PHOENIX — Ak-Chin Pavilion wrapped up its summer concert series with Incubus, Sublime with Rome, and The Aquadolls as part of their “Summer 2022” tour. The three California bands brought a reggae-meets-alternative end-of-summer party to Phoenix, and a party it was! The kick-ass girl band The Aquadolls, plus 90’s and beyond radio favorites Sublime with Rome and Incubus brought a “chill” to the desert and a whole lot of fun for a Monday night in Arizona.
The Aquadolls emerged as Abba’s “Dancing Queen” ushered them onto the stage. Singer and lead guitarist Melissa Brooks shouted, “Who’s ready to party?” and jumped into the 2013 song “Mine” from their album Stoked on You, followed by “Our Love Will Always Remain” from the same album.
The all-girl band of “perma-teenage mermaids” from the Orange County area were founded in 2012 by lead singer and writer Brooks, who recorded demos in her bedroom before signing with indie label Burger Records. Their current lineup includes Jacqueline Proctor on drums and Keilah Nina on bass. Their tongue-in-cheek lyrics paired with an upbeat pop sound served as a great fit for this summer tour. A psychedelic, tie-dye screen with floating palm trees and the Aquadolls logo were the perfect scene-setting backdrop for their high-energy pop-alternative music.
Their seven-song setlist continued with their new single “Beachy,” which is scheduled for release on August 26th on Enci Records, and a high-energy cover of the Go-Go’s classic hit “Vacation.” Brooks gave a shout out to their crew and tour headliners: “Who’s ready for freaking Sublime? Who’s ready for freaking Incubus?!” while the exuberant crowd cheered. Next up, a catchy and fun song about obsession, “Sneaky,” followed by “Take Me Away.” Finishing out the set was a song Brooks said was about tripping out, called “Wander.” The Aquadolls made sure to take time for fans at the merch booth after their set.
Sublime with Rome
With flashing red and blue police lights and images of riots projected behind them, stoner-music favorites Sublime with Rome kicked off their set with “April 26, 1992”. As if on cue, the arena filled with the smell of weed, with Rome Ramirez asking, “Where my stoners at?!” before sliding into the weed-friendly anthem “Smoke Two Joints.” Eric Wilson’s deep guttural basslines hit hard during “Doin’ Time” while images of lowriders were projected on the screen and the crowd sang along to the chorus, “most definitely”. Drummer Carlos Verdugo didn’t miss a beat with his huge beaming grin, and his unique bent-elbows-held-high style of drumming.
The band played more reggae-inspired hits next with “The Wrong Way” and “Badfish”. They also made time to pay homage to “our brothers in Katastro”. The Phoenix reggae-rock band Katastro lost their lead singer, 32-year-old Andy Chaves to a deadly car crash on May 12th on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Sublime is no stranger to loss, and have rebuilt the band following the death of original singer Bradley Nowell to a heroin overdose in 1996. With the house lights up, a dalmatian dog joined the band onstage, in honor of “Lou Dog,” the Sublime mascot who shared the stage with the band in the 90’s.
Ramirez started “What I Got” while fans danced with their flashlights on. Their set ended with the popular “Santeria”. Sublime brought their mega-talent and chill vibe for a fun, end-of-summer show.
“I want my, I want my MTV…” from “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits played over the P.A. as the walk-out song for Incubus, the third California-based band of the tour. On came the lights, and frontman Brandon Boyd sang a powerful version of “Nice To Know You” to kick off a nearly two-hour set covering three decades of songs from the alternative band. Boyd spent the entire set on a chair, stating he hurt himself without elaborating how, but amused by the spinnable chair.
With his shoulder-length hair and white pants, Boyd said he remembered playing Ak-Chin Pavilion years before, after traveling from California in a van when Incubus toured with Dirty Heads in the 90’s. Currently, he is touring with bandmates Mike Eiziger on guitar, Chris Kilmore on turntable, José Pasillas on drums, and Ben Kenney on bass guitar on a 27-date U.S. tour that began July 24th and wraps up September 3rd.
Next up was “Circles,” matching the track sequence from Morning View. Afterward, the house lights came on and Boyd asked for the crowd’s help as the band performed “Wish You Were Here”. A powerful version of “Anna Molly” blew the crowd away, followed by an amazing, extended version of “Just a Phase” with a little of The Doors “Riders on the Storm” injected into the middle.
Their 16-song set was full of both radio hits and deep cuts from their 30-year history, like Make Yourself’s “Stellar” and “Pardon Me”, “Sick Sad Little World” from A Crow Left of the Murder, 2020’s apropos “Karma, Come Back” from Trust Fall (Side B), “Vitamin” (barely placating S.C.I.E.N.C.E. fans) and more. During “Mexico” the injured Boyd placed his arm around guitarist Eiziger’s shoulder in a sort of seated side-hug and sang the “ooo”s of the song’s bridge in a beautiful bromance moment.
When Incubus said goodnight, fans naturally were not having it. With cell phone flashlights beaming, the fans cheered for more, and the band returned to the stage. They closed out the night with “Warning” and “Drive.” What a way to end the summer – three hella chill bands bringing Cali-style fun and cool vibes to the desert!
PHOENIX — All in attendance at this rock & roll revival – Halestorm’s mega Summer 2022 tour – were there to bear witness to a concert fronted by some of the top women in rock music today! It was definitely ladies’ night on stage, co-commandeered by Lzzy Hale (with her flagship rock & roll machine known as Halestorm) and Taylor Momsen (with her nuclear destroyer blitzkrieg known as The Pretty Reckless).
Photography: Mark Greenawalt
But wait, there’s more! These two co-headliners brought an additional bevy of ladies to the shed with supporting acts Lilith Czar and The Warning. This entourage began this Summer Tour 2022 in Detroit in July and will wrap up the twenty-one stops in Portsmouth in August. This night’s “sermon” was held at Arizona Financial Theatre for the Phoenicians. And it was good… Correction – It was great!
Lilith Czar had a short set and half empty arena to deliver it to. Despite that, she and her band played their asses off and established their reason for being on this stellar bill. Fans know her to be the artist formerly known as Juliet Simms, who CeeLo Green coached to the finals in the 2011 season of The Voice. In 2021 she re-tooled her look and her sound and changed her moniker to Lilith Czar, and this was the night her new persona touched down in Phoenix (note that in March ‘22 she played Mesa Amphitheater with Black Veil Brides).
Her hair was raven black with bangs like Bettie Page. She was dressed in red leather short-shorts and a red lace shirt to match. Accessories included hoop earrings, a black leather choker, and a black leather vest that came off early in the show – a very evocative look. Her set began with “Feed My Chaos” and “100 Little Deaths,” a song carried over from her Juliet Simms days. Her voice is the same as when it won us over singing “Oh! Darling” by the Beatles on The Voice blind auditions, but the music has gotten much heavier. Between songs she armed herself with an Epiphone Les Paul Gold Top guitar and later an acoustic guitar.
Despite the low energy of the early crowd, her band put on a stellar performance and special shout out to drummer Lindsey Martin, who truly seemed thrilled to be behind the drum set. Crowd participation peaked when the band did a cover of “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks and then rolled out the songs from her current music video suite for “Lola,” “King,” and “Anarchy.” Lilith Czar has developed a unique sound and a unique look and her loyal fanbase is coming around. We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing her future offerings.
The convergence of these four particular acts may never happen again and it was a thrill to experience the “dark horse” performance of The Warning. I expected to be blown away by Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless, but The Warning was such a pleasant surprise of an up-and-coming act…that has arrived! Their story is documented in countless YouTube videos about these three sisters from the city of Monterrey, Mexico. They were just children when they did a video of themselves covering Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It went viral. The youngest, bassist Alejandra, is still just 17 and the oldest sister, guitarist Daniela, is just 22. The middle sister of the Villarreal family is drummer Paulina (age 20).
Most of their original songs were from their third studio album, Error, however they did take a moment to show how much their musicianship has blossomed by doing a new cover of “Enter Sandman,” and it was very impressive. All three sisters sing and their stage presence is invigorating to watch. Although they may have been new to many attendees, there were quite a few die-hard fans singing along to every song.
Their YouTube reach has continued to grow with more seasoned music videos for songs “Choke” and “Disciple.” These videos show that those cute little children have grown into beautiful women, not to mention they have evolved as songwriters too. Their heavy sound has traces of the bands that have influenced them, but their musical style is uniquely their own. Crowd favorites tended to be their current single “Money” (which reverberated echoes of “Seven Nation Army”-meets-“Balls To The Wall”) and the closing song “Evolve,” which has prog rock elements. Keep your eyes peeled. We haven’t seen the last of this power trio from Mexico!
The Pretty Reckless
In 2020, Taylor Momsen was ready to hit the road in support of Death By Rock & Roll. The title track had been pre-released and shot up to number 1, then the pandemic hit. The album release date kept getting pushed back until it finally was released in February of 2021, but touring was still not in the cards. Finally, 2022 is proving to be the year for The Pretty Reckless (TPR) to reconnect with that tangible live experience. The press for this show implied a dual headline of Halestorm and TPR, but it was soon clear that TPR were relegated to being an opening act with a fraction of the full stage, less lights, and about half as many songs. They handled it with grace and thanked Halestorm for bringing them on the tour, but it seems they may have been somewhat short changed for a band that sports 7 number one songs (one more than the headliner).
The set opened with a cover of Soundgarden’s “Loud Love,” a song The Pretty Reckless recently recorded for Sirius XM with Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil on guitar and Matt Cameron on drums. Momsen has cited Soundgarden as a huge influence and she again recruited Thayil and Cameron to play a track on the new album, “Only Love Can Save Me Now.” This song, another number 1, also made it into the short set. The Pretty Reckless were on a career high when they had the pleasure of being the opening act for Soundgarden until the tour tragically ended with the passing of Chris Cornell.
There was a mix of new songs like “Witches Burn,” a rocker with a nostalgic AC/DC feel, and back to their first single “Make Me Wanna Die.” You know it’s real live music when there is a bass malfunction and guitarist Ben Phillips stops the show and says, “Hold up. Stop. I don’t wanna play the song without bass.” The problem was fixed right away and Phillips continued, “Let me decide where we’re going to pick up. This is how live rock and roll could work. I can count this out where ever the fuck I want it to start.” He chose to start back at the first verse, the crowd cheered in agreement and just like that, they were back in the swing of things. No tracks to sync up to, just live music. Much appreciated.
Momsen looked beautiful with the smoky eyes and glittering eye shadow and wore her platform biker boots and black silk camisole like a superhero costume. There was no doubt that she had reinvented herself when she started this band and left Cindy Lou Who and Gossip Girl behind in search of her own identity. It’s working. She exuded sexiness with a devil-may-care attitude and you could tell that her primary goal wasn’t to turn you on with her womanly wiles, but to draw you in with her voice, to deeply experience her music. Her voice was in top form as she emoted smoky smooth low notes in “Going To Hell” and then launched into raunchy, gravelly high notes in “Heaven Knows.”
So many good songs had to be left on the cutting room floor like “Follow Me Down,” “25”, and “And So It Went”, but they did save a really good one for their final number. Momsen thanked the opening acts and Halestorm for bringing them on this tour. “I don’t know about everyone here, but all I wanna do with my life is fucking rock, and fucking roll, and play fucking music,” she said, “And thanks to all of you, I get to do that and that’s absolutely incredible. So thank you from the bottom of my heart, from all of us. We love you so much.”
The song “Take Me Down” is an amalgamation of all the greatest hits of classic rock mixed with that signature sound of The Pretty Reckless. It’s a song about selling your soul for rock & roll. Momsen donned an electric six-string as the band played from their souls and she sang from her heart. Great show!
Halestorm is no stranger to Phoenix. In fact, they were here in November 2021 with Evanescence in this same venue. Hale and company are back this time with a fresh set of monster tracks from Back From The Dead, just released in May. Last year’s show introduced the title track “Back From The Dead,” which was riding high at number 1 on the charts at the time. Tonight’s show took a deeper dive with half of their 16-song set being new material. Two of the new songs were more familiar due to radio airplay including “Wicked Ways” and the number 1 song that capped off the night, “The Steeple.”
The opening acts had the audience primed and ready for the Halestorm experience, which began as a black veil that dropped, revealing the band 8’ above the stage on platform risers leading to the drum cage. Two colors popped out of the scene under the blistering white lights: the cardinal red of Lizzy’s signature Gibson Explorerbird (with matching lips and sexy boots) and the neon green glow of drummer Arejay Hale’s hair, drumset, and modern-day zoot suit! Poised for attack, they left no doubt that their intention was to thoroughly entertain!
Praise be to Lzzy Hale, first for her songwriting prowess on every Halestorm song (including six number 1’s, by the way), second for her mastery of the guitar which earned her a coveted sponsorship last year from Gibson Guitars as the first female brand ambassador, and third…good Lord almighty, that voice! How she reaches those notes with such a growl and perfect intonation, night after night for months on end is truly one of the natural wonders of the world. Steve Whiteman (Kix) may have given her some tips to the secret sauce of belting, but there is something about her vocal anatomy that makes her a celebrated freak of nature.
The rasp was on full display on songs like “I Am The Fire,” “Psycho Crazy,” and “I Miss The Misery,” but she proved that her voice is much more than controlled screaming when the show entered the proverbial eye of the hurricane for the ballad “Break In.” All the lights went down except for the spotlight on the piano at center stage. Oh yeah, did I mention that she’s also accomplished on piano? She played solo and had the audience in the palm of her hand during the new acoustic anthem “Raise Your Horns.” Janis Jopplin had to be looking down and smiling for this song. Touching.
Although she is undoubtedly the focal point for most, the band is rock solid at every position. Brother Arejay Hale is a phenomenon to watch on the drums. He is technically precise, but exudes fun and antics while delivering a clinic on professional drum techniques. He did a drum solo which included some interesting oversized drumsticks (still smaller than the broom sticks he used when Halestorm played the Arizona State Fair in 2017). Although cool, the drum solo was unnecessary in the sense that his playing was so incredible throughout the show that there was nothing left to prove! Guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith seemed to keep their nose to the grindstone and play to the masses while the brother/sister act basked in the spotlight. But make no mistake…they didn’t (make any mistakes, that is). The band was tight and obviously rehearsed after years on the road.
It’s a shame when really good songs have to be cut from the setlist to make way for the new, but ones that remain are the ones that bring the crowd to their feet. In the bottom of the ninth, it was time to bring out the closers: “I Miss The Misery,” “Freak Like Me,” and a personal favorite from the debut album, “I Get Off.” What a climax! And then an encore of thank yous, “Here’s To Us” and finally, America’s (dare I say the world’s) new rock anthem, “The Steeple.”
Lzzy Hale closed the night with a song reminding everyone that this was her church and these were her people: A healthy mix of genders, races, and ages with a common passion for great music.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
PHOENIX — Jonny Hawkins’ vocal acrobatics were absolutely mesmerizing. It’s hard to believe the Nothing More frontman wasn’t even singing at age 21 as he sat just beyond the limelight as the band’s drummer. His voice evolved from gravel enriched screams as they opened with “Turn It Up”, to technically precise softness in the opening verse of “Go To War”. And, oh yes, he made his presence known early in the show as he rose up to ride The Scorpion Tail that not only looks dangerous but also contributes to the sound as Hawkins jammed the throttles that processed the guitar like a whammy bar.
The audience were the loyal followers in response to the shouts in “Christ Copyright” and the musicians were Hawkins’ disciples like in the last supper painting. Mark Vollelunga (guitar, vocals), Daniel Oliver (bass, vocals), and Ben Anderson (drums) were all superstars in their own right, but the focus seemed to always come back to center stage where the charismatic singer, with the muscle tone of an MMA fighter, held court.
For this show, Hawkins’ ever-morphing body paint design for the evening resembled a red sash on a field of black that faded out asymmetrically across his torso. What it symbolized remained a mystery along with the question of how the paint stayed on all night through the sweat and stage antics.
The 13-song setlist included a balanced mix of selections from 2017’s Grammy nominated The Stories We Tell Ourselves and the previous release from 2013, simply entitled Nothing More. Fans were treated to two new songs from 2022, the opener “Turn It Up Like (Stand In Fire)” and the brilliant lyrical voyage of “Tired of Winning” with an embedded speech from Alan Watts on the eternal now.
Phoenix was one of the last stops on this 27-gig tour before they head back to San Antonio where their origin story began and there was no sign of fatigue or phoned-in performances. The energy was at full tilt all night long. Even when the heavy sounds took a respite, heavy emotional lyrics filled in on “Fade In / Fade Out”, the perfect soundtrack for Father’s Day weekend.
The sound was a little ‘boomy’ in the venue, but you could still tell that the orchestration was stellar. There were tracks that they played along to, but they seemed incidental to provide storyboarding for intros and to provide expansive soundscapes. Vollelunga’s contribution to the sound of Nothing More is a key to their originality. His showmanship was on full display, but not as a showy shredder, more as a song smith with attitude sporting a drop-tuned Aristide guitar through Marshall cabinets.
As the lights went down for the final song, a techno ambiance resonated as if from the rafters above. A haunting melody was being voiced with vocoder harmonies and the fans came alive knowing the lyrics to “This Is The Time”. The momentum was building as recollections of Hawkins carrying the stone in the music video came to mind and then the room exploded with excitement as the band kicked into high gear. Hands raised, the minions were jumping in time and responding with shouts when the mic was aimed their way. Eventually Hawkins mounted The Scorpion Tail as a bookend to the show and left the crowd wanting more when the house lights capped the performance.
Eva Under Fire
Labelmates at Better Noise Records, Eva Under Fire, opened up the night with a little sliver of the front of the stage. They brought the classic sound and lineup that brought arena rock to the forefront: dueling guitars (Rob Ryberg and Chris Slapnik) mixed with a thumping bass (Edward Joseph) and pounding drums (Corey Newsom) in support of a charismatic singer.
Eva (aka Amanda Lyberg) delivered the vocal goods with perfect intonation and high energy from start to finish. Their set included original grooves that felt instantly familiar.
It will be interesting to see where their trajectory leads them with their formulaic songwriting that sounds like mainstream rock hits. This tour is giving them a platform to show the world that they are more than a bar band. Standout songs were “Heroin(e)” that Eva wrote about her father’s drug overdose and their latest release, “Unstoppable”, that has all the swagger of a Carrie Underwood hit in a metal multiverse.
Eva, with her blue mane, led the audience in synchronous bouncing to the infectious beat of “Blow” that they recorded with Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills. They wrapped their 8-song stint on stage with a cover of Journey’s “Separate Ways”…BTW, their recording and video of this song is good, but it was fantastic live, sans keyboards and vocal harmonies. The band treated fans to a meet-and-greet after the show at the merch table.
Next up, Atreyu visited the valley again after the “day gig” in April at UFest. It was cool to see the lights in the speaker stacks this time that couldn’t be seen in daylight at Ak-Chin Pavilion. Story has it that their bus had caught fire earlier in the day and although nobody was injured, they did lose some material possessions up in smoke. That sure didn’t appear to dampen their spirits during the show. From the first note, the audience was in the palms of their hands.
Atreyu balances a heavy in-your-face metal aesthetic with a fun party atmosphere. Brandon Saller, another former drummer turned lead vocalist, is a class act entertainer and when he asked us to raise our fists, we obeyed. At one point he came off stage to mingle with fans and sing on top of the bar.
When asked, many of the attendees indicated that they were first timers, but when the catchy chorus rang out it seemed like everybody was a longtime fan as they screamed along with the lyrics. Speaking of screaming, Atreyu has another vocal secret weapon on the band with bassist Marc “Porter” McKnight who has mastered the art of unclean vocals! Long hair is typical in heavy metal, but McKnight’s long hair sprouts from his chin instead of his bald head and it suits him well.
There was a scattering of harmony vocals throughout the set, but during a break in the song “Save Us”, Atreyu again raised the bar with some impressive three-part vocal harmonies, and then guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel carried forth the torch ignited by Hall of Fame inductees Judas Priest with harmony guitar solos too.
It is difficult to define the musical style of Atreyu as they weave through fast heavy hitters like opener “Baptize” (the title track of their latest album release), to the anthemic “Warrior” that trudges forward, and then to the fun shuffle of the song “Falling Down” from 2008’s Lead Sails Paper Anchor.
Before ending the night, Saller had a Freddie Mercury “Ay-oh” moment with the crowd that started with simple melodies and ended up bringing smiles to faces as he sang Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Salt-N-Peppa’s “Push It”.
There’s nothing better than a little cowbell to end a great set and Atreyu pulled another fun one from the archive with “Blow” that originally featured Josh Todd (Buckcherry). Saller had some sentimental last words: “We are more than just a band, we’re a family.” And with that we were welcomed into the family as they took their last bows.
PHOENIX — Tori Amos’ show at Orpheum Theater on her “Ocean to Ocean Tour”, with support from Companion, was a sold out event. In this grand structure of a venue, a ceiling painted like the sky and lit with starlight, the audience seemed to recognize we were in the presence of herstory, and everything was absolutely glowing.
Amos is an institution. Amos has never been the pop princess, the sexy body image icon. She is a voice. She’s a siren, she’s a chanteuse—she’s been the one reminding us since the 90’s that a voice in itself is powerful. More than Pride month, more than the LGBTQIA+ crowd – a lot of patchouli, if you know what I mean – this night was about storytelling, and the tools a woman can use to tell a full story: a voice, a piano.
The opener was a duo called Companion, composed of identical twins Sophia and Jo Babb. These sisters were soft-spoken, funny. Denim-clad from Oklahoma City, they emphasized how grateful they were opening for Tori Amos and that this was their first tour. The pair were charming, and, as my fellow photojournalist comments, had great “candor” with their audience. I’d characterize their sound as slow, melodic, and sleepy—bedtime music—though we, the audience, learned quite a bit about their lives in the short opening act. While I’d be tempted to say Companion held us in the palms of their hands, maybe we just felt held.
Jo offered a “Sapphic love song about longing” and then Sophia talked of fate and meeting her husband. Later, they told the crowd about losing their father at the age of 13 and sang a song about grief, which they described as the “Final boss we had to kill to get to the next stage.” Sophia relates that she wrote this for their mom.
Above all, Companion supplied great storytelling; their final song “Labyrinth” was about things getting better. The opening set was sleepy and slow, but in the way of great storytelling, was in no rush, like we have our whole lives to tell it. On Companion’s Instagram they said they write “songs to feel to” and this is mostly accurate. Sometimes we have to slow down to feel, and the duo raised immaculate harmonies in the way of twin lore.
Amos appeared amid a swirling red background and an eager crowd standing through the opening two songs. She opened with “Juárez” from 1999’s To Venus and Back. At the song’s fade, the red-swirling background faded purple, then pink, into her second song: “Bouncing Off Clouds.”
Amos has mastered the power stance, like her thigh width is directly related to the intensity. This is beyond manspreading; she positively writhes at the altar of the Bösendorfer (her longtime piano). At times bent over her piano, she almost appeared crone-like, though we will never say this of Tori, but it is undeniable this woman was casting a spell.
While the night featured only one full cover, “House of the Rising Son,” she used multiple covers as interludes during her songs, including The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” worked in with “Father’s Song” from 2007’s American Doll Posse. However, it was in the song preceding that, “Bliss” from To Venus and Back, when she incorporated Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” When the audience exploded to their feet for the beloved song that is now more than 3 decades old, it was a delight, and it fueled a glorious, vibrant performance.
Following the show, I rewatched her 2014 performance of this song from a stop in Kansas City. Maybe this has been propelled by recently being brought to a whole new generation via its use in season 4 of Netflix’s Stranger Things, but her rendition of it has evolved. It now has a thunderous, pounding rhythm that was a true highlight to the show. Can one call a cover superior to the original? Like, legally? ‘Cause I think that’s what I’m doing.
I’d say if the show had a sub-theme to the main one of impeccable female-centric storytelling, it would be a perceptible attention to the zeitgeist of change. For her 8th song she played “Winter” from her breakout album Little Earthquakes, which holds the lyric “things are gonna change so fast.” With all that we’ve been through the past two years, the pandemic, all now together worshiping in this beautiful room at the foot of a goddess and her piano, I kept thinking about our lives as vectors for change. I sat next to a woman who brought her son and had driven down from Sedona. She was so clearly excited to be there, her son more hesitant. He too, like the rest of us, can’t see the change that’s ahead of us.
Amos has changed, too; halfway through the show, she had a false start and had to ask a member of her road crew for her glasses. Still, she was definitely feeling the love from her audience. Positively radiant in her salmon-colored jumpsuit, Tori rounded out the show by ending on another classic (a personal favorite) from Little Earthquakes, “Cornflake Girl,” to inspire the third standing ovation of the evening. Her vibratos on the line, “You bet your life it is” echoed throughout the Orpheum.
What’s almost more endearing at every Tori Amos show are all of the superfans, the ones who know every word. This crowd, undeniably hers, was visibly and audibly present this night, too, drawing Tori out for an encore. The lighting was immersive, evoking the feeling of being drawn into a fourth dimension in pinks and blues. It all felt so rich, so special, like all of her stans got to celebrate Amos – her voice clear as a bell and her piano chords striking just the right spaces in our hearts – nearing the end of her “Ocean to Ocean Tour” together, like some kind of deal with God.
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.”
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 Planetin 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
PHOENIX — Apocalyptica finally brought their Cell-0 Tour to The Van Buren after being postponed for almost two years. Originally, they were scheduled, with the support from Lacuna Coil, for May 10th, 2020, but due to the pandemic it was pushed to April 2022. Having been released in 2020, this is the first time songs from the Cell-0 album were performed by them live in Phoenix. Most know The Van Buren as a standing-room only venue, but this show was seated to allow guests to close their eyes and lose themselves in the music.
Lacuna Coil kicked off their set with the song “Blood, Tears, Dust” from their 2016 album Delirium. Vocalist Cristina Scabbia addressed the crowd before the following song, saying, “Phoenix, are you out there?” and the crowd roared back.
They did not disappoint fans, playing a song from nearly every album, and five from their newest one released in 2019: Black Anima. Known as a gothic metal band, it’s clear they lean into that image with bassist Marco Coti Zelati, guitarist Diego “Didi” Cavalotti, and drummer Richard Meiz all wearing black and white face paint. Meanwhile, vocalists Scabbia and Andrea Ferro were dressed in all black with the band’s logo on top of their sleeves and fake blood painted on their hands.
“Phoenix, Arizona, how are you guys doing tonight? It’s been forever and it feels great to be back in this beautiful place with you guys celebrating this comeback after twenty-six fucking months. I’m telling you; it still feels very surreal to be back, but we have all the energy of the world to share with you guys tonight. Are you ready to party with us? I think it’s time to be reckless!” Scabbia shouted before they played “Reckless” from Black Anima.
“Are you having a good time so far?” Scabbia asked, pausing as the crowd cheers. “Good, because this is exactly what we’re here for. Well, I don’t know if each one of you is familiar with Lacuna Coil, but you might remember this next song, it’s called ‘Heaven’s A Lie’.” Many in the crowd stood to film and sing along with “Heaven’s A Lie”, a throwback from their 2002 album, Comalies.
“This goes out to all of us for surviving this damn pandemic! Just wanna save me!” Scabbia screamed as the intro to “Save Me” began. Later on, she said, “We came all the way from Italy to raise our truth!” as the band started the song, “Our Truth.”
Lacuna Coil concluded their ten-song set with “Nothing Stands in Our Way”. Most of the crowd stood for their entire set, singing and raising their horns in the air.
Over black, nature music swelled in the background before the sounds of strings drifted over the audience. Then, drums shook each person to their core as the lights went up, highlighting that Apocalyptica had now joined the stage. After opening with “Ashes of the Modern World”, cellist Eicca Toppinen paused to address the excited crowd, “Good evening, Phoenix. How are you guys doing tonight? It sounds like you’re already having a good time. Are you ready?” He paused to hear the audience’s fervent response, and with enthusiasm, he added, “Come on! Are you ready?” The crowd screamed back, ready for more.
Their first three songs were all instrumental as Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, and Perttu Kivilaakso shredded their cellos and Mikko Sirén rocked on the drums. “Thank you!” Toppinen replied to the roaring audience. He continued, “Do you guys happen to know any of our vocal tracks? Are you ready to sing with us? Let’s welcome to the stage, Franky Perez!” Perez ran on stage, mic in hand, and sang, “I’m Not Jesus” from their 2007 album, Worlds Collide.
Toppinen leaned on his cello as he addressed the audience again: “Hello, Arizona. Actually, just before this tour, January 2020, we released a new album called Cell-0. Anyone here heard of it?” He shielded his eyes, looking over the cheering hands in the air. “Good for you,” he jokes. “Just makes me wonder what the fuck is wrong with the others. But don’t worry, we will give you a dose now because we’re going to play a few of those instrumentals. Let’s start with the ballad, it’s a song about hope: ‘Rise’.”
“I actually have to say at this point, that how incredibly amazing it is to be here tonight. After waiting over two years and all you people coming still to have fun with us. It’s beautiful.” Toppinen then motioned to the side of the stage and said, “Let’s get the maestro himself back on stage, Franky Perez!” Toppinen and Perez then side hugged.
“As many of you might know we made a full album with Franky in 2015, the Shadowmaker, and toured for two to three years but after that, we went into this 20th anniversary Metallica thing so it’s really cool that Franky reached out to us. I thought this would be perfect for us to be together,” Toppinen concluded as their newest single “I’ll Get Through It” (released March 17, 2022) began.
The song whisked people away. Couples cuddled closer in their seats. In the front row, a man drummed the beat onto his wife’s back as her gaze was glued to the stage, and she mouthed along with the words. People all around were caught in the moment, truly feeling the music in their hearts, in their bones. Being in the middle of the audience you can understand why this Finnish symphonic metal band from Helsinki has been killing it since 1993.
Franky smiled, saying, “You guys are going to do this a bunch of times tonight but I want to join you, please join me in giving this amazing band a round of applause tonight.” A sea of clapping hands and cheers filled the venue. “So, my name is Franky Perez and I’m from Las Vegas, Nevada. When you think about people from Vegas and people from Arizona, we understand each other. We see each other on the street and we just know… it’s the dry heat.” It’s funny ‘cause it’s true. “This song is called ‘Shadowmaker’,” Franky finished, as the cellos and drums shifted into the song’s intro.
The crowd banged their heads along with Toppinen and Kivilaakso as their bows cut into their strings and their long hair flew. At times, they raise their cellos in the air. The energy was alive, the music was alive. Toppinen grabbed the mic, shouting, “Come on Arizona. Sing if you know it!” as they played a cover of Metallica’s “Seek & Destroy.”
After playing fifteen amazing songs, Toppinen asked, “What do you think, should we play one more song? Do you want to hear one more? Good. That’s very nice because I really think we should play you one more song. As you know from our background, we are classical bastards so I think it’s fair to play one classical for you tonight. During all the times Apocalyptica actually only recorded one so far but it makes sense to stay on our socials because you never know what’s going to happen next. But now, a classic from black metal.” They concluded the show by playing the Edvard Grieg song, “In the Hall of the Mountain King”.
As the music faded out, Apocalyptica was given a standing ovation. A cheerful Lötjönen handed two eager fans their paper setlists, and Toppinen addressed the audience one final time: “Thank you, Phoenix. Thank you so much. Thank you everybody for coming and taking your time to come tonight. I also want to thank our Italian friends, the great first band tonight. Let’s give a big hand for Lacuna Coil. Have a good evening. On your way out, pick up a new t-shirt because you smell like shit. I don’t know, maybe it’s us.” The crowd laughed, and Toppinen chuckled before getting serious, “Honestly, take care of yourselves, take care of each other. Love each other and love yourselves. See you guys all soon. Because Apocalyptica will be back and that’s for fucking sure!”
And with that promise, Apocalyptica exited stage right as their fans screamed. What an epic concert for metal fans! It was definitely an unforgettable show for everyone who was lucky enough to bear witness.
PHOENIX— Valley local and current lead singer for Warrant, Robert Mason, performed at Cactus Jack’s Bar and Grill Friday night in Ahwatukee. What is special about this show is the intimate setting and interaction with the artist that is so rare and delightful, you never forget it. Mason recruited metal cover band Drop D from Tucson, Arizona to share the stage both April 15th at Cactus Jack’s, and again April 16th at Encore in Tucson for a show benefiting Women Warriors, a non-profit group supporting female veterans.
Mason on keyboards and lead guitarist for Drop D,Thomas Bach, kicked off a brief set with an incredible duet of Bob Seger’s song “Turn the Page”. Mason proved quickly why he has no problem heading such bands as Warrant, Lynch Mob, Big Cock Band, and even vocal support for Ozzy Osbourne. His incredible vocal range with a touch of grit would be a great fit for any band. Next up was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”. Mason wasn’t shy about using his phone as a teleprompter for the lyrics, saying, “Skynyrd used one at bike week too,” with a grin.
Mason played a solo guitar and vocal version of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mama I’m Coming Home” after sharing a story about the call from Sharon Osbourne that led to him touring on Ozzy’s 1995-96 Ozmosis Tour. This led into Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home”, and ended the first set.
Drop D’sFacebook page cites the band as “Tucson’s hard and heavy cover band”. There is not much information online about the band, but they are a fun foursome with lots of energy and a nice variety of songs in their set. They are definitely worth a watch when they come back to the valley. Members include previously mentioned Thomas Bach on lead guitar, KJ Padilla on vocals and rhythm guitar, and Corey Candray on bass. Drummer Bob Allen could not make it, but in his stead Ando Miller literally “lit up” the stage with his color-change drum kit.
An audio clip of “We Are the Champions” by Queen was the intro for the band whose set began with The Outfield’s “Your Love”. Padilla quipped they would play some more “songs older than I am” before covering Cinderella’s “Somebody Save Me” and Queensryche’s “Empire”. The “sound man Tommy” for Cactus Jack’s was invited up on stage and given a set of drumsticks to help play cymbals on Candlebox’s “You”. Van Halen’s “Unchained”, Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” and Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” set the tone for the next set.
The final ten songs included both Drop D’s full band and Mason himself on vocals. A great set it was, considering the band claims to have had “no practice” prior to the pairing. Bach jokes that Mason was “just tolerating us”, but Mason chose this band to play these two shows with for a reason: talent, and lots of it. From Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” to Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart”, Mason impressed again with his incredible talent behind the microphone. He then covered Dokken’s “It’s Not Love”, then stopped the show. His request? That the audience “engage in this moment” and put away cell phones, get out on the floor and dance.
Mason gave a toast to the audience in their honor, and thanked everyone for their support throughout his extensive career, then encouraged the crowd to sing along with Warrant’s beautiful ballad “Heaven”. He said he was grateful to be able to perform such amazing songs written by such amazing writers over the years. Wrapping up the set were the highly anticipated “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Cherry Pie”, both big hits for his current band Warrant. Mason joined the crowd at the end of the show for photos and autographs, which thrilled the fans and Mason alike.
Robert Mason, 57, has had an extensive career as a vocalist. He joined glam-metal band Warrant in 2008 and remains their lead singer present day. George Lynch’s Lynch Mob Wikipedia page shows his years active as 1991-1994, 2003-2006, and 2018. Robert says he moved to Arizona at the behest of George Lynch back when Chandler and Gilbert were “pig farms” that were turned into housing developments. His local “sleaze” band, Big Cock, wasn’t mentioned out loud by name because the band name “upsets my mom”. He appeared on 3 of their albums as lead vocalist: 2005’s Year of the Cock, 2006’s Big Cock and 2008’s Motherloadalbums, according to Heavy Metal Wiki’s page on Mason.
With endless stories about rock-and-roll life, Mason’s show was full of witticisms and talent, mixing music and tales of the road and his extensive career. He even encouraged a heckler who shouted out “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” after every song, assuring him he would get to that in the last set. We learned about tour life, Budokan, his friends and not-so-friendly acquaintances in the music business. We learned what it was like being a “hired gun” in the industry too. It was like visiting an incredibly talented old friend to share stories and a night of timeless music.
PHOENIX — Ministry’s concert at The Van Buren, with support from Corrosion of Conformity and Melvins, has been a long time coming. Originally scheduled for July 29th, 2020 and featuring a completely different lineup (Ministry, KMFDM, and Front Line Assembly), the show was of course forestalled by the pandemic. Various attempts were made to reschedule with varying lineups, including a pre-Halloween show with Helmet and Frontline Assembly last October. Through these fits and starts, the show finally happened this past Tuesday, and it was worth the wait.
Corrosion of Conformity
“How many of you fuckers here in Phoenix like heavy shit?” was how Corrosion of Conformity lead singer Pepper Keenan greeted the crowd, as the band launched into “Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)” from their 1995 album Wiseblood. Heavy was what was promised, and heavy was what was delivered. Pulling from nearly every album since 1991’s Blind, when the North Carolina band moved away from its earlier thrash/hardcore days with the addition of Louisiana native Keenan, their set covered everything from hits from their biggest selling album, 1994’s Deliverance, to the criminally underrated America’s Volume Dealer (2000).
“Nice pipes, y’all”, Keenan said mid-set in response to the crowd’s fierce sing-along to “Shake Like You”, adding, “Thanks for getting here early. We appreciate that shit. I’ve been home sitting in my garage for two years, and that fucking sucked.” In fact, the band was stepping in to replace the previously scheduled Helmet on the tour. CoC’s blend of hardcore and southern rock had the crowd in a frenzy, with the mosh pit never slowing down.
Closing out their set with the 1-2-3 punch of “Albatross,” “Who’s Got the Fire,” and an extended jam on their biggest hit “Clean My Wounds,” it was an instance where you wish every band on the bill could get a full set of time, as their set didn’t even get a chance to touch on recent albums IX or No Cross No Crown nor dip back into the early thrash records like Eye for an Eye or Animosity. Still though, as the crowd would obviously agree, 45 minutes of Corrosion of Conformity blows away 90 minutes of most bands.
“The Melvins are coming up next to bulldoze you,” Keenan had promised at the end of their set, and bulldoze they did. Opening their set with “The Kicking Machine” from 2008’s Nude with Boots, Buzz Osborne’s guitar stands out in the band’s sound. Osborne himself, whose large shock of white hair and stage outfits that have him resembling the leader of an alien race from a long-lost 1950’s sci-fi cult film, is the perfect visual representation of the band’s sound, as it manages to be at times trippy and psychedelic and then shift into something more heavy and dark.
The rhythm section of drummer Dale Crover, whose drumming is so heavy you half-expect to see him using cinder blocks and not drum sticks, and bass player Steven Shane McDonald, whose own all-white outfit, long hair, and goatee made him look like a 1970’s transcendental meditation guru, fill out the band’s legendary sound.
For those not familiar with the Washington natives, Melvins’ experimental style has led people to compare them to bands as far-ranging as Black Sabbath to Black Flag (frontman Osborne, for the record, cites Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn as his biggest influence), and the band inspired so many other legendary bands from the Pacific Northwest, which is evident from their entire Tuesday-night set, as you can hear what elements of their sound other bands spent their whole careers trying to emulate.
Their set covered all eras of the band, with some nice surprises pulled from their mid-nineties classic albums: 91’s Bullhead(“It’s Shoved” and “Anaconda”), 93’s Houdini (“Hooch” and “Honey Bucket”), 94’s Stoner Witch (“Queen”), and 96’s Stag (“The Bit”). The band was joined by Ministry drummer Roy Mayorga for the two Houdini tracks, playing in perfect tandem with Crover.
This summer, Melvins will be hitting the road again in June and July on their Electric Roach Tour, supported by Helms Alee and Harsh Mellow, stopping in Tucson on June 18th for their only Arizona date.
With a chain-link fence set up across the front of the stage before their set began, Ministry had already set a specific atmosphere for their performance. Just moments before they came out, a visual was cast with the familiar blue and yellow Ukrainian flag and a message reading Ministry Stands With Ukraine across it. While other bands choose songs specific to their sound to walk out to, they elected to further drive home their message of solidarity by entering to the Ukrainian National Anthem.
Each member filed out one by one, with lead Al Jourgensen out last. As the band stood ready to perform, he stalked the stage, moving in front of the fencing like an animal who smelled fresh blood. He clawed at, banged on, and swayed the fence back and forth, all the while the audience in turn lurched forward in response, like an aggressive lion tamer goading the beast into action. With the band’s two-drum assault, this dance moved with the rhythm of each song, like watching a violent wash crash into a rocky promenade and then just as quickly recede back.
It’s hard to fathom that Ministry is approaching the 40th anniversary of their first release (1983’s With Sympathy), as their sound still feels eons ahead of its time. Having recently passed anniversaries for two of their greatest albums, they opened their set with “Breathe” from 1989’s The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and “The Missing” from The Land of Rape and Honey. Their entire performance was a multimedia experience, as their backdrop featured images and video that thematically connected to each song, like witnessing a live music video. Mid-set, they broke out a trio of songs from Jourgensen’s many side projects, including 1,000 Homo DJ’s cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” from Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black and two songs from Pailhead, Jourgensen’s band with Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye.
The band has never shied away from its politics (their 2018 album AmeriKKKant features the track “Antifa,” for instance), and despite being now almost a 30-year-old song, their performance of “NWO” from Ministry’s landmark album ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ (also known as Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed & The Way to Suck Eggs) seems more appropriate for the times than it did upon its initial release, in this era of increasing social and political upheaval and seems to speak even more so to the political tensions in the country in the five years, especially in light of their opening tribute and show of support for the people of Ukraine. They ended the night with an encore of “Alert Level”, “Good Trouble” (both from 2001’s Moral Hygiene), and a blistering cover of Iggy and The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy”.
Ministry alone is an intense, primal, and heavy concert experience, but when you add to it the Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity it enters an entire new realm. Yes, this concert has been two years in the making, but it was two years worth it. After all, after such a wait, we were all ready for some heavy shit.