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REVIEW: Apocalyptica & Lacuna Coil Make Phoenix Rise at The Van Buren (4-15-22)

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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

Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil performing
Cristina Scabbia (Vocalist), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Andrea Ferro of Lacuna Coil performing
Andrea Ferro (Vocalist), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“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.

Richard Meiz (Drummer), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“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.

Diego Cavalotti of Lacuna Coil performing live
Diego Cavalotti (Guitarist), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“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.”

Marco Coti Zelati of Lacuna Coil performing
Marco Coti Zelati (Bassist), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Lacuna Coil performing at The Van Buren
Lacuna Coil performing at The Van Buren
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Apocalyptica

Apocalyptica performing at The Van Buren
Apocalyptica performing at The Van Buren
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Eicca Toppinen of Apocalyptica performing
Eicca Toppinen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Paavo Lötjönen of Apocalyptica performing live
Paavo Lötjönen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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’.”

Eicca Toppinen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“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.

Franky Perez performing with Apocalyptica
Franky Perez (Vocalist), touring with Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“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.

Eicca Toppinen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Mikko Sirén of Apocalyptica performing
Mikko Sirén (Drummer), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.”

Paavo Lötjönen of Apocalyptica performing live
Paavo Lötjönen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Perttu Kivilaakso of Apocalyptica performing live
Perttu Kivilaakso (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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”. 

Cellists Eicca Toppinen & Paavo Lötjönen, Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Eicca Toppinen of Apocalyptica performing
Eicca Toppinen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

View Separately (with more pics!):

Apocalyptica | Lacuna Coil

Apocalyptica & Lacuna Coil – The Van Buren 4-15-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

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

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Ministry’s Brings an Intense, Primal Experience to The Van Buren (4-12-22)

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). 

Pepper Keenan (Vocalist, Guitarist) & John Green (Drummer), Corrosion of Conformity
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

“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. 

Mosh pit for Corrosion of Conformity
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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. 

Crowd raising hands up at Corrosion of Conformity concert
The crowd is hyped for Corrosion of Conformity
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Melvins

“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.

Buzz Orborne of Melvins performing live
Buzz Orborne (Vocalist, Guitarist), Melvins
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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. 

 Steven Shane McDonald of Melvins performing live
Steven Shane McDonald (Bassist), Melvins
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Ministry

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.

Ministry - The Van Buren
Ministry
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Al Jourgensen (Vocalist), Ministry
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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. 

Ministry - The Van Buren
Ministry
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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”.

Al Jourgensen of Ministry at The Van Buren
Al Jourgensen (Vocalist), Ministry
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Click thumbnail for setlist
Ministry Setlist - The Van Buren, Phoenix 4-12-22

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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Corrosion of Conformity
 | Melvins
 |  Ministry

Ministry, Melvins, & Corrosion of Conformity – The Van Buren 4-12-22

Ministry Setlist – Phoenix, AZ 4-12-22

  • Breathe
  • The Missing
  • Deity
  • Stigmata
  • Supernaut (Black Sabbath cover)
  • Don’t Stand in Line (Pailhead cover)
  • Man Should Surrender (Pailhead cover)
  • Burning Inside
  • N.W.O.
  • Just One Fix
  • Thieves
  • So What

Encore:


  • Alert Level
  • Good Trouble
  • Search and Destroy (Iggy and The Stooges cover)

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

Sydney Sprague

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dashboard Confessional

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Eat World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

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Sydney Sprague
 | Dashboard Confessional
 | Jimmy Eat World

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twin Ponies

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

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

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

Kills Birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot Snakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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Hot Snakes | Kills Birds | Twin Ponies

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

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

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

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

HOLY FAWN

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

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

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

Drug Church

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

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

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

mewithoutYou

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

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

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

Thrice

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

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

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

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

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

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Photography: Kimberly Carrillo

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

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

Photography © Kimberly Carrillo
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Bat for Lashes Bares the Unrivaled Beauty of Storytelling at Neptune Theatre (2-10-20)

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.

Natasha Khan (Vocals, Keys), Bat for Lashes
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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. 

Natasha Khan (Vocals, Keys), Bat for Lashes & Laura Groves (Accompanist)
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Bat for Lashes – April 12, 2013 in Phoenix, AZ (View Gallery)
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Natasha Khan (Vocals, Keys), Bat for Lashes
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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. 

Natasha Khan (Vocals, Keys), Bat for Lashes
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Natasha Khan (Vocals, Keys), Bat for Lashes
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Natasha Khan (Vocals, Keys), Bat for Lashes
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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.

Natasha Khan (Vocals, Keys), Bat for Lashes & Laura Groves (Accompanist)
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

Bat for Lashes – Neptune Theatre 2-10-20

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

REVIEW: Dashboard Confessional Impassion Fans at Sold Out 20 Year Celebration at The Van Buren (2-7-20)

PHOENIX — 20 years ago, Dashboard Confessional was started as a side project of Chris Carrabba, the lead singer and guitarist who also fronts Further Seems Forever. In those 20 years, Dashboard Confessional has been a soundtrack for many; the songs for triumph in the high moments, and the songs for the low moments to help them rise back up. The tour that brought Piebald and Dashboard Confessional to The Van Buren on this night was a celebration of these moments and memories that these fans had gathered to relive.

Piebald

First out onto the stage was Piebald. Much like recently reunited The Format – who, coincidentally enough, they opened for during the final tour as a band – Piebald went onto a hiatus after one final show in 2008, though they have played a handful of one-off shows since then. Frontman Travis Shettel, guitarist Aaron Stuart, bassist Andrew Bonner, and drummer Luke Garro released a Christmas album titled A Christmas (seven-inch) Adventure. It is a vinyl of three Christmas songs, an odd choice for a band that seems to pride itself in being quite odd, so perhaps it’s a perfect choice for them.

Dana Bollen (Hype, Tour Mgr, Merch), Piebald
Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

As the show started, it quickly became quite apparent how differently these guys do things. As the first song started, suddenly a head popped up over the crowd: Dana Bollen, who would play the role of hype man/tour manager/merch guy. Throughout the set, he would go from standing on the barricade, flailing his arms around to get the crowd pumped, up to the stage to play some excellent cowbell, succeeding to inspire the crowd to flail along with him when he returned to the barricade. It was a genius touch, and a memorable addition to their excellent show.

At home on stage, Shettel bantered, at one point hosting an impromptu Q&A session with a crowd that was enjoying their quirky performance. At one point someone yelled out, “You’re my favorite!” to which Shettel pointed at them and exclaimed, “You’re MY favorite! OUR favorite, actually!

Travis Shettel (Vocals, Guitar), Piebald
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

All of the songs they played were 12 years old, but yet felt so new. Piebald has managed to make their music sound timeless. Times have changed, and now the lyrics to the song “The Monkey Versus the Robot” have a much different and deeper meaning; one that anyone and everyone who works a 9-5 grind has felt at some point: “Work should not control our every minute, Eat to work, sleep to work, live to work, work.

It is not unusual to attend a show and find yourself confronted with a band trying entirely too hard to relate to you and the crowd around you, forced dialog and ham-fisted lyrics. Piebald is none of these things. Rather, they are a quirky band that is at home playing songs that aged beautifully, with the rare ability to walk onto a stage in front of an audience who made up of many who may never had heard of them, and win them over in under 45 minutes.

As Piebald cleared the stage and the preparations were finished for Dashboard Confessional, the lights dimmed and “Sweetness” by Jimmy Eat World started playing. A casual observer would have assumed that the crowd was there for a Jimmy Eat World concert with the reaction the song generated. The crowd gleefully and loudly followed the lyrical instructions to “Sing it back,” demonstrating that there truly is never a bad time to play a Jimmy Eat World song.

Dashboard Confessional 

To attend a Dashboard Confessional concert is to realize that your neighbor is probably going to spend a good deal of the show singing at the top of their lungs. That’s ok, because you likely will be doing the same at some point. This is the magic of Dashboard Confessional: Chris Carrabba is the rare songwriter who can encapsulate not just the words of the moments in life that we all have, he manages to paint a masterpiece with the music behind it.

Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World has a similar talent, and it could be argued that if everyone from this generation were to compile a soundtrack of their lives, it is likely they would have at least one song from these two bands on it. They have mastery of their lyrics and music, and we are an awestruck audience that has not fully realized how lucky we are.

Chris Carrabba (Vocals, Guitar), Dashboard Confessional
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

To call what was experienced on this night a concert does not quite do it justice, as it was really a journey through space and time with each song. “Vindicated,” a song from the soundtrack of the 2004 movie Spider-man 2, took us into the past, though it doesn’t feel like that song can get its drivers license this year. Carrabba was a skillful guide through the trip, knowing exactly when to step back from the microphone to allow the crowd the opportunity to belt out their favorite lyrics – saying at one point they sang beautifully – and when to step in and to tell a story before the next stop in this fanciful tour.

Scott Schoenbeck (Bass), Dashboard Confessional
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Halfway through the set he traded his electric guitar for an acoustic and performed alone onstage. Carrabba is an extraordinarily talented guitar player, bringing quite a few guitars on tour and often switching up during the show, but his mastery shines the brightest when he plays acoustic. His vocals were also on full display, holding a note for a superhuman length of time, holding until the cheers finally drowned him out.

Chris Carrabba (Vocals, Guitar), Dashboard Confessional
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

As the rest of the band rejoined Carrabba, he introduced them as Scott Schoenbeck on the bass, Armon Jay also on the guitar, Chris Kamrada on the drums, and Dane Poppin who alternated between the keyboard and guitar. The journey that Carrabba took the audience on would look drastically different without the band, which he introduced twice during the show.

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

The reluctant, final stops on this journey included a rendition of “Hands Down” that felt something akin to a religious experience, with almost every person in the venue singing out as loudly as they possibly could. It was a celebration of Dashboard Confessional – a celebration of two decades worth of music and meaning, of memories, and of the songs that seemed to know what we needed to hear when we didn’t know ourselves. It was also a sold-out crowd saying “Thank you” to Carrabba in a way that means the most to an artist: by knowing every single word of every single song and serenading him throughout the show. The tour ends on 3/28 in Nashville, TN at the Ryman Auditorium.

Photo Galleries

Photography: Andrew Marshall

View Separately:
Dashboard Confessional | Piebald

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

Photography © Andrew Marshall
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Horrorpops Deliver Psychobilly Rock from Denmark to a Sold Out Nile Theater (2-1-20)

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. 

Robert DeTie (Vocalist, Bassist), Franks & Deans
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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. 

Nickole Muse (Burlesque, Hula Hoop) with Franks & Deans
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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. 

Franks & Deans, Nickole Muse (Burlesque, Hula Hoop)
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

The Quakes

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. 

The Quakes
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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. 

Juan Carlos (Drums), The Quakes
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Horrorpops

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. 

Patricia Day (Vocals, Standup Bass), Horrorpops
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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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.

Kim Nekroman (Guitar), Horrorpops
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Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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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!” 

Patricia Day (Vocals, Standup Bass), Horrorpops
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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. 

Horrorpops, Kelly (Merch)
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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!

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: Horrorpops | The Quakes | Franks & Deans

Horrorpops, The Quakes, and Franks & Deans – Nile Theater 2-1-20

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

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

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

The Venomous Pinks

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

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

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

The Venomous Pinks Online:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Toxic Energy

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

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

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

Toxic Energy Online:

Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Death by Stereo

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

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

Death By Stereo Online:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Tsunami Bomb

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

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

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

Tsunami Bomb Online:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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

Tsunami Bomb vs Death by Stereo – Yucca Tap Room 1-25-20

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