went on to completely ad-lib a song based off what was written on the airplane, which was “Rock this B***h, Omaha Symphony 2017.”  In the song Ben Folds told a story about how he acquired his favorite piano, his Frank LLoyd Wright piano for only $8000, singing that the guy who sold it “thought that was a lot.”  The audience laughed over and over at the witty story set to music, all in the guise of a request written on an airplane.  

Ben Folds - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Ben Folds
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Songs kept coming and wrists flung in the air to the beat of “Kate” while bodies moved back and forth to the sweet piano chords.  Abruptly, Ben stood and bowed the audience, thanking them for coming out and left the stage.  The audience continued to cheer and scream, knowing an encore had to be in store. In a few minutes he returned and played “Zak and Sarafor a rejoicing audience.

Then it really was over, the house lights came on and the crowd started to head to the doors.  Their faces full of smiles, holding the hands of loved ones and already reminiscing about their favorite part of the concert. It was as though they were leaving a friend’s party who had come to town unexpectedly, hyped up and already awaiting the next chance they get to see each other.  The next time Ben Folds comes to town, they’ll be ready.


by Katherine Amy Vega

Ben Folds & Tall Heights – Marquee Theatre 9-22-17

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REVIEW: Bleachers, Bishop Briggs, New Politics, and Others Rock Mesa for Dia De Los ALT! 9-22-17

MESA — As the first day of fall descended upon the Phoenix metro area, locals were preparing for a much-anticipated event hosted by local alternative radio station ALT AZ 93.3, featuring many wonderful bands and headlined by Bleachers. While it was maybe a little long for a concert, and a little short for a music festival, it was just the perfect length of time for music fans attending the Dia De Los ALT music festival in Mesa Amphitheatre on Friday, September 22, 2017. Luckily, the weather this year also seemed to participate, with a lower-than-average high of 86 degrees. A beautiful afternoon of music entertained a slowly-growing crowd, preparing them for a fantastic night of great alternative bands and temperatures in the 70s. What a wonderful way to welcome these musicians to the Valley of the Sun.

Dia De Los ALT may have been headlined by Bleachers, but 5 other incredible bands also blessed Mesa Amphitheatre with their presence – and their tunes. The lineup included local band Rival Coast, Los Angeles/Seattle band Tangerine, Los Angeles-based Sir Sly, the Copenhagen/New York musical sensation New Politics, and finally the London (by way of Los Angeles) queen of alternative, Bishop Briggs. Each band brought their unique style and sound to the festival, showing how truly diverse and interesting alternative music can be. This was also reflected by those in attendance – Dia De Los ALT was a wonderful way for all types to come together and enjoy beautiful music and a fantastic time.

Rival Coast

First up was Rival Coast, a young yet capable local Phoenix band. The festival started at 4pm, and with the recent venue change and rush hour traffic in Phoenix, the venue was just starting to gain a sizeable number of attendees. While Rival Coast are still just getting started, they just recently released their first EP – Red Lights. These young men may have only recently graduated from high school, but their talent and love for music are both crystal clear. Since they have all been friends since childhood, it was also easy to see that they love playing music with one another.

Each band member totally rocked the stage and entertained a small yet enthusiastic crowd. They only had the spotlight for 20 minutes, but they made ample use of the time they were allotted. They have likely gained at least a few new fans after their stellaalr performance. They are energetic and enthusiastic, and they pair fantastic vocals with excellent instrumentals. The highlight of their performance was definitely their last song, “Shiver,” a portentous yet spirited tune with a fun, memorable chorus. It was certainly a great choice with which to end their brief performance.


After a brief break and a word from some of the ALT AZ hosts who thanked everyone for coming out early, the next band – Tangerine – was introduced. They started with great energy, fun vibes, and a very chill stage presence. Their music is considered alternative pop, and they certainly have a unique sound. The band consists of two sisters, Marika and Miro, and their best friend Toby. It was easy to tell how close they are to one another, and this made their performance a seriously enjoyable experience.

Tangerine has been making music for quite a while, but they have yet to release a full album. They do have singles and EPs out, however, and their latest song ”Sly Moon” was released last month. Other highlights from the show include the songs “Sunset,” “Girls Like Us,” and “Nothing Better.” They seriously brought out some fun and chill vibes for the growing crowd near the stage as others found seating in the shade around Mesa Amphitheatre; attendees were throwing beach balls around, eating some snacks, enjoying some beverages, or getting some free face painting done with various Sugar Skull themes. Their music perfectly complimented the easy-going nature of the festival. Prior to playing their last song, they threw in a wonderful comment: “We love Phoenix so much! This is our second time here.” It was great to have them visit again – Phoenix loves you too, Tangerine!

Sir Sly

Between shows, ALT AZ played some select songs from Bleachers, New Politics, and Bishop Briggs to hype up the valley for their performances later in the evening. However, Sir Sly was on next. Sir Sly dominated the stage with their interesting music and fantastic stage presence, bringing the energy levels of the festival up a few notches. The synth music was out in full force, and the bass was certainly bumping. There were some tinges of 80s music in there, but this was certainly a unique musical experience. Landon, the vocalist, concentrated all of his energy into moving around the stage and sharing his fantastic vocals with the crowd. Most importantly, he shared his smooth dance moves with the audience, with a PBR in hand. That man can move!

Sir Sly recently released a new album – Don’t You Worry, Honey – and played a few of these new songs during their set. The best part was that the band members are very close to one another, and Landon said it was wonderful to create this new music with his best friends, Jason and Hayden. He also shared that “it’s good to be back once again,” as their very first show outside of California was here in Phoenix; it obviously holds a special place in their hearts, so being back was a truly special experience for everyone that night.

It was clear Sir Sly loved performing their music, and some highlights were new songs “Altar” and “Change.” The songs were full of fun, yet sometimes sardonic and cutting lyrics and backed up with lots of bass, guitar, drums, and synth. They also employed some voice filters to interesting effect during songs. The highlight of their performance, however, was when they played the song “&Run” just as the sun began to set over Mesa; they sang the lyrics, “Heavy as a setting sun…” and “I’ll run into the setting sun…” at the perfect moment. This truly made their presence at the show truly unforgettable.

During another brief break, as dusk set itself upon the Phoenix metro area, more people began to arrive to the Mesa Amphitheatre. The temperature was dipping into the 70s, and people were getting excited for New Politics coming on next. People were grabbing more beers and cocktails, more people were getting some face painting done, lots of people were finding spots to sit down or hang out with one another, and entire families were enjoying one another’s company; in fact, there was one family with small children playing with one of the many beach balls floating around the amphitheater. One young boy had ear protection on and a shirt that read, “HERE TO ROCK.” I’m sure he wasn’t alone!

A beautiful evening and a very happy crowd. #altaz #diadelosalt #altaz933 @altaz933 @newpoliticsrock

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New Politics

Just as twilight was setting in, New Politics came on at about 6:30pm. They were the first to have a dramatic entrance onto the stage, and dramatic it was – they played some epic background music while the band members came on stage one at a time. First up was the drummer, Louis Vecchio, followed by guitarist Søren Hansen, and finally, lead vocalist David Boyd. The crowd was screaming, and they did not waste any time getting into things. They started the show with a huge bang, rocking out pretty hard and getting the crowd jumping. Now that it was getting dark, it was time for some fantastic lighting, and New Politics’ light show definitely delivered.

New Politics was great at getting the crowd involved, and everyone certainly loved the attention and engagement. They discussed how it was great to be back in Phoenix, how they have a new album coming out next month (Lost In Translation), and sang one of their new songs, “CIA.” During this song, David threw his hat off to really get into the mood of rocking out and moving all over stage with his ridiculous yet entertaining dance moves while sporting his bright red microphone. He even told the audience he hoped they had their dancing shoes on so they could join him. During the show, they played some of their greatest hits, such as: “West End Kids,” “One of Us,” and “Just Like Me.” They also played a new song, “Color Green,” while illuminating the entire stage in green lighting (of course).

Not only did New Politics play some amazing songs, but they also brought a message of hope and love. They thanked ALT AZ for having them and bringing everyone together, citing them as the main reason they were all there that evening. They also praised ALT AZ for spreading music and love, how they love alternative music because it is truly the best. Continuing on this theme, they also discussed how, when we all have each other, through all the bad stuff like hurricanes and earthquakes, we’re here for each other; “All it is is just a lot of good people listening to music and sharing love.” This is when they started singing “One of Us,” which was perfect timing.

The most beautiful moment of New Politics’ performance was when they busted out the ukulele sang “Fall Into These Arms,” at which point a little girl popped up on her parents’ shoulders towards the front of the crowd. In the middle of the song, David pointed out to her and said, “I LIKE YOU!” The little girl was overjoyed, but that wasn’t the end of this beautiful moment. David also, quite literally, fell into those arms by gently diving into the crowd. The excitement levels of the crowd were off the charts by this point, and it was such a wonderful moment where everyone truly was brought together by some beautiful music.

Sadly, at about 7:15pm, New Politics’ time was up. Before parting ways, they announced that Bleachers were coming up later, but first, the “most beautiful woman in alternative rock” was coming on – Bishop Briggs. They then got together at the front of the stage, bowed to the audience, and threw some guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd for a few delighted fans to catch. After that, they were off, and after another short break consisting of an awkward word from the show’s sponsors, Bishop Briggs took the stage.

Bishop Briggs

First on the stage were Bishop Briggs’ band members, and the lighting was quite dark. They started playing music, and after a few moments, Bishop Briggs herself jumped out on stage with incredible energy. Dark purple lighting flooded the stage, but right at the perfect moment, the big 93.3 ALT AZ banner in the back was lit up in bright red right as Bishop Briggs started singing the first lyrics of her first song of the night.  It may have been a bit difficult to see anything on stage, but what stood out were her signature dual hair buns and jumpsuit – a black Adidas tracksuit that evening, with bright white iconic stripes down the sides. This was just the outfit she needed, because not only was she singing, she was also running! This made the show feel a bit like a high energy workout routine, but it certainly made the audience move and jump too.

The first song Bishop Briggs played was “Dark Side,” containing the lyrics “Welcome to my dark side, it’s gonna be a long night;” perhaps that’s why the stage was so dark during her show! Regardless, the intense beats and maximum bass were perfect accompaniments to her high-energy lyrics and her almost-non-stop jogging and jumping around the stage. What also stood out was her massive smile the entire time, and it was easy to tell she was truly enjoying her time up on stage. She also had a unique style of inserting a little scream into the perfect moments in her lyrics and just talking to the crowd, with such moments like “How is everybody DOING?!” followed by an enthusiastic “GOOD!!!

Her music was loud, aggressive, and entertaining, and there were even guests staying in the nearby Marriott hotel who came to their windows to look down at the amphitheatre to see what all the commotion was about. Hopefully they enjoyed their free view of the show! The crowd definitely did – everyone seemed to be jumping up and down, dancing, and singing along with Bishop Briggs’ songs. To show her appreciation for everyone, she stated that she was “so honored to be in this lineup. It’s great to be alive in this little bubble we have going on here.” On that note, she ended her show with her wildly famous hit single, “River.” The crowd went wild!

During another short break, it was easy to feel the anticipation in the air; clearly, there were many people at Dia De Los ALT who were there to see Bleachers. During this break, one could hear the final calls of the Lemonade man, who had been shouting all evening: “Lemonade, Lemonade, like Grandma… made!” Attendees had grown accustomed to him and his impressive set of lungs, particularly those who had been in the amphitheater since the doors opened at 3pm. During this time, technicians took down the huge 93.3 ALT AZ banner and replaced it with the new stuff for Bleachers’ elaborate stage setup.


Finally, at about 8:50pm, the moment many had been waiting for had arrived. Bleachers came out on stage to the screams, shouts, and claps of the audience. They started out with the fact that they are from New Jersey and that they have never headlined in this part of the world before, so this was a very special night for them. They also continued to hilariously decide if it was okay for them to call everyone “Phoenix” since they were in Mesa, and they asked if that was offensive. They decided, “f*ck it, we’ve never headlined in Arizona before. All of AZ is here tonight!

Their high-energy, anthemic songs uplifted and roused the crowd; their music was coupled with one of the best light shows possible, which added a new level to the experience and pumped the crowd up even more. Their songs encourage people to sing along in many ways, compounded by the fact that four out of five of the band members pipe in from time to time to sing along with Jack Antonoff. Not only that, but Jack frequently encouraged the crowd to sing along with shouts like “SING IT LOUD!” and “holy sh*t, you guys don’t f*ck around!

After a few of their songs, Jack ripped off his jacket; things were getting serious now. They also had a huge surprise for everyone that night – Jack announced they had a birthday in Bleachers very recently. The crowd cheered a bit, but to his displeasure, not loud enough: “Come on, you can do better than that! Do you guys not give a sh*t?! There was a birthday, like, a WEEK ago!” The cheering got much louder at this point, to which he shouted, “That’s more like it!” At this point, everyone sang happy birthday together with the band to one of its drummers, Mike Riddleberger. Jack then brought out a cake and handed it to the crowd, stating “You all can share it.

Jack then followed the birthday celebration up with how he knows Bleachers hasn’t been to Arizona enough, but he considers Phoenix a home away from home; it meant a lot for them to be there at Dia De Los ALT. After a few more songs, Jack punctuated the show with another little personal story. He first made the crowd get quiet, and then he made bass guitarist and keyboardist Mikey Hart stop all background music. Everyone then listened to how quiet it was outside in Mesa, and then Jack had Mikey start playing a low, humming sound. He then went on to explain how he loved Yaz (Yazoo) when he was young, and he heard this beautiful yet sad synth humming sound in the song “Only You.”

He became obsessed with that sound, and he bought the type of synth Yaz used to make it. He would play it all night long in his bedroom, which inspired him to write the lyrics to the songs that would one day become Bleachers. He wanted to make sad sounds, sad lyrics, and sad stories sound beautiful. He then stated that it would “sound something like this,” and then the other sounds of the beginning of their massively popular song “Rollercoaster” began to play. The crowd instantly screamed and cheered; this was truly one of the greatest build-up moments, and the crowd loved it. They were hanging off Bleachers’ every note, every lyric, and every word. Of course, Jack inspired the audience to sing it with him, and they most definitely sang along.

Since Jack has been a part of many beautiful moments in recent alternative music history, including being a part of the band Fun., they just had to include a slowed down version of “Carry On.” The crowd enjoyed this lull in the hype, sang along, and swayed solemnly. This more somber moment was followed up by additional slower songs, such as “Foreign Girls.” After this point, Jack discussed how they were excited to be touring with Bishop Briggs again in November, and they asked, “How are we doing on time? Someone give me a sign… I don’t want to f*ck this up.” Someone in the audience jokingly announced that it was over, to which Jack replied, “Oh, that’s it? Okay, I guess we’re done then!” However, they were far from done.

Jack next shouted out to the audience, “We’ve gotta keep it moving!” and inspired the crowd to pick up the pace once more. Next up was the song “You’re Still a Mystery,” which certainly brought the energy back again. After this, it was time to introduce the band, which was a significant moment in the show. They did a musical introduction to each member, along with a fun fact about each. Some even got to do a sort of musical solo after being announced.

Some exceptional moments were when the audience found out that Sean Hutchinson lived in Phoenix for a few years. We also learned how Mike Riddleberger is the “original Jersey hipster;” apparently, he started the entire movement! Finally, Mikey Hart was introduced, and the crowd learned he has a brother who lives in Phoenix. Mikey then treated the audience to a wickedly awesome saxophone solo, which was met with raucous applause.

Bleachers ended the evening strong, with two high-energy songs: “I Wanna Get Better” and “Don’t Take the Money.” While the crowd desperately wanted an encore, time was unfortunately up, and the festival had to come to an end. The guests staying at the adjacent Marriott were likely relieved, at least!

Closing Thoughts

All in all, despite the last-minute venue change from Fear Farm on the west side of the valley over to the Mesa Amphitheatre, Dia De Los ALT was a raging success! Citizens of the Phoenix metro area truly did come together to share love and music, and it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages and types enjoying these bands and the beautiful fall weather together. With any luck, the Phoenix area will continue to enjoy beautiful weather from here on out, and it would be great for all the bands from the Dia De Los ALT lineup to return and play in Phoenix again soon. After all, many of them seem to love Phoenix, and many of them did throw Phoenix into their lyrics as frequently as possible!

REVIEW: Nothing Stood in the Way of Epica, Lacuna Coil, Insomnium, & Elantris at Marquee Theatre 9-17-17

Phoenix —  A long of line of dark figures stood waiting outside the Marquee Theatre on September 17th. Even on a Sunday night, fans gathered together under the setting sun, bonding over their shared excitement of the night to come. The Dutch symphonic metal band Epica was joining the Italian gothfathers Lacuna Coil in a show that was sure to not be forgotten.

Elantris & Insomnium

As the stage glowed an ominous red the opening band Elantris, a female-fronted symphonic metal band, perched on the edge of the stage amping up the crowd.  The melodic voice of Lindsay Victoria Ketchum mixed with the gravelly screams of Thomas Ullom made for a beautiful contrast and got hearts pumping, Thomas even joined the crowd for moshing. After Elantris, Insomnium took the stage, bringing the crowd to new heights with their super charged energy and in-sync head banging. All the way from Finland, they were excited to be celebrating their 7th album Winter’s Gate.

Lacuna Coil

It was now time for Lacuna Coil to take the stage and the crowd pushed forward, the room thick and dripping with anticipation. One-by-one, the band members took to the stage, adorned in their sanitorium costumes.  Straight jackets stained red and band members’ faces painted white and red to look like sadistic clowns.

Lacuna Coil - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Marco Coti Zelati (Bassist), Lacuna CoilBand Photo Album
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design />All Rights Reserved.

Only the vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro stood with unpainted faces, their clothes scrawled with lyrics such as “Leave me Alone” in erratic black marker. It was a sight to behold.  They immediately launched into song and the crowd’s cheering filled the theatre.

Lacuna Coil - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Christina Scabbia (Vocalist), Lacuna Coil
Band Photo Album
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

They started off the night with some of their new songs from their latest album, Delirium which was released May, 2016.  Songs such as “Delirium” as well as “House of Shame” and “Blood, Tears, Dust” all shook the theatre to the core.  In between each song, vocalist Cristina Scabbia would address the crowd and make connections on a personal level.  She told the audience to “Leave your problems at the door, because everyone is welcome in the sanatorium!”; and made them cheer as she told them, “We know where we are, and we are headed towards our destiny!”

Midway through their set, Cristina challenged the audience to raise the bar as she burst into their hit song “Swamped” the audience went wild, moshing and throwing their hands in the air.  After singing “Come to Me” and “My Demons” Lacuna Coil brought it down a notch, asking the crowd to get out their lighters and cell phones and keep loved ones alive in their hearts as they sang “Downfall.”

Lacuna Coil - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lacuna CoilBand Photo Album
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Towards the end of their set Lacuna Coil announced a new project for their 20 year anniversary.  They will be releasing a book entitled “We Fear Nothing” in 2018, which will document the band’s journey from beginning to their current platform.  It should be an amazing and vivid illustration full of their accomplishments and past concerts. They finished their set with “Nothing Stands in Our Way” emphasizing that they believe in destiny!  Even as the band members left stage, the audience was soaking in their message of love, acceptance, and strength.  But the night wasn’t over.


The last band to take the stage was another female-fronted symphonic metal band, Epica.  On their Ultimate Principle Tour, Epica promoted their newest album The Holographic Principle.

Epica - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Simone Simons (Vocalist), EpicaBand Photo Album
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

The band members took the stage as the eager crowd cheered them on. Vocalist Simone Simons appeared last, in a tight-fitting black leather like dress, flipping her iconic long red hair.  Her operatic vocals filled the theatre as guitarists Mark Jansen and Isaac Dela haye wowed the crowd with their fingering skills, parading back and forth.  Even the keyboardist Coen Janssen got into it, spinning his keyboard around and headbanging with his bandmates, even with his shaved head!  

Epica - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Mark Jansen (Guitarist), EpicaBand Photo Album
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Green light emanated from behind them as though the audience was transported to a different world, as alternating lights flickered and flashed.  Belting out the songs “Our Destiny” and “The Essence of Silence” the audience was electrified as though in a trance. It was the best way to end the night.

Afterwards, it was hard not to dwell on the lyrics and messages of the bands.  It felt as though you could take on the world with a newfound passion and strength. With the words echoing in your head, “We Fear Nothing!”, it was time to tackle Monday.


by Katherine Amy Vega

Lacuna Coil & Epica – Marquee Theatre 9-17-17

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REVIEW: A Hart to Hart – Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Sobering Moments at The Van Buren 9-12-17

PHOENIXJust as the heat started to break, Phoenix began its transition from a seemingly-endless scorching summer to the fall and winter temperatures locals seem to live for. A perfect night for Phoenicians to head down to the brand new venue downtown – The Van Buren. Beth Hart, along with Marina V, headed to the Valley of the Sun to serenade and entertain a diverse crowd in this beautiful new downtown space.

Marina V

Marina V set the stage for a beautiful, emotional evening, slowly warming up a relaxed crowd with her melodic voice and piano-playing skills. She shared many tender, intimate moments with the audience, making it seem as if it was a private show for each and every one of them. Her passion for the art she creates and shares with the world is obvious, and her performance was a mixture of the subtle and the sublime.

Marina V - Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
Marina V
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth © All Rights Reserved

Marina V, short for Verenikina, hails from Moscow, Russia, but she has lived in the US for quite some time now. When she first started performing live, one of her first shows was opening for Beth Hart, making this tour very special – she was happy to be sharing the stage yet again with Beth. She also shared that she has performed over 1000 live shows by now, with her husband always by her side. In fact, after a few solo songs on stage and sharing her recent health struggles which she has recently recovered from – singing her song “Bring It On,” the anthem she wrote in some of her darkest moments – she brought out her husband to play guitar. Together, they rocked the stage, slowly ramping up their music and playing more stimulating songs and slowly warming the crowd up.

Eventually, Marina V told the crowd a bit more of her backstory, about growing up in Russia among tense relations with the US, and how she wishes peace, love, and unity for the two countries. To seal this deal, she confessed that she learned about most American music much later in her life, discovering Neil Diamond only recently. She sang “Solitary Man” in Russian, which was quite a pleasant surprise for the audience.

Marina V shared a few songs from her newer albums, and in fact plans to release her second album of the year soon. Her first one of this year, Inner Superhero, was released in January, and her latest album, Born to the Stars, comes out later this month. Fortunately for attendees, she was selling the newest album at her merch booth, giving fans a bit of a head start.

At the end of Marina V’s set, she offered for everyone to email her at for 4 free songs, and a promise that she would read each and every message personally. She also invited everyone to visit her in the merch area, where she offered to sign every piece of merch sold, and to hug anyone who came to see her. As a bonus, she made sure to write fans’ names in both English and Russian on any merchandise sold.

Marina V - Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
Marina V
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth © All Rights Reserved

Beth Hart

During a short break, people were able to explore The Van Buren a bit more, enjoying its spacious lobby, beautiful outdoor patio area, a drink or three from one of its bars, and maybe even a snack. As people were returning to their seats, Beth Hart took the stage by storm, starting the show with a “bang bang” and a “boom boom.” She rocked out hardcore, along with her band, moving all around the stage and singing her heart and soul out. It was crystal clear that she was enjoying her performance just as much as the audience, if not more so.

Beth Hart recently released a new album, Fire on the Floor, in the US this February, and what better way to celebrate than with a worldwide tour? On top of playing some of her newer songs, Beth Hart played some of her greatest hits since the early 90s. She also made sure to play one of her own mother’s favorite songs – something she thinks is a pretty sexy song: “Close to My Fire.” What she didn’t reveal just yet was that her mother was actually in the crowd at that very moment.

Beth Hart went through a great sampling of her best songs from over the years, transitioning from high energy to intimate, sobering, somber moments, and just about every other feeling in between. Her music is a mix of blues, rock and roll, jazz, and soul, and it is no wonder that The Blues Magazine called her “the ultimate female rock star.” Her voice has such a unique, enchanting sound, and her commanding stage presence only helps to amplify this.

Beth Hart
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth © All Rights Reserved

The crowd was also treated to Beth playing acoustic guitar on stage for a few songs, and of course she pulled out a few of her singer-songwriter-esque piano songs. Eventually, she had a heart-to-heart with the crowd, revealing her struggles with bipolar disorder and how it took her a very long time to “figure it out.” She also shared what was probably one of her proudest moments – reconnecting with her mom and showing her that she can do this thing called life. It was in that moment that she shared the fact that her mom was in the audience, somewhere towards the front, stage left. The lights went out, and they put the spotlight on Mama Hart, right as Beth prepared to play a song she had written just for her: “Mama This One’s For You.”

Beth Hart - Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
Beth Hart
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
© All Rights Reserved

After this heartwarming moment, Beth wanted to get back to the business at hand – rocking the house, and she sure rocked it good. She shared how she hasn’t been to Phoenix in a very long time, and that she “really f*cked things up bad” last time she was here. She expressed how ridiculously happy she was to be back, how she has overcome many of her past struggles, and that she is in a truly good place in life now. All of this, combined with her supreme performance and masterful presence on stage, made the concert feel like a treat for all in the audience.

In addition to some of those more tender moments, she also shared how, as a young girl, she would go to the beach, see all the beautiful men, and imagine that they all looked delicious. Her line of choice? “I bet they taste like Coca-Cola.” This, as she informed the crowd, is what inspired her song “Coca Cola.” She also shared how her brother’s ex-girlfriend, who was “crazier” than Beth herself, inspired another one of her songs: “Get Your Sh*t Together.” In fact, she loved her brother’s ex, but she felt the need to write that song for both her and herself.

Later on, she shared how she always wanted to get the hell out of LA, as many people apparently do, leading into “LA Song (Out of this Town);” she expressed how she loves to tour but always seems to long for home when on the road. This lead to her final song, “No Place Like Home,” which was a raw, sincere moment where she shared how she wanted nothing more than to be at home with her husband, who does everything for her. She also changed some of the lyrics for a more contemporary look at her life, such as switching “have someone curl up at my feet” to “have Stella curl up at my feet” and interjecting with “Stella’s my dog” between lines.

Beth Hart - Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth
Beth Hart
Photo Credit: Trystan Trenberth © All Rights Reserved

As all good things tend to do, the show came to an end after her solo performance of “No Place Like Home,” to which Beth said her farewells to the crowd and ended with some wise parting words: “Now go home and take care of each other!” A bittersweet moment of the band coming back out on stage and motioning their own farewells to emphatic applause and cheering ensued before the stage lights went off, the venue lights came back on, and people were left to find their way home.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, The Van Buren was a perfect place to hold such an intimate, surreal show filled with all the emotions under the sky – and then some. The sound was near-perfect, despite Beth’s requests for the sound engineer to tweak what she was hearing. The light show was on point, illuminating the band, highlighting Beth, and casting some interesting shadows with the TOS-era Star Trek-esque alien planet-looking props in the background. The crowd was full of true Beth Hart fans, calmly swaying to her more soothing tunes and rocking out to her more upbeat songs. All in all, this was a fantastic insight into the downtown Phoenix music scene, and Beth Hart herself certainly seemed to love every moment of her visit.

by Trystan Trenberth

Marina V & Beth Hart – The Van Buren 9-12-17

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REVIEW: Incubus, Jimmy Eat World, and Judah & The Lion Blow Away Ak-Chin Pavilion 8-12-17

PHOENIX — It was a hot and humid evening on August 12th as the lines of cars slowly filled the parking lot of Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix. Incubus was headlining the night’s show with special guests Jimmy Eat World.

Opening act Judah & The Lion was on stage first to warm up the crowd and promote their recent Folk Hop ‘N Roll Deluxe LP, released earlier this year on St. Patrick’s day. The Nashville-based band brought their own unique brand of genre-bending grooves to the valley before heading to Los Angeles for a show at the Hollywood Bowl on August 14th. Frontman Judah Akers is high energy, even running through the audience at one point and doling out high fives to the amused delight of concertgoers. This band definitely did their job setting the mood for the rest of the evening.

At approximately 7:42 PM, Jimmy Eat World took the stage to an uproar of applause as the lights lit up a sea of faces throughout the Pavilion with “Sure and Certain” as their opening song, followed by the title track of their 2001 album Bleed American. As the sun disappeared over the horizon, the purple clouds in the distance began to take a darker hue, with quick flashes of lightning bursts illuminating sky. This would foreshadow what would come later in the evening.

For the time being, everyone was worry-free and soaking up the nostalgia of seeing this amazing band again. It was even more special for the folks in attendance because Jimmy Eat World are one of the few mainstream bands from Arizona. Formed in Mesa back in 1993, the band has been a source of inspiration for many Arizona musicians for nearly two and a half decades. There are most likely a lot of people in the audience that saw them live in one of the famed and now closed Arizona music venues from the 90’s heyday before the band made it big. So many couples are singing along and embracing with the lyrics, “Sure and certain, wander ‘til we’re old”.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Jim Adkins eventually addresses the audience admitting “We’ve actually never played here before,” later adding, “It means a lot for us to be here playing music for you tonight”.

This was surprising news to many because the venue has been a staple for live music for the last 27 years. How could they not have played the pavilion before? When it had originally opened to the public in 1990 it was the Desert Sky Pavilion. In 1996 the name was changed to the Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion until 2001 when it was renamed the Cricket Pavilion, which it remained… Until it was again rebranded as the Cricket Wireless Pavilion. In 2010 it was renamed yet again as Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion for 3 years until things came full circle and it once again retained the name Desert Sky Pavilion. That was short lived as the Ak-Chin Indian Community purchased the naming rights later that year and it has remained Ak-Chin Pavilion ever since.

There was a chilling performance of “Pass the Baby”, and the people swayed like blades of grass in a summer’s wind, back and forth to the beat. An entire field of people moving their bodies and mouths to the lyrics, reflecting the light off of their faces, brought to mind the sharpness of the lyrics as the wind stirred palms in the distance beneath a tapestry of ever-changing clouds growing more and more menacing. A little later. the mood lightens and the versatility of the evening begins to betray the current mood with an about-face.

I’m gonna need a lot of help with this one. Get those lights out!

As fans activated their cell phone flashlights, the entire of the pavilion transformed into a sea of dotted illumination reminiscent of stars dancing in the night sky. “Hear You Me” trickled out of the sound system for a beautiful performance that many there will not soon forget.

Shortly afterward, Jim sang, “If you’re listening…

His Fender Telecaster began to sing the beginning riff of “Sweetness”, and it was evident how many people were immediately transported to another place in time. They’re bobbing their heads stuffing laundry into dryclean safe bags at Delia’s cleaners. They’re skating to station 13 at Sonic Drive-Thru. A girl is scanning Eddie Bauer jackets at Target overnight for inventory while mouthing the words. The guy at the front counter is stocking parts at Autozone. The aforementioned couple is at prom again. A few of them are crying. This was a time when they were happiest. Back when mom and dad were still alive and all they had to worry about was homework. They’re all conscious that the year is 2017… But they’re all in another time. Some are in 2001. Some 2003. Some in 2005.

What’s refreshing is that there were also teenagers in the audience, all that same age as the older crowd when these beloved songs were released. This music has somehow transcended time as these few but long years have passed.

“The Middle” ended Jimmy’s set. Once again, the mood was notched up to a positive crescendo.

Incubus hit the stage after a lengthy intermission and wasted no time getting started. Amongst rolling thunder, Brandon Boyd asked, “So how you guys doin’?!

The audience is echoing a cacophony of applause as Incubus opens with “Quicksand”, executing masterful precision. That would end up being a theme for the evening between the three bands. With the exception of Judah And The Lion, Jimmy Eat World and Incubus are veterans in their own right. This is one of thousands of shows these bands have played and their abilities haven’t diminished in the slightest after twenty plus years of touring year in and year out. Each and every song sounds studio- quality, with the perfect charm of the inequitous distribution of sound in a live setting. Everything sounds fresh, which is a true indication of each band’s maturity, and an excellent high water mark to distinguish their respective careers.

When the beginning of “I Wish You Were Here” began, people got quiet. It seemed like everyone within a mile radius is singing along loudly to the lyrics. Once again, the phones were out and that same illusion of stars dancing across the seats was visible, to the delight of observers. As they wrapped this song up, they closed it out with the intro Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, to the same lyrical zealousness of the few who knew the lyrics.

The clouds got closer and were nearly directly overhead when Incubus began “Stellar”, which elicited audible reactions of delight. Brandon Boyd is flawless in his recitation. At 41 years of age, he’s still very much an attractive man as well as a fantastic vocalist, but now with the age and wisdom of a distinguished older gentleman. Co-founder Mike Einzeiger is still ever the lead guitar slinger, hitting every melodic scale and harmonic with deft accuracy. The original drummer Jose Pasillas nailed the beats with the impeccable timing of a metronome. It would be criminal to discount the beautiful bounce of Ben Kenney’s bass, and the power of DJ Kilmore’s scratch. On this night they were in rare form as a unit and in tight unison. By the time they played “Drive”, there was a definite shift in the atmosphere.

The wind was now slightly oppressive and cups are blowing across the isles. The good vibes were still there but the weather really began to become more pronounced. The sprinkling began with “Pantomime”, to the dismay of the audience, and just as the band was finishing up “Sick Sad Little World” it began to pour significantly. It actually came in sideways toward the stage. As the song concluded, Boyd remarked nervously “We’ll be right back guys, I promise… We’ll be back”, as they exited view. Moments later a promoter or employee with the pavilion appears and explains that they’ll do everything they can while staff cover the electrical equipment from the elements. “We’re here for your safety.

Giant thunderbolt and lightning (very very frightening). The crowd went wild and cheered with the revelry of a rebel yell. Masses poured out of the grass and into the stands for cover. Many beneath the ramada begin sprinting for the gates. By all appearances it looked as though this show was over. The parking lot was in shambles. Cars were scrambling toward the exit. The stack turning left at 83rd ave and Monte Vista began to congest as the downpour continued onto the policemen stopping traffic in opposite ways to assist those fleeing the venue.

…But Boyd kept good on his promise.

When the rainfall began to calm, Incubus DID come back with “Nice To Know You” and finished the show with “Warning” to close out the evening for good. Any other band could have ended the concert right then and there when conditions became dangerous and half the audience left. They must have done it just for those few fans that stayed. It was truly a rare sign of integrity to match the humbleness of Jimmy Eat World; both bands being the measure of ethics and class to the very fullest. It was a remarkable show; one that can be easily recounted for years to come for anyone who was fortunate enough to be there. Like a Strawberry Cheesecake Shake from Sonic.

Thank you #Phoenix that felt amazing ⚡️

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