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REVIEW: Dashboard Confessional Impassion Fans at Sold Out 20 Year Celebration at The Van Buren (2-7-20)

PHOENIX — 20 years ago, Dashboard Confessional was started as a side project of Chris Carrabba, the lead singer and guitarist who also fronts Further Seems Forever. In those 20 years, Dashboard Confessional has been a soundtrack for many; the songs for triumph in the high moments, and the songs for the low moments to help them rise back up. The tour that brought Piebald and Dashboard Confessional to The Van Buren on this night was a celebration of these moments and memories that these fans had gathered to relive.

Piebald

First out onto the stage was Piebald. Much like recently reunited The Format – who, coincidentally enough, they opened for during the final tour as a band – Piebald went onto a hiatus after one final show in 2008, though they have played a handful of one-off shows since then. Frontman Travis Shettel, guitarist Aaron Stuart, bassist Andrew Bonner, and drummer Luke Garro released a Christmas album titled A Christmas (seven-inch) Adventure. It is a vinyl of three Christmas songs, an odd choice for a band that seems to pride itself in being quite odd, so perhaps it’s a perfect choice for them.

Dana Bollen (Hype, Tour Mgr, Merch), Piebald
Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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As the show started, it quickly became quite apparent how differently these guys do things. As the first song started, suddenly a head popped up over the crowd: Dana Bollen, who would play the role of hype man/tour manager/merch guy. Throughout the set, he would go from standing on the barricade, flailing his arms around to get the crowd pumped, up to the stage to play some excellent cowbell, succeeding to inspire the crowd to flail along with him when he returned to the barricade. It was a genius touch, and a memorable addition to their excellent show.

At home on stage, Shettel bantered, at one point hosting an impromptu Q&A session with a crowd that was enjoying their quirky performance. At one point someone yelled out, “You’re my favorite!” to which Shettel pointed at them and exclaimed, “You’re MY favorite! OUR favorite, actually!

Travis Shettel (Vocals, Guitar), Piebald
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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All of the songs they played were 12 years old, but yet felt so new. Piebald has managed to make their music sound timeless. Times have changed, and now the lyrics to the song “The Monkey Versus the Robot” have a much different and deeper meaning; one that anyone and everyone who works a 9-5 grind has felt at some point: “Work should not control our every minute, Eat to work, sleep to work, live to work, work.

It is not unusual to attend a show and find yourself confronted with a band trying entirely too hard to relate to you and the crowd around you, forced dialog and ham-fisted lyrics. Piebald is none of these things. Rather, they are a quirky band that is at home playing songs that aged beautifully, with the rare ability to walk onto a stage in front of an audience who made up of many who may never had heard of them, and win them over in under 45 minutes.

As Piebald cleared the stage and the preparations were finished for Dashboard Confessional, the lights dimmed and “Sweetness” by Jimmy Eat World started playing. A casual observer would have assumed that the crowd was there for a Jimmy Eat World concert with the reaction the song generated. The crowd gleefully and loudly followed the lyrical instructions to “Sing it back,” demonstrating that there truly is never a bad time to play a Jimmy Eat World song.

Dashboard Confessional 

To attend a Dashboard Confessional concert is to realize that your neighbor is probably going to spend a good deal of the show singing at the top of their lungs. That’s ok, because you likely will be doing the same at some point. This is the magic of Dashboard Confessional: Chris Carrabba is the rare songwriter who can encapsulate not just the words of the moments in life that we all have, he manages to paint a masterpiece with the music behind it.

Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World has a similar talent, and it could be argued that if everyone from this generation were to compile a soundtrack of their lives, it is likely they would have at least one song from these two bands on it. They have mastery of their lyrics and music, and we are an awestruck audience that has not fully realized how lucky we are.

Chris Carrabba (Vocals, Guitar), Dashboard Confessional
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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To call what was experienced on this night a concert does not quite do it justice, as it was really a journey through space and time with each song. “Vindicated,” a song from the soundtrack of the 2004 movie Spider-man 2, took us into the past, though it doesn’t feel like that song can get its drivers license this year. Carrabba was a skillful guide through the trip, knowing exactly when to step back from the microphone to allow the crowd the opportunity to belt out their favorite lyrics – saying at one point they sang beautifully – and when to step in and to tell a story before the next stop in this fanciful tour.

Scott Schoenbeck (Bass), Dashboard Confessional
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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Halfway through the set he traded his electric guitar for an acoustic and performed alone onstage. Carrabba is an extraordinarily talented guitar player, bringing quite a few guitars on tour and often switching up during the show, but his mastery shines the brightest when he plays acoustic. His vocals were also on full display, holding a note for a superhuman length of time, holding until the cheers finally drowned him out.

Chris Carrabba (Vocals, Guitar), Dashboard Confessional
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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As the rest of the band rejoined Carrabba, he introduced them as Scott Schoenbeck on the bass, Armon Jay also on the guitar, Chris Kamrada on the drums, and Dane Poppin who alternated between the keyboard and guitar. The journey that Carrabba took the audience on would look drastically different without the band, which he introduced twice during the show.

Dashboard Confessional
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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The reluctant, final stops on this journey included a rendition of “Hands Down” that felt something akin to a religious experience, with almost every person in the venue singing out as loudly as they possibly could. It was a celebration of Dashboard Confessional – a celebration of two decades worth of music and meaning, of memories, and of the songs that seemed to know what we needed to hear when we didn’t know ourselves. It was also a sold-out crowd saying “Thank you” to Carrabba in a way that means the most to an artist: by knowing every single word of every single song and serenading him throughout the show. The tour ends on 3/28 in Nashville, TN at the Ryman Auditorium.

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

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

Trae Tha Truth

Trae Tha Truth

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

RJMrLA

RJMrLA

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

Warren G

Warren G

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

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

Warren G
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Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

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

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

Snoop Dogg

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

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

Snoop Dogg
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Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

Snoop Dogg
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Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

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

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Photographer: Andrea Stoica

Snoop Dogg – The Van Buren 12-11-19

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Setlist

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

ENCORE

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

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

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

Plain White T’s

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

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

The Mowgli’s

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

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

New Politics

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

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

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

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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

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

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

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

Emily Davis and The Murder Police

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

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

Dave Hause and The Mermaid

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

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

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

Bad Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Religion will return to Arizona on March 28, 2020
with Alkaline Trio at Marquee Theatre.

Tickets

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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

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

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Bad Religion Setlist

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

ENCORE

  • “Infected”
  • “American Jesus”

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REVIEW: The Growlers Kickoff Tour with Heaven in Hell — A Sold Out Show in Phoenix (7-17-19)

PHOENIX — Opening their headlining Arizona show with an aptly titled track, “Heaven in Hell”, California beach goth rockers The Growlers played to a sold-out Van Buren venue that prepared them for their ambitious 2019 tour. The tour will include 52 concert nights over the next four months, finishing up in the heavenly City of Angels and Stars on Halloween night. Supporting The Growlers is Rinse & Repeat, an Orange County post-punk band.

Rinse & Repeat
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Rinse & Repeat

Rinse & Repeat can be best described as a space age psychedelic synth group that have a perfect mix reminiscent of The Aquabats, Divo, and maybe even some Peter Gabriel. Full of energy and theatrics, the nice commenced with their performance that was engaging, fun, and showed much dedication from the band members: Aaron Bones on bass, Riley on guitar, and Rodney on the drums. They put on a show that went beyond their songs and took us through their “space” struggles and successes. 

The Growlers

Sufficiently warmed up and likely grateful the show was in the climate-controlled venue, the crowd thoroughly enjoyed and sang along to each and every song with lead singer Brooks Nielsen, as if the lyrics popped up before them like a karaoke video.

The Growlers - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Brooks Nielsen (Vocalist), The Growlers
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The Growlers went through a total of 23 songs and 2 encore pieces, and unlike most mainstream bands, did not spend much time talking to the crowd in between songs, instead engaging them through their music. 

Setlist:

Heaven in Hell
One Million Lovers
Dope on a Rope
Orgasm of Death
Naked Kids
The Daisy Chain
Someday
Love Test
Beach Rats
Rare Hearts
Hiding Under Covers
Who Loves the Scum?
Problems III
When You Were Made
Monotonía
Pavement and the Boot
Empty Bones
Vacant Lot
Night Ride
City Club
Drop Your Phone in the Sink
Chinese Fountain
I’ll Be Around

Encore:
Humdrum Blues
Going Gets Tough

With such a jam-packed setlist, the fans got what they paid to see, The Growlers singing their favorite songs live, with an extensive sample of their successful discography. Perhaps, referencing lyrics from the opening song, their fans were able to “find a haven” in their immersion in the music and energy of one of their favorite bands. 

Nielsen seemed shy and tired, as he himself mentioned after singing just a few songs, “I’m tired, and it is only day one”, but as the show evolved, so did his energy and engagement. As their night ended, he expressed his gratitude to the audience for the boost, saying “Thank you Phoenix, we’re ready to tour now!

The lyrics from their closing song “Going Gets Tough” seemed to be applicable for The Growlers that night:

Still always remembering
When the going gets tuff
That the labor of our love
Will reward us soon enough

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Photographers: Rodrigo Izquierdo (Reagle Photography) & Andrea Stoica

The Growlers And Rinse & Repeat – The Van Buren 7-17-19

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Featured (top) photo by Rodrigo Izquierdo

 

LP Shakes Up Phoenix with Sold Out Crowd at The Van Buren (3-6-19)

PHOENIX — Long-time American songwriter Laura Pergolizzi, also known as LP, brought raw energy and charisma to Phoenix. Originally booked at the Crescent Ballroom, LP sold out the 550 capacity room, forcing the show to move to The Van Buren’s 1800 capacity venue. The bold move proved beneficial as LP sold out the Van Buren, with fans still hoping to score tickets at the box office before the show.

LP may be news to the majority, but she has been gracing the music industry with her songwriting since the late 90’s, writing songs for artists like the Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera. Her hard work and consistency paid off big time when she released her first studio album, Heart Shaped Scar, in 2001.

It was clear within the first few moments of the show why LP and her band have fans scrambling for tickets, and promoters moving her show to venues three times the size originally booked. The simple explanation: she’s a star. She has a commanding presence, and the moment she lets that first note slip between her lips, you’re sold. In that moment, you know you’re watching someone born to be on stage.

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

Taking her time to walk out on the stage, lights dimmed as the band came out, the music began with a slow build creating tension in each eager audience member waiting to see LP and hear her bold voice. The intensity of the crowd matched the tension built from the music until the moment LP came out, and then it’s on. Beginning the show with “Dreamcatcher,” the first track off her latest album, Heart to Mouth, she quickly captured attention from all in attendance.

She gracefully glided across the stage, singing with her incredible range and compelling the crowd to move with her. The music flowed into an explosion of sound and dance. Her writing has an incredible balance of emotion and freedom from your former lover, while at times you can feel her broken heart as if it were yours.

It may take seeing the show live to understand the passion each song has to offer. The show takes each person through a story of heartbreak and raw, pure feelings with songs such as, “I Gave You the Great Unknown,” and her second hit single “Recovery. ” Her lyrics ask honest questions like, “Did you let me go?“, and make real statements like, “I can’t stop sleeping in your clothes.” Her powerful voice soars through the crowd, piercing through each member of the audience. The dynamic vocals are accompanied by a slight quiver in her voice that drives home that heartbreak.  

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.


LP not only has the songs to remind you of the love you lost, but she has the ability to get you dancing to the same heartbreak. Along with her great presence is a solid, passionate, and exhilarating band. The dynamism and musicianship they bring to the show support LP with a humility that reflects that they believe in the music they are playing and know they are in the right place.

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.


If there is one takeaway for LP when she leaves the Valley, it’s that Phoenix wants her back, and it would be no surprise to see her in an arena when she returns. This is a show made for everyone: the broken-hearted, the healed, the happy, the lonely, the dancer, the dreamer  — LP has something for you.

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Photographer: Andrea Stoica

LP – The Van Buren 3-6-19

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REVIEW: In This Moment Thrills Phoenix Fans With ‘Ritual’ Style Performance 4-16-18

PHOENIX — Amidst their “The Witching Hour” tour, shock rock quintet In This Moment had fans spellbound during a thrilling visually-charged performance at historically-located venue The Van Buren. Openers on the bill included The Word Alive  — a metalcore group from Phoenix who’s most recent album Deceiver reached No. 97 on the Billboard 200 (2010), and fellow AZ-based nu metal band Ded, who’s been on the rise since the release of their wildly successful debut track “FMFY” in 2016. Audience members were elated to hear that In This Moment had offered both opening groups the option to extend their setlist for the night, in celebration of the obvious outpouring of support from local fans.

After a vigorous crowd sing-along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” ferocious frontwoman Maria Brink dawned the stage through a storm of purple-red smoke, spookily cloaked in all-black attire which was somewhat reminiscent of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

As Brink positioned herself center-stage, horror-esque slivers from In This Moment’s music video for title track “Blood” spliced on and off on a large overhanging screen. Current members Chris Howorth (Lead Guitarist & Founding Member), Travis Johnson (Bass Guitarist), Randy Weitzel (Rhythm Guitarist) and Kent Diimmel (Percussionist) followed close behind her also dressed to shock and impress in true gothic metal fashion.

The group transitioned into a haunting yet brutal performance of “Blood”, which was seamlessly followed by “River of Fire” from In This Moment’s latest album, Ritual (2017). In between these first two songs, Brink seductively shed her dark ceremonial garb for a ghostly white dress that shimmered beneath the spotlights.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

With a mix of fire and wind enveloping her silhouette, Brink immediately dominated the stage with her display of unique showmanship and incredible ability to personify her lyrics through purpose-driven theatrics. Her gruff throaty screams and eerily dazzling vocals are a fitting accompaniment for the band’s vehemently aggressive rhythms, sludgy guitar and relentlessly rhapsodic percussion.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Chris Howorth (Guitarist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Although In This Moment’s 2017 album is in fact less sexualized than albums in previous years, Brink’s outlook on the highly-debated topic remains the same. The singer changed from costume to extraordinary costume throughout the show reappearing on-stage in everything from skin-tight bodysuits and ritual garb, to Krueger-like talons, a top hat, and faceless creature masks. Backup dancers morphed from demons and witches to twinning alter-egos as the show’s storyline evolved before our eyes, exquisitely interpreting the lines of each song. Brink seduced the crowd with ease, gripping the audience with infectious performances of “Adrenalize”, “Roots” and “Burn”, which preceded a chilling vocal performance of ballad “Lay Your Gun Down.”

After an official band introduction, Brink disappeared from the stage leaving Howorth, Johnson, Weitzel and Diimmel in the spotlight for a savage Metallica tribute beginning with the opening instrumentals to “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and leading into a monster drum solo harnessing the chunky classic rock vibes that we all crave.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Kent Diimmel (Drummer), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Next, Brink stepped center stage once again beneath a large crescent-shaped entryway, which appeared as two halves of a glowing moon, altar-style. The opening scene from “Black Wedding” featuring Rob Halford (of Judas Priest) strobed in and out to church music, teasing the energized duet between Brink and Ded frontman Joe Cotela which was to follow. The night finished strong with blazing performances of fan favorites “Big Bad Wolf”, a cover of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”, “Sick Like Me”, and “Oh Lord” which had fans raging.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment & Joe Cotella (Vocalist), Ded
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

However, there was still one song yet to be desired. Audience members roared as Brink stepped out from behind the curtain for one final song this time wearing the infamous blood-smeared dunce hat as featured in “Whore”, which Brink described to Steppin’ Out Magazine as “an empowering, beautiful song for women.” On-stage, as oversized balloons began bouncing across the crowd, she went on to explain that “Whore” is about reclaiming control of what hurts us and rising above it:

I was told that I would amount to absolute shit”, she told the crowd. “That I would become nothing at all. So, you see this next song, this last song is about rising above other people’s expectations, all of these ideas about who and what we should be. This song is about taking other people’s hate and turning it into something powerful and liberating within. So tonight, ladies and gentlemen, if I can inspire just that, turning hate into love, then I am proud to say to you Phoenix tonight, I will be your whore!

The song’s title “Whore” is actually an acronym created by Brink to further communicate its underlying purpose:

Women Honoring One Another Rising Eternally


It seems that with their most recent album, Brink and her bandmates have finally perfected the delicate balance between their sultry sex appeal and crust punk approach to the ideals of empowerment and strength embedded in their music. “The Witching Hour” tour is more than an unforgettable performance; it’s a wakeup call. We truly cannot wait for more.

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by Katherine Amy Vega

In This Moment – The Van Buren 4-16-18

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REVIEW: Nothing More Lets ‘Em Burn at The Van Buren in Phoenix 10-25-17

PHOENIX — Nothing More put on an explosive performance in Phoenix Wednesday night at the city’s eye-catching new venue, The Van Buren; named in honor of the historic Martin Van Buren. Once inside, it was a pretty swanky setup: grandiose crystal chandeliers dripping from the ceiling, marble double-sided bars wrapping around the room and on the back wall, an enormous, technicolored mural of the Sonoran Desert surrounded the stage — a fitting theme considering the band was formed out of San Antonio, TX. Interestingly, Nothing More frontman Jonny Hawkins is actually an Arizona native. This is a fact he shares with drummer Ben Anderson who is known for his presence in local success story Digital Summer.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Ben Anderson (Drummer) – Nothing More
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

After stirring performances by Hell or Highwater, My Ticket Home, and Palisades, it was obvious the crowd’s anticipation was at its peak. All eyes were on the stage as the lights dimmed and the introduction to “Christ Copyright” rumbled out from beneath Anderson’s drum set. In a flash of white light, Hawkins entered the stage rocking his classic barefoot, shirtless style while yelling, “What’s up Phoenix?!”, as the remainder of the band stepped on stage behind him. A haze of blue and red light filled the room as the band moved right into meteoric performances of “Let ‘Em Burn”, “Mr. MTV”, “Don’t Stop”, and “Ripping Me Apart”; kicking things off with a mixture of heavy-handed tracks from Nothing More’s fourth and fifth studio albums, Nothing More and The Stories We Tell Ourselves.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves was an immediate favorite among fans after its release in mid-September of this year, coming in at 15 on the Billboard 200. And rightfully so, as the band’s live stage presence is both wildly unapologetic and deeply emotional.

Their set featured a variety of face-melting solos by each of the band’s highly talented members, but after their hit single “Go To War”, Hawkins and lead guitarist Mark Vollelunga decided to slow things down a bit. Midway through the night, the duo came together for a heart-wrenching acoustic performance of track “Just Say When”, which moved some neighboring fans and myself to tears. It’s a song that Hawkins said “almost didn’t make it onto the record” because they thought it might be “too sappy“. As is the case with many classic emo-toned favorites, the sad love story of the troubled rock star hit us right in the feels.

As “Just Say When” came to an impassioned end, the remaining members of Nothing More took the stage once again, throwing themselves into songs “I’ll Be Okay”, “Here’s To The Heartache”, and “Do You Really Want It”. Fans visibly rejoiced as bassist Daniel Oliver strapped his instrument into the infamous “Bassinator” while Vollelunga and Hawkins aggressively plucked and tapped along the fingerboard. They were, presumably, pumping up the audience for a prolific performance of profoundly personal track “Jenny”, the third single off Nothing More’s self-titled album which spotlights Hawkins’ sister’s struggle with mental illness — a topic that hits hard for many of the band’s listeners.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
 Jonny Hawkins (Vocalist), Daniel Oliver (Bassist), & Mark Vollelunga (Guitarist) – Nothing More, playing The Bassinator
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Just as we sang along to the closing lyrics of “This Is The Time”, Hawkins stepped forward to address the crowd for one of the last times that evening. “Well it’s that time of the night; it’s our last song. Who has seen us before? [Cheers] Who has never seen us before? [Cheers] We are a band that does not give encores because one: they’re fake, and two: they’re fake. We’re just going to play our last song instead, and give it all we’ve got.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
 Mark Vollelunga (Guitarist) – Nothing More
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

And just like that, Hawkins was back at it again, flinging his water bottle into the crowd and jumping all over the stage as he and his band mates poured their souls into iconic track “Salem – Burn The Witch”, standing atop their latest mega-futuristic, one-man-band machine – a 400-pound, 14-foot tall instrument. The members of Nothing More dubbed it as “The Scorpion Tail” in an interview with local radio station 98 KUPD earlier this week. The crowd went absolutely insane for it, cheering Hawkins on as he not only drummed with his feet, but sang as well. Even employees of the venue gathered to watch in awe, some with their fists thrust into the air.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
 Jonny Hawkins (Vocalist) – Nothing More, on The Scorpion Tail
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

To say this performance was “impressive” would be to sell it short. Nothing More swept us off our feet yet again, and Phoenix will absolutely be back for more.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
 Nothing More
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

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by Katherine Amy Vega

Nothing More – The Van Buren 10-25-17

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REVIEW: Portugal. The Man Kicked It Like It Was 1986 at The Van Buren 10-12-17

PHOENIX – Thursday, October 12th, was a much-anticipated night for fans of indie rock band Portugal. The Man. While many people may have heard of Portugal. The Man, or PTM for short, over the years since their inception in 2004, the band truly found fame after releasing their hit single “Feel It Still” from their new album, Woodstock. Almost overnight, “Feel It Still” became a widely played hit and currently sits at a comfortable 6th place spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list, inclusive of all genres of music.

This unexpected and sudden boost in attention may explain why their show at The Van Buren quickly sold out, and it may also explain a shirt they had on display at their merchandise booth with the message, “I LIKED PORTUGAL. THE MAN BEFORE THEY SOLD OUT.” This was just one of many interesting shirts and various other accessories they had on sale, with some items featuring their iconic and fascinatingly styled artwork. The lead singer, John Gourley, is the artist, and his style is quite unique.

The Van Buren is a new establishment, but it is quickly establishing its dominance in the Phoenix Metro area. Many people visited The Van Buren for the first time on Thursday evening, and many people in the crowd could be overheard discussing how great this new space is. Since the show was entirely sold out, they had the house cleared out as much as possible and even set up an auxiliary bar located house right, close to the side exits to the restrooms. This made for 3 bars inside to complement the bars out on the patio. The crowd was definitely hydrated, and the drinks were flowing — everyone was getting ready for the time of their lives.

The Chamanas

By the time The Chamanas started playing, the house was filling up fast. People were well lubricated, and cans of PBR could be seen in hands throughout the rapidly-growing crowd. While they were enjoying their beverages, The Chamanas treated them to a soothing mix of several of their distinctly varied songs. Paulina Reza, lead singer of The Chamanas, has a beautiful voice and a powerful set of lungs which she employed to their fullest throughout the show.

The Chamanas are considered a “Fronterizo pop fusion ensemble,” and their name is part English, part Spanish, and part portmanteau; all together, they represent a physical manifestation of the magical, spiritual qualities that music may sometimes bring into the world. Their goal? To change the way people may think or feel by bringing a positive outlook and spreading love through their songs. What better way to celebrate the idea of people coming together across borders to celebrate common interests and emotions? The members come from both Juarez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas, making this a fantastic fusion of cultures, languages, and styles.

Reza brings vocals that are at once unique, but also reminiscent of many famous singers who may not be well known in the US. In fact, the style of her voice in many of her songs brings hints of Jeanette, the famous British-Spanish pop artist who spent much of her own musical career bridging cultural gaps through music. The rest of The Chamanas are also reminiscent of similarly-minded bands, such as Calexico, who will be playing at the upcoming Lost Lake Festival on Friday, October 20th, as well as Chicano Batman, who will be playing at The Van Buren on Saturday, November 4th.

During The Chamanas’s performance, Reza took a moment to tell the crowd, “We love music. We love to do this.” She continued to share positive thoughts like this throughout their performance, both in Spanish and English; “Music is the answer,” she said; it can become a cure for discrimination across the country.

Towards the end of The Chamanas’s time on stage, Reza also shared that, when using Portugal. The Man’s recording studio, Sonic Ranch, they became quite friendly with one another. After a while, PTM asked The Chamanas to perform some of their songs in Spanish to help bridge the gaps between genres and cultures. Reza and the band were thrilled to do so.

This lead to a stunning rendition of “Purple Yellow Red & Blue” in mostly Spanish, with a few famous lines still in the original English — most notably, the lyrics from the chorus that are the same as the title of the song. They also played their version of “Feel It Still,” which was phenomenal as well. This was a great way to get the crowd excited for Portugal. The Man, and Reza further hyped the crowd by asking if they were excited to see PTM later. The crowd screamed their approval.

Portugal. The Man

After a short break consisting of eager fans pressing ever-closer together towards the stage, the lights went out, and “Unchained Melody” by Righteous Brothers began to play. The crowd’s eager cheers soon gave way to gentle swaying, and a few people pulled out their lighters. Several others joined with their cell phones, but the effect was not the same. Some began to sing along, especially as the song reached its climax, so to speak:

“Are you
Still mine
I need your love
I need your love
Godspeed your love to me”

Just as the song reached the peak of its climactic crescendo, one of the Portugal. The Man logos was projected onto the backdrop along with their title, “The Lords of Portland.” Their desert kingdom awaited them.

Following their royal title was a message for their loyal subjects: “We are not very good at stage banter, so tonight’s performance will feature some slogans written by our management. Thank you for your continued understanding. PTM.” They followed this projected message with a verbal greeting: “What’s up Phoenix? We’re Portugal. The Man.” Immediately after this, they went right into their cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” complete with ominous bells preceding stellar instrumentals.Those guys can rock out with the best of them.

The next song in PTM’s lineup was their second most famous song, “Purple Yellow Red & Blue.” It was clear that fans in the crowd loved hearing one of their favorite songs performed live, and many sang along. While much of the song was the same as the radio or album versions, they did add quite a few instrumental intermissions. This showed off their passion for progressive rock, which they would dive into again frequently throughout the remainder of the show.

Their penchant for progressive rock is rivaled by their love of psychedelic rock, so of course they had to cover Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” — if the singing heard from the crowd was any indication, the rest of the room definitely seemed to approve of this addition to the show. “Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone!” This was quite fitting because many might say Portugal. The Man is quite similar to a contemporary version of Pink Floyd, though they definitely have their own, signature style.

To couple with all the alternative, psychedelic, progressive, and experimental tunes Portugal. The Man were playing, they treated the crowd to an equally-psychedelic light show, complete with a section of “Purple Yellow Red & Blue” transitioning into an entrancing display of alternating rainbows reaching out towards the audience. Naturally, they also threw in purple, yellow, red, and blue lights, perfectly timed with their accompanying lyrics.

Hypnotic lasers, flashing lights, and rainbow hues were not the only visual accoutrements during the show; Portugal. The Man brought some fascinating visuals to display on the backdrop behind them. These frequently featured nightmarish images of bodies, heads, and eyes, and each song had a unique combination of one or many of these features. Diamonds and other geometric shapes also found their way into the visual feast on the projector. One thing is for certain — these graphics were unforgettable, hollow eyes and all.

As advertised, occasionally, the “management” threw up more messages throughout the show. Some of these messages stated things like, “We are Portugal. The Man! Just making sure you’re at the right concert,” and “Thank you for buying and/or stealing our new album.” Their self-awareness and reticence (or perhaps just pure love for playing music) were quite refreshing, and these textual messages were more than enough stage banter for this show.

Other amusing messages included the following series: “Smokin’ Weed???” “Gettin F*cked Up???” “Discussing Politics at Family Gatherings” and, finally, “That’s F*ckin’ Bad Ass.” The most important message throughout the entire show, however, was most likely the message that read, “That’s right kids. No computers up here. Just live instruments.”

After playing “Feel It Still” and many other hit songs, and after bringing some Woodstock vibes to Phoenix, it was time for a Portugal. The Man style encore. The crowd was greeted with a customized PTM version of the old-school “Indian-head test pattern” that used to play on broadcast TV: “Please Stand By.” Fans of the Fallout video game series may also recognize it quite well. This take on the interim between main show and encore was different and, again, self-aware, but everyone knew they’d be coming back out for a few more songs anyway. They must have wanted to be efficient about it.

Almost as soon as Portugal. The Man had swept into The Van Buren, the show was over. After their last song, the band quickly dispersed and left the stage without as much as a farewell. However, this is their style, so this is the way it must be. PTM fans were not bothered by this one bit, and many could be heard after the show eagerly chatting about how this was “the best concert of all time.” One thing is for sure: they put on a damn good show, and Phoenix is definitely feeling it still.

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

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

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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

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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.

MUTEMATH

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.