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 5 rescue dogs.

REVIEW: Less Than Jake & Bowling For Soup Attack the Marquee with Ska & Dad Jokes (8-5-22)

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Tempe, AZ – Co-headliners Less Than Jake and Bowling For Soup stopped at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe for the second to last show before a break in their “Back From The Attack” tour, which will resume on September 2nd in San Diego. This tour was a long time coming: Less Than Jake and Bowling For Soup had briefly toured together in 2019, and have appeared at multiple festivals together, but they had never jointly embarked on a major, cross-country tour. According to Bowling for Soup lead vocalist Jaret Reddick, there were discussions of a tour before the world shut down for COVID-19, but it did not solidify until after society began to open up again. Joining the two long-time, legendary punk bands on this stop were CLIFFDIVER, a Tulsa, Oklahoma band who have dubbed their own sub-genre: elevator emo pop. Rounding out the bill was Doll Skin, a punk-rock band from Phoenix, Arizona.

Bowling For Soup - Marquee Theatre

As the doors to the Marquee opened, relieving fans from the sweltering mid-summer heat, they were greeted by a table operated by staff from Punk Rock Saves Lives. Reddick is the chairman of the advisory committee, and is a major advocate of mental health. The group helps connect people who need mental health services to the right resources. They also help sign up potential bone marrow donors as well. Mental health was a bit of a theme throughout the night.

Doll Skin

Doll Skin took the stage at 7 p.m.  and opened with the chords of “Don’t Cross My Path,” from their 2019 album Love Is Dead and We Killed Her. If you heard the first few notes, you would be excused for thinking that this was a bit of a slow song, showcasing the smooth voice of lead vocalist Sydney Dolezal. The song, however, builds up and then explodes in the second verse, immediately electrifying the atmosphere and waking up even the sleepiest member of the audience. 

Doll Skin
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

During a break between songs – while drummer Scoot and guitarist Tori switched places, giving bassist Tay a bit of a break as well – Dolezal introduced themself to the crowd, saying that they had come to their first show at the Marquee when they were 12. After finishing a cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room,” Dolezal thanked the crowd for their participation, stating there would be more, but they wanted to say something before the show moved on:

“This state, my home state, has a fucking governor who’s a douche. *chuckles* Duceeyyyyy. I think my existence as a trans person, and a queer person, should not be inherently political and inherently divisive. I’m going to be fucking mad about it until I can exist, and the younger, queer people that are coming out to me and came before me can exist and live their lives.”

Sydney Dolezal (Vocalist), Doll Skin
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

They finished by expressing their love for the community and dedicated “Eat Shit” to the people who prevent others from living their lives. The set was short – only 7 songs – but every aspect was memorable, from the impassioned speech Dolezal gave, to Dolezal jumping off stage during “Control Freak” and joining the mosh pit, while singing the entire time. As the band left the stage, Dolezal led the enthusiastic crowd in chants of “Doll Skin!” before wishing everyone goodnight.

CLIFFDIVER

Joey Duffy (Vocalist), CLIFFDIVER
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

This year has marked a lot of firsts for CLIFFDIVER. One is their debut album, Exercise Your Demons and another was experiencing the ridiculous heat that comes with an Arizona summer. Conversely, this is the first time that Arizona has been exposed to this lively emo band. The band is made up of co-lead vocalists Briana Wright and Joey Duffy, bassist Tyler Rogers, saxophonist Dony Nickles, guitarist/back-up vocalists Matt Ehler and Gilbert Erickson, and drummer Eliot Cooper. 

While their song titles may catch your attention first –  “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost but Can Anyone Help Me Get Out of This IKEA?” seemed to be one of the crowd favorites – the sheer amount of talent these 7 possess should hold your focus. Wright and Duffy combined for a jaw dropping cover of Creed’s “Arms Wide Open” and “Higher” mid-set, much to the delight of those witnessing.

Briana Wright (Vocalist), CLIFFDIVER
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

The music of CLIFFDIVER is a beautiful mix of open, honest, and devastating lyrics, set to music that makes you want to dance and yet make you think that you should call your therapist tomorrow morning. Between songs, the pair spoke about various topics, with Duffy discussing his bi-polar disorder and his sobriety, which recently reached 14 months. As the band and the crowd fed off each other’s energy, it was quite apparent that CLIFFDIVER was an experience, and that everyone involved would leave the Marquee just a bit better for having been there.

Marquee Theatre crowd stoked for Less Than Jake on Aug. 5, 2022
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Less than Jake

Less Than Jake started life as a band 30 years ago, and hasn’t slowed down since. Starting the show off with 1996’s “Automatic,” Less Than Jake made it very clear that they were in town to give everyone one hell of a show. Indefatigable frontman and guitarist Chris DeMakes is a fast-talking, fun-loving ska-punk legend who – along with the rest of the band – has a single-minded desire to make sure you leave the building feeling like you had one of the best nights of your life. The band is rounded out by co-lead vocalist and bassist Roger Lima, trombonist Buddy Schaub, saxophonist JR Wasilewski, and drummer Matt Yonker. 

Chris DeMakes (Vocalist, Guitarist), Less Than Jake
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

There was a sort of controlled chaos that erupted from the stage, where DeMakes and Lima – with the rest of the band joining in at various points – interacted with the crowd between songs, bantering with the crowd and with each other. DeMakes gleefully reminded everyone who was over 35 that it would indeed hurt in the morning, an observation that resulted in knowing nods from those who have long since left that milestone behind, and cheers from those who were much closer to that age and likely did not realize what lay ahead for them. Less Than Jake made sure that there would be plenty of opportunities to feel it in the morning, mixing up the old with the new, even pulling an older, lesser played song out – 1996’s “Rock-N-Roll Pizzeria” from their album Losing Streak – and throwing it into the mix with “Lie To Me,” from their newest album Silver Linings. There was a bit of something for everyone, and for every age as well. 

Roger Lima (Vocalist, Bassist), Less Than Jake
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

At one point, DeMakes pulled two younger kids onto the stage as well as one of the fans who was fanning herself, because as he said “you’re using more energy fanning yourself,” and asked Nick – their roadie – to fan her. Nick did so for the start of “History of a Boring Town,” which DeMakes dedicated to Flagstaff, which is a fair assessment of said town. Another new song was “The High Cost of Low Living,” a song DeMakes promised would be a banger. It is indeed, and it featured the return – albeit short lived – of their 90s mascot Skullman, who disappeared as quickly as he showed up. It’s never easy saying goodbye to a band like Less Than Jake, but there is no doubt they will return soon, as they expressed their love for Tempe and their fans.

Less Than Jake streams toilet paper onto fans at the Marquee
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Bowling For Soup

Bowling For Soup set is a bit unorthodox: They played 11 songs, and they spoke to the audience for about the same amount of time as they sang. Where Less Than Jake has mastered controlling the flow of energy in the building with their in between songs chats, Bowling For Soup has mastered the art of turning a set into equal parts comedy and music. Both methods work, and work well, but expecting Bowling For Soup to follow the stereotypical punk-rock structure would be to ignore most of their body of work. After all, Reddick is far more than just the lead vocalist; he is the voice of Chuck E Cheese, the chairman of the advisory committee for Punk Rock Saves Lives, and a country music artist. Is it not punk to defy expectations, even if those expectations are that the show – and the band – will be closer to what one considers traditional punk? 

Jaret Reddick (Vocalist, Guitarist), Bowling For Soup
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Nothing about the band and the music they play – brilliantly – is within the conventional norms, and that makes their show all that much more fun. Reddick is joined onstage by guitarist Chris Burney, drummer Gary Wiseman, and Rob Felicetti on bass – all three performing back-up vocal duties as well. Favorites like “Punk Rock 101” and “1985” were played between a dad joke contest – won by Wiseman with “There were two windmills on a windmill farm, and on this particular day there was no wind. One windmill, trying to start a conversation, asked the other what kind of music they listened to. The second windmill replied ‘You know what? I’m a huge metal fan.’” – and a magic show where Reddick made a “bird” (read: his middle finger) appear from Burney’s kilt.

Chris Burney (Guitarist), Bowling For Soup
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

In addition, there was a rain of guitar picks from both Reddick and Burney, so much so that their roadie had to make multiple trips just to refill the microphone stand holding their picks. A few of those picks were even flicked at the photographers in the pit, who Reddick jokingly called the paparazzi. 

Jaret Reddick (Vocalist, Guitarist), Bowling For Soup
Jaret Reddick (Vocalist, Guitarist), Bowling For Soup
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Bowling For Soup released a new album this year called Pop Drunk Snot Bread, which was reportedly first intended to be a recording session to make a few singles, but in the end the band decided to make it an album to spend even more time together. Unsurprisingly, the songs off this new album are fantastic, and the band treated the crowd to one: “I Wanna Be Brad Pitt,” a song about, and this may be a bit surprising, Brad Pitt. The music video is predictably hilarious, and watching it live is a treat unto itself. Reddick discussed mental health as well, sharing a bit about his own struggles over the years and what Punk Rock Saves Lives means to him and what it does for the community.

Bowling For Soup
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Punk is often thought of as a music genre, when in reality it is, or has become, a culture and community with some really good music that comes along for the ride. The flier handed out at the table had a quote on it from Joe Strummer: “Punk Rock means exemplary manners to your fellow human beings.” This, without a doubt, is a statement that all four of the bands lived up to on this night, and during every show.

Fans raise their hands for Bowling For Soup at Marquee Theatre
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

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Photography: Kara Blakemore

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Bowling For Soup* | Less Than Jake* | CLIFFDIVER | Doll Skin

*Includes a few additional photos

Bowling For Soup, Less Than Jake, CLIFFDIVER, & Doll Skin – Marquee Theatre 8-5-22

Photography © Electric Eye Photo AZ
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Failure Lands in the Desert for Crescent Ballroom Show (6-5-22)

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Phoenix, AZ — Failure returned to Crescent Ballroom for the third time since their reunion in late 2013, much to the delight of an eager and boisterous crowd. This was the first US tour in over 3 years, thanks to COVID, and was to support their newest album Wild Type Droid. This is their sixth studio album, and marks a major change for the band. Their previous albums have carried the band and their followers into outer space – one of the descriptors of the band is “space rock” – but this time the theme of the album will be a bit different. In a press release, guitarist and bassist Greg Edwards stated that “This feels like a good place and time to abandon the space iconography and theme once and for all. In a lot of ways, this album feels like a return to earth. All minds have been called back to their bodies. There’s a lot to attend to right in front of us.

Failure promo photo
Photography: Priscilla C. Scott

As Failure reached down to firmly grasp terra firma once more, their fans welcomed the news of the latest tour with open arms and thinly veiled excitement. They have been described as having “cult status” by Rolling Stone, and based on the buzz that was flowing through the venue as fans eagerly awaited their beloved band, it is a fitting moniker. Failure, formed in 1992, has embraced social media with a fierceness that is not often seen in bands that formed before the amalgamation of the internet and social media. In an era where word of mouth was currency, they built a following through tours with Tool, and a solid discography that has withstood the test of time. In fact, it could be argued that while formed in the 90s, Failure is anything but a 90s band. They were merely a band before their time.  

Failure completed the albums Comfort in 1992, Magnified in 1994, and Fantastic Planet in 1996. They stepped into a Lollapalooza slot in 1997 when Korn dropped out. Citing “personal differences”, they officially broke up on November 19, 1997, only to reunite in 2013. In the interim, former Failure rhythm guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen joined A Perfect Circle, who recorded a cover of Failure’s “The Nurse Who Loved Me” for their Thirteenth Step LP. 

Failure’s cosmic sound appears on 2015’s The Heart is a Monster album and 2018’s In The Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind. Their tour for their recent release Wild Type Droid blends celestial sounds of previous albums with the “return to earth” sound they are making now. The band may have an on again, off again relationship, but their fans are here to stay. 

In a social media announcement on March 31st, 2022, Failure informed their fans that they could preview a 30-minute trailer for their upcoming eponymous documentary, which is slated to be released in 2023. A nearly 7-minute teaser of the documentary, a trailer of the trailer as it were, was played right before Failure took the stage. This announcement of the band’s upcoming film was met with unfettered excitement online, and this carried over into the night of the show.  

Those who have attended live music events at any point know that it is not unusual for fans to slowly trickle in, but on this night the vast majority of the crowd was in the venue when the lights were turned down at exactly 8:30 pm. The extended Failure documentary trailer brought raucous cheers from the eager crowd. It is a safe bet that much of the crowd had watched the teaser online, and there was an air of anticipation. Indeed, some in the crowd cheered at every new musician or actor who appeared on the screen to discuss Failure’s impact on them personally and their music careers. 

The preview had a parade of big music industry names: Hayley Williams (Paramore – who covered “Stuck On You” in their 2006 EP The Summer Tic), Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer), Butch Vig (Garbage), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and commentary from actress and comedian Margaret Cho, among others. As the sneak peek wrapped up, the conversation turned to the drug use that led to the band break up in 1997. As of yet, no release date has been given for the Failure documentary.

Ken Andrews (Vocalist, Guitarist), Failure
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Failure’s current members are frontman and lead guitarist Ken Andrews, multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist Greg Edwards, and drummer Kellii Scott. The trio took the stage with a “What’s happening Phoenix?” shout out from Andrews. They launched into the hard-hitting song “Submarines” off Wild Type Droid. This was the first song the band wrote after the world shut down due to the pandemic. There is a certain risk in writing a song that relates to a world changing event such as the pandemic that upended nearly every smidgen of the day to day lives of all of us, as future generations likely will not fully understand the trauma and impact it left on all of us. That is where the beauty and timelessness of the band’s songwriting comes in: while this generation will immediately understand the deeper meaning of the song, it will resonate later on for a new generation of music lovers for a completely different reason.

Greg Edwards (Guitarist), Failure
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

The music video released for “Submarines” consists of the band staring into the camera – giving the viewer a sensation that perhaps the band is attempting to look deep into their souls – while also having their profile featured, glitching in and out. The intensity of this video carries on to their concerts, with a focused Andrews rarely speaking – though he did acknowledge the fans who called out between the songs. His abrupt (but not rude) style of communication while on stage is a drastic contrast of his voice, which is – in itself – a juxtaposition to the music. Andrews’ smooth vocals mixed with the crunch and crash that comes with the grunge-meets-space-rock sound that Failure is associated with has a familiar and comforting feel to it. Imagine a warm, well-worn blanket wrapped around you as you stare off into space imagining the possibilities of the unknown, and you have an idea of what a concert with Failure is like. 

Failure performing live at Crescent Ballroom
Failure
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

They pulled from each of their 6 albums during the show. Right before the band played “Counterfeit Sky” from The Heart Is a Monster, Andrews stated they were doing double shots from each album – at least two songs back-to-back from the same album. There was a single exception to this: “Salt Wound” was the sole song from Comfort, their very first album. Indeed, there was a near symmetry to the show, with 2 songs from Magnified, The Heart Is A Monster, and In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind, as well as 6 songs from Fantastic Planet, and 6 from Wild Type Droid

As incredible as the evening was, it was not without some small flaws. The first was when the sound cut out suddenly during the opening moments of “Distorted Fields,” stopping everyone except Scott, who was so focused on his craft – and also had headphones on – that he continued to drum for a few more seconds. While the sound techs scrambled to get the show back on track, one fan called out “Acoustic version!” which was followed with a rimshot by Scott. The techs quickly fixed the issue, and the show got back on track. The second was a restart of fan-favorite “Stuck On You.” Neither mishap detracted from the overall magic of the show and had the paradoxical effect of enhancing it a bit with how quickly and gracefully they were handled.

Kellii Scott (Drummer), Failure
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

After finishing up “Half Moon,” from Wild Type Droid, during the encore, Andrews told the ecstatic audience “You may have noticed we haven’t played anything from our 3rd album.” This was rectified quickly, as the final 6 songs all came from Fantastic Planet, culminating with “Daylight,” which is also the final song on the album. 

The concert was a journey as the music videos playing behind the band throughout the night took the fans to another planet and then back to earth to get rather macro with various insects, such as a praying mantis named Iggy from their latest music video. After the finale, it felt like an extended goodbye with a long instrumental performance, and this journey came to an end with Andrews telling the fans, “Thank you Phoenix, we love you!” 

Failure performing live at Crescent Ballroom
Failure
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Failure is a band that is absolutely worth going out of your way to see perform live. There are layers upon layers to their music. It would be easy to forget it’s a band of only 3 members. It is easy to see how the band continues to thrive by word of mouth, and why the fans are loyal to the point of near obsession. The praise they receive is well-founded and deserved.

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    Failure’s Phoenix Setlist

  1. Submarines
  2. Mercury Mouth
  3. Salt Wound
  4. Frogs
  5. Wonderful Life
  6. Atom City Queen
  7. Counterfeit Sky
  8. Distorted Fields
  9. Force Fed Rainbow
  10. Bring Back the Sound
  11. Headstand
  12. Bad Translation
  13. Half Moon
  14. Segue 3
  15. The Nurse Who Loved Me
  16. Another Space Song
  17. Stuck on You
  18. Heliotropic
  19. Daylight

Photo Gallery

Photography: Kara Blakemore

Failure – Crescent Ballroom 6-5-22

Photography © Electric Eye Photo AZ
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Jimmy Eat World & Dashboard Confessional Take Rock Underground at The Caverns (3-12-22)

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Pelham, TN — If you were to ask any emo fan who spent their formative years in the early 2000s, “Which bands would make up the tour lineup of your dreams?”, you would get a plethora of answers with combinations that sound much like the When We Were Young Festival happening this fall. But, more than likely, two bands’ names would pop up in nearly every combination provided: Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional.

These bands, who have provided the soundtrack to the lives of countless individuals over their 20+ years of existence, have accomplished much over the years. However, there is one achievement they were missing until this year: hitting the road together on a tour. This “oversight” was rectified when these two powerhouse bands joined forces, and asked Sydney Sprague to open for them on the tour dubbed “Surviving the Truth,” which is a mash-up of Surviving, Jimmy Eat World’s 2019 album, and Dashboard Confessional’s newest album All The Truth I Can Tell, released on February 25th of this year.

Fortunately, they also added another new experience and scheduled two back-to-back nights of shows in The Caverns – a unique venue near an area known as TAG – a place where Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia all converge. Being about an hour away from every major city, a bit of travel is required to get to the venue – through a tiny town where the livestock that disinterestedly watch you drive by likely outnumber the human residents, down Charlie Roberts Road until you reach the end, and find yourself facing a black building with a massive painting of a Big Mouth Cave Salamander named Sally painted on the side of it. This is not the end of the journey, however, as you must now walk down a sloping path into the mouth of a cavern, and then step through enormous wooden doors where the words “Welcome to The Caverns where the Great Spirit brings all people together through music” are carved, using the Sequoyah script of the Cherokee. It is here your journey ends and the adventure begins…

Sydney Sprague

Sydney Sprague (Vocalist)
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Sydney Sprague – an Arizona based musician who first started writing and playing at 11 and performing at 14 – would be first onstage. Before the band kicked off the show with “i refuse to die” – the first track of 2021’s maybe i will see you at the end of the world – she gave the audience the first of many puns of the night: “If you haven’t heard of us, that’s ok. we’re pretty…underground.” As the crowd chuckled, she deadpanned: “it gets worse.

This could not have been further from the truth, as Sprague and her band – comprised of Chuck Morriss III (keyboard, bass), Larry Gast III (guitar), Sebastien Deramat (guitar), and Tom Fitzgibbon (drums) – are all exceptionally gifted musicians and artists who bring an enormous amount of energy that complements her laid back nature. Sprague has a quick, dry wit and the ability to capture the audience’s attention and form a bond that both her and the crowd feed off of as the set goes on. 

While some may compare her vocal timbre to Michelle Branch or Taylor Swift, and it should be noted these are fair and valid comparisons, it would be a mistake to attempt to shove Sprague’s sound into a box and slap a label on it. Her vocals and sound defy conventional expectations, she writes songs that are relatable, and her performances are simple and straightforward – leaving the audience wanting more in the future. Her 8-song set included most of the tracks on her debut album, which had the paradoxical effect of leaving the audience both wishing for a bit more, and yet satisfied with what we were able to witness from this budding star. 

Sydney Sprague
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Between sets, one of the quirks of the cavern became quite obvious: it had the audacity to form without giving a backstage for the bands and their crews to work with. There is no easy access to move the equipment on and off, nor to unload and then load everything back into the waiting vehicles outside. This unusual set-up meant the audience was able to watch the pre-show rituals of the bands and view what the hard-working (and often underappreciated or forgotten) crews do with the equipment they hastily move off and onto the stage. 

Dashboard Confessional

Dashboard Confessional
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Dashboard Confessional was up next, with Chris Carrabba singing “The Brilliant Dance” with an acoustic guitar while the rest of the band stood just off stage. As he finished, they joined him, and a jovial Carrabba asked the audience if anyone had been in attendance last night. There were surprisingly few affirmative replies. Carrabba then asked, “Is anyone here tonight?” and as the cheers faded, he exclaimed, “Me too!” as the first notes of “The Good Fight” started to play. At the end of the song, he asked the audience to give a round of applause for Sprague and her band, and then caught himself cussing when he spotted a kid at the front of the crowd. Asking the young fan if he had ever been to a show in The Caverns, he stated with a huge grin, “I’ve only been to one other show here, and it was last night!” 

Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional performing at The Caverns
Chris Carrabba (Vocalist, Guitarist), Dashboard Confessional
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Carrabba – joined onstage by Armon Jay (guitar), Scott Schoenbeck (bass), Abigail Kelly (back-up vocals), Chris Kamrada (drums), Dane Poppin (keyboard, guitar) – mixed the nostalgic hits like “Stolen” and “Vindicated” with “The Better Of Me,” the only song from All The Truth I Can Tell. Through it all, Carrabba radiated joy and excitement, possibly because he was playing inside of a cave, but also because, as he noted multiple times, it was just so good to be back together with everyone again. Carrabba is just under two years removed from a motorcycle accident that nearly ended his career, and to be back on stage after all he has endured during his recovery must feel like a miracle he celebrates nightly on this tour with 1,500 or so of his closest friends. His energy radiated out across the audience, many of whom sang along with him during the 17-song set. 

Chris Carrabba (Vocalist, Guitarist), Dashboard Confessional
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World took the stage during the opening notes of “Futures,” the title track from their 2004 album. It only takes a few verses of watching frontman Jim Adkins pour everything he has out in front of the enchanted audience while drummer Zach Lind, guitarist Tom Linton and bassist Rick Burch effortlessly provide the canvas on which each song is painted anew on each night.

Jimmy Eat World
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

This is the magic of Jimmy Eat World and perhaps the secret of their longevity: their ability to take the songs that helped emo kids grow into slightly less emo adults and make the nostalgic magic that you feel hearing “Sweetness” on the radio disappear during a live show, and make it feel like you’re hearing and experiencing the songs for the first time. Other favorites like “Pain,” “Hear You Me,” “23,” and “Lucky Denver Mint” were included in the set list as well. 

Jim Adkins (Vocalist, Guitarist), Jimmy Eat World
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Halfway through the show, Adkins switched over to an acoustic guitar to play “555” – a song that has not only inspired a comic book, but also a near-cult-like following among some fans, including a small Facebook group dedicated to posting solely about 555 found in daily lives. Adkins, like Sprague and Carrabba, expressed awe and disbelief that they were playing in a cave, and then threw in a joke about telling a distant relative that he was in an underground rock band. If there were any surprises from the night, it would be that the bands didn’t end up making more bad cave and rock puns.

The level of exertion that Jimmy Eat World puts into each show can evoke the image of a fighter who has gone 10 rounds with their opponent, leaving the ring glistening and triumphant. As Jimmy Eat World closed the show with their most well-known hit “The Middle,” towels awaited them just off-stage. The song generated the the perfect energy to end the incredible evening… the best way to end the adventure at the bucket-list worthy venue, and to send those lucky enough to bear witness a once-in-a-lifetime show on a journey through the improbably cold pre-spring night to wherever their roads may carry them. 

Fans in The Caverns as Jimmy Eat World closes their set
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

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Sydney Sprague
 | Dashboard Confessional
 | Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional, Sydney Sprague – The Caverns 3-12-22

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

REVIEW: System Of A Down & Korn Help Phoenix Get Lost in the Grandeur (1-31-22)

PHOENIX — In 2020, System Of A Down announced a massive tour co-headlining with Faith No More and Korn, with support from Helmet and Russian Circles. As the pandemic progressed, the shows were postponed a total of three times, with the final postponement due to Serj Tankian (frontman of System of a Down) contracting COVID in October. Faith No More also announced that they would be canceling the concerts so Mike Patton could step back to handle mental health issues. Korn had dropped out, but once Faith No More canceled, Korn returned. To the delight of the metal faithful in Arizona, it was also announced that this line-up (excluding Faith No More and Helmet) would be playing a show at an arena in Phoenix now known by many names. This arena, built in 1992, is now known as Footprint Center and is now on it’s 6th name. The arena just completed a much needed remodel, which brings the once dated arena firmly into the 21st century.

The show started off with Russian Circles, a group that was founded by two childhood friends, Michael Sullivan and Dave Turncrantz, who play guitar and drums respectively. They are joined by Brian Cook, who is the bassist, baritone guitarist, and keyboardist for the instrumental band. Surprisingly, the set was only 18 minutes and 3 songs, but in that short timeframe the post-metal band impressed the audience with their highly technical prowess. If Russian Circles is billed as an opener, it is well worth your time to arrive early enough to catch this trio’s excellent mastery of crescendos and crashes of bass and drums.

Jonathan Davis of Korn in concert at Footprint Center
Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

With a “Here we go!” from lead singer Jonathan Davis, the first bars of Korn’s “Here to Stay” began, spotlights flashed from the stage, and strobing lightboxes backlit the band. Throughout the night, the unmistakable voice of Davis was replaced many times by the audience, as he solicited audience participation. When performing live, Korn has an underappreciated ability to echo the sound of their studio recordings, and it speaks to the vast talent of not just Davis, but guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, drummer Ray Luzier, and Ra Diaz (who is filling in for Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu while he takes time to “heal and reflect at home”). 

Brian Welch of Korn in concert at Footprint Center
Brian Welch (Guitarist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Korn is well known for their staggeringly large discography, with 13 studio albums having been released, and a 14th out on February 4th named “Requiem”. The audience was treated to the live debut of the song “Start the Healing”. As part of the upcoming album release, Korn will be playing a “Requiem Mass” on the evening of February 3rd at Hollywood United Methodist Church, which will be live-streamed worldwide.

Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) & Ray Luzier (Drummer) – Korn
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Three songs later, Davis came out on the stage with his bagpipe, playing the intro to “Shoots and Ladders,” the third single from their eponymous debut album. This, predictably, caused the crowd to erupt, much to the delight of Davis. There is a connection and love between Korn and the audience, which takes the shows to another level. Davis is 4 months removed from his battle with COVID, which saw him have to sit on a throne and use oxygen while performing during a show on August 27th. It is a relief to watch him move around with no noticeable side effects from his battle, which he said scared him shitless.

Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The crowd, at the urging of Davis, held up their middle fingers collectively during “Y’All Want a Single” – a song written in response to Sony asking for them to “write a radio hit.” This likely is not at all what the poor sap who made this request expected to get, but it has become a fan favorite. Other hits included “Freak on a Leash,” “Did My Time,” and “A.D.I.D.A.S.” As Korn wrapped up, Davis thanked the fans, and almost ominously said, “…we’ll come back and fuck this motherfucker up one more fucking time.”

As the opening notes of “X” played, System Of A Down was silhouetted against the curtain in the moments before it dropped. Serj Tankian – vocalist and keyboardist – was center stage, flanked by guitarist Daron Malakian to his right, bassist Shavo Odadjian to his left, and drummer John Dolmayan almost directly behind him. “Prison Song” was performed next with an arsenal of nearly blinding strobes that assaulted the audience. An extraordinarily intense light show, designed to match the intensity of their music, would persist through the night.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

To watch System Of A Down play is like watching one of the great Renaissance masters paint. A great painter must carefully select their canvas, their paint, and then they must be able to combine these quality pieces in such a way that it withstands not only the test of time, but withstands the test of the taste of that particular moment. System Of A Down does this with an ease that defies the expectations of a band that has only released 2 new songs in the last 16 years. Tankian’s voice is the paint over the music that stands in for the canvas, and we in the audience are the viewers who do not necessarily realize what beauty we are witnessing in the moment.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Tankian has one of the greatest vocal ranges in all of metal at 4 octaves. This was on full display in “Chop Suey,” one of the songs that landed them squarely in the mainstream limelight, though the metal community was made aware of the band a few years before with the release of their first album and the success of “Sugar” and “Spiders.” While lavish praise should be heaped on Tankian for his immense vocal talent, the same praise should also be heaped onto Odadjian and Malakian, as they make highly technical and rather difficult riffs look absolutely effortless.

Imagine how incredible it would have been if Tankian and his would-be tour mate, Mike Patton of Faith No More (who boasts an unbelievable 6 octave range) accompanied each other for one song.

It is impossible to discuss System Of A Down and their impact without discussing their political contributions. Tankian in particular acts as a prominent voice for the downtrodden and the less fortunate, both in lyrics and in his personal capacity. The two new songs, “Genocidal Humanoidz” and “Protect the Land,” were released in response to the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. The two singles raised about $600,000 for the Armenians who were affected by the devastating war. Both songs were played separately during this concert, with Malakian first thanking the audience for the last year, and then starting to explain what the song “Protect the Land” was about, only to turn to Tankian to ask him to explain the song. Tankian turned to the audience and said, “This one goes out to all the indigenous people in the world that are fighting for their rights. For all of the people in the world protecting their families against evil and injustice. We are all united, and we are one.” As the band launched into the song, the lights behind the band lit up in the colors of the Armenian flag.

Shabo Odadjian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Shabo Odadjian (Bassist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

It could be argued that the mark of a great show is that it alters the perception of the passage of time. In this case, by the time the band played the opening notes of “Sugar,” their first hit that made the metal world take notice of the band with Dadaist lyrics, a distaste of the exploitation of the less fortunate, and a lyrically devastating take on war – both the wars between countries and the war on drugs – it felt like only moments had passed, when in reality it was an hour and a half set.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Earlier in the night, Davis had said, “It’s so good to be back up here, y’all. The world has been going through some crazy shit, and this is where I get to forget all about it. I want y’all to do me a favor tonight: I want you to just forget about everything. We got System Of A Down coming up, and I want you guys to do this for me: just forget and have a good fucking time!” This challenge was accepted by the enthusiastic crowd, who spent 4 hours losing themselves to the sounds of these masters of metal as they performed their greatest hits.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

System of a Down & Korn – Footprint Center 1-31-22

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System Of A Down Online:

Phoenix Pays Tribute to the Late Stefan Pruett of Peachcake, The Guidance (1-15-22)

PHOENIX — Near the heart of an ever-evolving downtown Phoenix, set back a bit from the intersection of 2nd Ave and Van Buren, sits a music venue named Crescent Ballroom – constructed in 1917 and renovated from The F.L. Hart Garage. Since its 2011 opening, the brick exterior has changed some, with an expansion adding a second level of outdoor seating. It would be here that friends, family, and loyal fans of Stefan Pruett would gather to remember the radiant and deviant man who changed countless lives, leaving everyone whom he met a better version of themselves. (Read our June 2020 memorial article Remembering the Power of Peachcake – In Loving Memory of Stefan Pruett…)

This night’s celebration of a life so rich and well-lived was a fitting way to remember Pruett. For over a decade, he was the charismatic frontman of Peachcake – a band that had started out as an experimental electronic music duo with his childhood friend John O’Keefe, and blossomed into both a nationally and internationally known band. 

Among the many incredible achievements that Peachcake and Pruett attained over the years included being made honorary members of the International Peace Bureau in 2009 for their efforts to promote tolerance, peace and love through music and live performance. The IPB, along with Demilitarize.org, later selected their song “Were We Ever Really Right?” in 2011 as the official song for a worldwide event to support demilitarization worldwide. The band dissolved 6 months after their Unbelievable Souls LP was released, and Pruett went on to continue in music solo, under the stage name The Guidance.

The front room of Crescent Ballroom serves as a lounge and restaurant, as well as an additional place for other acts to perform when a larger concert is going on. Straight back from the entrance to this room is a set of double doors that leads to a large room with a stage and a second bar within. Upon entering this music venue, all guests were handed two items: The first was a brochure / program with a vastly condensed story of Pruett’s incredible life, and the second was a packet with QR codes to stream albums that included unreleased music he had worked on. It also contained a card for a drink – one last round on Stefan, with which we could raise in his memory. There was also a guestbook so that everyone who loved him could stay in touch. 

Merch sales were set up in the back to the left of the stage as usual, however all proceeds from this show would go toward benefitting Rosie’s House – a music academy for children – and HEAL International (Health | Empowerment | Aid | Light).

Nearly 9 years prior, Peachcake had played their final show on this very stage. On the stage sat a lit up cut-out letter sign that simply said “HAPPY” – the same sign featured in a publicity photo by AJ Colores.

Stefan Pruett photo by AJ Colores
Stefan Pruett (Vocalist) – Peachcake, The Guidance | Photography: AJ Colores

To the left of the stage was also a fantastic homage, put together by Pruett’s loved ones, exhibiting items from his life and performances. Two of the outfits he had performed in were displayed on body forms – an impactful sight for those that witnessed those shows at which he donned them. The criminally underrated Unbelievable Souls record was mounted on a plaque, which was given as a gift to everyone who worked on the record as a celebration of its release. A poster for The Guidance’s headline show at the Brooklyn Fire Records showcase, on March 28 of 2019, inconspicuously hung on the wall behind the exhibit, and across the room from this was a commemorative display of prints related to that music project.

Beautiful artwork on the exhibit table paid tribute to the late singer – a painting by Chris Babicke, a large mixed media piece, a poster designed by Quokimbo, and the Peaches comic book by band member / artist Johnny McHone. A photo book titled The Magic Man featured a collection of press and social media sentiments following his passing. An article written by music journalist Ed Masley of the Arizona Republic had been laminated and laid out, along with another article from The Entertainer! Magazine by Christina Fuoco-Karasinki. Some of the photography in the articles and books was contributed by Katherine Amy Vega (Kataklizmic Design), Uriel Padilla, and Jeremiah Gratza (former manager of Peachcake, owner of The Thunderbird Lounge and President Gator Records). Scrapbooks documented Peachcake on tour, and Pruett’s personal life.

Peachcake member Mike McHale – who put enormous amounts of work into planning this beautiful night – started the evening off by thanking everyone for being there, and then introduced Forrest Kline, lead singer of the band hellogoodbye.

The show began with a somber performance that contrasted the normal upbeat and pulsing dance music that Peachcake and The Guidance produced, but it set the tone perfectly. Kline sat on a stool holding an acoustic guitar, and in between songs he talked about his memories of Pruett; one of which was a chance meeting on the streets of LA after Pruett moved there. He spoke of how much of an inspiration Pruett was, about the two of them texting back and forth about making new music, and then – in reference to making music with him – said, “I thought we had plenty of time, you know? You never know how much time you have.

Forrest Kline of Hellogoodbye
Forrest Kline (hellogoodbye)
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

An acoustic cover of Peachcake’s “Stop Acting Like You Know More About The Internet Cafe Than Me” was recently released by Kline’s band.

Producer Jeremy Dawson, one of the founding members and keyboardist of Shiny Toy Guns, took the stage next to DJ the songs from Pruett’s solo career. In the middle of the set, a small crowd took to the floor in front of the stage to dance – the first of many moments that brought the joy back into focus. At long last, this is now, the album Pruett and Dawson completed shortly before his passing, dropped on January 14th – the day before this memorial event. How bittersweet it was to hear the culmination of all of their efforts – never able to tell him how incredible the album is.

Jeremy Dawson (Shiny Toy Guns) DJs just-released music of The Guidance
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“As a means to honor his life and all the work spent on the creation of this stunning album, together Dawson, Pruett’s family and Handwritten Records decided to continue with the release. This Is Now, is the first and last album from The Guidance.” – FindYourSounds

After Dawson wrapped up, and as the stage was being transformed for the final set of the night, a video played of McHale, A Clarie Slattery and others talking about the impact that Pruett and his music had on them. The consensus – both in the video and from everyone who spoke at the show – was that he made life fun. He reached into people and pulled out the person they didn’t realize they were, and he showed them that anything really is possible in life. There was also a short clip of Pruett talking about 4 heart surgeries he had, and his pacemaker, speaking on the congenital heart disease that would eventually claim his life – but he did not let that stop him from living life to the fullest.

“If you ever think you can’t do something, and I know everyone in this room has their obstacles and stuff they’ve gone through… don’t let that shit hold you back.” – Stefan Pruett

“He was living on borrowed time his entire life. He knew that from the time he was very, very young. He didn’t think he was going to make it out of being a teenager. Every minute of every day was bonus points. He knew it and he lived in such a way that he never made you forget it.” – The Entertainer! Magazine

There was also an anecdote from his brother’s memorial service, which was an experience described as profound. Pruett played the song “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem in memory of Alex Pruett, who passed away in 2007. With his “unique ability to bring people together”, he encouraged people of all walks of life to close their eyes and share “in this beautiful musical moment… creative moment with Stefan.”  His aunt beautifully encapsulated who Stefan Pruett was, speaking of him as a honeybee – something his mother called him. He was, as she put it, “a builder of dreams,” in the same way a bee builds a hive.

Steven Pruett, the father of Alex and Stefan, spoke after the video ended; the pride he felt for his son and the pain of losing him evident in his voice. He spoke of the amazement he felt regarding his son becoming a singer, saying that Stefan did not even like singing in church. Calling Peachcake an iconic band, he reflected on the journey his son had taken, from MySpace, to a touring group, to an internationally known band.

It was a reunion of sorts for Peachcake. Guest singers performed in Pruett’s stead, with the first being Jessica Biaett, who was his girlfriend, singing “Hearts Can’t Lie.” Normally a peppy, yet wistful song, she gave it a hauntingly beautiful quality, making an incredible tribute to the man she lost.

Jessica Biaett
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

McHale (vocals, guitar, keys, percussion) became frontman for a few songs, and just as Pruett wore a shirt that said “NOT A DJ” at this venue 9 years prior, he wore one that said “NOT A SINGER”. Other guest vocalists included: Chris Babicke, Damien Salamone, Mickey Pangburn (The Prowling Kind, MRCH), Jake Greider, and Jason Catlin

Mike McHale ( Guitarist) – Peachcake
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 had been blazing its way through friends and family prior to the show. As such, a balance had to be struck between the crowded nightclub-like environment of a typical Peachcake show, and social distancing. Throwing back to staples of Peachcake shows, the crowd was encouraged to crouch down and spring up during the climax of “Welcome To The Party To Save The World”, and later formed a circle for mirror dancing during “Souls Have No Drum Machine”.

Crowd anticipates springing up
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Mike McHale, Peachcake
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Peachcake closed by accompanying a video of Stefan singing “We Never Pretended To Know Anything, Why Would We Now?” in at Modified Arts (Phoenix) in 2009. It was a moving, perfect way to end the night, allowing a man who touched so many lives to posthumously perform for us one last time. With that, Peachcake ended their set, and Jes Danz took to the stage to DJ some of the songs Pruett loved and was inspired by as the night faded out.

Stefan Pruett’s “final performance”
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

McHale later told Burning Hot Events, “Everything I did with putting together the memorial show for Stefan really helped me get through a lot of emotions that I had with hearing of Stefan‘s passing... Stefan‘s mom, Paula, had mentioned to me how much that show meant a lot to the people that had come to it and how much it helped her and her husband as well. To me, that was the most rewarding thing about doing this show for Stefan. I wanted to give some sense of closure and celebrate him properly when we were able to.

It has been said that Stefan Pruett left this world on June 14th, 2020, but I would argue that Kline was correct when he said that “no one really goes anywhere. We keep them in our memories and in our hearts. He lives on through his art and the connections he made.” Pruett burned brightly and fiercely, a force for good to be reckoned with, in the best way possible. He made the most of every day of his 35 years on this planet, and those he met had their lives changed for the better.

To quote the band Sleeping At Last’s song “Saturn”:
You taught me the courage of stars before you left, how light carries on endlessly, even after death.

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

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A Night Celebrating the Life and Music of Stefan Pruett of Peachcake and The Guidance 1-15-22

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

The Guidance Online:

Peachcake Online:

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

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Hot Snakes | Kills Birds | Twin Ponies

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

Photography © Reagle Photography
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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

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

Photography © Andrew Marshall
All Rights Reserved

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

JANUARY 26, 2022 UPDATE:

All scheduled shows have been cancelled.

The Format - A message from Sam & Nate
The Format – A message from Sam & Nate | Click to enlarge

Wait, Wait, Wait

APRIL 6, 2021 UPDATE: Although millions of people are getting vaccinated every day, the band is feeling uncertain about this summer so they’ve decided to push the reunion shows to next March and April, 2022.
More Details Here

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


Original Article

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

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