All posts by Nate Wert

Food & Beer Blogger with a passion for small businesses, Craft Beer Aficionado, Music & Concert Lover, Video Games & Sci-Fi Addict, Arizona Native, Traveler to distant lands... like Tucson. Currently owned by 3 rescue dogs.

REVIEW: Phoenicians Behave Like Animals with Hot Snakes, Kills Birds, Twin Ponies at Rebel Lounge (2-27-20)

PHOENIX — In 1979, a venue opened in Phoenix off of Indian School Road. Indian School is just north of the I-10, a major east-west artery that connects Jacksonville to Los Angeles, and these days is accessible by using the 51 that The Format sang about in “Tune Out”. The venue was The Mason Jar. Low slung, it was never going to win any beauty awards; a theme that most Arizona music venues seem to carry to this day. The stage inside hosted some of the biggest names in the business: Nirvana. Tool. Linkin Park. The list of past performers is quite long and just as impressive.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end – at least temporarily. In 2005, the Mason Jar was closed, turned into a bar, and live music in Phoenix lost an icon. 10 years later, the old and the new met. The exterior – once so nondescript that there are next to no photos currently existing online – received a facelift. Inside, you’ll find two arcade machines sitting in the corner. You’ll also find a bar that houses an incredible local craft beer selection. Over it, painted on a beam, are these words: “Everyone can raise a glass and sing.” It is here that fans of Hot Snakes, Kills Birds, and Twin Ponies gathered; some to sing, some to raise a glass, some both.

The Rebel Lounge’s marquee sign on 2.27.20
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Twin Ponies

Taking the stage first was Tempe-based Twin Ponies. They are an under-known band, with a quite enjoyable alt-rock sound that defies the norm. Much like one would change gears in a finely-tuned sports car, Twin Ponies is very good at shifting between tempos, excelling when it frequently picks up.

Phillip Hanna (Bass) & Wayne Jones (Vocals, Guitar), Twin Ponies
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

All four members are excellent musicians: Jordan Tompkins is a fantastic drummer who makes it look easy behind the kit, Phillip Hanna jumps between the bass and synth, Jacob Lauxman is a phenomenal guitar player, and Wayne Jones’ diverse vocals are impressive. There is poetry in their music and performances, and the four take great pride in their live shows (as they should) and they play quite a few shows in Phoenix. Their next Phoenix show is March 26th at The Lunchbox.

Kills Birds

The best way to describe the next band – Kills Birds – is “intense in a very unnerving way”. The onstage persona of lead singer Nina Ljeti can be described as a bit terrifying – opening her eyes wide throughout the set, rarely blinking, looking completely unhinged and ready to come off the stage to fight you.

Nina Ljeti (Vocals), Kills Birds
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

This only amplifies the uneasiness you feel when she smiles, as somehow the eyes above that smile seem to stay dead. Behind all of that are the raw, guitar ladened sounds of the band. The sound is heavy, though not overwhelming. It is an experience on many levels: sonically, emotionally, and visually. 

Bosh Rothman (Drums), Kills Birds
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Ljeti is fantastic as a vocalist, and Kills Birds is a delightful, if not somewhat disturbing, show to watch. She is also an impressive multi-talented artist — a successful filmmaker, actress, writer, and has previously performed in another band. Kills Birds continue to tour with Hot Snakes, and the final show will be on March 10th in Santa Cruz.

Nina Ljeti (Vocals), Kills Birds
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

During the Kills Birds set, someone was standing in the middle of the venue talking so loudly that they could be heard over the music that Kills Birds was playing. It was impressive, but it illustrates a problem that plagues some venues: some fans forget that the people around them did not pay to listen to a TED Talk about their latest boyfriend or hookup. It would be like going to the Louvre and finding out someone taped a poorly-drawn stick figure over the Mona Lisa. It’s rude, and more importantly, none of us care what he said last night while you were watching Netflix.

Hot Snakes

Hot Snakes formed in 1999, a supergroup made up of members of bands that played post-hardcore punk and every form of rock known to man. Two of the band members — vocalist Rick Froberg and guitarist John Reis — started playing together back in 1986 in the band Pitchfork. Working together for over three decades leads to some magical musical chemistry. Froberg and Reis seem to know exactly what the other is thinking, and it translates into one of the best shows you could attend as a fan.

John Reis (Guitar), Hot Snakes, sings to a fan at The Rebel Lounge
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Reis interacts with the crowd in a way that provides a unique connection, both to him and to the music. At points, he would lean into the crowd to play inches away from a fan in the front row. At others, he would look into the crowd and quickly point at someone and smile. You came to watch a group of talented musicians, but you left feeling as if someone saw you instead. At one point, he stopped everything due to a dispute on the floor, mediating between a woman who felt the man beside her wasn’t being nice. He was forceful and a bit exasperated at the male fan who couldn’t really say much for his own defense. It truly is a breath of fresh air when fans get called out for their bad behavior.

Rick Froberg (Vocals, Guitar), Hot Snakes
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Froberg is an excellent and passionate vocalist and guitar player. There is an element of frenetic rawness to his vocals — something that is matched by the guitar riffs and the delightful drumming by Jason Kourkounis. There is an urgency in the music, culminating in the song that got the biggest response from the crowd: “I Need a Doctor.” This sent some fans who were already dancing into a near frenzy. Unfortunately, the demographics at the show did not support a mosh pit – many of the fans grew up with the band, and having a career that spans over 20 years means it’s harder for some of the fans to mosh.

Hot Snakes
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

As the night drew to a close, the tour manager came out to thank everyone for coming out. When greeted by a heckler who said, “Who is this guy?” he replied, “I’m the tour manager, numbnuts, who are you?” It was a reminder that while everyone on stage is no longer in their twenties, it was indeed a punk show. It was loud, it was fun, and it was over too soon. The tour concludes in Solana Beach, CA on March 12th.

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: Hot Snakes | Kills Birds | Twin Ponies

Hot Snakes, Kills Birds, & Twin Ponies – The Rebel Lounge 2-27-20

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Poppy – Reinvented – Releases An Unbridled Rock Fury at The Pressroom (2-20-20)

PHOENIX — Just to the south of downtown Phoenix sits a section of the city that predates the State of Arizona. It is known now as the Warehouse District, but it started life as Chinatown around 1870. Over the years, it became the beating heart of Phoenix, as the location next to the railway was the perfect place to set up shop to sell items like cotton and produce. Toward the western edge was a warehouse that housed a long since vanished business called “Arizona General Electric Supply.” It also housed a printing press, considered to be one of the best in Phoenix at the time the building opened in 1920.

Phoenix grew up. The new warehouses became old, some being demolished for the shiny and new. For 100 years, the exterior of the building on the corner of 5th Ave and Madison did not change. The inside did. The new and the old met, and out of this marriage came the concert and event venue that is now known as The Pressroom. In this historic warehouse, an eager crowd gathered to see Poppy, who was joined by VOWWS. Poppy, much like the warehouse, has changed from the first time the world was made aware of her presence. We met Poppy as she sat in front of a camera eating cotton candy, we watched as she talked to a plant, we listened as she sang “Lowlife,” a song that has a bit of a reggae-meets-pop sound to it. Her first tour was, in a word, bizarre.

The night started with VOWWS, an Australian death pop band taking the stage at exactly 8:00 PM. Death pop and goth rock are siblings, if not twins, and VOWWS is an excellent example of the genre. VOWWS is a 2-person band, co-fronted by Rizz on the synth/keyboard and vocals and Matt James on the guitar and vocals. They are unique in how they play live shows: The stage stayed far darker than normal, bathed primarily in red and blue lights. It was a bit disorienting at first, but it fit beautifully.

What the set lacked in energy, it made up for in catchy beats and incredible harmony between Rizz and James. The sound is both new and familiar, reminiscent of Depeche Mode. Rizz wore white facial makeup with black around her eyes, hunched over her keyboard and swaying to the music. At one point, she stepped away to join James while singing on what looked like a handheld trucker mic, with the setup giving her voice a bit of distortion. James is an excellent guitarist and vocalist, moving very little in the space around the microphone. But much like Rizz, he obviously enjoyed playing the music just as much as the audience loved hearing it. VOWWS has collaborated with Gary Numan – one of the fathers of industrial music – and have worked with Chino Moreno from Deftones on a song and was asked to play the Dia De Los Deftones festival. Unlike the stage they played on, they have a bright future ahead of them.

Chants of “Poppy” were heardas Rizz and James cleared the stage of their equipment. As soon as the siren that precedes the song “Concrete” started, the entire crowd exploded in cheers and screams.

When the world first met Poppy on YouTube, the videos were bright, her dark hair was bleached to a near incandescent blonde, the background was white, and the pastel colors around her came across as brilliant. Her first EP Bubblebath was composed of bright, airy music that had some deep lyrics. Over the last 4 years, her sound and persona evolved, starting with Am I a Girl?, culminating in her current album I Disagree.

Before this tour, she split with her creative partner Titanic Sinclair for reasons that can be found here, releasing a music video that was the exact opposite of her first music video, black and white, with harsh electronic music and biting lyrics: “Sorry for what I’ve become, because I’m becoming someone.” As she took the stage, it became apparent that the Poppy that the world got to know 5 years ago is long gone, and before us stood what can only be described as a force to be reckoned with.

It would not be accurate to say that “Poppy walked onto the stage,” as it was more of a march of an artist who owned the stage and knew it. She climbed the steps to face what looked almost like a giant cell phone, the reflective surface allowing her to look at the crowd with her back turned to them, giving some in the audience their first look at her dramatically different style. Gone is the long blonde hair; it was up in teddy bear buns and was now her natural brunette color. What hadn’t changed was her sheer talent.

“Concrete” is best described as a rollercoaster ride of a song. From the wailing siren, we are transported to screaming guitars, followed by a few dashes of kawaii metal ala Babymetal thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the song, a mosh pit had formed, someone was crowd surfing, and shortly after, someone else was holding a shoe over their head that they had just found.

There are many shows that tend to work their way to surreal; a minute and a half through the first song found us standing knee deep in surreal – and not a single person in the crowd seemed like they wanted it any other way.

There are still traces of what some may call the old Poppy: at one point while addressing the crowd, she spoke in the voice that first captured the attention of the internet. An outsider who had never watched any of her YouTube videos would likely have been momentarily confused by this, as it now seems so out of character. However, much like the building she stood in, the old and the new co-exist in a symbiotic relationship, the new only existing because of the old.

While surreal, it was also apparent that Poppy is here for the long haul. She owns the stage as if she’s been doing this for a decade or two. She has been writing thought-provoking lyrics that cut deep for some time, and she is just extremely talented overall. As an example, while singing “I Disagree,” it became apparent that the lyrics are likely rather personal as her voice took on an edge and she let out a scream that would make Lacey Sturm proud. She also had a downright spectacular cover of the t.A.T.u. song “All the Things She Said.” While this tour finished the US leg in LA on 2/21/2020, she is returning to Phoenix on August 4th, opening for Deftones in a show that should not be missed.

REVIEW: Thrice Celebrates 15 Years of Vheissu at The Marquee (2-24-20)

Tempe, AZ — In late 2005, Thrice released Vheissu, their fourth studio album. It was quickly declared as their best album to date, and arguably still is. The experimental and the spiritual met, and from that marriage came an album that resonates just as much today as it did when it hit the streets in late fall 15 years ago. As the anniversary approached, a tour that would celebrate this iconic album was announced. Joining Thrice on this tour was mewithoutYou, Drug Church, and Holy Fawn. These four bands stopped by the Marquee Theatre to celebrate the impressive milestone with fans.

HOLY FAWN

Flickering lights flanked the stage for Holy Fawn, with lightboxes at the edge displaying their name. There was a buzz in the air, unusual for most openers, but not for Holy Fawn on this night. They are from Phoenix, playing their first hometown show in over a year. With plenty of family and friends in attendance, Holy Fawn took the stage. Consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Ryan Osterman, drummer Austin Reinholz, bassist Alexander Rieth and guitarist Evan Phelps, Holy Fawn layers music and vocals in a way that turns the sound into a relaxing, ethereal experience.

Ryan Osterman (Vocals, Guitar), Holy Fawn
| Photography:
Kimberly Carrillo © All Rights Reserved

That is, of course, until Osterman screams the last few lines of “Dark Stone,” as well as in parts of other songs. The first time it happens, it may be jarring to the casual observer, however the style can be appreciated once the screams are expected. The four are talented, enjoyable, and their set was excellent.

Drug Church

Following in the line-up, Drug Church consists of vocalist Patrick Kindlon, guitarists Nick Cogan and Cory Galusha, bassist Pat Wynne, and backed by Chris Villeneuve on the drums. A hardcore punk band, calling the upcoming set “a change of pace” would be a bit like trying to compare a light snowfall in Flagstaff to an avalanche in the Rockies.

Patrick Kindlon (Vocals), Drug Church
| Photography:
Kimberly Carrillo © All Rights Reserved

Kindlon has an intensity that both fascinates and terrifies, holding his microphone near his face or head one moment, then screaming into it the next. He stares into the crowd between lines, looking as if he’s trying to find someone to throw down with. Unfortunately, the audience was not at the show for hardcore punk, and as such, the energy of the crowd did not match the intensity that poured from the stage. Kindlon acted as a hype man for the other 3 bands, urging the slightly apathetic crowd to at least cheer for them. He succeeded, then asked the crowd to at least bob their heads to the remaining songs. Drug Church will be returning to Phoenix on May 19th, opening for Against Me! We recommend going to see them if you want to throw down with an explosive band.

mewithoutYou

mewithoutYou announced on Instagram late last year that 2020 would be their last year touring. After this tour wraps, they plan on heading out on two more tours or so before the end comes. This is bittersweet news to fans; it is never easy to say goodbye to a favorite band, yet this appears to be an amicable breakup – a best case scenario. mewithoutYou hails from Philadelphia – something Kindlon joked he would not hold again them – and they are made up of brothers Aaron (Vocals) and Mike Weiss (Guitar), Brandon Beaver (Guitar), Greg Jehanian (Bass), and Rick Mazzotta (Drums). 

Aaron Weiss (Vocals, Guitar), mewithoutYou
| Photography:
Kimberly Carrillo © All Rights Reserved

Most musicians feel the music, but it can be argued that Aaron Weiss feels it to a larger degree than most. He never stopped moving around the stage, at times getting down on his knees and wiping the sweat from his face with a towel. The band produces an experimental sound that is great on the album, and is incredible in concert. Follow mewithoutYou on social media to find out the dates of their last tour.

Thrice

Thrice closed the night out with an awe-inspiring set. Entering the stage to thunderous applause and cheers, Thrice jumped right into “Image of the Invisible.” Within seconds, it was clear how much this band and album mean to the fans Performing the entire album in order offered unique insight as to which songs from the album are more beloved — the crowd sang along to each and every song, but “Like Moths to Flame” and “Of Dust and Nations” garnered a larger response than other songs.

Dustin Kensrue (Vocals, Guitar), Thrice
| Photography:
Kimberly Carrillo © All Rights Reserved

Throughout the years the lineup has stayed the same: Dustin Kensrue on vocals and guitar, Teppei Teranishi on the guitar, and brothers Ed and Riley Breckenridge on the bass and drums respectively. In 2012 they took a break, returning in 2015 to the delight of their fans. They have continued to refine their sound, and they are a beloved group with a diehard fan base. Kensrue showed his appreciation to the crowd throughout the night, thanking the crowd multiple times when they cheered at the end of the songs.

Riley Breckenridge (Drums), Thrice
| Photography:
Kimberly Carrillo © All Rights Reserved

The hour and a half set was a beautifully crafted meeting of mutual appreciation, with the soaring voice of Kensrue backed by the powerful instrumentals of the band. The lighting gave the room an atmosphere that only amplified the near spiritual experience that Thrice created that night. Even at an hour and a half, the crowd wanted, hoped for more. It was a fitting celebration for an iconic album, a celebration that wrapped up on February 29th in Los Angeles.

Photo Galleries

Photography: Kimberly Carrillo

View Separately: Thrice | mewithoutYou | Drug Church | Holy Fawn

Thrice, MewithoutYou, Drug Church, & Holy Fawn – Marquee Theatre 2-24-20

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Kimberly Carrillo
All Rights Reserved

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
Band Photo Gallery

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
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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.

Photo Galleries

Photography: Andrew Marshall

View Separately:
Dashboard Confessional | Piebald

Dashboard Confessional & Piebald – The Van Buren 2-7-20

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Photography © Andrew Marshall
All Rights Reserved

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The Format’s Comeback Sells Out, Sparks Outcries – Ticket Sites are Backed Up and Too Slow

JUNE 11, 2020 UPDATE: In the interest of following government guidelines and keeping everyone safe, The Format has moved the reunion shows from this July to next July 2021.
More Details Here

MARCH 12, 2020 UPDATE: Due to concerns related to the coronavirus, The Format has decided to move their upcoming shows to this July.
More Details Here

On February 4th, 2020, exactly 12 years to the day after The Format shocked music fans with the announcement of a hiatus, they caused a scene with another announcement: they would be playing five shows in three cities in the spring of 2020. 

The Format was born in Arizona, formed by friends and classmates Nate Ruess and Sam Means, and it could be argued that they are a quintessentially Arizona band. It would hard, if not impossible, to find an Arizonan who did not hear the song “Tune Out” and nod in weary understanding when hearing the lyrics, “The 51 is backed up and too slow,” quite possibly while they were sitting on the aforementioned 51 – which is, unsurprisingly, even more backed up these days 17 years after the song was released. 

The Format with their live band at Tucson’s KFMA Day 2005
Nate Ruess, Mike Schey, Don Raymond, Marko Buzard, Adam Boyd, Sam Means
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved.

There was some rumbling on social media about the concerts listed at first: two in New York, Two in Chicago and only one in their hometown. The belief was that there should be at least two here in Phoenix – after all, it is their hometown. 

Once the presale went live it became very apparent that The Format was greatly missed by their adoring fans. The website was overwhelmed, causing massive headaches for those trying to buy the limited presale tickets. The demand was so intense and the presale sold out so fast that an extra show was added in each city: now there were three in New York and Chicago and two in Phoenix. 

The decision was also made to move the sale from the TicketWeb platform to Ticketmaster, likely due to the latter having a better architecture to handle the expected flood of diehard fans trying to snag the very limited tickets. 

The name Ticketmaster — to anyone who enjoys live music at all — is a four-letter word. In recent months, there have been many major shows that sell out very quickly, only to have massive amounts of tickets pop up in the secondary market at obscene prices. 

The 2017 Metallica scandal is still fresh in the minds of many; the scalping of 4,400 tickets per show by design – benefiting the band, companies and individuals involved at the cost of alienating the fans that were left out in the cold or with lighter wallets than they would have if the company had played fair.

For that reason – and many others – it is not hard to feel an added layer of trepidation and frustration when waiting in the queue for tickets – after all, how many bots and scalpers are you fighting to get in to see your favorite band? 

Unfortunately for many fans of The Format, today would not be an exception. 

At 12 noon, the floodgates opened and many fans found themselves staring at their screens in disbelief. The queue for the second show at the Van Buren – a venue that has a capacity of 1,800 – showed that there were 2,000+ people in front of anyone not there in the first minute of the tickets going on sale. 

At 12:10 a link suddenly popped up at the bottom of the screen for those in the queue. Just above it the announcement read, in not so many words: Yeah, ok, we should have led with three shows. We just added another one.

By 12:20 everyone in the queue for the newest show at The Van Buren was getting messages that the third show was sold out, and minutes after, the first tickets showed up on resale sites for predictably obscene amounts. The band may have found, to their surprise, that they were a far, far bigger deal than they realized they would still be after 12 years. 

Adding extra shows can result in diminishing demand as each show is added. However, in this case there was no slowdown from the first show to the third — a sign of how well-loved they are even after all this time away.

February 27 Update

NYC + Phoenix: The Format has launched a scalper-free ticket exchange with Lyte for the shows at The Bowery Ballroom + The Van BurenHERE

As the day wore on and more people on social media got angrier and angrier about the tickets being scooped up by scalpers, The Format posted an acknowledgement on their Facebook page. The below is part of their statement:

“We’ve seen a bunch of folks posting and saying that scalpers are taking all of the tickets. We want to let you know that we are working with the venues to scour every ticket purchase and make sure that they go to our true fans…not scalpers. We’ve already cancelled a bunch of purchases and made tickets available again.”

February 27 Update

NYC + Phoenix: The Format has launched a scalper-free ticket exchange with Lyte for the shows at The Bowery Ballroom + The Van Burenhttps://lyte.com/theformat/

The Format will forever be a cherished band and a staple from the young adulthood of many that grew up here in Phoenix and elsewhere. Their return from hiatus, however long it may last, is a welcome and exciting one, and their willingness to listen to their fans and address an issue that is causing anguish among their potential concert-goers is refreshing. To the few that managed to snag tickets, congratulations are in order. The message to the band from the fans, including this writer, is clear:

Welcome back. We’ve missed you.


The Format released its 2007 live DVD/documentary Live at the Mayan Theatre for the first time ever to listen to on SpotifyApple MusicAmazon, and more, as well as to watch on Amazon Prime Video and The Format YouTube channel.  

The Format Online

Website | Facebook | Twitter
Instagram | YouTube

Featured photo (top) December 17th, 2004 at Body Soul
by Katherine Amy Vega
© All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Tsunami Bomb Returns to Yucca to Throw Down with Death By Stereo (1-25-20)

Tempe, AZ — Near the geographic heart of Tempe sits an ancient strip mall, a dinosaur of a building that time seems to have forgotten. On the Eastern end of that building is a sign that simply says “Hu’s Yucca Tap Room.” Below that sits two sets of doors. The doors to the left take you into a bar where the walls are green, the paneling is wood, and the president is Nixon. The doors to the right take you into one of the most legendary live music venues in all of Phoenix. It could be considered sacred ground of sorts — a place where the music scene flourished and where thousands of shows have been held. On this night, 4 punk bands were scheduled to perform — Tsunami Bomb, Death by Stereo, Toxic Energy, and The Venomous Pinks.

There is a certain charm that the Yucca has. It will never win awards for the most beautiful venue in Phoenix, but that’s ok because it doesn’t need to. There is a level of access to the band that does not exist in every venue — no barrier between the crowd and the stage: As the band loads their equipment onto the stage, they must pass through the area where the audience stands, walk up four steps at the front, and work on setting up only feet away from those waiting in anticipation for the upcoming set. There is an intimacy that is taken for granted; a closeness that could feel claustrophobic if one allowed it to. On full display is the part of the grind that the general public rarely considers, much less sees. The band — and anyone helping them — must set up the stage, transporting the equipment from a parking lot and then back out after the last note is played; a labor of love that is rarely recognized as such by many.  

The Venomous Pinks

The Venomous Pinks started the night off with a bang. They were the only Arizona band playing that night, and are also one of the very few Arizona bands that are comprised entirely of women. They are massively talented and extremely underrated, a diamond in the rough. Comprised of Drea Doll, who is the lead vocalist and guitar, Gaby Kaos on the bass, and Cassie Jalilie on the drums, they started the show off with “Never Say Never,” from their EP Exes & Whoas!, released in 2014. They immediately kicked the energy level up to 10, getting the crowd energized and set the tone for quite a show.

The Venomous Pinks
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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Halfway through the set, Doll and Kaos talked about the music video they had just shot for their newest single “I Want You,” which is also the name of their newest album. They admitted they were a bit nervous while shooting it, but they were pleased with the overall result. The song is a cover, originally done by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, and they nailed it in no small part due to the fact that Drea Doll has a voice that is reminiscent of Jett herself.

To say The Venomous Pinks are fun would be an understatement. They are loud, in your face, and incredibly talented. They are opening for the Adicts on 2/11/20 at the Marquee Theatre — a show that promises to be one of the best of the year. Even if you cannot make that show, follow them on social media and catch them at an upcoming show. 

The Venomous Pinks Online:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Toxic Energy

The next band up was one from Orange County — one of the three bands carrying on the long tradition of Southern California punk. Toxic Energy is normally a five-piece band, but tonight their usual drummer had the flu and could not join them. Chris McBride, normally on the guitar, filled in and put on a clinic on the drum kit. Lead singer Greg Dickson — flanked by guitarist Brent Waterworth and bassist Brian Jones — started the set off by expressing gratitude to the fans, to the Yucca Taproom, and to all of the other bands playing that night.

That was the calmest moment of the set. As soon as he finished speaking, the music and mosh pit started. Dickson prowled the stage, seemingly trying to make eye contact with each and every audience member. He sings not with just his mouth, but his entire body. It would be hard not to feel a bit tired for him watching the performance, but it would also be very hard not to dive into a mosh pit and get to know your neighbors a bit better. At the risk of overusing this term, this band truly is a must-see.

Toxic Energy
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Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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As the set ended, Dickson and his bandmates gathered at the edge of the stage to take a photo of the crowd and thank everyone for coming. Dickson shook the hand of every person who was by the stage, thanking each of them personally. It is a bit of an enjoyable juxtaposition: one moment you are being sonically assaulted by a bone-jarringly loud, hyperactive front man, the next he is shaking your hand and quietly thanking you for the support.

Toxic Energy Online:

Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Death by Stereo

As Death by Stereo set up, they joked with members of the audience, bantering with people they recognized from previous shows. Death by Stereo is made up of guitarists Dan Palmer and JP Gericke, bassist Robert Madrigal and drummer Mike Cambra, with founder Efrem Schulz as the lead vocalist. They were laid back, easy-going, and then the music started and the Yucca felt like the Tardis — far bigger on the inside, expanding due to the frenetic, explosive, incredible wall of sound that Death by Stereo provides. You do not listen to this band; rather, you experience them. The mosh pit was churning, heads were banging, and the band could have powered a small town with their outpouring of energy.

Death By Stereo
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Mid-show, Schulz mentioned that Death by Stereo was formed 21 years ago. He also talked about his love for the Yucca, exhorting the exuberant crowd to keep going to venues like this, to keep the punk music scene alive. It was an over the top, incredible performance, punctuated by Schulz jumping on top of the bar, running to the sound booth and then into the crowd. It should also be noted that he did all of this with a wired microphone, leading to an unspoken team effort of the crowd holding the cord over their heads, as if it was crowd surfing. Seemingly as quickly as it started, the set ended, and much of the crowd moved outside to cool down a bit before Tsunami Bomb took the stage to close the night out.

Death By Stereo Online:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Tsunami Bomb

Tsunami Bomb formed in 1998, at about the same time Death By Stereo did, but they took a 10 year break before reforming in 2015. They came back with a new lead singer, Kate Jacobi, who jumped right in, joining bassist Dom Davi, keyboardist Oob Sparks, drummer Gabe Lindeman, and guitarist Andrew Pohl. Sparks was unable to join the band for this tour, something that Jacobi told the crowd early on, leading to chants of “We love Oob!” at the conclusion of one of the songs.

Tsunami Bomb
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Tsunami Bomb was a bit of a welcome slowdown after Death by Stereo, though slowdown is a bit of a relative term. There were moments where it was obvious that they missed Sparks, but they powered through, delivering a solid set to an adoring crowd behind Jacobi’s incredible vocals. Toward the end of the set, Jacobi was handed a shoe that someone had lost in the mosh pit, followed by a phone. Fortunately, both owners were quickly found, though it was never explained how someone didn’t notice they had lost a shoe, and, after a couple more songs, the show drew to an end. Before leaving the stage, they, like the bands before them, expressed gratitude for all involved – the venue, the other bands, and most importantly, the fans.

Tsunami Bomb
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Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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The night ended, reluctantly it seemed, and the stage was cleared once again. The bands lingered outside, not ready to leave, not quite yet. There were the fans to talk to — the ones who stopped to thank them for an incredible show, the ones who would be back the next time they were in town, and the ones who will help keep this incredible music scene alive in Phoenix. 

Tsunami Bomb Online:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: Tsunami Bomb | Death By Stereo | Toxic Energy | The Venomous Pinks

Tsunami Bomb Vs Death By Stereo – Yucca Tap Room 1-25-20

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REVIEW: Motionless in White, Beartooth Invoke the Spirits of Disease & Disguise at the Marquee (1-11-20)

Tempe, AZ — The midpoint date of the “Diseased & Disguised” January tour brought co-headliners Motionless in White (MIW) and Beartooth, with support from Stick to Your Guns (STYG) and Nothing Left, to Marquee Theatre. The name of the tour came from the names of the two most recent studio album releases from each co-headliner — Disease from Beartooth (released  Sept. 2018, deluxe edition Oct. 2019), and Disguise from Motionless in White (released June 2019).

Nothing Left

Nothing Left, the opening band, has the most recent studio album release, with Disconnected (Dec. 2019). This supergroup, formed in 2016, consists of members of four other metalcore bands: For Today, A Bullet for a Pretty Boy, Silent Planet, and Take It Back! They kicked off the night with high energy that wouldn’t let up. Lead vocalist Danon Saylor rarely stood in one place, pacing the stage while he delivered the lyrics in his trademark growl.

Danon Saylor (Vocalist), Nothing Left
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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Stick to Your Guns

Stick to your Guns follows a long, proud tradition of California-based punk. They honored the scene with their set — an explosive show that frequently had frontman Jesse Barnett playing to the crowd at the edge of the stage. Guitarist Josh James and bassist Andrew Rose seemingly spent as much time in the air as they did on the stage, which kept the crowd hyped and wanting more. STYG released their sixth studio album True View in October of 2017.

Josh James (Guitar) & Andrew Rose (Bass), Stick to Your Guns
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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Beartooth

Never dialing down, Beartooth kept the spirit of the night going with a vigorous performance that made their dedication to a fun, crazy show apparent. Caleb Shomo, lead vocalist, provoked the mosh pit to keep widening shouting, “We want a big circle pit… bigger… BIGGER.” As strobes and colorful backlights accented their energy, the moshing extended far back into the room. He involved the audience during “Body Bag”, asking them to say “one decision” when he said “one life”. He also gave a heartfelt speech about being vulnerable, and not feeling like you are enough.

Caleb Shomo (Vocalist), Beartooth
| Photographer:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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Despite macabre titles and theatrics, fans know full well that they can expect a positive, uplifting night with these artists. The themes of the night were, “be a good person” and “be yourself“. Both Motionless in White and Beartooth cemented these messages, and encouraged finding the will to persevere. Beartooth expressed how much they love touring with MIW. In fact, during one song, MIW lead vocalist Chris “Motionless” Cerulli came out to hug Beartooth’s frontman Shomo. Later on MIW made it clear that the feeling was mutual, saying that the guys in Beartooth are ‘the nicest guys they’d ever toured with.Burning Hot Events’ photographer Andrew Marshall described the show as “a lovefest” — love between the bands, love of the fans, and encouraging fans to love themselves and others.

Beartooth
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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Motionless in White

With a music box introduction that sharply transitions into synths, then erupts into screams, Motionless in White launched their set with title-track “Disguise”. MIW is influenced by a wide range of genres: hard rock, heavy metal, industrial, gothic rock, punk, nu metal, electronica, and more. Their amalgam of influences shows, making them an absolute delight to the ears, topped off with an eye candy aesthetic. 

Justin Morrow (Bass), Motionless in White
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Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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Fans sang along to every word, while the heavy beats reverberated through their chests. “Voices” had a particularly notable, enthusiastic sing-a-long, after which Cerulli high-fived a crowd-surfer. Guitarist Ricky “Horror” Olson never let up on headbanging throughout the entire set, and bassist Justin Morrow posed for and wildly interacted with the crowd. The night closed perfectly as “Eternally Yours”, from 2017’s Graveyard Shift, decrescendos to light strumming and soft fading vocals.

Motionless in White
| Photographer:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
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The lineup of the “Diseased & Disguised” tour is well-paired and guaranteed to please. We highly recommend coming out to let loose and lose yourself in heavy music. Tonight (January 15) will be the last of Nothing Left’s scheduled tour dates at this time. The tour continues throughout North America until January 30, and then MIW, Beartooth, and STYG will proceed to tour Europe separately.

Setlists:*

Motionless in White | Beartooth
| Stick to Your Guns

Tour Dates:

Motionless in White | Beartooth
| Stick to Your Guns | Nothing Left

Photo Galleries

Photography: Andrew Marshall

View Separately:
Motionless in White | Beartooth
| Stick to Your Guns | Nothing Left

Diseased & Disguised Tour – Marquee Theatre 1-11-20

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Co-Authors: Nate Wert, Katherine Amy Vega, Andrew Marshall

Photography © Andrew Marshall
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* Linked setlists are compiled by fans on Setlist.fm and not guaranteed for accuracy.

REVIEW: Authority Zero Celebrates 25 Years with Friends at the Marquee (12-28-19)

Tempe, AZ — Authority Zero has reached a milestone that all bands aspire to: a quarter of a century of putting out incredibly great music — in their case, punk rock. To celebrate 25 years, they threw a bit of a party, inviting their fans as well as four local bands to join them in celebration. Madd Dog Tannen, Skull Drug, Black Mountain Moonshine, and ZeeCeeKeely all preceded Authority Zero, playing to a rowdy and energetic crowd.

To the uninitiated — those who have never had the joy of attending a punk, ska, or reggae show — it would be easy to be a bit puzzled as to how all three are related. The first wave of ska formed in the 1950s, and reggae evolved from ska in the 1960s. Punk’s roots are also in the 60s, stemming from the garage band scene, and was focused mainly in England and New York, while ska and reggae got started in Jamaica. Ska punk, closely associated with third wave ska, blossomed in the 80s and 90s. The punk scene from the start was anti-establishment, and that carries into today. There is a sizable underground punk scene in Arizona, with smaller venues such as Yucca Tap Room, Pub Rock, Chopper John’s, Last Exit Live, Rebel Lounge, The Underground and others playing host to some loud and fun concerts on a weekly basis.

This underground scene does not get the recognition it deserves; there are many massively talented local bands and artists that play every week, but they rarely rise to the level of national stardom that some ought to. This show was a duality of a celebration of a band that rose to fame, and the introduction and showcase of local bands that are hidden gems.

There was a buzz around Marquee Theatre as the crowd started to trickle in with eager anticipation of the night ahead and the experience of Authority Zero. This is a band who has worked hard to get where they are and appreciate the fans and those that come behind them.

ZeeCeeKeely

The first band was a reggae band from Tucson: ZeeCeeKeely. They were the perfect choice to start the night off. Their music is excellent, albeit a bit calm compared to what the rest of the night had in store. But they are still a loud, energetic, and fun reggae band to watch.

ZeeCeeKelly
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The short 7-song set included a very nice surprise: a reggae version of “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd. With great vocals from Zachery Keely and a group of talented musicians that will soon include horns, this band is one you should catch if you enjoy reggae. They will perform on February 23rd, 2020 at Rawhide during the Arizona Roots festival.

ZeeCeeKeely Online:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify

Black Mountain Moonshine

After a quick stage change, the second band, Black Mountain Moonshine, took the stage. Shortly after they started, a staple of a punk show formed: a mosh pit — a unique and nearly sacred place where total strangers can run into each other and pummel one another, and at the end of the night, hug each other and leave exhausted and elated.

Ethan Minney (Vocalist, Mandolinist), Black Mountain Moonshine
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The lead singer Ethan Minney plays an electric mandolin, a piece that is not often seen in a punk band, and plays it very well. Their sound is also unique: at points it sounded like they were about to launch into a country song, while at others, you would swear that Flogging Molly was on the stage. Currently, they have no shows showing as scheduled, so following them on social media is a must to find when and where you can catch this unique, talented band.

Blue Mountain Moonshine Online:

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

Skull Drug

Skull Drug was up next, and it immediately became apparent that we were in for an incredible set. When asked before the show how to identify lead singer Evan Williams, the band manager described him as looking like he had murdered a muppet. This was accurate, as Williams had bright red hair, a green shirt and blue plaid pants. 

The set unfortunately did not start smoothly, but this did not keep them down. While working through technical issues with Williams’ guitar, the guitarists Justin Waldrop and Roger St. John kept the crowd entertained and bantered with them until everything was worked out, including asking the crowd, “Are you ready to party?” Party they did, launching into the loudest and most entertaining set of all the openers. 

Evan Williams (Vocalist, Guitarist), Skull Drug
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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All three are amazingly talented guitar players, backed by an incredible drummer in Wyatt Clark. They also have a stage presence and can get the crowd involved to work them into a frenzy. The set felt extremely short, even though it was over 30 minutes long. The style is loud, in- your-face, and impossible to not want to move to it in some way – either by bobbing your head, by running into your neighbor in the mosh pit, or by dancing. All three of those scenarios played out that night. Williams and Waldrop danced around the stage nonstop during this set, and kept the party going after their set ended. Waldrop was spotted crowd surfing during the Authority Zero set while Williams was in the crowd next to the mosh pit. 

Together since 2010, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to see Skull Drug headlining their own tour at some point in the very near future. Their set, from their stage presence to the music, was every bit as memorable as Williams’ hair. You can catch them on January 4th at Yucca Tap Room. They also have an album coming out sometime next year called Your Government and God Won’t Save You.

Skull Drug Online:

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |
Bandcamp | Spotify

Madd Dog Tannen

Madd Dog Tannen took the stage next as the final opener. For those who think that the name sounds familiar, it should if you are a Back to the Future fan. All members were a bit of a contrast to the previous bands: well-dressed, looking more like they were about to close a business deal with you than melt your face off with some amazing punk music. As they did a quick sound check before their set, Brian Willey (lead singer) comically tried to lead the crowd in a rendition of “Deck the Halls”. 

Brian Willey (Vocalist), Madd Dog Tannen
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Willey and his band quickly jumped into a fantastic set, at times bringing out a younger guitar player as their fifth band member. They are veterans of the music scene, playing since 2006, and have opened for Authority Zero in the past. Willey is an imposing figure on the stage as he puts everything he has into the performance. He is entertaining to watch and produces great power with his voice. While mainly a punk band, there was some ska mixed into the music. As they wrapped up their set, they played a cover of “When I Come Around” by Green Day. They, too, are a band that should be followed on social media to hear about their next dates. You won’t regret tracking them down to see their shows.

As Madd Dog Tannen left the stage, the anticipation built for Authority Zero. The chant “We want Zero!” started right before the band took the stage, growing in volume until they got what they wanted. 

Madd Dog Tannen Online:

Facebook | ReverbNation | Spotify

Authority Zero

To the delight of the band, the crowd exploded as they walked onto the stage. Lead singer Jason DeVore greeted the crowd with a grin and launched into “A Passage in Time,” from their first album. The opening bands had slowly cranked the intensity up to 10, then Authority Zero quickly cranked it up to 12 and never slowed down. DeVore seems to be utterly indefatigable, a force to be reckoned with after nearly a quarter of a century as the lead singer of Authority Zero. He delivers each line with fury and passion, and yet looks out at the crowd awestruck that he’s lucky enough to keep doing this.

Jason DeVore (Vocalist), Authority Zero
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Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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While DeVore is keeping the crowd pumped up with his incredible delivery, drummer Chris Dalley is tasked with keeping the beats going in the unimaginatively fast songs that are the staple of Authority Zero’s catalog. He seems to do this effortlessly. Rounding out the band are guitarist Dan Aid and bassist Mike Spero, both of whom are incredibly talented and fun to watch. 

Dan Aid (Guitarist), Authority Zero
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Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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As the set progressed, the mosh pit showed no signs of slowing down and the crowd surfing started. DeVore repeatedly reached out to the crowd surfers to help them as they were being set down, giving a couple of high fives, pointing to crowd members and acknowledging them throughout the night. He announced that they were going to use that night as a New Years Eve party, which hyped up the rambunctious fans. DeVore has apparent and enormous appreciation for the fans and the bands who opened for them. 

Jason DeVore (Vocalist), Authority Zero
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Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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It would be fair to say that this was not just an early New Years Eve party, not just a celebration of the 25 years of making music, influencing and inspiring the Arizona and national music scene — it was something more. It felt like a love letter to the fans, the people who have faithfully shown up even when the venues were tiny, when the sound wasn’t great, when the band was struggling. DeVore held the mic out to the crowd, asking them to sing lines in the song, gesturing for them to be a bit louder, and all in all, making sure that every single person walked away from that show happy. He also repeated “Thank you Arizona!” more than once, obviously meaning it from his heart every time.

Mike Spero (Bassist), Authority Zero
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Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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As the night drew to a close and after returning to the stage for the encore, DeVore called out onto stage a young fan, one who is known for his incredible music talents. His name is Recker Eans, a name that I believe we will hear many more times over the years, and he played the drums for the song “Mesa Town”. It was a great way to end the night, almost the passing of the torch to the next generation, though I believe we will have many more great years to look forward to with Authority Zero.

The night was one for the ages. It is also a night that happens weekly around the valley, albeit on a much smaller scale than what was at the Marquee on Saturday. The punk scene is alive and thriving, and there are many, many great bands out there who deserve to have you stop by and listen to their music, to watch their shows. There are hidden gems playing in small venues, bands that love their craft and love their arts. The appreciation that these bands all have for each other is clear, and the love for Arizona and the punk scene that Authority Zero has was on full display on a magical night — a celebration of the upcoming new year, and the birthday celebration of an influential and great band.

Authority Zero Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately:
Authority Zero | Madd Dog Tannen | Skull Drug
Black Mountain Moonshine | ZeeCeeKeely

Authority Zero 25th Anniversary – Marquee Theatre 12-28-19

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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
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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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)

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: New Politics | The Mowgli’s | Plain White T’s

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

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

PHOENIX — There is an age-old argument over when exactly the Christmas season starts. Some would say that the day after Halloween is the official date that you can start preparing for Christmas, and others argue that the day after Thanksgiving, and not a day before, is the proper date to throw some Christmas music on and start feeling festive. It should be postulated that neither of these are correct: The first day that it officially feels like Christmas is the day of the first concert in Lindsey Stirling’s annual winter tour.

The tour is in its third year now, first named “Warmer in the Winter” in 2017, “The Wanderland Tour” in 2018 and now “Warmer in the Winter” again. Stirling, an Arizona native, noted during the show that the name came from all of the warm winters she spent here in Arizona. “The Wanderland Tour” bypassed Arizona, which may possibly explain why the tour changed names last year.

Arizona winters are indeed warm, and this one was no exception up until earlier this week. As the doors opened and the public began pouring into Comerica Theatre in Downtown Phoenix, there was a chill in the air, one that announced that winter actually does come to Arizona. In the moments leading up to the first wisp of smoke from the machine on stage, the audience filtered into the theatre and found their seats with a growing buzz of anticipation, as excited conversations built toward a crescendo as showtime drew closer. All ages had come out to see Lindsey Stirling, from the wide-eyed young girls who wore dresses that looked much like the dresses that Stirling wears in her music videos, to the older fans who looked like they were ready for a Sunday morning church service. For the young, they had come to see their hero. For the older, to see an artist who has redefined what it means to be a violinist. No one left disappointed. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The “Warmer in the Winter” tour was a delight in every way possible. From the first few moments after the smoke machines kicked on to announce the start of the show until the final notes of the last song, “I Wonder While I Wander,” each and every second was packed with magic. Stirling and her dancers moved effortlessly through incredibly difficult maneuvers, drawing the crowd in. She is well known for her violin skills and her dancing, but she is also an incredible singer with a wicked sense of humor. Backed by a talented band including Kit Nolan on the keyboard and Drew Steen on the drums, Stirling danced, sang, and cracked jokes throughout the night. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The production includes special effects, props, and costuming that inspire awe and joy. The backdrop was a massive screen, which was one of the key elements to the show. Throughout the night, it would be used to show a clip of Stirling’s alter ego Phebla, become a backdrop of the universe while she played “Between The Twilight” from her newest album Artemis, and finally to have us fly through a field of mushrooms as a nod to Alice In Wonderland during “Carol of the Bells.” She explained that she named the album after Artemis because Artemis is the Goddess of the moon, and the moon brings light into the darkness. 

Her concerts are always an inspirational and moving experience because heartfelt speeches in between songs are a regular part of the show. She told the audience, “I want you to think about how amazing you are, because I think that’s something you may not tell yourself enough…every single person in this room is incredible and powerful…as I play this song, maybe even close your eyes and see yourself for how beautiful you are and for your own light, because the world needs every single person to shine.” As she started to play “Between The Twilight”, the spotlight turned off, and the screen behind her showed the universe, or the stars in it at least. The ethereal sound took the audience on a journey of light, of sound, of beauty.

Stirling is also a fierce advocate for her fans. After a visually stunning “We Three Gentlemen,” She gave an emotional speech, talking about her journey to get where she was. She then told the audience “Nobody else can write your story. Never let anyone else tell you what you can do, what you can’t do, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at — because you’re the only one who knows what you can do, what’s inside of you.” She admitted that her insecurities had not changed from before she found fame until now. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Stirling spoke at length, her voice quivering a bit as she talked about losing her best friend to cancer 4 years ago, and her dad 3 years ago. It was an emotional, vulnerable speech. She spoke about angels and how she felt they surrounded her. This led into “Angels We Have Heard on High,” during which she stood at the top of the stairs in front of the screens with a mesmerizingly beautiful light that followed her every move with her bow. It was the most impactful song of the show. 

She spoke with gratitude of how much she appreciated the shows in Arizona, saying that she looked forward to them because, “I feel like this is my family.

“Thank you guys so much for coming! It’s only because of you guys and the support I had from home from the very beginning that I am here. Thank you.” 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

During Stirling’s “favorite song to play,” “Hallelujah,” the tone switched away from happy, jovial, and infectious. The entire venue was utterly captivated by the otherworldly beautiful sound of the violin and backing guitar. There were some in the audience wiping away tears as the last notes faded away and Stirling again thanked everyone.

There are those that dedicate their life to the mastery of the violin, and others who train to lead the dance troupe at the theatre. To be able to do both at once – and do it well – is rare indeed. As the show started it became apparent the immense amount of planning and attention to detail that went into each and every step of this spectacular display. Each costume change was so well-planned that it would not be noticed or delay the show, and each dance move was tightly choreographed. Stirling has a zest for performing, a love for the fans, and a respect for her craft that lends itself to a show that would be hard to equal. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Everyone had gathered for a concert, but those in attendance received so much more than that. Viewing the show through the eyes of one who has seen many, it was an incredible, exciting show — one that lingers in the back of the mind. She is a wonderful role model to the young that view her as a giant. They aspire to one day reach her greatness after witnessing the impact of her beauty and grace.

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Stirling has a self-awareness that gives strength and power to those around her, saying what people need to hear before they even know they need to hear it. She is, in a word, rare. She is a once in a generation talent who has captured the imagination of the young, inspires the broken and gives peace to all who hear her. As the show ended and we walked into the cold night air of her hometown, it was hard not to feel refreshed and ready to celebrate the season. And that, in the end, is the magic of Lindsey Stirling.

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Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-23-19

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