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

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

Failure promo photo
Photography: Priscilla C. Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Failure’s Phoenix Setlist

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

Photo Gallery

Photography: Kara Blakemore

Failure – Crescent Ballroom 6-5-22

Photography © Electric Eye Photo AZ
All Rights Reserved

INTERVIEW: A Video Q&A with Goth Brooks’ Xiån “3pac” Austin & Mike Lee

Goth Brooks' "Freakabilly" album artwork
Goth Brooks’ “Freakabilly” album artwork

Welcome to the Record Room for the latest edition of Burning Hot Interviews. In this episode, host Ryan Novak talks with Xiån Austin [3pac] & Mike Lee of Goth Brooks about how they conceptualized the band beginning with the name, making multiple genres work within a song, wanting to compose a classical music and industrial metal hybrid symphony, the glory days of MTV, Christmas music, and carrying on after a tragic loss. Their new album Freakabilly was released on May 19th, and is available to download for free at GothBrooks.rocks.*

* Formerly GothBrooksBand.com – update your links and bookmarks!

Burning Hot Interview featuring
Xiån Austin [3pac] & Mike Lee of Goth Brooks

Q & A with music journalist Ryan Novak

View on YouTube

Download the New Album Freakabilly!


About Goth Brooks

Goth Brooks
Goth Brooks

Arizona’s own Goth Brooks is a band that defies easy classification. Its members, Mike Lee, Chris “3pac” Austin, and the late Jonah “Werm” Foree each represent different genres they individually bring to the group: country, hip-hop, and metal. The group’s sound, though, stretches each of those genres to their limits, melding country, Western swing, rockabilly, industrial metal, death metal, hardcore, and gangster rap, among still more, into a sound that is fun and wholly original.

Goth Brooks released their debut LP, Moonshine and Mascara, in early 2016.

In 2017, they won 98KUPD’s Playdio with “She Thinks My Hearse is Sexy”, which granted them the opportunity to create the theme song for the morning show, Holmberg’s Morning Sickness.

The band made a very brief appearance on America’s Got Talent when auditioning in 2018. According to a Facebook comment made by Foree, “We only got flashed for like 2 seconds… It was weird, because the filming crew literally pulled us aside, out of the long line, and spent over an hour filming us doing different things. But in the end, the producers put us on the cutting room floor… The tryout & trip to Vegas was still a blast though!

The Christmas in Black EP was released in August of 2021. Following the tragic passing of Foree, Goth Brooks released their second studio album Freakabilly on May 19. Just like their previous releases, the 13-track album is available to download from their website for free. It is also available to stream on Spotify in a 9-track form.

Goth Brooks online:

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen & 3 Powerhouse Openers Play with Relentless Fury in Tempe (5-24-22)

Parabellum album artwork

Tempe, AZ — Swedish neo-classical metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen thrilled eager Marquee Theatre guests, along with openers Jessikill, Culprit and Deimer.  The May 24th show was part of the “Parabellum Tour 2022”, named after Malmsteen’s 2021 album. He has been known as the gold-standard of guitar players throughout his career and fans couldn’t get enough of his masterful riffs, or the giant wall of 44 Marshall amplifiers. The show definitely “goes to 11” – as multiple people mused, referring to the famous line from “Spinal Tap”. How could it not? This tour doesn’t skimp on skills or thrills!

Jessikill

Jessikill from San Antonio, Texas opened the show with power-metal songs so heavy you can feel the bass in your soul. Led by Jessica Marie Espinoza on vocals, the band boasts 3 albums and awards that include “Best Metal Band”, “Top Local Band of the Year” and “Best Female Performer” at the 2016 SANA Awards. Jessikill has played opening spots for such national acts as John 5, Faster Pussycat and Jake E. Lee since they formed in 2012.

Jessikill live at Marquee Theatre
Jessica Marie Espinoza (Vocalist), Jessikill
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

On lead guitar and keyboard is the talented Jyro Alejo, on drums is Jordan Ames, and bringing that big bass sound is Arturo Knight, who is also a backup vocalist. Regrettably, their set was short, clocking in at 18 minutes. It was hardly enough to showcase Espinoza’s vocals, which switched from a rough growling to high-note harmonies with effortless transitions, leaving the room wanting more. 

Culprit

Seattle’s pre-grunge era band Culprit played a six song set, including title track “Layin’ Down the Law” and “Holy Roller” from their upcoming album. Established in 1981, Culprit tours with one original band member, bassist Scott Earl, and the current lineup includes Gabriel Colon on vocals, Fred Aching on drums, and P.J. Toyne on guitar.

Scott Earl of Culprit live at Marquee Theatre
Scott Earl (Bassist), Culprit
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The band’s Wikipedia page cites the original band’s break-up in 1985 to pursue “other endeavors”. Culprit still maintains an 80’s hair-metal band feel, sound, and look. Colon sings while swinging the microphone stand in a Steven Tyler-esque fashion, dressed in white leather hip-hugging pants and jacket with no shirt. Limited only by the seemingly short set, Culprit’s act stood the test of time and proved to be a solid opener for the tour. 

Deimer

Not many musicians have IMDB credits that include being killed by Michael Myers in the “Halloween” movie series, but Kurt Deimer does. His character “Teller” didn’t survive the 2018 film with Jamie Lee Curtis, but Deimer is the one killing it in real life. He has a diverse resume including his title of President and Chief Executive Officer of Coolants Plus, Inc. (a wholesale chemical company), further IMDB acting and producing credits, and leader of the band Bald Man, whose 10 song debut album Music For the Rest of Us was released in 2020. 

Kurt Deimer live at Marquee Theatre
Kurt Deimer (Vocalist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

In 2022, Deimer and Canadian Bon Jovi guitarist Phil X (Xenidis) joined forces to provide direct support for the Parabellum tour. Deimer, sporting a black top hat and bedazzled beard, took the stage with a powerful presence. Teetering on the stage’s edge, he enticed the crowd with his catchy harmonies and haunting spoken lyrics on the band’s songs “Hero”, “Only Time Will Tell”, and “Back of the School”, as well as a metal version of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”. The set concluded with a heartfelt plea by Deimer to the crowd, asking that we “be nice to each other”. 

Phill X with Deimer at Marquee Theatre
Phil X (Guitarist), Deimer
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Yngwie Malmsteen

In researching Yngwie Malmsteen, the term “virtuoso” is used repeatedly to describe him. Born Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck in Stockholm, Sweden, Malmsteen’s first band was formed when he was only ten years old. His musical influences included the classical genre, and in particular, the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as more contemporary artists, such as Ritchie Blackmore. His forty-year career includes 22 studio albums, and in 2009 Time Magazine named Malmsteen number 9 amongst the 11 greatest guitar players of all time. 

Yngwie Malmsteen live at Marquee Theatre
Yngwie Malmsteen (Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Malmsteen played a ninety-minute set, covering a variety of hits from his expansive music career. Setting the mood were red stage lighting and fog machines, and the sound from the wall of Marshall amplifiers was so intense it felt like it could knock you into the wall. A cover of “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple with vocals by Malmsteen and a very metal version of the “Star Spangled Banner” were interlaced with classical and bluesy riffs. A master at his craft, Malmsteen plays with a finesse and skill unlike any other and sets the bar for aspiring guitarists. 

Yngwie Malmsteen live at Marquee Theatre
Yngwie Malmsteen (Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

A fan commented on the artist’s official Facebook page that his wall of Marshall amplifiers was fake, but Malmsteen was quick to retort, “I know it’s really sad, they’re very expensive and I take the real deal and everyone is accusing me of them being empty, it’s ridiculous :(”. Another fan made the astute observation that “The Great Wall of China and Yngvie’s wall of Marshalls are the only man-made objects visible from space.” They’re not wrong. 

Yngwie Malmsteen live at Marquee Theatre
Yngwie Malmsteen (Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

This was a Tuesday night that won’t soon be forgotten. It was mind-blowing. The 2021 release of the Parabellum album is available online, and one can assume it’s as fierce through headphones as it was live. “Parabellum” is a well put-together tour with the unique combination of Jessikill, Culprit, Deimer, and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Yngwie Malmsteen, Jessikill, Deimer, & Culprit – Marquee Theatre 5-24-22

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

INTERVIEW: A Video Q&A with Crashing Cairo’s Robert Wax

On the cusp of the release of the Crashing Cairo’s next single “Souls”, frontman Robert Wax discusses how the Beatles and David Bowie made him fall in love with music, the importance of U2, full-circle moments, working with legends, drawing inspiration from a radio contest, and what the future holds for the band, in the inaugural Burning Hot Interview video.

Burning Hot Interview featuring
Robert Wax of Crashing Cairo

Q&A with music journalist Ryan Novak

Watch on YouTube

Crashing Cairo’s New Track “Souls” to Release on July 8, 2022


About Crashing Cairo

Monday Changed Everything album artwork

Hailing from metro Detroit, Crashing Cairo first broke onto the scene with their 2008 debut Monday Changed Everything, and the band has been going steady ever since. On their 10th anniversary, their EP At Speeds that Destroy brought some exciting new course for the group, as a shot-in-the-dark email by Wax gave them the opportunity to work with not one but two legendary producers. Wax is a modern-day renaissance man, as he is not only a singer and songwriter but also an actor, writer, and producer. 

Crashing Cairo’s “89HRS” Music Video

Listen to Crashing Cairo on KWSS
Listen to Crashing Cairo on “The Jaw Cairo Show” on KWSS, FM 93.9 in Phoenix

Crashing Cairo Online:

INTERVIEW: Brooklane – Now Celebrating the Release of “Breakaway”

"Breakaway" single artwork
“Breakaway” single artwork

Pop-punk band Brooklane recently released their new single “Breakaway” on April 28th of this year, and they are gearing up for a tour with details yet to be revealed (get notified here). Inspired by bands like The Story So Far, State Champs, and Neck Deep, they debuted with the Roll With the Punches EP during the pandemic in 2020. 

Burning Hot Events’ music journalist Ryan Novak and Brooklane discuss the new single, recording during the pandemic, cover art, mental health, new directions for the band, and more.

"Breakaway" on Spotify

Brooklane Interview

Q & A with music journalist Ryan Novak

RYAN: What was the recording experience like for your debut “Roll With the Punches” (2020)? Was it recorded pre-pandemic?

“The recording experience for “Roll With The Punches” was pretty standard for the most part until the pandemic hit. We had to find ways to finish recording safely. Luckily, we just had to add finishing touches and were able to release it during the pandemic.”

RYAN: “Roll With the Punches” was first released as an EP but is now listed as a deluxe LP released in 2021.

When was the decision made to expand it?

“We made the decision to expand it because we wanted to provide our fans with alternative reimagined versions, as well as softer songs to diversify our catalog.”

RYAN: I’m always fascinated by cover art. Your early singles and first album all featured color variations on the same image: of an arm preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail.

Roll With the Punches EP artwork
“Roll With the Punches” EP artwork

Was there a reason behind this specific image, especially with the political upheaval in America these last five years?

Honestly, that cover art has no greater meaning other than being reflective of our energetic and explosive sound, while staying true to our band’s visual aesthetic.

RYAN: The album has got some strong punk, pop punk, and hardcore DNA in it, which makes the tracks “Here to Stay” and “Empty Room” stick out to me. The slower tempo and acoustic guitars really highlight the heartbreak of the lyrics on each.

Were both songs always written to be more emotionally raw in that way?

Yes! Both of the songs were intentionally written to be more emotionally raw. We always try to pull from all of our personal experiences to help as many people as possible. Fun fact, “Empty Room” was never written for Brooklane and almost didn’t make the record.

Brooklane promo photo
Brooklane

RYAN: As a huge fan of punk and hardcore, what always drew me to it was that the music provided an emotional outlet for pent-up emotions. The best bands to do it always have lyrics that express these same feelings. “Here to Stay” and “Bite the Bullet” dig into dealing with a broken heart, and “Anxiety” deals with mental illness and reminds me, at least thematically, of The Offspring’s “Gotta Get Away.”

While a lot of people will share more freely about dealing with heartbreak or regret over a breakup, there’s still a societal stigma with mental health. Was it difficult being as open on “Anxiety”?

Anxiety is something that we all struggle with as band members and it is so important to us to be open and honest to our fans who may benefit from relating to what we are going through. We write these songs to help our personal healing journeys, but more importantly, for everyone else in the world who may be struggling. If we didn’t open up about these hard topics in the hopes to destigmatize these conversations, we would be doing a disservice as musicians with a platform.

RYAN: The deluxe edition of the album featured reimagined versions of “Anxiety” and “Ship Wrecked,” which highlights the melodies of each song even more.

What was the inspiration behind doing these reimagined tracks, and could they be a possible direction the band might take on future albums?

We really wanted to produce these reimagined tracks to further diversify our catalog and give our fans musical variety overall. We felt strongly like some of these more emotional songs should have more emotional instrumentals. We definitely hope to continue weaving these types of tracks into our albums in the future!

"Breakaway" single artwork
“Breakaway” single artwork

RYAN: I really like the new single “Breakaway” because it feels like the whole band leveled up on the song, especially because it has a great “firework” music moment with the sort of muted opening chords building to an explosion as the band goes full force into the song. Across the board, it feels like everyone really shines.

Was there a feeling during the writing and recording of the song that this would be something as special as it seems for the band?

“Breakaway” is a song that we all really love and all individually relate to as members as it was written based upon our own personal experiences. With that said, we really wanted to give it the spotlight it deserved as a single, especially during Mental Health Awareness month.

You just announced that you’ll be crowdsourcing your next album.

What motivated this decision to have direct support from your fans ahead of the release?

“We are headed into the studio with Andrew Wade next month to create our dream EP, and thought this would be a great opportunity to ask for support from our fans to help us in our mission to destigmatize mental health by utilizing our music to start important conversations so we all feel less alone in this world.”

BrooklaneLive01
Brooklane live in concert

What are you most looking forward to about playing on tour? Obviously “Breakaway” will get its first live performances across the cities…

“We have a ton of shows in the works for this year and can’t wait to finally connect with our fans in person.” 

Chief State and Brooklane tour admat

Brooklane Online:

REVIEW: Pearl Jam Puts on a Big Show With Small-Club Intimacy in Phoenix (5-9-22)

Glendale, AZ — Pearl Jam’s concert at Gila River Arena, with support from Pluralone, has been in the making for some time. You could say it’s been since the original date in May of 2020 as part of the Gigaton Tour, however, for me this show has been overdue since December of 1991, when I got a copy of Ten. I fell in love with Pearl Jam, only for the chance to see them live evade me for nearly thirty years, living in my mind through their MTV Unplugged performance, playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” with Neil Young at the MTV Video Music Awards, various talk show appearances, and multiple live albums and videos from over the years. At the show, though, I met fans who were well into double and even triple digits for seeing the band. I was assured repeatedly that it would be an unforgettable evening. 

Eddie Vedder

Considering his status in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, it was surprising for the show to open with Eddie Vedder strolling out alone without any undue fanfare and simply introducing himself to the crowd with, “Hi, I’m Ed.

Eddie Vedder - Gila River Arena
Eddie Vedder (Vocalist, Guitarist)
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Anyone who follows Pearl Jam’s setlists online for each tour stop would have been aware that he’s been doing this on the tour, treating the crowd, so far, to solo covers of Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart for a While” during the tour opener in San Diego, and a double dose of Tom Petty with “I Won’t Back Down” on night 1 in Inglewood and “Wildflowers” on night two. For Arizona, he played his own “Far Behind” from the soundtrack he did for Into the Wild. Vedder’s voice is so powerful, so transcendent, that even for those who might not be familiar with his emotional score for the film were quickly enveloped in its beauty. As he wrapped up the song, he gave an introduction to the show’s opener Josh Klinghoffer, heaping praise on him. 

Pluralone

I’m really excited to be here, but I’m gonna play a song that doesn’t sound like I am”, Klinghoffer greeted the crowd, following Vedder’s introduction. Billed under his project Pluralone, the talented multi-instrumentalist filled the arena through a variety of instruments, even if he took moments to jokingly chastise some of the more complicated electric instruments for not working properly. Mid-set, he gave a shout out to one of Arizona’s greatest bands, asking, “How can I be in Phoenix, Arizona without paying homage to the Meat Puppets?!”, before launching into a cover of “Backwater” from their 1994 album Too High To Die

Pluralone - Gila River Arena
Josh Klinghoffer (Vocalist, Multi-instrumentalist), Pluralone
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Most are familiar with Klinghoffer for his time with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but if you are not already, it is well worth your time to check out the music he is making as Pluralone. The sounds he is able to produce solo would leave anyone believing they were listening to a full band if they only closed their eyes as they took it all in. 

Pluralone - Gila River Arena
Josh Klinghoffer (Vocalist, Multi-instrumentalist), Pluralone
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

He closed out his set with a cover of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance,” noting that it was Victory Day in Russia. I don’t know why they call it that since they’re the ones starting all the wars. 

He got the crowd to join in on the chorus and played around with the lyrics, even working in a tribute to the departed Taylor Hawkins with “Everybody talkin’ ‘bout Taylor Hawkins… Taylor Hawkins… man I miss Taylor Hawkins,” which elicited cheers from all corners of the arena. “This might be presumptuous of me, but I thought we’d just keep singing it until Pearl Jam comes out in 30 minutes. If you do, I’ll cover Jane’s Addition,” he jokingly offered before exiting the stage, leaving the crowd to solo acapella the final run through the chorus. 

Pluralone - Gila River Arena
Pluralone
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Pearl Jam

Every Pearl Jam show has a completely unique setlist. While a lot of bands are comfortable with having the same set night after night, with little variation, every Pearl Jam performance is completely fresh. This is why “Wash” was a shocker as a show opener. First appearing as a B-side on different editions of their first single “Alive,” it’s a darker song and not what you might expect from Pearl Jam, but it still crackled with an electricity, as the band performed bathed in a blue light. It was like a prayer cast from darkness and despair just hoping for salvation. As the song faded, they immediately launched into “Given to Fly” from Yield, which brought the few people who weren’t already standing to their feet. 

Eddie Vedder (Vocalist) & Matt Cameron (Drummer), Pearl Jam
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

After over 30 years, Pearl Jam is still anchored by founding members Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, and Jeff Ament, and hasn’t had any changes since Matt Cameron took over the drums on the band’s fifth album Yield. The touring band is filled out by Boom Gaspar, a Hawaiin native Vedder met through C.J. Ramone, and by Klinghoffer pulling double duty throughout the tour. Collectively, they are as tight a band as you are going to find in this or any generation. 

Pearl Jam - Gila River Arena
Pearl Jam
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

I don’t know how it feels out there, but it feels pretty good up here,” an enthusiastic Vedder told the crowd. Pearl Jam’s performance came almost exactly on the two year anniversary of when it was originally scheduled, in May of 2020 to support their 11th studio album Gigaton. “Good things come to those who wait. My good friend Tom Petty used to say the waiting was the hardest part,” he added. Pearl Jam never makes any stop on their tour feel like just another show for the band and throughout the night, Vedder launched into several monologues with the crowd that showed how Phoenix was a special stop for them.

Eddie Vedder (Vocalist) & Matt Cameron (Drummer), Pearl Jam
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

 One such moment came when Vedder told the story of Tom and Avis. In 1988, when Eddie Vedder wasn’t “Eddie Vedder the lead singer of Pearl Jam and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” but was just a young, directionless kid like any of us at that age, he was driving through Arizona on his way back to San Diego and his car broke down in Gila Bend. Stranded and with no money, he was taken in by an older couple named Tom and Avis who gave him a place to stay while his car was being repaired. Today any of us would be more than willing to let Eddie Vedder crash at our place for a day or two, but to take in a broke, stranded kid named Ed Vedder speaks to the inherent good we sometimes forgets still thrives in the world, even when everything else seems, at times, to be relentlessly awful. 

The story of Tom and Avis was followed with a soulful rendition of “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” and quickly followed by “Corduroy” and “Quick Escape,” the latter off of Gigaton, showing that the new work stands toe-to-toe with the band’s back-catalog classics. 

Pearl Jam - Gila River Arena
Jeff Ament (Bassist), Eddie Vedder (Vocalist), & Matt Cameron (Drummer), Pearl Jam
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

“You have the freedom to fuck up and learn and grow from fucking up. If anyone tries to judge you for fucking up it’s probably because they’ve fucked up and are trying to divert attention form their fuck ups by making you feel bad for yours,” Vedder told the crowd; though attributing the words to Jeff Ament. They then dipped back into Ten, the band’s run through “Why Go,” which had the crowd air guitaring and shouting the lyrics into the rafters. Vedder shouted out the Arizona Coyotes for loaning the band their arena for the night and acknowledging Coyotes players Christian Fischer and Clayton Keller, who were at the show. He dedicated Gigaton’s “Superblood Wolfmoon” to them. “I figure Wolf is close enough to Coyote.” 

Pearl Jam
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

All across social media prior to the show was an ADOT highway sign reading “Even Flow on the gas. Keep left to pass,” which amused the band. “Shoutout to the pot-smoking employee who made that sign. Life’s incredible, so keep eating those edibles,” Vedder laughed. The moment of amusement was followed by the band performing “Even Flow,” which featured Mike McCready doing an extended mid-song guitar solo behind his head in one of the most awe-inspiring moments of the night. Following “Dance of the Clairvoyants,” Vedder talked about the band’s friend, retired astronaut Scott Kelly. At Kelly’s request, the band played “Black,” arguably Pearl Jam’s greatest song. 

Afterwards, Vedder talked about the band’s admiration for former state representative Gabby Gifford and her husband Senator Mark Kelly (twin brother of Scott Kelly). He then turned his attention to the recent Supreme Court decision on Roe V. Wade, punctuating his expression of frustration about the decision with a performance of “Daughter,” tagged with a rare performance of “W.M.A.,” (both from Vs), tweaking the lyrics to “Police shot my daughter again…” It was one of the night’s highlights. They followed it with “Porch,” which was the song the band closed their 1992 MTV Unplugged performance with and Vedder took a sharpie and wrote “Pro Choice” on his arm. 

Crowd at the Pearl Jam concert at Gila River Arena
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

With the crowd riding the high wave of “Porch,” the band exited the stage briefly, returning with haste. “We’re having too much fun to be gone for too long! Before playing the first song of the encore, Vedder put a spotlight, literally, on his niece who was at the show (missing her graduation from ASU to do so) and dedicated the No Code gem “Smile” to her. 

We lost so many wonderful people in the last few years, like my friend Tom Petty. We also recently lost Eddie Van Halen who was a friend.” This set up Mike McCready to show off exactly why he is one of the greatest guitar players of his generation, as he busted out a solo cover of Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Following “Do the Evolution,” Vedder told the story of a woman he had met who had lost her sister to COVID. With her in attendance, he dedicated a gorgeous rendition of “Better Man” to her. “This is for all the badass women out there and all the badass men who support them”, Vedder said as a set up to the band’s cover of Eddie Holland’s “Leaving Home.” 

Pearl Jam - Gila River Arena
05/09/2022 Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo, Burning Hot Events www.BurningHotEvents.com

As “Leaving Home” faded out, they shifted into performing “Alive,” a song that seems to take on a special significance over the years as a reminder that even in the worst of times, to appreciate your continued survival. The crowd sing-along was the connective tissue of the night, bringing everyone together for a beautiful moment. In those moments, the personal, philosophical, political, religious, and whatever difference that tragically gets too much focus in our day-to-day existence vashined, as the chorus echoed from every corner of the arena and collectively rose to the heavens. If “Wash” started us in darkness and despair, then “Alive” pulled us out, refreshed, and renewed like a musical baptism. 

Pearl Jam and the backing audience at Gila River Arena
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As they closed out the night with the grace and beauty that is “Yellow Ledbetter,” the “Jeremy” B-side-turned-beloved-live-show-staple and bonafide Pearl Jam classic, we were each sent out into the cool desert evening knowing that even in the most dire of times, there are the Tom and Avis’s of the world passing along simple acts of kindness to a stranger and there is a good fight to be fought, because even the smallest of us is capable of so much more than we think. It was a night worth the two-year wait. It was a night worth my 30-year wait.

Pearl Jam Setlist from Phoenix 5-9-22: 

  • Wash (tour debut)
  • Given to Fly
  • Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
  • Corduroy
  • Quick Escape
  • Why Go
  • Superblood Wolfmoon
  • Alright (tour debut)
  • Even Flow
  • Dance of the Clairvoyants
  • Black (with “We Belong Together” tag)
  • I Got Id (tour debut)
  • Red Mosquito (tour debut)
  • Sleeping by Myself (Eddie Vedder song) (tour debut)
  • Daughter (with “W.M.A.” tag)
  • Porch

Encore:

  • Smile (tour debut)
  • Eruption (Van Halen cover) (tour debut)
  • Do the Evolution
  • Better Man (“Save It For Later” tease)
  • Leaving Here (Eddie Holland cover) (tour debut)
  • Alive
  • Yellow Ledbetter

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

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

Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
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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. 

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Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

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

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
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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.

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Ministry Setlist - The Van Buren, Phoenix 4-12-22

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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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

In Your Honor: On the Passing of Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins passed away on Friday, March 25th, just hours before the band was scheduled to play at a festival in Bogota, Colombia. While the official cause of death has not yet been revealed, what really matters is that one of the most beloved musicians of his (or arguably any) generation is gone, and in his wake, a huge hole has been left in the music world.

The Foo Fighters are one of the biggest bands in the world, continuing consistently for ten albums spread out across 27 years since their self-titled debut album released in 1995. They famously started out as a solo project for former-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, written and recorded by him in the aftermath of the end of Nirvana, following Kurt Cobain’s death. However, what most people think of as the Foo Fighters came together with the addition of Hawkins just after the release of their seminal second album, The Colour and the Shape. He joined the band for the ensuing tour, permanently replacing departing drummer William Goldsmith. He quickly became an integral part of the group and Dave Grohl’s best friend. 

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His journey to that point, though, was one of a man seizing each opportunity presented to him. In a 2020 interview, Hawkins was asked what his plan B would have been if he hadn’t made it in rock ‘n’ roll. Laughing, he responded, “Weed dealer? Pizza delivery guy? Manager of the drum department at Guitar Center? I don’t know.” It was the third one – manager of the drum department at Guitar Center – that could have been the fate of the man who became not only a legendary drummer and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but so beloved by seemingly everyone he encountered, from fans to fellow musicians. Guitar Center was exactly where Hawkins was at when he got the chance to join the touring band for Canadian rocker Sass Jordan. 

This led to a two-year gig drumming for another Canadian musician (and legend): Alanis Morissette. He joined right as Morisette was becoming one of the biggest artists in the world, hot on the heels of her Jagged Little Pill album. It was while touring with Morissette that he first crossed paths with Grohl, when Foo Fighters and Morissette played the same festival. The two became fast friends, and when Grohl called Hawkins for a suggestion for a replacement for Goldsmith, Hawkins volunteered and the rest is history. Even within a band with such clear camaraderie as Foo Fighters, Grohl and Hawkins seemed like long-lost twins. Their friendship was endearing and affection for each other was clear. 

By his own admission, though, Hawkins admits that early on he battled self-doubt. He felt that if he became a rock star, everything would be better in his life, and in some ways it was but in some it was not. This led to a period of self-examination. Though he had everything he could want, he still struggled with life. Money and fame, for him, didn’t translate to confidence and self-esteem. He seemed to battle these moments with a blue-collar approach to his job: he drummed every chance he got. 

While being the Foo Fighters drummer was his main job, he also drummed on albums by Coheed and Cambria, on their  Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow album, Eric Avery’s (formerly of Jane’s Addiction) first solo album Help Wanted, and on a Foo Fighter bandmate Chris Shiflett’s side project, Jackson United, splitting drumming duties with Grohl on the band’s third album. All of this was in addition to his own side project, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, and his heavy metal cover band Chevy Metal

Taylor Hawkins of Chevy Metal performing in Napa, CA
Taylor Hawkins (Vocalist), Chevy Metal
May 25, 2019: Chevy Metal in concert at BottleRock Napa Valley in Napa, CA

With his passing, the tributes have poured in from all over the music community from acts as diverse as Stevie Nicks, Ringo Starr, Wofgang Van Halen, Questlove, Miley Cyrus, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Morello, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Peter Criss of Kiss; Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Susanna Hoffs, Conan O’Brien, and even First Lady Jill Biden. This list could go on and on and double the length of this tribute, but what is clear is that Taylor Hawkins was loved instantly by all he met and worked with. From the fan community, there are hundreds of stories of a guy who took time for every fan he met and always made people feel special. 

Taylor Hawkins (Dummer), Foo Fighters
June 16, 2018: Foo Fighters concert at the Pinkpop Festival, The Netherlands

Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth once said people pay money to go to concerts because they like seeing people believe in themselves. Even though he admitted to his own struggles with self-esteem, to see Taylor Hawkins drum was to watch someone who truly believed in himself the moment he sat down behind the kit or took over vocal duties, such as his Foo live highlight singing Queen’s “Somebody to Love” – performed in the US for the last time at Innings Festival in Tempe, AZ on February 26th. He clearly relished every moment, never taking a second of joy for granted.  Maybe what we loved so much about him was getting to watch someone markedly love what they do. 

Regardless of the cause of death, one of rock’s true good guys is gone now. He leaves behind an undeniable legacy. He might’ve been, as music critic and senior editor for AllMusic Stephen Thomas Erlewin tweeted, “…the only drummer alive who could support  Dave Grohl and not make you wish Grohl was sitting behind the kit.” He played with an unabashed passion, like a guy who had won the golden ticket of life, and was never going to let the opportunity slip from his fingers. 

Honor his memory by revisiting his greatest moments: “Breakout” from There’s Nothing Left to Lose, “Times Like These” from One by One, “Best of You” from In Your Honor, or look up any Foo Fighters live performances on YouTube – especially the band’s performance of “My Hero” from the final episode of Late Show with David Letterman. As you do, let his legacy be more than just a great drummer, but a guy who took on every opportunity and gave it everything he had. Relish life, just as Taylor Hawkins did, and rock out every chance you get along the way.