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REVIEW: Annual Punk in Drublic Festival Storms Into Bell Bank Park (03-19-22)

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Mesa, AZ — The annual Punk in Drublic Festival, held this past Saturday at Mesa’s brand new Bell Bank Park, is built around two things: craft beer and punk rock. This year’s lineup, anchored as always by festival founder Fat Mike’s band NOFX, also featured Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, The Bouncing Souls, Lagwagon, Authority Zero, The Last Gang, The Venomous Pinks, and WinterHaven. It was a lineup that covered several generations of punk and just as many styles. 

Man with a mohawk hairstyle at Punk in Drublic festival
Barry Humphrey with the mohawk hairstyle – an emblem of non-conformity in the punk community
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

When the gates opened at 11 a.m., with WinterHaven not going on to open the festival until 1 p.m., the other opener took front stage and center: craft beer, and plenty of it. With breweries from all over Arizona giving out free samples to the 21+ crowd in the free Punk in Drublic souvenir sample cups, cans and kegs were emptied on a consistent basis from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. 

Woman laying on grass, holding 2 cans of alcohol
Woman lounges on the lawn at Punk in Drublic fest with Cutwater Spirits’ Tequila Paloma & Tequila Margarita
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

What makes a punk festival so different from other all-day festivals is that punks, regardless of era or style, are accepting of everyone who enters the sanctum of punk, as a place of brotherhood and sisterhood for all. Names are never needed, as the t-shirt you wore is enough to identify you. “Hey yo, Black Flag, try that Hazy IPA they got! It’s my favorite!” was shouted at me as I approached one of the many tents. The same guy followed up with me later to get my thoughts. 

Man and two women against the barricade at a concert
Ryan Novak (Music Journalist of Burning Hot Events) & concert-goers Amy Kochansk & Desiree Izquierdo
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

There’s an inspiring sense of community and fun, like we’re all on the same team, whether we’re toasting a craft brew or slamming into each other in a circle pit. If this day were a musical, it would almost be expected that at any moment the crowd would break out into a punk rock rendition of “Gaston,” sloshing frothy beers from those mini Punk in Drublic sampler cups to and fro in the spirit of a hardy sing-along. 

WinterHaven

Jack Hernandez of WinterHaven performing
Jack Hernandez (Vocalist, Guitarist), WinterHaven
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Opening the show was Flagstaff’s own Winterhaven. Made up of singer and rhythm guitarist Jack Hernandez, lead guitarist Brendan Goepfrich, bassist Colton Henderson, and drummer Nick Schira, they brought the right balance of humor and youthful energy to open the show. By their own admission, they have gotten onto the festival by getting in touch with Cameron Collins, who handles lining up the breweries for each stop (Fat Mike handles the bands) who dug what he heard and got them added to the lineup. Though the youngest band on the bill, they came out swinging like old pros. 

WinterHaven performing at Punk in Drublic
WinterHaven
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The band wears its pop-punk influences on their sleeves like a badge of honor. Though you could hear the importance that bands like blink-182 and The Offspring had on their sound (and also some noticeable Ian MacKaye Fugazi-era basslines), there was nothing derivative about WinterHaven. As the opening chords of the first song hit, their music was a magnet pulling people away from beer and merch tents right to the front of the stage. In between songs, they joked with the crowd about Spider-Man and in a hilarious moment, Hernandez said that his mom asked him to remember to wear sunscreen before they went on that day, but he had immediately forgotten and asked that no one tells. (I’m sorry if she reads this and learns that way.) 

The Venomous Pinks

Drea Doll of The Venomous Pinks performing
Drea Doll (Vocalist), The Venomous Pinks
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

It would seem Arizona was the perfect starting point for the festival, since three-fifths of the acts hail from State 48, with Mesa’s The Venomous Pinks playing second. Though the all-female outfit certainly has some Bikini Kill in their sound, they would not be out of place amongst the heaviest of hitters of early 80’s hardcore. The three-piece attack of Drea Doll on guitar and vocals, Gaby Kaos on bass and vocals, and Cassie Jalilie on drums sounded like the sister band to Bad Brains or Minor Threat, playing each song with a fast and furious intensity. 

Their second song “Todos Unidos” had some Generator-era Bad Religion guitar and “oohs” and “aahs” on the backing vocals. Their new single “No Rules,” the first from their upcoming debut album Vita Mors from SBÄM Records, was a set highlight (the single is out on 03/24/2022 and the album is forthcoming). They closed out their nine-song set with “We Do It Better,” an absolutely righteous rager and the perfect anthem for the band. They were joined by The Last Gang’s lead singer Brenna Red for the final verse. 

The Last Gang

The decidedly more political The Last Gang played next. The California quartet – Red on vocals and guitar, Ken Aquino on guitar, Sean Viele on bass, and Robert Wantland on drums – surprised the crowd throughout their set, as they used the punk rock template as a springboard for so many other styles.  Their third song, “Gimme Action,” even opened with a surprising AC/DC-esque guitar riff.

Brenna Red of The Last Gang performing
Brenna Red (Vocalist, Guitarist), The Last Gang
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Red admitted to listening to a lot of The Clash and some classic reggae and dub, including Toots And The Maytals and the legendary Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. This was no more evident than on “Noise Noise Noise,” the title track from their 2021 album, which had some very clear Clash London Calling-era dub influence. She is an incredible frontwoman, and the band plays loosely within the punk genre. If their nine-song set is any indication of even a snippet of what they are capable of, they are going to be a band to watch for many years to come. 

Authority Zero

Rounding out the Arizona triad was Mesa’s Authority Zero. The skate punk legends came out guns blazing with lead singer Jason DeVore leading into the first song (or perhaps warning the crowd) with “Here we go!” He was immediately perched on top of amps (rocking one precariously forward before he hopped off of it) and bounced around the stage with each song. For a guy who’s been doing this since the mid-nineties, he didn’t show even a hint of slowing down. 

Jason DeVore of Authority Zero performing
Jason DeVore (Vocalist), Authority Zero
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Though DeVore’s vocals are rooted firmly in hardcore, Authority Zero includes reggae and some very noticeable Bad Religion rhythms in their music. The band’s new song “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” from the album of the same name was a set highlight. 

Mid-set, DeVore stopped to plug Punk Rock Saves Lives, an organization he supports whose work focuses on mental health, human rights, and equality. His passion for their work was clear in the set’s closer, “Lift One Up.”

Jason DeVore of Authority Zero with Punk in Drublic crowd
Jason DeVore (Vocalist), Authority Zero
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

It spoke to DeVore’s love for his audience and to the communal feeling so clear amongst the attendees since the gates opened: “So lift one up/To put one down/We’ll keep singing these old songs our whole lives through/It’s where we’re found/They’ve touched our hearts/They’ve saved our lives.” It was one of the best sing-alongs of the day. 

Lagwagon

Considering their name was inspired by the band’s unreliable touring van, Lagwagon have been anything but unreliable, recording and touring since 1990. Before they began their set, an audience member complained to the soundman checking the microphones that it was “too loud.” In response, he received a hard laugh from the guy who said, “Don’t worry. Joey’s known for his soft vocals.” Indeed, the start of their set was like a bomb going off (leaving this writer wondering what the kids playing soccer just across the way from the festival at the rather vast Bell Bank Park complex were wondering). 

Joey Cape (Vocalist), Lagwagon
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

With nine albums spread across their 30-year career, frontman Joey Cape joked, “All we have are old songs,” when an audience member requested they play something new after they played “Bombs Away” from their 1995 album Hoss. Regardless of his self-deprecating comment, the band with a lineup almost unchanged since they started, played each song with an ageless vigor. They dedicated “Surviving California” to all of their fallen comrades over the years, in the highlight of their set. 

Crowd surfer at Punk in Drublic festival in Mesa, AZ
Crowd surfer at Punk in Drublic festival in Mesa
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The Bouncing Souls

New Jersey’s favorite punk sons The Bouncing Souls showed that Lagwagon were not the only 30-year veterans who hadn’t lost a step. The pogoing punk icons brought their trademark lighthearted sound to the stage. Opening with the title-track from the 1999 album “Hopeless Romantic”, the band had the crowd bouncing in unison from the word go (not the song “Go,” because that was their fifth track). 

Greg Attonito of The Bouncing Souls performing
Greg Attonito (Vocalist), The Bouncing Souls
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Singer Greg Attonito was a consummate showman, playfully dancing around the stage during each song. The Bouncing Souls have always been a fun live band, and this day’s set was no different. Their song “That Song” was one of the highlights, with the audience singing along throughout. It felt like a fitting summation of the vibe for the day, with the lyrics: And in the end what have we learned? Are we just faces in the crowd? I died and was reborn again today. Hold fast to myself. Make these good feelings stay. On a pleasantly cool Arizona spring day, it felt like many of us were reborn in those moments of community. 

Crowd at Punk in Drublic festival
Punk in Drublic crowd raises devil horns and smartphones at twilight for The Bouncing Souls
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Me First And The Gimme Gimmes

We’re not a cover band,” declared lead singer Spike Slawson, “We are THE cover band!” For the uninitiated, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are like punk-rock karaoke. They are a supergroup, with a rotating cast of members including Slawson of Re-Volts and Swignin’ Utters,  Joey Cape and Dave Raun from Lagwagon pulling double duty, Fat Mike, and CJ Ramone. They will cover any genre of music, with the songs poured through their unique filter. 

Spike Slawson of Me First and The Gimme Gimmes performing
Spike Slawson (Vocalist), Me First and The Gimme Gimmes
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Opening with “Different Drum,” written by the late Mike Nesmith of The Monkees and made famous by Linda Rondstadt, they followed it with “Sloop John B” and a three-song country superset of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and John Denver’s “Country Roads,” with Fat Mike coming out to sing on the songs. With no set genre they will pull from, the set is full of surprises because every song is unexpected. Where else are you going to get Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” followed by CJ Ramone singing Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”? Only at a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes concert. They closed their night with a rousing rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” 

NOFX

To close out the night was NOFX, fronted by Punk in Drublic founder Mike “Fat Mike” Burkett. Though their live album I Heard They Suck Live!! might set certain expectations for anyone who has never witnessed a NOFX concert, they make each show unique from any other they’ve played before. 

Fat Mike of NOFX performing
Fat Mike (Vocalist, Bassist), NOFX
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Not to veer into politics, but it can be reasonably inferred by the t-shirts and buttons you see around the festival exactly what the political leanings are of a punk-rock crowd. Regardless, Fat Mike opened their set with “Greetings Republicans!” Throughout their set, he continued to playfully troll the crowd, from saying the only thing Arizona got right was doing away with daylight savings, to telling the crowd the only good thing to ever come out of the state was stand-up comic Doug Stanhope. Mike even attempted to call Stanhope from the stage, but the call went to voicemail. 

Eric Melvin of NOFX performing
Eric Melvin (Guitarist), NOFX
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Some songs were introduced but quickly abandoned. After claiming that drummer Smelly Sandin did not want to play “Liza and Louise,” they moved on to “I Love You More Than I Hate Me” instead. “We’ve only got 5 good songs,” Mike claimed at one point, “and we’ve been doing this for 38 years!” Following “Eat the Meek” and “Franco UnAmerican,” Mike called Arizona “the Alabama of the west.” They closed out their set with a one-two punch of “Don’t Call Me White” and “Kill All the White Man.” 

Though the beer tents were all long gone at this point, everyone held tight to their Punk in Drublic beer sampler cups as they headed for the exit. Together or not, the punk community is always united, and maybe those cups will make their way out again on some random night, filled to the rim, and toasted high to the brothers and sisters, before turning the music up and slamming the beer down. 

Arizona sunset and Punk in Drublic festival
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The 2022 Punk In Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival will continue on through the spring and summer with the following dates:

  • Saturday, March 26 –
    San Diego, CA – Petco Park – Tickets
  • Sunday, March 27 – Ventura, CA
    Ventura Fairgrounds – Tickets
  • Saturday, May 7 –
    Sacramento, CA – Heart Health Park at the Cal Expo – Tickets
  • Friday, July 8 –
    Cleveland, OH – Jacobs Pavilion – Tickets
  • Saturday, July 9 –
    Detroit, MI – Masonic Temple Outdoors – Tickets

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately:

NOFX | Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
| The Bouncing Souls | Lagwagon
| Authority Zero | The Last Gang
| The Venomous Pinks | WinterHaven

Punk in Drublic – Bell Bank Park 3-19-22


Punk In Drublic online:

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Flogging Molly’s Annual St. Patrick’s Day Tour Marches Into Marquee Theater (3-15-22)

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PHOENIX — Before Flogging Molly’s concert at The Marquee Theater – with support from Vandoliers and Russkaja – even began, there was a vibe in the crowd different from anything seen the last time concerts were a normal occurrence, and it led to what made this show so special. You see, back in those waning, naïve days of January and February of 2020 – before our lives were collectively turned upside down, leaving us wondering if any semblance of normalcy would return, let alone gathering en masse to enjoy live music once again – we could see live shows whenever we wanted. Though we may not have realized it then, we took live music for granted. 

No, the crowd on Tuesday night at the Marquee was buzzing with a noticeable sense of joy, community, and most of all, gratitude. Strangers happily chatted away with each other when the house lights were still on and an array of punk and classic rock was piped through the P.A. Conversations centered so much on “I was supposed to see… until…” and many specifically mentioned having tickets to see Flogging Molly in spring of 2020. No one was taking this moment for granted, because so much was survived to get to this point. 

Vandoliers

Vandoliers at Marquee Theater
Vandoliers
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Openers Vandoliers hail from Dallas, Texas and were described on the hype sticker on the vinyl pressing of their 2019 album Forever as sounding like a cross between Boston Irish punk legends Dropkick Murphys and Arizona’s own Calexico. With so many physical miles between Boston and Tucson and just as many musical style miles between the two as well, the description was intriguing. At the start of their set, the description immediately made sense. With a similar style of rhythm section, made up of bassist Mark Moncrieff and drummer Trey Alfaro, combined with guitar and aggressive vocals from Dustin Fleming, the Murphys-punk influence was evident. What made their sound so unique, though, was the addition of fiddler Travis Curry and multi-instrumentalist Cory Graves who combined to bring a southwest seasoning on top of the Irish punk brew. 

Vandoliers at Marquee Theater
Vandoliers
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Their seven-song set was fast and furious, punctuated with shout-along should-be classics like “Cigarettes in the Rain,” “Sixteen Years,” and “Troublemaker,” which should be the band’s anthem and the anthem for anyone who were told early on that they’d “be a problem” in life. They closed their set with a cover of Scottish rock duo The Proclaimers’ classic, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” recasting the early 90’s alternative sing-along smash as a rowdy West Texas bar band end-of-the–night, last-call rager. If there was a person in attendance not singing along throughout, they were not easily spotted amongst the packed crowd. 

Russkaja 

Russkaja at Marquee Theater
Russkaja
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Austria’s Russkaja, self-described as “Russian Turbo Polka Metal,” played second. With a foundation of traditional Russian music, they layer it with a confluence of styles, ranging from punk to ska to metal to, yes, polka, all rolled into a wholly unique sound. Founding member and vocalist Georgij Makazaria leads the charge alongside bassist Dimitrij Miller, guitarist Engel Mayr, violinist Lea-Sophie Fischer, Mayr, potete player Hans-Georg Gutternigg, and drummer Mario Stübler, with each member contributing their own particular stitch to their vast tapestry of sound.  Mayr’s guitar playing shifted effortlessly between ska and metal, not just across the entire set, but even within one song. 

Russkaja at Marquee Theater
Russkaja
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The highlight of their hard-charging set, though, was not even music, but a somber moment midway when Makazaria and Miller stood together and spoke to the crowd not as musicians but as citizens of two countries. Makazaria is Russian and Miller is Ukrainian and together they condemned the war and called for peace and love.

“The people of Russia and Ukraine have to fight against each other, and it is terrible. This is the politics that is destroying peace. We condemn this fucking war. We are against this war! Instead of battle stations, we bring some music equipment and make a festival. We will not give the world a chance to destroy our music!”

It was as powerful, if not more so, than any note played or any lyric sung, and it underscored a theme, intentional or not, that was playing throughout the evening: through disease and war and a score of so many other horrible things plaguing our world now and in the future, we are all very lucky to be together sharing a space and letting live music nourish our souls.

Flogging Molly

What was once an annual tradition, Flogging Molly’s St. Patrick’s Day Tour, like so many other tours, was put on hold, going on a two-year hiatus, save for a St. Patrick’s Day show done via Zoom for fans last year. While their concerts are always a must-see event, they performed with a renewed vigor. Opening the show with “Drunken Lullabies,” from their 2001 album of the same name, there was an extra punch to every note and every lyric. 

Dave King (Vocalist, Guitarist) & Spencer Swain (Banjoist), Flogging Molly
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Hitting some old favorites early in the set, that theme noticed so early in the night amongst the crowd chatter re-emerged as frontman Dave King touched on the feelings so many of us had surviving the past two years, with the emotional struggles and low-low points before launching into “The Worst Day Since Yesterday” from 2000’s Swagger, which immediately took on a new feel. They followed it with their first new song of the night, written during those early scary and confusing days, called “These Times Have Got Me Drinking,” which given the crowd’s reaction to it, will easily stand beside so many of the band’s greatest. 

Matt Hensley (Accordionist), Flogging Molly
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Flogging Molly have always been a tight band, both on their albums and performing live, but each member was in top form throughout the night. King regularly shouted out members of the band between songs. With such an incredible group of musicians holding down each song, it allows King to be so many things throughout the show: singer, showman, dancer, and all-around master of ceremonies. A lesser band would not be able to afford such freedom to the frontman, but Bridget Regan (violin, tin whistle, and King’s wife of almost 15 years), Dennis Casey (guitar), Matt Hensley (accordion), Nathen Maxwell (bass), Spencer Swain (mandolin, banjo, and guitar), and Mike Alonso (drums) are all so accomplished that it gives King a wide lane in which to play. One minute, he’ll be bantering with fans, and the next, he’ll have his pant legs pulled up, as he dances around the stage, sometimes doing an impromptu jig and others doing a one-man chorus line. 

Dave King (Vocalist, Guitarist), Flogging Molly
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

This is what makes a Flogging Molly concert so special: it never feels overly-rehearsed but instead gives each show an impromptu feel, like each moment is special for that night’s audience exclusively. These moments accompanied a run through a great many classics, including a particularly rousing run through “If I Ever Leave this World Alive.” They left the stage after “Seven Deadly Sins” from 2004’s Within a Mile of Home that felt like it was a well-rehearsed rendition between the band and the entire crowd who sang along and mimicked each one of King’s movements. 

Dave King (Vocalist, Guitarist), Flogging Molly
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Returning for an encore, they finished the set with “Tobacco Island,” also from Within a Mile of Home. That was not, however, how they closed the show. While it has become the norm for many bands to have a walk-out song (Vandoliers came out to The Vandals’ “Urban Struggle,” Russkaja played an anti-war message set to a dark, ominous beat as they walked out, and Flogging Molly themselves used The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” paired with the acapella intro to their own “The Wrong Company”), but very few bands have a walk-off song. While most shows end with a good night, band walk off, and the house lights coming on as music is piped over the P.A., Flogging Molly played “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian

While not as well-known to the audience, save for this journalist and others within his particular age range, the lyrics, even to fresh ears, served to punctuate the night’s theme: “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.” As the song played out, the group stood together, joined by various members of Vandoliers and Russkaja in kick lines, as King handed out set lists to the younger fans (there were many older fans in attendance with their children), and playfully blew kisses to the audience before everyone at last left the stage with the song’s fading notes and those awkward feelings of 2020 despair dissipating. Nights like this remind us to never again take live music for granted, because it’s one of our true blessings, and that alone should hopefully keep us all on the bright side of life.

View Setlist


Photo Galleries

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately:

Vandoliers
 | Russkaja
 | Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly, Russkaja, & Vandoliers – Marquee Theatre 3-15-22

    Flogging Molly Setlist 3-15-22

  • “Drunken Lullabies”
  • “The Hand of John L. Sullivan”
  • “Swagger”
  • “Selfish Man”
  • “The Worst Day Since Yesterday”
  • “These Times Have Got Me Drinking” (new song)
  • “Life in a Tenement Square”
  • “A Song of Liberty”
  • “Float”
  • “Black Friday Rule” (with extended guitar solo)
  • “Croppy Boy” (new song)
  • “Devil’s Dance Floor”
  • “Crushed (Hostile Nations)” / “We Will Rock You” (Dedicated to people of Ukraine)
  • “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”
  • “Salty Dog”
  • “What’s Left of the Flag”
  • “The Seven Deadly Sins”

    Encore:
  • “Tobacco Island”

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

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Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

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Sydney Sprague
 | Dashboard Confessional
 | Jimmy Eat World

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

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

The Atomic Punks Bring David Lee Roth Era Hits to The Marquee (2-25-22)

Tempe, AZ — The return of The Atomic Punks, a Van Halen endorsed Los Angeles tribute band, was a highly anticipated one. Originally scheduled for February 11 at the Marquee Theatre, the date was pushed back to February 25 due to ongoing COVID-19 issues. Clearly, the delay wasn’t a “setback”, as the band brought an evening of high energy rock. The Atomic Punks had a trio of solid opening acts bringing the 1980’s vibe back to Mill Avenue.

Kill ‘Em All

Kill ‘Em All, led by Kevin Hughes on vocals, opened their set with “Creeping Death”, and the high‐speed riffs continued with “The Four Horsemen” and “Master of Puppets”. The band has been performing since 2014, but Kevin Hughes is the only original member.

Kill 'Em All performing at Marquee Theatre
Bobby Alexander (Guitarist) & Randy Omdahl (Bassist), Kill ‘Em All
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

New lead guitarist Bobby Alexander impressed on his leads from his Dean Dimebag Dean From Hell CFH Electric Guitar and the crowd was fist‐pumping. Randy Omdahl’s solid double bass drums were hard‐hitting and paired with Ted Smith’s bass guitar and energetic hair flips, this solid opener was the perfect pick to open this show.

Guitarist of Kill Em All performing
Bobby Alexander (Guitarist), Kill ‘Em All
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Black Mountain Project

Cave Creek’s local band Black Mountain Project showcased a fun, pop‐meets‐ grunge sound. Formed in 2018, their bio page states the name of the band “originates from our childhood hometown near Black Mountain in Cave Creek”.

Tony Chavez (Vocalist) & Trent Joiner (Guitarist),
Black Mountain Project
Photography:
Kara Blakemore

Tony Chavez on vocals was perfectly described by someone in the venue as “Layne Staley sings Steve Perry”. They performed their single “On My Mind” and dedicated it to drummer Billy Joe Thomas’s wife, who was celebrating her birthday that evening. The band includes lead guitarist Trent Joiner and Devin McMillion on bass guitar. Based on their unique sound and strong presence on streaming platforms like Spotify and iTunes, we’ll be looking forward to hearing more from them.

Tony Chavez (vocalist), Black Mountain Project
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Generation HEX

Starting their set with “Perfect Strangers” by Deep Purple was Generation HEX, a group of local musicians from various bands who combined to form a local powerhouse cover band. Vocalist Paige Mills covered songs, like Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, with the vocal range and skill these classic songs warrant.

Paige Mills (Vocalist) & J Mark Perales (Guitarist),
Generation HEX
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Norm House on keyboards is a familiar face in the local music scene, as are Eric Parker on drums, and back-up vocalist Michael Morris on bass guitar. Lead guitarist J Mark Perales never disappoints. He may be familiar as the former guitarist of the now‐defunct Desert Plains (Judas Priest tribute) but now shares his energy and talent with Generation HEX.

J Mark Perales (Guitarist), Generation HEX
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore

The Atomic Punks

Formed in 1994, The Atomic Punks’ bio boasts that the band was “Voted ‘Best Tribute Band’ by LA’s ‘Rock City News’ three years in a row”, and after a couple hours of David Lee Roth era Van Halen songs one can easily agree. Opening with their namesake jam “Atomic Punk”, the high‐kicking, blonde coiffed lead vocalist Brian Gellar personified the first Van Halen lead singer both visually and with the familiar rasp of his voice. His microphone stand spinning and laced leather pants rounded out the look we remember from the earlier Van Halen videos.

The Atomic Punks
Brian Gellar (Vocalist), The Atomic Punks
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Current lead guitarist Lance Turner has big shoes to fill as Eddie Van Halen and didn’t hesitate to blow us all away with his Eddie‐esque leads. Dressed in the familiar patchwork leather pants and red kerchief around his neck, he handily dealt us strong covers of Van Halen classics from his EVH signature guitar. Joe Lester, on bass guitar as Michael Anthony, grabbed attention particularly on “Mean Streets” while drummer Scott Patterson handed us double‐bass power on “Hot for Teacher”.

Lance Turner (Guitarist), The Atomic Punks
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

The Atomic Punks have been around for 28 years for a reason: They’re damn good. According to The Atomic Punks’ website, Michael Anthony was quoted as saying, “I feel like I am back in 1982 performing with the old band!”, and has even joined The Atomic Punks on stage at the House of Blues in Hollywood – playing 9 Van Halen Classics for fans. David Lee Roth mentioned them in his 1997 autobiography “Crazy from the Heat”, boasting that the band is “The best tribute to Van Halen ever!

Eddie Van Halen may no longer be with us, but his footprint in the music industry is eternal in the hearts of his fans, and we thank The Atomic Punks for taking us back in time to our memories of Van Halen we hold so dear.

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Photography: Kara Blakemore

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Kill Em All
 | Black Mountain Project
 | Generation HEX | The Atomic Punks

The Atomic Punks, Generation Hex, Black Mountain Project, & Kill ‘Em All – Marquee Theatre 2-25-22

Photography © Electric Eye Photo AZ
All Rights Reserved

The Atomic Punks online:

CHERRY BOMBS Explode on This Summer’s Music Festival Circuit, Announce UK Dates with COREY TAYLOR

Cherry Bombs fire breathing

We have waited nearly two years for real touring and festivals to commence … wait no more!! Cherry Bombs bring an exciting and entirely new way to experience rock and roll music. You won’t believe your eyes watching their daredevil acts, feminine power, fearless and dynamic performances featuring dance, fire, aerial, grinding, stilt walking, and so much more.

Alicia Taylor shares, “We are beyond thrilled to be invited to perform at Louder Than Life and Aftershock in 2022! It feels incredible to be accepted alongside the incredible bands that are on the bill and solidifies that there IS a place for us in the world of rock and metal. We are carving out our own unique path and are eternally grateful to those like Danny Wimmer and team for seeing something in us.”

Corey Taylor adds, “Everybody has their favorite tours. I have been very fortunate to have been a part of so many over the years. To not only be able to tour with my wife, but also to know that they are putting on an amazing show as well, I can maybe think of a handful of people who can say that. Get ready for a rad time!”

Corey Taylor Cherry Bombs Tour 2022

Cherry Bombs tour dates for Fall 2022:

  • Sept 22-25, 2022 – LouderThanLife Festival, Highland Festival Grounds at Kentucky Expo Center – Louisville, KY – Tickets
  • Oct 6-9, 2022 – Aftershock Festival, Discovery Park – Sacramento, CA – Tickets
  • Oct 17, 2022 – London Palladium – London, UK – Tickets
  • Oct 19, 2022 – Bonus Arena – Hull, UK – Tickets
  • Oct 24, 2022 – Swansea Arena – Swansea, UK – Tickets

Girl Gang

Tune in now:
Girl Gang Season 4 – premiered March 9th on YouTube.
Follow the Cherry Bombs, one of the first groups to tour during the pandemic. Watch here how they face the obstacles and achieve success!

Alicia Taylor explains “When Corey Taylor and I started putting together our tour during 2021, we were one of the first acts in our genre to accomplish this during the pandemic. We wanted to do it right, by reducing as many risks as possible- to not only prove to ourselves, but to our industry, that perhaps there is a way to adapt and make shows happen. We covered as many bases as possible: temperature checks, consistent testing on the road, reduced capacity at shows, requiring masks, we stayed in a bubble- we really wanted to make this tour a success. Girl Gang 4 is all about that tour, and the process behind making it happen.”

Cherry Bombs arials

2019 saw the premiere of the YouTube docu-series titled, “Girl Gang”, which pulled the curtain back to reveal what it takes to put on such a unique show. The series has been met with overwhelmingly positive reception for its raw storytelling and willingness of the performers to show vulnerability. Episodes focus on the inner-workings of Cherry Bombs, including the adventures, challenges, and triumphs they experience.

Like many in the industry, the pandemic of 2020 forced Cherry Bombs to cancel their tour. However, they adapted quickly, and filmed their headlining show, Macabarét – a story of karma wrapped in temptation, action, and danger around every corner. This “eyegasm” of a movie was streamed worldwide and met with rave reviews, cementing it to become an annual event every October.

Cherry Bombs performing

About Cherry Bombs:

Cutting their teeth in the world of motorcycle rallies, they soon climbed the ranks of live entertainment by being the first group of its kind to bag a national tour with Buckcherry and Black Stone Cherry in 2016. Since then, Cherry Bombs have appeared in performances and tours nationally and internationally (Stone Sour/Steel Panther, Corey Taylor, KNOTFEST Mexico, ForceFest Mexico, KNOTFEST Colombia), on television (AEW), and in numerous music videos (Corey Taylor, 21 Savage, Fozzy, Moonshine Bandits).

Cherry Bombs online:



Flogging Molly & The Interrupters Announce Co-Headlining Summer Tour 

Los Angeles – Flogging Molly and The Interrupters have announced a Summer co-headlining tour, kicking off on June 7 in Indianapolis, with Tiger Army and The Skints supporting on all dates. Tickets will be available here and here on Friday, March 18 at 10 AM local time.

Dave King, Flogging Molly singer/guitar player, says of the tour: “We’re excited to share the news of our upcoming tour with the one and only, The Interrupters. We’re really looking forward to seeing everyone, and having a great time together. Let’s have some fun in the sun!” While The Interrupters rejoice the return of live music, “We are stoked to announce our Summer Tour with the legendary Flogging Molly, Tiger Army and The Skints! We can’t wait to sing together, dance together and celebrate live music with everyone! See you all very soon!”

The Interrupters by Jimmy Fontaine
The Interrupters | Photography: Jimmy Fontaine

Despite COVID touring setbacks throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, The Interrupters kept fans engaged with a live album release and an inspired cover of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” which went on to be featured in season 2 of the Netflix Original series The Umbrella Academy. As touring resumed in late 2021, the group embarked on one of the year’s largest rock n’ roll tours supporting Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy on the Hella Mega Tour.

Flogging Molly, who recently released their soon-to-be-classic single “These Times Have Got Me Drinking via Rise Records, celebrate the return of their free, outdoor annual St. Patrick’s Day festival this Thursday at the Hollywood Palladium. Having livestreamed the 2021 event, the band mix the best of both worlds for 2022, with the concert being broadcast worldwide via a simultaneous livestream (tickets: Floggingmolly.veeps.com). Flogging Molly set sail on March 28, helming the sold-out Salty Dog Cruise, which also includes performances from the Descendents, Frank Turner, Agent Orange and more.

Flogging Molly The Interrupters Summer Tour
Click to Enlarge

Flogging Molly & The Interrupters tour dates:

  • June 7 – Indianapolis, IN – TCU Amphitheater at White River State Park
  • June 8 – Cincinnati, OH – The ICON Festival Stage at Smale Park
  • June 10 – Charlotte, NC – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
  • June 11 – Atlanta, GA – Coca-Cola Roxy
  • June 12 – St. Augustine, FL – St. Augustine Amphitheatre
  • June 14 – St. Louis, MO – St. Louis Music Park
  • June 15 – Minneapolis, MN – The Armory
  • June 17 – Chicago, IL – Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom
  • June 18 – Detroit, MI – Meadow Brook
  • June 19 – Cleveland, OH – Jacobs Pavilion
  • June 21 – Raleigh, NC – Red Hat Amphitheater
  • June 22 – Washington, D.C. – The Anthem
  • June 24 – Philadelphia, PA – Skyline Stage at the Mann
  • June 25 – Columbus, OH – KEMBA Live!
  • June 26 – Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE
  • June 28 – New Haven, CT – Westville Music Bowl
  • June 30 – New York, NY – Pier 17
  • July 1 – Boston, MA – Leader Bank Pavilion
  • July 2 – Lewiston, NY – Artpark
  • July 3 – Asbury Park, NJ – Stone Pony Summerstage
  • September 9 – Denver, CO – Mission Ballroom Outdoors
  • September 10 – Dillon, CO – Dillon Amphitheater
  • September 11 – Salt Lake City, UT – Complex Outdoors – The Lot
  • September 13 – Bonner, MT – KettleHouse Amphitheater
  • September 14 – Boise, ID – Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater
  • September 16 – Eugene, OR – Cuthbert Amphitheater
  • September 17 – Seattle, WA – WaMu Theater
  • September 21 – Paso Robles, CA – Vina Robles Amphitheatre

About Flogging Molly:

Flogging Molly is Dave King (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhran), Bridget Regan (violin, tin whistle, vocals), Dennis Casey (guitar, vocals), Matt Hensley (accordion, concertina, vocals), Nathen Maxwell (bass guitar, vocals), Spencer Swain (mandolin, banjo, guitar, vocals), and Mike Alonso (drums, percussion). Starting out as the house band for Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles and building a loyal following through endless touring, Flogging Molly has become a staple in the punk scene over the past 20 years, kicking off with their raucous debut album, Swagger, and continuing through their five additional studio releases. With numerous late-night television appearances under their belt, a sold out Salty Dog Cruise through the Caribbean, and a yearly St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Los Angeles, the band is currently working on their Rise Records’ debut, which they previewed with “These Times Have Got Me Drinking” earlier this month. Flogging Molly recently reissued Swagger with exclusive tracks, an Irish traditional set, a 60-minute video feature, and exclusive merch in a collectible box set.

About The Interrupters:

Formed in 2011, The Interrupters came together when the Bivona brothers—guitarist Kevin Bivona, bassist Justin Bivona, drummer Jesse Bivona—found themselves on various bills with Aimee in 2009. Upon bonding over musical tastes, the four formed The Interrupters and delivered their self-titled debut in 2014. The Interrupters have shared stages with bands such as Rancid, blink-182, Green Day, Bad Religion, and many other stalwarts of the punk scene solidifying the band’s status as a dynamic force on the stage. The band is currently putting the finishing touches on their fourth full-length with Hellcat/Epitaph Records.

Flogging Molly online:


Featured photo (top) by Katie Hovland


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

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

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

System Of A Down Online:

Once Human to Release “Scar Weaver” on February 11

Formed in 2014, Once Human have steadily established themselves as one of the most distinctive and destructive metal bands of the modern era. Founded by guitarist Logan Mader (ex-Machine Head) and vocalist Lauren Hart, the LA-based quintet have had noses to the grindstone throughout their existence, exhibiting a tireless dedication to live performance and a meticulous approach to capturing their crushing anthems for posterity. 

Over the course of two full-length albums – 2015’s widely hailed debut The Life I Remember, and 2017’s conceptual tour-de-force Evolution – Once Human have pursued a militantly individual path, eschewing contemporary cliché in favour of a versatile and sinewy new strain of brutal but accessible metal, with Lauren’s coruscating vocals providing an endlessly emotive and humane focal point. 

Four years on from their last album, Once Human are primed and ready to launch a fresh assault on hearts and ears. With a line-up completed by long-time bassist Damien Rainaud, drummer Dillon Trollope and second guitarist (and now chief riff-writer) Max Karon, the band have mutated into an even more devastating beast, as demonstrated with face-ripping aplomb on the new album Scar Weaver

Once Human Scar Weaver album artwork

“It was not an easy path to reach this point, I’ll tell you that,” says Logan Mader. “The original masterplan for the band was really passion-project driven. The first two albums, we were still finding our way. Where we’re at now is with a really strong posture and by far the best album we’ve done. Over the years we’ve done a lot of groundwork and some smaller tours, just grinding things out, sometimes even in a DIY fashion. But now we have legit team around us, the band is firing on all cylinders and everything seems to be lining up this time.” 

Once Human

Pieced together over the last two years, Scar Weaver represents a massive step forward for Once Human. Blessed (or perhaps cursed) with plenty of additional time during the last year’s lockdown situation, the band have been able to refine and redefine their sound, inspired by a sudden creative surge from latest recruit, Max Karon. The result is an gloriously idiosyncratic modern metal record, with Lauren Hart’s career-best vocal performance just one of its dazzling revelations. With Once Human’s most intense and explosive music to work with, the singer has pushed herself to new heights, showcasing a vastly expanded vocal range in the process. 

I always had a tremendous amount of belief in Lauren’s ability to be a legit frontwoman, but when this began she was new, and so there was a lot of development to happen over time,” says Logan. “She’s really blossomed. She’s grown a lot as a vocalist, a performer and a lyricist through all of this.” 

Vocally, I’ve changed a lot since the last record,” Lauren notes. “My screams got lower and the cleans became stronger. I’ve become much more comfortable with clean singing through touring with (US power metal legends) Kamelot, because they really pushed me to do that. I’ve learned a lot about my voice since then. But a lot of this starts with Max’s melodies, and sometimes I felt like it would be cheating to just growl over these amazing pieces of music, and it’d be so much better to do something that complements it. So sometimes the growls have melody too!” 

As its title suggests, Scar Weaver is an album that brims and bulges with notions of pain, trauma and darkness. Lauren has once again penned a stunning collection of emotionally raw diatribes, but in contrast to Evolution’s overriding concept, the new record takes a more scattershot approach, reflecting the chaos of the modern world along the way. From visceral opener “Eidolon” to the corrosive claustrophobia of the closing “Only In Death,” all human life is alive and screaming on Scar Weaver.

The songs are all really individual,” Lauren explains. “One of them is about blood diamonds. ‘Deadlock’ is about the politics of everything that’s going on. A lot of them toy with my philosophy of death and all of that. But in comparison to Evolution, because of the energy of the world, these lyrics have a much more dire tone. Evolution was more triumphant, because I wanted people to feel uplifted. I really tried with this album to be positive, but then I’d look at what I’d written and it was a downer! I guess the energy of the world right now helped me to write those lyrics.

One instant highlight of the new Once Human record is preview single “Deadlock,” featuring a typically imperious vocal cameo from Machine Head’s Robb FlynnLogan Mader’s history with Machine Head is well documented, not least in recent times when he toured the globe with Robb for the Bay Area band’s Burn My Eyes 25th Anniversary Tour. As a result, this new collaboration needs no explanation, but Lauren remains thrilled by the whole experience. 

It was absolutely amazing, are you kidding?” she grins. “I didn’t believe it was happening until he sent something back and I heard his voice on our song. I was like, ‘Holy crap! This is real!’ He came back with a new chorus and it was so much better than mine, so my chorus was gone! [Laughs] But then performing with him in the video, that was insane. The energy he brings on stage, he brings in person too. It was a great experience and his energy is so powerful. The video came out amazing!

As the world begins to open back up, Once Human, fresh off Cradle of Filth‘s Lustmord and Tourgasm tour, are in the strongest position of their careers so far. Scar Weaver is a manifestly superior piece of work, with countless unforgettable hooks, riffs and moments of warped savagery (if the riff at the end of “Deserted” doesn’t make you want to run through a brick wall, check your pulse!) colliding to create a record of true originality and rare intensity. 

We’ve gotten through so many things along the way, we’re in a really strong place,” Logan avows. “Nothing can fuck us up now. That’s an important factor in this band – that internal energy.” 

The perfect, invigorating antidote to the state of stasis that we’ve all endured over the last two years, Scar Weaver is the sound of a great band becoming greater, hitting their stride and discovering new levels of power, passion and punch in the process. As the world begins to open its doors once more, Once Human are fully equipped to launch their biggest and most life-affirming assault on the world’s senses.

We have an amazing record, we’re ready to crush it, we have a really good chemistry between all of us,” says Logan. “We’re really good friends, and that’s really important. I think you can feel that when you see us onstage, like, ‘These guys are actually happy to be here and they like each other!’ That’s a bonus. It doesn’t have to be like that. But luckily we have a really cool, strong bond. It’s so important for us to get out there and connect with people in a real life environment.

Band Members:

  • Logan Mader
  • Lauren Hart
  • Damien Rainaud
  • Dillon Trollope
  • Max Karon

Once Human Online:

RECAP: The Second Twitch Goes Emo (05-08-21)

Yesterday, the second Twitch Goes Emo musician streamer festival was held on the Twitch platform. In celebration of primarily early 2000’s emo and pop punk music, the line-up included artists from all over the world: Kintsuku, SabySpark, Sayanoe (dropped out), TylerLevsMusic, GabiStreams, JordinLaine, CERIANmusic, JulienBelhumeur, Andrewcore, AnnaCarmela, ClosureClub, and JonLiMusic.

The first Twitch Goes Emo took place on December 5th, 2020 and featured many of the same artists, as well as MattWaldenAC and Annelle:

Twitch Goes Emo 2020 line-up

1. Kintsuku

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Ellie, who goes by the alias Kintsuku, is a musician based in Manchester, Northern England. She writes, produces and performs atmospheric / experimental pop, playing guitar, keys and vocals. Kisuku has been streaming on Twitch since December 2019. Hoping for a release later this year, she is currently writing her debut album. 

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clips:

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2. SabySpark

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Saby is a singer-songwriter from Slovenia, “trying to spark some joy in the world”, who has played the guitar for 10 years, ukulele for 3, and is slowly learning piano. By starting to stream last year, she is conquering shyness and self-consciousness, and following her deepest dreams.

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clip:

“My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” (Fall Out Boy cover)

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3. Sayanoe

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Budapest-based singer-songwriter Mimi – stage name Saya Noé (pronounced: sigh – ah – no – ay) – was unable to make the event (for reasons outside of her control). She plays the guitar and keyboard, and performs originals and covers, with acoustic, live production, and looping.

Connect with Sayanoe

4. TylerLevsMusic

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Tyler Levs is a singer/songwriter from Maine USA. With a taste for multiple genres and a passion for music, he performs live loop tracks as well as unplugged. Tyler has streamed live on Twitch.tv since 2017, and has been featured on the Twitch front page for approximately 23,000 people. He has performed for various causes through Saving Music Live (a Twitch charity stream) as well as talent shows (The Austin Talent Show and “Gamers Got Talent” Luminosity gaming). Twitch helped enable his transition to full-time musicianship in February of 2019.

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clips:

Connect with TylerLevsMusic

5. GabiStreams

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Gabi Belle is from the East Coast of the US, and she has been streaming since February 2020. Not only does she produce her own music, sing, and play the keyboard and guitar, she also directs and edits her music videos. She was vocally trained for theatre, and she has experience playing the flute, trumpet, and saxophone. Gabistreams is also a gamer who loves Nintendo games – her favorite being The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clip:

“The Ballad of Mona Lisa” (Panic! at the Disco cover)

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6. JordinLaine

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Singer-songwriter JordinLaine has been focusing heavily on writing music, creating content, and live streaming since 2018. Through the universal language of music, she has shared that she  found the power to express herself in the most open and authentic form. 

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

(JordinLaine does not allow clips on her channel)

Connect with JordinLaine

7. CERIANmusic

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Cerian is a singer-songwriter from London that plays harp, piano, and guitar. She plays a mixture of originals and covers,  switching it up between instruments. Cerian(a Welsh name, pronounced: Kerry-Anne) released her debut EP in April 2020. She has worked as a musician for many years with an impressive resume, singing backing vocals and playing harp for lots of incredible artists, like Radiohead, U2, Sam Smith, Imogen Heap, Thom Yorke, David Attenborough, Neneh Cherry, Charlotte Church and games like The Sims, Guitar Hero Live and Those Who Remain. Although she has been streaming for a while on other platforms, she is new to Twitch.

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clip:

“Hear You Me” (Jimmy Eat World cover)

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8. JulienBelhumeur

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Hailing from Québec, Canada, Julien Belhumeur is a singer, musician, and loop artist that plays both originals and covers. With a minimalist bio, he lets his prowess speak for itself!

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clips:

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9. Andrewcore

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Andrew has, in his humble words, ‘been faking his way through playing drums for about 20 years’ – beginning with learning completely by ear, and focusing on learning more basic principles and improving overall now that he’s streaming. He is a member of the band Fable Cry, which includes another popular music streamer, joplaysviolin. He began touring in 2006 and has hit the road and recorded with a number of metal, rock and hip hop artists. 

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

(andrewcore does not allow clips on his channel)

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10. AnnaCarmela

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Anna Carmela is a self-described “hyper-active singer/songwriter” and music student with musical theatre training as a youth in her background. She has toured in the US and Canada. A bit of an autodidact, Carmela is self-taught on guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, kazoo, and mouth trumpet. She certainly does have energy to be contended with, and with a voice well-suited for it, loves performing blues, rock, and soul music.

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clip:

“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (Green Day cover)

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11. ClosureClub

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Full-time artist, songwriter, and musician Heathy goes by ClosureClub, and is referred to by many more names (ex. j, lostcause, jarebear, red, clo) as he has streamed across multiple platforms for several years. His experience shows through his performance, and his music is “inspired by 80’s tones, dreamy lo-fi aesthetics, and melodic intervals drawn from the moody years of never escaping ‘the punk phase’.”

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clip:

“The Middle” (Jimmy Eat World cover)

Connect with ClosureClub

12. JonLiMusic

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Jon Li, arguably the headliner – if not co-headliner – of Twitch Goes Emo 2021, closed out the night with a respectable 4 hour and 40 minute stream, despite having performed a bachelor party gig prior. The expanse of his catalogue is impressive, to say the least, and what he doesn’t know, he can offer quite a decent Live Learn performance.

Li started performing by ear in high school after many years of studying and performing classical piano. While in the process of earning his math and music degrees in college, he was introduced to the world of Dueling Pianos that set him on a career path that led him to travel the world and play with hundreds of talented musicians. Li released Finding February in 2010. In 2020, COVID-19 began his live streaming journey on Facebook, followed by Twitch.

Watch the Full Stream VOD Here

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Bonus Clips:

Connect with JonLiMusic / Rock It Man Entertainment

Serj Tankian’s Elasticity EP Arrives March 19; Watch “Elasticity” Video Now 

Los AngelesSerj Tankian’s eagerly-awaited Elasticity EP arrives on March 19 via Alchemy Recordings/BMG. A preview of the five-song release comes via the Vlad Kaptur-directed video for the EP’s title track, “Elasticity”, which can be viewed here.

“When I conceived possibly doing another record with the guys from System of a Down a few years back, I started working on a set of songs that I arranged in rock format for that purpose,” Serj explains. “As we weren’t able to see eye to eye on the vision going forward with an SOAD album, I decided to release these songs under my moniker.”

With his trademark eclecticism and one-of-a-kind vocal style, Serj delivers a collection that runs the gamut from hard-driving, electronically enhanced anthems like the title track, a rallying cry for his beloved Armenia (“Electric Yerevan”), the tongue-in-cheek political mash-up of “Your Mom,” the piano-laden “How Many Times?” and “Rumi,” a song that Serj wrote both about his son Rumi and Rumi the poet.

One of the most multi-dimensional figures in modern music, the GRAMMY Award winning artist is profiled in the upcoming film, “Truth to Power” (Oscilloscope Laboratories/Live Nation Production). View the trailer here.

With exclusive interviews, adventures, and original footage personally filmed by Serj, “Truth To Power” (Feb. 19, truthtopowerfilm.com) allows audiences backstage access to an international rock star whose faith in music not only revolutionized heavy metal, but also world events. Throughout his life, the musician has pursued social justice, harnessing the power of his songs and celebrity for real political change. Serj’s voice is equally likely to take on American corporate greed as lambast the corrupt regime of his homeland. His decades-long campaign for formal U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide was finally approved by Congress in December of 2019.

Elasticity EP Cover

Elasticity EP tracklist:

  1. Elasticity
  2. Your Mom
  3. Rumi
  4. How Many Times?
  5. Electric Yerevan

Pre-orders, including limited-edition indie retail purple vinyl variant and a galaxy vinyl web exclusive, as well as an Elasticity-themed collection of merch, are available here.

Elasticity EP

About Serj Tankian

Serj Tankian | Photography: George Tonikian

A singer, poet, songwriter, visual artist, film producer, activist, and composer; Serj Tankian has always created music as an outlet to express his thoughts and feelings with a level of passion and consciousness that few in today’s world of music can rival. An Armenian born in Lebanon and re-rooted in Los Angeles, Tankian was introduced to the melding of cultures, ideas, and ideals from a very young age. The principles learned from this integration and adaptation have led to his understanding of the oneness of all things and have since maneuvered and transfigured into the music and art that he lives to create.

As the lead singer and songwriter for System of a Down, Serj has released five studio albums, winning a GRAMMY Award in 2006 for “B.Y.O.B.” and selling over 40 million albums worldwide. Despite this success, Serj has never grown complacent with his art, always striving to open up new channels of sound and arrangement to articulate his artistic expressions. He has released five albums of solo material, beginning with 2007’s chart-topping hard rock album Elect The Dead. His sophomore solo album Imperfect Harmonies was released in 2010, followed by Harakiri in 2012. 2013 saw two distinct releases from Serj, the first being the critically acclaimed Orca Symphony No. 1, released in June of that year, followed up with the very unique Jazz-Iz Christ one month later.

Over the past few years, his time spent in the recording studio has been focused on creating musical scores and compositions for film and video game projects. Serj recently lent his vocals to a modern-day cover of Blue Öyster Cult’s rock classic “Godzilla” for the blockbuster Michael Dougherty film “Godzilla: King Of The Monsters.” He also recorded a modern version of the Armenian folk song “Sari Siroun Yar” along with the Authentic Light Orchestra for the film “The Promise,” directed by Terry George and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. Serj was also brought on by Survival Pictures, the producers of the film, to serve as an Executive Music Consultant.

Most recently, Tankian composed the full musical score for award winning documentary “I Am Not Alone” directed by Garin Hovannisian and the upcoming Live Nation Productions film “Truth To Power,” which chronicles Serj’s own journey through the crossroads of music and activism. In 2017, Serj composed music for Emmy nominated “Intent To Destroy”, a gripping film directed by award winning documentarian Joe Berlinger. That same year, he created an intense score for the epic Russian action film “Furious – The Legend of Kolovrat,” followed by his 2018 musical score for award winning film “Spitak,” directed by Alexander Kott. Additionally, Tankian composed the full musical score for independent films “1915” and “The Last Inhabitant,” an original composition for Ilya Naishuller’s “Hardcore Henry” and video game musical scores for “Midnight Star” and its sequel, “Renegade,” which were created by one of the chief architects of the famed “Halo” game franchise.

Serj’s resume also includes the formation of a record label, Serjical Strike Records (established in 2001), which has released albums from many critically acclaimed artists, including Fair To Midland, Buckethead and Death By Stereo.

Along with fellow musician Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Serj co-founded the non-profit organization Axis Of Justice in 2002, which strives to bring together musicians, music fans and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. He has also dabbled in the world of broadcasting as co-host of the Axis Of Justice Radio Network, which can be heard via Sirius Satellite Radio and KPFK in Los Angeles. With a mission of spreading diversity and understanding through music, poetry and activism, Serj Tankian will continue to surprise and enlighten those who listen to his music and hear his words.

In recent years, Tankian has split his time between holding a mic and a paintbrush, having feverishly created over 60 pieces of art since 2013. His journey into the world of fine art began with his Disarming Time Musical Paintings, which were exhibited at Project Gallery in Los Angeles. Since then, he has had multiple exhibitions at galleries in both the United States and New Zealand. In 2015, his artwork was exhibited at the grand opening of New Museum Los Gatos in Northern California as part of a group exhibit that ran from May through September of that year. Most recently, Serj’s artwork was exhibited at two notable galleries in New Zealand during February and March of 2019.

Serj Tankian Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter
Instagram | YouTube

Featured photo (top) by George Tonikian