All posts by Kara Blakemore

Former concert and festival photographer for Music Voice and No Cover Magazines in Phoenix. Contributor to various other magazines, radio shows and websites both locally and nationwide. I am an Arizona native, Cardinals football fan, crafter, and yard-sale addict. Music is what my life is about.

REVIEW: Alicia Keys Still Burns Brightly in a Spectacular Arizona Performance (9-10-22)

Co-Author: Katherine Amy Vega

PHOENIX — Alicia Keys brought the house down at Arizona Financial Theatre with her mighty chest voice, riveting talent on piano, and smooth, confident moves in an approximately two-hour performance. The “Alicia + Keys World Tour” is her first since her “Set the World on Fire Tour” in 2013, and it celebrates the releases Alicia (2020) and double album Keys (2021). Beginning in June 2022, the two-legged tour had 19 stops in Europe, and will be wrapping up in late September after 31 stops in North America – totaling 52 shows for the mega-talented Keys. This Phoenix stop was opened by Philadelphia-born singer/songwriter Pink Sweat$, whose debut album Pink Planet was released in 2021 after COVID-responsible delay.

When the lights went down for the “Princess of Soul”, a solar video crescendoed on the screen behind the stage and quickly immersed the audience in Keys’ “world”. After a keyhole appeared on screen, a curtain raised and the commanding and womanly silhouette of Keys was revealed.

Alicia Keys in Los Angeles
Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

Donning a plum taffeta trench coat over a blinged-out bodysuit, she took a slinky stroll toward the front of the stage – her glittery costume but a fraction of the shine of her charismatic presence upon her arrival. Keys said, “the vibe is amazing in here”, as she expressed appreciation to offer an “intimate” show to her fans, adding, “this energy is just what I wanted.” She kicked off her 34-song set with “Nat King Cole” from Keys, entrancingly playing her mobile grand piano while crooning and belting soulful lyrics.

Alicia Keys performing in Los Angeles - Photo by Kevin Winter
Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

Keys moved into a mashup of the Kanye West-produced “You Don’t Know My Name” and “Will You Ever Know It?” followed by a reggae-inspired version of “Wasted Energy” also from the Keys album. Soon after, she played a powerful, key-pounding version of “New Day” from 2012’s Girl on Fire.

Alicia Keys performing in Los Angeles - Photo by Kevin Winter
Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

Following was a sultry execution of her 2005 Grammy-winning song with Usher, “My Boo”, then she put her spin on “Nobody” by DJ Khaled. Her band, which included a standing bass, guitar, back-up vocalists, and two additional keyboard players showcased their talents in an interlude of Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” while Keys briefly left the stage. 

Alicia Keys performing in Los Angeles - Photo by Kevin Winter
Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

Video clips of Harlem appeared on the screen behind Keys, who was now sporting a silk white and black jacket emblazoned with her name. Up next was an astounding version of her and Jay-Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind”.

Alicia Keys performing in Los Angeles - Photo by Kevin Winter
Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

Later, Keys exuberantly played DJ while surrounded by three keyboards, offering up alternate versions of three of her hits: “Skydive”, “It Is Insane”, and “Only You”. Her new 2-disc album Keys offers original versions on the first disc, “unlocked” versions on the second one, and on the deluxe edition – Keys II (2022) – some additional songs and alternate mixes. She made a game of the alternating versions, playing samples of each, bringing up the house lights, and having the crowd vote between versions with cheering. 

Alicia Keys performing in Los Angeles - Photo by Kevin Winter
Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

After Keys descended the stairs and showed a little love by briefly walking into the screaming crowd, she returned to the piano for a heartfelt version of “Girl on Fire”, followed by her homage to self-love: “Superwoman” from As I Am (2007). Fans were asked to turn on their phone lights before joining her in singing “Fallin’”, and the room lit up both visually and in spirit for the beloved hit song that became a massive hit after she wrote and produced it herself in 2001.

Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

She treated fans to her dancing skills and self-assured voguing during “In Common” (Black Coffee Remix), which brought an infectious buzz to the atmosphere. The screams of her fans well-represented her idol status.

Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

After a bountiful hour and forty-five minutes, the pre-encore ritual began before her band started up with a slick instrumental version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” featuring a mean solo on a Gretsch by her guitarist. When Keys returned to the stage, she proclaimed, “this thing is special that we did tonight.” She was not wrong. Her library is full of songs about growth and loving yourself. She added, “the energy is beautiful; the energy is perfect”. What is more, Keys encouraged the audience to “make every moment count”, to push past fears, to live and love in an unpredictable world, “because what else even matters?” Her encore included “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” and “If I Ain’t Got You”. 

Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

Keys’ performance was beyond outstanding – all the while exuding a heart of gold and exhibiting a warm, beautiful smile with a lovable, joyful presence – demonstrating what made and sustains her superstar status. On the same night, Kendrick Lamar as well as Alice in Chains with Breaking Benjamin and Bush were also performing in Phoenix at Footprint Center and Ak-Chin Pavilion. Of the many tours to choose from to spend your hard-earned dollars on this year, the “Alicia + Keys World Tour” was most certainly a worthy, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Alicia Keys performing in Los Angeles
Alicia Keys performs onstage at The Greek Theatre on September 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK)

Featured photo (top) by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK

REVIEW: Incubus, Sublime with Rome, The Aquadolls Chill Out the Desert at Ak-Chin Pavilion (8-22-22)

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View Incubus Setlist

PHOENIX — Ak-Chin Pavilion wrapped up its summer concert series with Incubus, Sublime with Rome, and The Aquadolls as part of their “Summer 2022” tour. The three California bands brought a reggae-meets-alternative end-of-summer party to Phoenix, and a party it was! The kick-ass girl band The Aquadolls, plus 90’s and beyond radio favorites Sublime with Rome and Incubus brought a “chill” to the desert and a whole lot of fun for a Monday night in Arizona. 

The Aquadolls

The Aquadolls
Melissa Brooks (Vocalist, Guitarist), The Aquadolls
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The Aquadolls emerged as Abba’s “Dancing Queen” ushered them onto the stage. Singer and lead guitarist Melissa Brooks shouted, “Who’s ready to party?” and jumped into the 2013 song “Mine” from their album Stoked on You, followed by “Our Love Will Always Remain” from the same album. 

The all-girl band of “perma-teenage mermaids” from the Orange County area were founded in 2012 by lead singer and writer Brooks, who recorded demos in her bedroom before signing with indie label Burger Records. Their current lineup includes Jacqueline Proctor on drums and Keilah Nina on bass. Their tongue-in-cheek lyrics paired with an upbeat pop sound served as a great fit for this summer tour. A psychedelic, tie-dye screen with floating palm trees and the Aquadolls logo were the perfect scene-setting backdrop for their high-energy pop-alternative music. 

The Aquadolls
Jacqueline Proctor (Drummer), The Aquadolls
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Their seven-song setlist continued with their new single “Beachy,” which is scheduled for release on August 26th on Enci Records, and a high-energy cover of the Go-Go’s classic hit “Vacation.” Brooks gave a shout out to their crew and tour headliners: “Who’s ready for freaking Sublime? Who’s ready for freaking Incubus?!” while the exuberant crowd cheered. Next up, a catchy and fun song about obsession, “Sneaky,” followed by “Take Me Away.” Finishing out the set was a song Brooks said was about tripping out, called “Wander.” The Aquadolls made sure to take time for fans at the merch booth after their set. 

Sublime with Rome

Sublime with Rome performing in Phoenix
Sublime with Rome
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

With flashing red and blue police lights and images of riots projected behind them, stoner-music favorites Sublime with Rome kicked off their set with “April 26, 1992”. As if on cue, the arena filled with the smell of weed, with Rome Ramirez asking, “Where my stoners at?!” before sliding into the weed-friendly anthem “Smoke Two Joints.” Eric Wilson’s deep guttural basslines hit hard during “Doin’ Time” while images of lowriders were projected on the screen and the crowd sang along to the chorus, “most definitely”. Drummer Carlos Verdugo didn’t miss a beat with his huge beaming grin, and his unique bent-elbows-held-high style of drumming.

Carlos Verdugo (Drummer), Sublime with Rome
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The band played more reggae-inspired hits next with “The Wrong Way” and “Badfish”. They also made time to pay homage to “our brothers in Katastro”. The Phoenix reggae-rock band Katastro lost their lead singer, 32-year-old Andy Chaves to a deadly car crash on May 12th on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Sublime is no stranger to loss, and have rebuilt the band following the death of original singer Bradley Nowell to a heroin overdose in 1996. With the house lights up, a dalmatian dog joined the band onstage, in honor of “Lou Dog,” the Sublime mascot who shared the stage with the band in the 90’s.

Rome Ramirez (Vocalist, Guitarist), Sublime with Rome
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Ramirez started “What I Got” while fans danced with their flashlights on. Their set ended with the popular “Santeria”. Sublime brought their mega-talent and chill vibe for a fun, end-of-summer show. 

Incubus

“I want my, I want my MTV…” from “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits played over the P.A. as the walk-out song for Incubus, the third California-based band of the tour. On came the lights, and frontman Brandon Boyd sang a powerful version of “Nice To Know You” to kick off a nearly two-hour set covering three decades of songs from the alternative band. Boyd spent the entire set on a chair, stating he hurt himself without elaborating how, but amused by the spinnable chair. 

Brandon Boyd of Incubus in Phoenix
Brandon Boyd (Vocalist), Incubus
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

With his shoulder-length hair and white pants, Boyd said he remembered playing Ak-Chin Pavilion years before, after traveling from California in a van when Incubus toured with Dirty Heads in the 90’s. Currently, he is touring with bandmates Mike Eiziger on guitar, Chris Kilmore on turntable, José Pasillas on drums, and Ben Kenney on bass guitar on a 27-date U.S. tour that began July 24th and wraps up September 3rd. 

Chris Kilmore (DJ), Incubus
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Next up was “Circles,” matching the track sequence from Morning View. Afterward, the house lights came on and Boyd asked for the crowd’s help as the band performed “Wish You Were Here”. A powerful version of “Anna Molly” blew the crowd away, followed by an amazing, extended version of “Just a Phase” with a little of The Doors “Riders on the Storm” injected into the middle.

Brandon Boyd of Incubus in Phoenix
Brandon Boyd (Vocalist), Incubus
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Their 16-song set was full of both radio hits and deep cuts from their 30-year history, like Make Yourself’s “Stellar” and “Pardon Me”, “Sick Sad Little World” from A Crow Left of the Murder, 2020’s apropos “Karma, Come Back” from Trust Fall (Side B), “Vitamin” (barely placating S.C.I.E.N.C.E. fans) and more. During “Mexico” the injured Boyd placed his arm around guitarist Eiziger’s shoulder in a sort of seated side-hug and sang the “ooo”s of the song’s bridge in a beautiful bromance moment.

Mike Eiziger (Guitarist), Incubus
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

When Incubus said goodnight, fans naturally were not having it. With cell phone flashlights beaming, the fans cheered for more, and the band returned to the stage. They closed out the night with “Warning” and “Drive.” What a way to end the summer – three hella chill bands bringing Cali-style fun and cool vibes to the desert!

View Setlist


Photo Galleries

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

View Separately:

Incubus* | Sublime with Rome* | The Aquadolls*

*Includes a few additional photos

Incubus, Sublime with Rome, The Aquadolls – Ak-Chin Pavilion 8-22-22

Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen & 3 Powerhouse Openers Play with Relentless Fury in Tempe (5-24-22)

Parabellum album artwork

Tempe, AZ — Swedish neo-classical metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen thrilled eager Marquee Theatre guests, along with openers Jessikill, Culprit and Deimer.  The May 24th show was part of the “Parabellum Tour 2022”, named after Malmsteen’s 2021 album. He has been known as the gold-standard of guitar players throughout his career and fans couldn’t get enough of his masterful riffs, or the giant wall of 44 Marshall amplifiers. The show definitely “goes to 11” – as multiple people mused, referring to the famous line from “Spinal Tap”. How could it not? This tour doesn’t skimp on skills or thrills!

Jessikill

Jessikill from San Antonio, Texas opened the show with power-metal songs so heavy you can feel the bass in your soul. Led by Jessica Marie Espinoza on vocals, the band boasts 3 albums and awards that include “Best Metal Band”, “Top Local Band of the Year” and “Best Female Performer” at the 2016 SANA Awards. Jessikill has played opening spots for such national acts as John 5, Faster Pussycat and Jake E. Lee since they formed in 2012.

Jessikill live at Marquee Theatre
Jessica Marie Espinoza (Vocalist), Jessikill
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

On lead guitar and keyboard is the talented Jyro Alejo, on drums is Jordan Ames, and bringing that big bass sound is Arturo Knight, who is also a backup vocalist. Regrettably, their set was short, clocking in at 18 minutes. It was hardly enough to showcase Espinoza’s vocals, which switched from a rough growling to high-note harmonies with effortless transitions, leaving the room wanting more. 

Culprit

Seattle’s pre-grunge era band Culprit played a six song set, including title track “Layin’ Down the Law” and “Holy Roller” from their upcoming album. Established in 1981, Culprit tours with one original band member, bassist Scott Earl, and the current lineup includes Gabriel Colon on vocals, Fred Aching on drums, and P.J. Toyne on guitar.

Scott Earl of Culprit live at Marquee Theatre
Scott Earl (Bassist), Culprit
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The band’s Wikipedia page cites the original band’s break-up in 1985 to pursue “other endeavors”. Culprit still maintains an 80’s hair-metal band feel, sound, and look. Colon sings while swinging the microphone stand in a Steven Tyler-esque fashion, dressed in white leather hip-hugging pants and jacket with no shirt. Limited only by the seemingly short set, Culprit’s act stood the test of time and proved to be a solid opener for the tour. 

Deimer

Not many musicians have IMDB credits that include being killed by Michael Myers in the “Halloween” movie series, but Kurt Deimer does. His character “Teller” didn’t survive the 2018 film with Jamie Lee Curtis, but Deimer is the one killing it in real life. He has a diverse resume including his title of President and Chief Executive Officer of Coolants Plus, Inc. (a wholesale chemical company), further IMDB acting and producing credits, and leader of the band Bald Man, whose 10 song debut album Music For the Rest of Us was released in 2020. 

Kurt Deimer live at Marquee Theatre
Kurt Deimer (Vocalist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

In 2022, Deimer and Canadian Bon Jovi guitarist Phil X (Xenidis) joined forces to provide direct support for the Parabellum tour. Deimer, sporting a black top hat and bedazzled beard, took the stage with a powerful presence. Teetering on the stage’s edge, he enticed the crowd with his catchy harmonies and haunting spoken lyrics on the band’s songs “Hero”, “Only Time Will Tell”, and “Back of the School”, as well as a metal version of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”. The set concluded with a heartfelt plea by Deimer to the crowd, asking that we “be nice to each other”. 

Phill X with Deimer at Marquee Theatre
Phil X (Guitarist), Deimer
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Yngwie Malmsteen

In researching Yngwie Malmsteen, the term “virtuoso” is used repeatedly to describe him. Born Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck in Stockholm, Sweden, Malmsteen’s first band was formed when he was only ten years old. His musical influences included the classical genre, and in particular, the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as more contemporary artists, such as Ritchie Blackmore. His forty-year career includes 22 studio albums, and in 2009 Time Magazine named Malmsteen number 9 amongst the 11 greatest guitar players of all time. 

Yngwie Malmsteen live at Marquee Theatre
Yngwie Malmsteen (Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Malmsteen played a ninety-minute set, covering a variety of hits from his expansive music career. Setting the mood were red stage lighting and fog machines, and the sound from the wall of Marshall amplifiers was so intense it felt like it could knock you into the wall. A cover of “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple with vocals by Malmsteen and a very metal version of the “Star Spangled Banner” were interlaced with classical and bluesy riffs. A master at his craft, Malmsteen plays with a finesse and skill unlike any other and sets the bar for aspiring guitarists. 

Yngwie Malmsteen live at Marquee Theatre
Yngwie Malmsteen (Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

A fan commented on the artist’s official Facebook page that his wall of Marshall amplifiers was fake, but Malmsteen was quick to retort, “I know it’s really sad, they’re very expensive and I take the real deal and everyone is accusing me of them being empty, it’s ridiculous :(”. Another fan made the astute observation that “The Great Wall of China and Yngvie’s wall of Marshalls are the only man-made objects visible from space.” They’re not wrong. 

Yngwie Malmsteen live at Marquee Theatre
Yngwie Malmsteen (Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

This was a Tuesday night that won’t soon be forgotten. It was mind-blowing. The 2021 release of the Parabellum album is available online, and one can assume it’s as fierce through headphones as it was live. “Parabellum” is a well put-together tour with the unique combination of Jessikill, Culprit, Deimer, and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Yngwie Malmsteen, Jessikill, Deimer, & Culprit – Marquee Theatre 5-24-22

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Robert Mason Hits All The Notes at Intimate Cactus Jack’s Show with Drop D (4-15-22)

PHOENIX— Valley local and current lead singer for Warrant, Robert Mason, performed at Cactus Jack’s Bar and Grill Friday night in Ahwatukee. What is special about this show is the intimate setting and interaction with the artist that is so rare and delightful, you never forget it. Mason recruited metal cover band Drop D from Tucson, Arizona to share the stage both April 15th at Cactus Jack’s, and again April 16th at Encore in Tucson for a show benefiting Women Warriors, a non-profit group supporting female veterans. 

Robert Mason singing and playing the keyboard
Robert Mason (Vocalist, Keyboardist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Mason on keyboards and lead guitarist for Drop D, Thomas Bach, kicked off a brief set with an incredible duet of Bob Seger’s song “Turn the Page”. Mason proved quickly why he has no problem heading such bands as Warrant, Lynch Mob, Big Cock Band, and even vocal support for Ozzy Osbourne. His incredible vocal range with a touch of grit would be a great fit for any band. Next up was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”. Mason wasn’t shy about using his phone as a teleprompter for the lyrics, saying, “Skynyrd used one at bike week too,” with a grin.

Robert Mason (Vocalist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Mason played a solo guitar and vocal version of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mama I’m Coming Home” after sharing a story about the call from Sharon Osbourne that led to him touring on Ozzy’s 1995-96 Ozmosis Tour. This led into Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home”, and ended the first set.

Guitarist Thomas Bach of Drop D performing
Thomas Bach (Guitarist), Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Drop D’s Facebook page cites the band as “Tucson’s hard and heavy cover band”. There is not much information online about the band, but they are a fun foursome with lots of energy and a nice variety of songs in their set. They are definitely worth a watch when they come back to the valley. Members include previously mentioned Thomas Bach on lead guitar, KJ Padilla on vocals and rhythm guitar, and Corey Candray on bass. Drummer Bob Allen could not make it, but in his stead Ando Miller literally “lit up” the stage with his color-change drum kit.

Drummer Ando Miller performing with Drop D
Ando Miller (Drummer – filling in for Bob Allen), Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

An audio clip of “We Are the Champions” by Queen was the intro for the band  whose set began with The Outfield’s “Your Love”. Padilla quipped they would play some more “songs older than I am” before covering Cinderella’s “Somebody Save Me” and Queensryche’s “Empire”. The “sound man Tommy” for Cactus Jack’s was invited up on stage and given a set of drumsticks to help play cymbals on Candlebox’s “You”. Van Halen’s “Unchained”,  Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” and Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” set the tone for the next set.

KJ Padilla of Drop D
KJ Padilla (Vocalist, Guitarist), Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The final ten songs included both Drop D’s full band and Mason himself on vocals. A great set it was, considering the band claims to have had “no practice” prior to the pairing. Bach jokes that Mason was “just tolerating us”, but Mason chose this band to play these two shows with for a reason: talent, and lots of it. From Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” to Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart”, Mason impressed again with his incredible talent behind the microphone. He then covered Dokken’s “It’s Not Love”, then stopped the show. His request? That the audience “engage in this moment” and put away cell phones, get out on the floor and dance.

Robert Mason performing with Drop D
Robert Mason (Vocalist) performing with Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Mason gave a toast to the audience in their honor, and thanked everyone for their support throughout his extensive career, then encouraged the crowd to sing along with Warrant’s beautiful ballad “Heaven”. He said he was grateful to be able to perform such amazing songs written by such amazing writers over the years. Wrapping up the set were the highly anticipated “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Cherry Pie”, both big hits for his current band Warrant. Mason joined the crowd at the end of the show for photos and autographs, which thrilled the fans and Mason alike. 

Robert Mason performing with Drop D
Robert Mason (Vocalist) performing with Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Robert Mason, 57, has had an extensive career as a vocalist. He joined glam-metal band Warrant in 2008 and remains their lead singer present day. George Lynch’s Lynch Mob Wikipedia page shows his years active as 1991-1994, 2003-2006, and 2018. Robert says he moved to Arizona at the behest of George Lynch back when Chandler and Gilbert were “pig farms” that were turned into housing developments. His local “sleaze” band, Big Cock, wasn’t mentioned out loud by name because the band name “upsets my mom”. He appeared on 3 of their albums as lead vocalist: 2005’s Year of the Cock, 2006’s Big Cock and 2008’s Motherload albums, according to Heavy Metal Wiki’s page on Mason. 

Robert Mason smiling behind a microphone
Robert Mason (Vocalist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

With endless stories about rock-and-roll life, Mason’s show was full of witticisms and talent, mixing music and tales of the road and his extensive career. He even encouraged a heckler who shouted out “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” after every song, assuring him he would get to that in the last set. We learned about tour life, Budokan, his friends and not-so-friendly acquaintances in the music business. We learned what it was like being a “hired gun” in the industry too. It was like visiting an incredibly talented old friend to share stories and a night of timeless music. 

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Robert Mason & Drop D – Cactus Jack’s 4-15-22

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

The Atomic Punks Bring David Lee Roth Era Hits to The Marquee (2-25-22)

Tempe, AZ — The return of The Atomic Punks, a Van Halen endorsed Los Angeles tribute band, was a highly anticipated one. Originally scheduled for February 11 at the Marquee Theatre, the date was pushed back to February 25 due to ongoing COVID-19 issues. Clearly, the delay wasn’t a “setback”, as the band brought an evening of high energy rock. The Atomic Punks had a trio of solid opening acts bringing the 1980’s vibe back to Mill Avenue.

Kill ‘Em All

Kill ‘Em All, led by Kevin Hughes on vocals, opened their set with “Creeping Death”, and the high‐speed riffs continued with “The Four Horsemen” and “Master of Puppets”. The band has been performing since 2014, but Kevin Hughes is the only original member.

Kill 'Em All performing at Marquee Theatre
Bobby Alexander (Guitarist) & Randy Omdahl (Bassist), Kill ‘Em All
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

New lead guitarist Bobby Alexander impressed on his leads from his Dean Dimebag Dean From Hell CFH Electric Guitar and the crowd was fist‐pumping. Randy Omdahl’s solid double bass drums were hard‐hitting and paired with Ted Smith’s bass guitar and energetic hair flips, this solid opener was the perfect pick to open this show.

Guitarist of Kill Em All performing
Bobby Alexander (Guitarist), Kill ‘Em All
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Black Mountain Project

Cave Creek’s local band Black Mountain Project showcased a fun, pop‐meets‐ grunge sound. Formed in 2018, their bio page states the name of the band “originates from our childhood hometown near Black Mountain in Cave Creek”.

Tony Chavez (Vocalist) & Trent Joiner (Guitarist),
Black Mountain Project
Photography:
Kara Blakemore

Tony Chavez on vocals was perfectly described by someone in the venue as “Layne Staley sings Steve Perry”. They performed their single “On My Mind” and dedicated it to drummer Billy Joe Thomas’s wife, who was celebrating her birthday that evening. The band includes lead guitarist Trent Joiner and Devin McMillion on bass guitar. Based on their unique sound and strong presence on streaming platforms like Spotify and iTunes, we’ll be looking forward to hearing more from them.

Tony Chavez (vocalist), Black Mountain Project
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Generation HEX

Starting their set with “Perfect Strangers” by Deep Purple was Generation HEX, a group of local musicians from various bands who combined to form a local powerhouse cover band. Vocalist Paige Mills covered songs, like Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, with the vocal range and skill these classic songs warrant.

Paige Mills (Vocalist) & J Mark Perales (Guitarist),
Generation HEX
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Norm House on keyboards is a familiar face in the local music scene, as are Eric Parker on drums, and back-up vocalist Michael Morris on bass guitar. Lead guitarist J Mark Perales never disappoints. He may be familiar as the former guitarist of the now‐defunct Desert Plains (Judas Priest tribute) but now shares his energy and talent with Generation HEX.

J Mark Perales (Guitarist), Generation HEX
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore

The Atomic Punks

Formed in 1994, The Atomic Punks’ bio boasts that the band was “Voted ‘Best Tribute Band’ by LA’s ‘Rock City News’ three years in a row”, and after a couple hours of David Lee Roth era Van Halen songs one can easily agree. Opening with their namesake jam “Atomic Punk”, the high‐kicking, blonde coiffed lead vocalist Brian Gellar personified the first Van Halen lead singer both visually and with the familiar rasp of his voice. His microphone stand spinning and laced leather pants rounded out the look we remember from the earlier Van Halen videos.

The Atomic Punks
Brian Gellar (Vocalist), The Atomic Punks
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Current lead guitarist Lance Turner has big shoes to fill as Eddie Van Halen and didn’t hesitate to blow us all away with his Eddie‐esque leads. Dressed in the familiar patchwork leather pants and red kerchief around his neck, he handily dealt us strong covers of Van Halen classics from his EVH signature guitar. Joe Lester, on bass guitar as Michael Anthony, grabbed attention particularly on “Mean Streets” while drummer Scott Patterson handed us double‐bass power on “Hot for Teacher”.

Lance Turner (Guitarist), The Atomic Punks
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

The Atomic Punks have been around for 28 years for a reason: They’re damn good. According to The Atomic Punks’ website, Michael Anthony was quoted as saying, “I feel like I am back in 1982 performing with the old band!”, and has even joined The Atomic Punks on stage at the House of Blues in Hollywood – playing 9 Van Halen Classics for fans. David Lee Roth mentioned them in his 1997 autobiography “Crazy from the Heat”, boasting that the band is “The best tribute to Van Halen ever!

Eddie Van Halen may no longer be with us, but his footprint in the music industry is eternal in the hearts of his fans, and we thank The Atomic Punks for taking us back in time to our memories of Van Halen we hold so dear.

Photo Gallery

Photography: Kara Blakemore

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Kill Em All
 | Black Mountain Project
 | Generation HEX | The Atomic Punks

The Atomic Punks, Generation Hex, Black Mountain Project, & Kill ‘Em All – Marquee Theatre 2-25-22

Photography © Electric Eye Photo AZ
All Rights Reserved

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