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REVIEW: Getting Intimate with The Sounds at Tempe’s Marquee Theatre 12-10-16

TEMPE, Ariz. — Swedish indie group The Sounds rocked the house at Tempe’s Marquee Theatre Saturday night with their 10th anniversary performance of sophomore album, Dying to Say This to You. Following energetic sets by spirited openers Zipper Club and My Jerusalem The Sounds guitarist, Felix Rodriguez took over the stage beneath a vibrant purple cloud of light. As soon as the first few notes of “Song With a Mission” dropped, the crowd went wild. Although it wasn’t a full house, there was a clear sense of communal nostalgia that seemed to supercharge the audience.

The Sounds - Marquee Theatre
The Sounds © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

Next up on the set list was crowd favorite, “Queen of Apology” which kicked off with a signature Maja-esque display of her gives-no-fucks attitude, backed by airtight guitar and a stagelight-shift which illuminated fans as they sang along to every word. Hit after hit, The Sounds proved that ten years hasn’t slowed them down a bit, boasting a stage presence that could rival some of Rock and Roll’s most iconic female-fronted acts.

Arizona, I love you… We’re back, baby. We’re fucking back!” Maja yelled, igniting an outburst of claps and shouts throughout the venue. Maja’s pop-rock sound has been countlessly compared to that of Blondie and Missing Persons, and rightfully so! Personally, I also picked up on some similarities in tone between her and The Submarines’ vocalist, Blake Hazard.

The Sounds - Marquee Theatre
Maja Ivarssonv, The Sounds © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

The Sounds finished out their live revival of “Dying to Say This to You” with a gritty, electrified reproduction of “Running Out of Turbo” before topping off their forty-five minute tribute with an additional 9 tracks including everything from classics like “Living in America” (from their debut album) to the group’s recent single “Thrill” which features an impressive display of Maja’s vocal diversity in addition to fast-paced drum beats, a reverberant dual guitar solo and some subtle synth-heavy, 80’s era keyboard.

The Sounds - Marquee Theatre
Maja Ivarsson, The Sounds © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

It was truly a night to be remembered, especially considering the intimate audience size and Maja’s up-close-and-personal stage persona. By the show’s end, each track was visually pulsating through the audience as they fist-bumped, clapped and headbanged to the final songs of the night, “Rock N Roll” and “Hope You’re Happy Now” which Maja energetically concluded with one middle finger to the sky, and a cigarette in her other.

As the Burning Hot Events team exited the venue, we happened upon a couple who had actually travelled all the way from Kansas to see The Sounds in Tempe that night. It was a powerful reminder of just how impactful music can be, especially with a group like The Sounds who have an unbelievable, authentic connection to their fans.

by Katherine Amy Vega

The Sounds – Marquee Theatre 12-10-16

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

REVIEW: Violent Femmes Just Like You Remember (5-3-16)

TEMPE, AZ — Violent Femmes packed the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Tuesday, May 3, as part of their tour to promote their latest album, “We Can Do Anything”. The punk-rock headliner of over 35 years drew a more mature crowd that evening, with fans eschewing sleep on a weeknight for the chance to see Violent Femmes live. They wasted no time in giving concert-goers exactly what they wanted and opened with their biggest hit, “Blister in the Sun,” from their self-titled 1983 album, then went right into “Kiss Off.” It was clear from the start that fans were in for a great show when bassist Brian Ritchie was already rocking out to a bass guitar solo by the second song.

Brian Ritchie - Violent Femmes - Marquee Theatre
Brian Ritchie, Violent Femmes © Kataklizmic Design

After sating the audience with two of their most well-known hits, Violent Femmes played “Memory” from their new album. At the song’s conclusion, lead vocalist and guitarist Gordon Gano finally addressed concert-goers, “Here’s another one that sounds just the same, but with different words and chords and melodies,” he said jokingly before launching into “Big Car,” another song from their new album, after which, Ritchie announced to excited fans that it was the first time they had played the song live.

Violent Femmes - Marquee Theatre
Gordon Gano, Violent Femmes © Kataklizmic Design

The release of “We Can Do Anything” in March of this year was a special treat for Violent Femmes fans. It was the band’s first new album in 16 years. Amid a variety of conflicts between Gano and Ritchie, the group disbanded in 2009 due to a lawsuit Ritchie filed against Gano in 2007. It wasn’t until 2013 that Violent Femmes reunited to play at Coachella. According to an interview with Gano, it was that event that laid the foundation for the two musicians to put aside their differences in order to successfully record a new album.

The set list for Tuesday’s show artfully wove together new songs with old favorites. “Now we’ll do one we’ve played maybe 3,000 times,” Ritchie smiled before playing “Country Death Song,” another one of what he referred to as “murder story songs”. From there he announced that they would play another, more wholesome murder story song and kicked off “I Could Be Anything,” which tells the story of Bongo the dragon slayer. The set list also included, “Please Do Not Go,” “Good for/at Nothing,” “Issues,” “Good Feeling,” “Never Tell” and “Hallowed Ground.”

Blaise Garza - Violent Femmes - Marquee Theatre
Blaise Garza, Violent Femmes © Kataklizmic Design

On the saxophone, Blaise Garza stole the show during “Love Love Love Love Love.” At the end of the song, Ritchie told concert-goers that Garza had been playing with them for 14 years. “Now he’s 27, so he’s been playing with us for half his life,” Ritchie added. Later, the group played “I Held Her in My Arms,” in which Garza delivered an incredible saxophone solo in tribute to the late Steve Mackay who played with the group early in their career.

Violent Femmes Contrabass Saxophone - Marquee Theatre
Contrabass Saxophone
© Kataklizmic Design
Click to Enlarge

Throughout the night, Garza played at least four different kinds of saxophones, including the impressively large contrabass for “Gone Daddy Gone”. But he wasn’t the only one in the spotlight. Gano and Ritchie were surrounded by a host of talent. While Gano rocked out with a fiddle during “Jesus Walking on the Water,” he was complemented by guitarist Jeff Hamilton on the mandolin. Drummer John Sparrow hammered out beats on a charcoal grill at one point. And during “Black Girls,” Sparrow delivered an impossibly long drum solo while Gano credited all of the players.

John Sparrow - Violent Femmes - Marquee Theatre
John Sparrow, Violent Femmes © Kataklizmic Design

Violent Femmes closed the show with “American Music,” after which they came back out and played “Mirror Mirror (I See a Damsel)” and “Add It Up” for their encore set. The combination of nostalgic hits from past and new soon-to-be favorites made it a fun night for young and old alike. It was also impressive to see the plethora of instruments that made their way onto the stage. If future performances hold as much fun and nostalgia as Tuesday night, Violent Femmes can look forward to a successful comeback tour.

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega

Violent Femmes – Marquee Theatre 5-3-16

Photography by Katherine Vega, © Kataklizmic Design