Arshenic’s new single and music video for “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” was released on April 12th and can be enjoyed on any listening format. It is a beautifully haunting cover of the classic Lead Belly song. Arshenic is a melodic metal band from Poland, formed in 2007 by the vocalist and songwriter,Oliwia “Ofilia” Bartuś-Staszak. The other current members of the band include electric guitarist Włodzimierz “Vlad” Czuba and drummer Bartosz Staszak.
The name of the band is a reference to arsenic, which is generally thought of as a poison, however it can also be a cure. The duality between the strong female vocals, both singing and screaming, matched with clean and distorted guitars, powerful bass, and zestful drums, with a pinch of cellos, electronics, and orchestral sounds rounding out the background can be heard throughout the group’s catalogue of songs.
The music was produced by Dawid Gorgolewski, Studio Osso. The music video’s script was written by Ofilia, and Creo Official was the video producer.
As the video begins, the camera focuses on the coastline near a wooded cliff. It briefly transitions to Ofilia facing the camera wearing a gas mask — a perfect reference to the meaning of the band name — while cradling a black and white cat in her arms.
Returning to the coastline, the camera follows Ofilia as she sings and walks along an empty coastline wearing a black dress, a crystal necklace, a belt with three pentagrams, skeleton tights, and black combat boots as waves crash near her feet. The instruments, her voice, and the beach give the video a nostalgic vibe. Interspersed slow-motion footage of her footsteps lends itself to an ominous atmosphere in the video, paired with the brooding tone of the song.
The instrumentalists are slowly revealed during the music’s buildup. Closeups zoom in on black-gloved hands sliding on the guitar with a skeleton head on the frets. The drummer plays while wearing a white gas mask with the eyes covered in black Xs. The electric guitarist wears a black mask with silver studs covering all but his eyes with a backward baseball cap on his head. The band members wearing masks stare deadpan at the camera.
As the melody sways, Ofilia walks down a dirt path in the woods wearing another gas mask, the hood of her black dress up, with scenes cutting between the woods and the beach. The transitions of water breaking over the sand and clips of rocks with the soft music are soothing.
As the song explodes, Oflilia walks through a graffiti-covered hallway of an abandoned building. These clips are entangled with footage of a forbidden romance, lit by a red-hued light.
The scenes cut back and forth with fluidity. The musicians flicker with high-speed cuts as they play with intensity — a duality of pacing between this point and the beginning, matching the vocals and instrumentals. The video concludes as it began, pulling away from the deserted coastline.
Many elements of this video can certainly speak to viewers that are currently practicing social distancing during the pandemic. Whether that was the intention or not, the video is an emotionally evocative, powerful watch that rolls out slowly and leaves the viewer impacted.
Arshenic’s latest album, Final Collison, released by Sliptrick Records, came out in August of 2019. With their new single out now, hopefully, there’s a new album coming out sometime in 2020. Until then, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” will be playing on repeat.
Fans can find out more information about upcoming shows and announcements through the band’s website, Instagram, and Facebook page.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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 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.
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.
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.
SEATTLE — Neptune Theatre was graced with the haunting vocals, jovial spirit, and authentic expressions of Bat for Lashes, granting an intimate and ethereal atmosphere to those in attendance. It had been a few years since she last journeyed from England to the United States, and as she stepped out to begin the concert, a hand from the cheering audience extended a bouquet of flowers to her. The beloved artist graciously accepted the gift with a warm smile, and she made her way to center stage. Donning a regal red lace-tiered gown, surrounded by seven electric lanterns, she shifted the tone in the auditorium as she stood still with her hands placed on the mic, raising her eyes toward the balcony, and began her performance with the synthy, notably 80s-influenced opening track of her latest album Lost Girls.
Bat for Lashes is the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan, who was accompanied by the keys and angelic backup vocals of Laura Groves. With a uniquely low and breathy vocal tone in general, Khan’s impressively wide vocal range is noteworthy as she frequently traverses to the soprano end of her range.
At times Groves’ operatic high notes were quite a palatable complement as she harmonized with her partner on stage. Throughout the night, Khan would go on to alternate between singing while sitting at the keys and standing at the mic – twice gently playing a pink Stratocaster guitar.
This came across as a slightly dressed-down performance for the musician, who has been known to whimsically dance around the stage and pick up a variety of interesting instruments.
But this more reserved presence may have lent itself to more opportunities for Khan to be an impactful storyteller between songs, which was an enriching experience.
She explained that as she is also a filmmaker, she wrote her concept album The Bride as if she were writing a film. Preceding the song “Close Encounters”, she spoke about her reflections on those who tell abduction stories, and her take on those as a coping mechanism to deal with trauma. She said that, being a child of the 80s, she dealt with grief by imagining the mythology of aliens.
It is apparent that Khan’s music is deeply personal to her, and something that she took to as child to help her work through her trials as she dealt with painful situations such as racial abuse and the absence of her father. It was an inspiring example of the beauty of the way emotions can be channeled into creativity, and transformed into something that brings happiness and unity to oneself and others. Knowing all of this brings a new level of appreciation to the foreground as she joked about her bottle of water and said, “I’ve barely figured out how I can do this in front of this many people without a bottle of vodka.”
Anyone who appreciates feeling deeply will particularly find themselves resonating with this musician that at times feels otherworldly. Khan’s profound relationship with music and the environment around her was obvious as she spoke of the English countryside having seeped into her bones, and Kate Bush being part of her musical DNA. Before performing “This Woman’s Work”, she told the crowd that the song makes her very emotional — that she wouldn’t be who she is without Bush.
Afterward, following mention that it had been a long time since she’d been to the States, she said, “I’m so happy there’s people!” and closed the evening with an homage to Cindy Lauper as she covered “I Drove All Night”. Seattle made it clear that Bat for Lashes is unforgotten and adored, her distant travels were appreciated, and her artistry cherished and revered.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mesa, AZ — Hailing from Denmark with a sound that blends punk and rockabilly into something wholly unique, Horrorpops steadily built a following over the course of their three albums in the mid-2000’s (2004’s Hell Yeah!, 2005’s Bring It On, and 2008’s Kiss Kiss Kill Kill). Just as they were reaching their apex, the band went into a period of inactivity. They released no new albums, and aside from a few shows here and there, they didn’t even play live that often. While the band may have gone on a brief hiatus, it didn’t stop their fan base from growing. With the announcement of a new tour, shows instantly began to sell out, and one of those sold out shows was Nile Theatre (“The Nile”). Kicking off the previous night in San Diego, The Quakes and Franks & Deans will accompany the Horrorpops for the entirety of the 13-date tour.
Franks & Deans
“We’re Franks & Deans, and we’re here to fuck up your grandmother’s favorite music!” Wearing matching tuxedo t-shirts and playing matching sea-foam-colored instruments for a set comprised of punk covers of old standards (okay, and the theme song to the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon), Las Vegas’ Franks & Deans opened the night. Comprised of bassist Robert DeTie, guitarists Hoss and Sampson, drummer Cam Callahan, and burlesque dancer and hula-hoopist Nickole Muse, they were an immediate shot of adrenaline the moment they came through the door.
Their sound – two parts punk and one part bar band – started the show off with the exact right kind of fun party music atmosphere you’d want on such a night. While their set may have been built around songs from the various classic Vegas performers. “This next song is by my favorite member of the Rat Pack: Mike Ness!” The Social Distortion’s frontman’s misattribution as a member of Sinatra’s Rat Pack was a running joke throughout their set, with other Rat Pack “members” including The Reverend Horton Heat and Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra. As they mentioned during the closing of their set, they have a regular Wednesday night Weenie Roast residency at Double-Down Saloon in Vegas. For any AZ residents who find themselves visiting Sin City mid-week, it’s a worthwhile stop.
Fronted by founding member and guitarist Paul Roman and backed by slap bassist Wes Hinshaw, and drummer Juan Carlos, Arizona’s own The Quakes played second. Thirty-year veterans, the band’s sound can best be described as neo-rockabilly. Roman played with the furious intensity of Johnny Ramone from the Ramones classic-era. If Roman’s guitar is punk-rock fury, then the rhythm section of Hinshaw and Carlos served as the perfect anchor, both keeping pace and holding the track together.
From their blistering take on the Stone’s “Paint It Black” to open, their 13-song, 30-minute set was a musical buzzsaw. “I Miss You” by the band’s 2005 album Psyops drew a huge crowd reaction. The Quakes have a three-prong attack and seem to intuitively feed off of each when they’re on stage.
With the stage set up with white sheets and assorted decorative skulls, you could feel the building excitement for the Horrorpops. With a legitimate max capacity crowd of long-time fans, many of whom were seeing the band for the first time, anticipation built to a fever pitch just as the lights went black. The reaction from the audience to darkness alone is the kind of pop some bands would kill to have. Henrik Stendahl was out first, taking his place behind the drums. He was quickly followed by guitarist Kim Nekroman, looking cool as ever. Arriving last, you realize immediately exactly what kind of icon Patricia Day has become, as she was greeted like psychobilly royalty.
Picking up her massive stand-up bass, adorned with buzzards and a black skull and crossbones, and went right into “Julia” off of Hell Yeah! One crowd favorite was followed by two more: “Thelma and Louise” from Kiss Kiss Kill Kill and “Kool Flattop” from their debut. The opening trio hit hard, and by the time the band paused and Patricia Day addressed the crowd for the first time, you could feel the crowd needing to take a breather.
“I can only think of one thing… okay two things,” Patricia told the crowd. “1. Why the hell did we stay away for so long? The second is that the greatest show we ever played was right here in Arizona! Anyway, it’s been too long!” Too long it may have been, but you’d never know it had been that long. Even with several years off from regular touring, the band showed no sign of rust, on just their second night of the tour. From the opening chords of “Julia,” they sounded just as tight as ever.
The band was on a tight schedule because The Nile had to close at midnight, and their set didn’t start until 10:45, which left them only 75 minutes. The time constraints didn’t detract from their set but instead gave it a blazing intensity. Somewhat ironically during “Hit ‘N’ Run” from 2005’s Bring It On!, Day casually dodged a beer can launched at the stage, with her nonchalant dodging being noticed and vocally appreciated by the crowd. Day’s stage presence combines punk-rock bravado with a kind of effortless grace. She took a brief moment to give her own appreciation: “Thank you so much for singing loud and oh-so-fucking proudly!”
While Horrorpops has a particular aesthetic that combines elements of goth with classic rockabilly, with a sound that incorporates both in a punk-rock blender, what often gets lost is that their song-writing revisits so many classic themes. Day and Nekroman are married, and many of their songs, as noted by Day, are love songs because even psychobilly punk rockers need love.
If their songs were about love, the show – and presumably the entire tour – is a love song to performing live. With Paul Roman from the Quakes joining them on guitar and Nekroman taking over bass duties from Day, they launched into crowd favorite “Psycho Bitches Outta Hell,” as they were also joined on stage by Kelly (their merch girl) who did a synchronized dance routine with Day.
At this point, time was starting to run out on the night, so the band improvised. “This is the time in the set when we would normally yell ‘Goodnight!’ and leave the stage and make you clap for us so we can come back out and play more songs that we already planned on playing, but we’re on a tight curfew tonight…” The lights were briefly turned out, as the band stayed on stage. The crowd relished the chance to play along with this joke, chanting “One more song!’ before the lights were promptly turned back on. “Alright, we will!” They closed out the night with “Walk Like a Zombie” and “Miss Take.” “We got time for one more song, and then it’s curfew!”
They closed their set with “Where I Wander,” took a bow, and exited the stage almost perfectly at midnight. The set may have been a tight 75 minutes, but they gave the crowd everything they had. And their adoring fans, so many who have waited years to finally see them live, gave it right back. Though Horrorpops may be from Denmark, they have a clear love for Phoenix. Hopefully it won’t be another ten years before they return!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
PHOENIX — Imagine you’re in your teens during the early 2000’s, public school is the definition of a living hell, and one of the only things keeping you going day after day are the sweet sounds of whining pop punk vocalists leaking in through your earbuds. Sound familiar? This was a very real scenario for many people back in the days when Motion City Soundtrack were first gracing the music scene with their lyrically intelligent and synth-laden brand of pop punk. Many of those same people, among legions of others, were in attendance at their show in downtown Phoenix, supported by Doll Skin and Mom Jeans, and they were still as young at heart for their love of pop punk as they were back in the good old days.
Kicking off the night were the incomparably talented band, Doll Skin who got their start right here in Phoenix. What they lack in size they most certainly make up for in aggressively inviting energy and excitement that most bands could only dream of achieving on their own. The charisma pouring from each member on stage, especially lead vocalist Sydney Dolezal, is something that cannot be easily described without witnessing it for yourself first. Doll Skin is a band that knows how to kick off a party and with songs like “Love is Dead and We Killed Her” and the excellent Florence + The Machine cover of “Shake It Out”, it’s very easy to see why.
Given the unenviable task of having to follow Doll Skin, Berkeley, California band, Mom Jeans took the stage with an undeniable sense of pure joy erupting from their faces. This is a band that truly loves what they do and that love is very contagious to members of any audience lucky enough to catch them. It’s incredible watching a band with only two studio albums to their name pump up a crowd so much with instant classics like “Now This Is Podracing”, “Death Cup”, and obvious crowd favorite, “Shred Cruz”. The mood was set for an exciting night ahead but no one could’ve prepared themselves for what came next.
Motion City Soundtrack
By the time Motion City Soundtrack took the stage, one might assume that most people would’ve been easily exhausted from dancing to all the other great music preceding them. This was definitely not the case though considering the audience full of that many diehard fans crammed to capacity inside The Van Buren’s acoustically pristine walls. Motion City Soundtrack sounded more energetic and polished than ever by the time their turn to play came along. This is a band that has truly come into their own over the years and there’s no sign of them losing that momentum for the remainder of their reunion tour.
Lead vocalist Justin Pierre’s quirky and painfully honest lyrics still continue to ring true for the armies of screaming fans who have had them committed to memory for over a decade at this point. The loyalty of their fan base is certainly not to be underestimated; as with the help of Justin’s beautifully gifted voice, it’s highly likely that many of the audience members were able to train themselves to sing in key along to the band’s music over the years — a truly incredible feat that made the concert experience all the more enjoyable and fun.
The rest of the band had no shortage of energy either, and anybody who struggles with maintaining optimum energy levels during their 9-5 desk jobs would benefit greatly from learning their secrets. This was especially true for keyboard player, Jesse Johnson, who would regularly thrash around on stage at his own wild pace. At one point that daredevil even held a handstand on top of his instrument for no less than 5 seconds. The movements were as fluid, crazy, and natural as they’ve been since the inception of the band and it was a beautifully refreshing thing to behold.
Justin graciously thanked the audience for attending and supporting live music more than once throughout their set. This was another highlight of the show because he came off like an approachable, friendly person, which only confirms everything most people have already heard about him. Throughout the show he’d go back and forth with audience members shouting random things at him like “I named my dog after you!” which prompted him to ask, “Is your dog HERE? I’d like to meet him!” It was incredibly endearing and is something that other bands should definitely take notes on. After ripping into timeless classics like “Everything Is Alright”, and “L.G. FUAD”, the band continued tapping into people’s nostalgia with perfect renditions of “Hold Me Down”, “Make Out Kids”, and “This Is For Real”.
Capping off the night with an encore of “The Future Freaks Me Out”, this only solidified their legacy as an endlessly fun, receptive, and crowd-pleasing band.
Photographer: Andrea Stoica
Motion City Soundtrack, Mom Jeans., Doll Skin – The Van Buren 1-22-20
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PHOENIX— This day had a solemn beginning as the news announced that the legendary drummer for Rush, Neil Peart, had passed away. Styx keyboardist Lawrence Gowan took the opportunity to pay tribute to his fellow Canadian musician by singing and playing a beautiful acoustic piano cover of “Limelight”. The lyrics pulled at the heartstrings and the chords and melody were hauntingly mesmerizing. As the song faded and commiserating fans’ cheers resounded, Gowan declared, “Thank you for one of the greatest drummers and certainly one of the all-time greatest lyricists, Neil Peart.” This was a highlight of the evening and made this particular show very special.
Drummer Todd Sucherman provided a link to a fan’s video on Facebook and wrote:
The show kicked off on a high note as the song “Gone, Gone, Gone” electrified the theater-in-the-round. This song also opens the latest Styx studio album, The Mission, which was released two and a half years ago and put Styx back on the radio as it rose to 45 on the Billboard 200. There was no opening act, so Styx had time to unleash all of the “classics” and still sprinkle in a few more songs from The Mission: “Radio Silence”, “Red Storm”, “The Outpost”, and the classically influenced “Khedive” piano piece. Veteran guitarist James “JY” Young hinted at the fact that there may be new Styx music coming our way in 2020. The die-hard Styx fans were thrilled to hear this, but everyone went wild when they launched into the evening of hits, beginning with that classic Hammond organ intro to “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).”
Most bands have a “lead” singer, but at a Styx show, the lead vocals (and bantering duties) are shared between the three frontmen in the band: guitarist Young (original member since the inception of the band in 1972), guitarist Tommy Shaw (who replaced John “J.C.” Curulewski in 1975), and keyboardist Gowan (who replaced Dennis DeYoung in 1999). Replacing DeYoung meant filling some big shoes, since his iconic voice and hit songwriting abilities were equally as important as his talent on the keys. But for the past twenty years, Gowan has held his own with studio albums and touring worldwide. Gowan’s keyboard and vocal skills were put to the test with the next pair of songs penned by DeYoung: “The Grand Illusion” and “Lady.” The keyboards were spot-on. The vocals were noticeably different from DeYoung’s, but very strong, confident, and blended wonderfully with signature Styx harmonies.
The original rhythm section of Styx was comprised of twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo on bass and drums respectively. Tonight, Chuck would make several guest appearances, but it was Ricky Phillips on the Imola 5-string bass for most of the evening. Phillips was was best known as the bassist for The Babys and later a founding member of Bad English, but then joined the band in 2003. Chuck is still a current member of Styx, but he has limited his playing time due health issues related to HIV. Sucherman has held the drum throne since 1995, taking over for John Panozzo, who was battling cirrhosis of the liver and subsequently passed away in 1996. Gowan introduced Sucherman and mentioned that his mother was in the audience that night, and also dropped a bit of trivia that last year, Modern Drummer Magazine listed him as the number one Classic Rock Drummer in the World.
Danny Zelisko had Styx here at the Celebrity Theatre exactly one year ago for a two-night stand and welcomed them back tonight and tomorrow night to do it again. Last year, both nights appeared to be sold out; tonight, there were only a handful of seats that seemed to be open. It is such an intimate venue for seeing a band, and the sound is always crisp and clear. The rotating stage allows more people to feel closer to the front of the stage. The novelty wears off at times when the stage is facing away during a favorite song, but Styx did a pretty good job of running around the stage when they weren’t stationed to a microphone. One notable exception was on the song “Red Storm”, when the stage stopped rotating for the whole song, presumably because Phillips was perched up high on a riser behind the drum set (author’s note – of course, they were facing the other direction from me for this whole song).
As the stage got its groove back, JY stepped up to the mic to introduce the next song. He reminisced about the old days of lighting lighters for certain songs, but conceded that there were dangers. “We can approximate that with the cell phone camera light…” he said, “…Let’s approximate the way those stars might look and LIGHT IT UP EVERYBODY!” It was exhilarating to be immersed in a sea of LED lights throughout the entire theater as the band broke into “Light Up,” one of only two songs played from the Equinox album from 1975 (the other one was “Suite Madame Blue” to top off the first set).
Chuck Panozzo made his first appearance on stage during “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man).” He had played the powerful yet simple quarter notes on this Tommy Shaw anthem from The Grand Illusion Album released on 7-7-77. The crowd gave a very warm welcome as Shaw introduced him as “Our original bass player, Mr. Charles Panozzo,” and he stepped into the stage lights looking dapper in a navy blue sports jacket and wielding a black Rickenbacker bass. Instead of leaving the stage, Phillips picked up a double-necked guitar with a 12-string and a 6-string neck and joined in on the massive sound.
There was a brief 20-minute break before the second set. There was a fundraiser with a giveaway guitar benefiting Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation that was introduced by Tim and NeanderPaul from KSLX radio station.
The second set contained some of the usual suspects from the vault of hit songs, including “Come Sail Away,” “Too Much Time On My Hands,” “Miss America,” and the definitive power ballad “Crystal Ball.” There were also brief reminders to pick up the newest album, which featured “The Outpost” and “Khedive,” but the song that was a pleasant surprise for the evening was the title track from Pieces of Eight. This song is a fan favorite, but was overshadowed by “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” from that album and was not released as a single. Noticeably absent from the setlist was anything from the Cornerstone album, including their only number one single, “Babe” nor anything from Edge of the Century (“Love is the Ritual” nor “Show Me The Way”, which charted at number three).
The song “Mr. Roboto” had been absent from the setlist for many years although it also charted at number 3. This wasn’t surprising since it may be the defining song that put a rift in the band dynamic. More importantly, it polarized fans into either the rocker camp that thought of Styx in terms of “Renegade” and “Miss America,” or the pop music camp that thought of Styx in terms of “Babe” and “Best of Times.” Fortunately, there is a lot of crossover (or at least no hostilities that lead to disowning the band). What caused more controversy was when the song returned to the setlist a little over a year ago, even though DeYoung wasn’t there to petition for it. The live version is a little amped up, and the good news is that it was well received by fans, finding its way into the coveted encore position.
However, there was still one song left that even “Mr. Roboto” couldn’t upstage and that was the aforementioned “Renegade.” This is the song that starts with soft and haunting vocal by Shaw: “Oh mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.” At this point, everyone’s hand raised to their chest as they mimicked the heart beats that still echo to this day from John Panozzo’s kick drum. There was even a wash of red light over the massive drum set that kept time with these beats. Another line. More heartbeats. Silky three-part harmony for the next line. More heart beats as more of the crowd joined in. More harmonies. One beastial scream and the crowd was in the proverbial palm of their hands as the hardest rocking song of the Styx catalog closed the show.
Styx was flawless. The talent in the band is simply overwhelming. It is so hard for a band that is branded a “classic” rock band to be relevant in a world where “classic rock” stations won’t play anything new from their “classic rock” artist roster. Meanwhile, new rock stations tend to ignore new music from bands that are considered classics. Yet Styx has maintained a growing fan base by continuing to be road warriors and taking the music to every corner of the planet, continuing to write and record music that is true to their roots and diverse style.
Check out The Mission to form your own opinion if you haven’t heard it yet. Here’s to great new music from them in 2020, and hopefully yet another return trip to the Valley of the Sun to see them again.