Tag Archives: concert review

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

Jump to Photo Galleries

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

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

View Separately (with more pics!):

Apocalyptica | Lacuna Coil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

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

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: 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

Trouble loading? Click here to view on Flickr

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

System Of A Down Online:

Korn Online:

Phoenix Pays Tribute to the Late Stefan Pruett of Peachcake, The Guidance (1-15-22)

PHOENIX — Near the heart of an ever-evolving downtown Phoenix, set back a bit from the intersection of 2nd Ave and Van Buren, sits a music venue named Crescent Ballroom – constructed in 1917 and renovated from The F.L. Hart Garage. Since its 2011 opening, the brick exterior has changed some, with an expansion adding a second level of outdoor seating. It would be here that friends, family, and loyal fans of Stefan Pruett would gather to remember the radiant and deviant man who changed countless lives, leaving everyone whom he met a better version of themselves. (Read our June 2020 memorial article Remembering the Power of Peachcake – In Loving Memory of Stefan Pruett…)

This night’s celebration of a life so rich and well-lived was a fitting way to remember Pruett. For over a decade, he was the charismatic frontman of Peachcake – a band that had started out as an experimental electronic music duo with his childhood friend John O’Keefe, and blossomed into both a nationally and internationally known band. 

Among the many incredible achievements that Peachcake and Pruett attained over the years included being made honorary members of the International Peace Bureau in 2009 for their efforts to promote tolerance, peace and love through music and live performance. The IPB, along with Demilitarize.org, later selected their song “Were We Ever Really Right?” in 2011 as the official song for a worldwide event to support demilitarization worldwide. The band dissolved 6 months after their Unbelievable Souls LP was released, and Pruett went on to continue in music solo, under the stage name The Guidance.

The front room of Crescent Ballroom serves as a lounge and restaurant, as well as an additional place for other acts to perform when a larger concert is going on. Straight back from the entrance to this room is a set of double doors that leads to a large room with a stage and a second bar within. Upon entering this music venue, all guests were handed two items: The first was a brochure / program with a vastly condensed story of Pruett’s incredible life, and the second was a packet with QR codes to stream albums that included unreleased music he had worked on. It also contained a card for a drink – one last round on Stefan, with which we could raise in his memory. There was also a guestbook so that everyone who loved him could stay in touch. 

Merch sales were set up in the back to the left of the stage as usual, however all proceeds from this show would go toward benefitting Rosie’s House – a music academy for children – and HEAL International (Health | Empowerment | Aid | Light).

Nearly 9 years prior, Peachcake had played their final show on this very stage. On the stage sat a lit up cut-out letter sign that simply said “HAPPY” – the same sign featured in a publicity photo by AJ Colores.

Stefan Pruett photo by AJ Colores
Stefan Pruett (Vocalist) – Peachcake, The Guidance | Photography: AJ Colores

To the left of the stage was also a fantastic homage, put together by Pruett’s loved ones, exhibiting items from his life and performances. Two of the outfits he had performed in were displayed on body forms – an impactful sight for those that witnessed those shows at which he donned them. The criminally underrated Unbelievable Souls record was mounted on a plaque, which was given as a gift to everyone who worked on the record as a celebration of its release. A poster for The Guidance’s headline show at the Brooklyn Fire Records showcase, on March 28 of 2019, inconspicuously hung on the wall behind the exhibit, and across the room from this was a commemorative display of prints related to that music project.

Beautiful artwork on the exhibit table paid tribute to the late singer – a painting by Chris Babicke, a large mixed media piece, a poster designed by Quokimbo, and the Peaches comic book by band member / artist Johnny McHone. A photo book titled The Magic Man featured a collection of press and social media sentiments following his passing. An article written by music journalist Ed Masley of the Arizona Republic had been laminated and laid out, along with another article from The Entertainer! Magazine by Christina Fuoco-Karasinki. Some of the photography in the articles and books was contributed by Katherine Amy Vega (Kataklizmic Design), Uriel Padilla, and Jeremiah Gratza (former manager of Peachcake, owner of The Thunderbird Lounge and President Gator Records). Scrapbooks documented Peachcake on tour, and Pruett’s personal life.

Peachcake member Mike McHale – who put enormous amounts of work into planning this beautiful night – started the evening off by thanking everyone for being there, and then introduced Forrest Kline, lead singer of the band hellogoodbye.

The show began with a somber performance that contrasted the normal upbeat and pulsing dance music that Peachcake and The Guidance produced, but it set the tone perfectly. Kline sat on a stool holding an acoustic guitar, and in between songs he talked about his memories of Pruett; one of which was a chance meeting on the streets of LA after Pruett moved there. He spoke of how much of an inspiration Pruett was, about the two of them texting back and forth about making new music, and then – in reference to making music with him – said, “I thought we had plenty of time, you know? You never know how much time you have.

Forrest Kline of Hellogoodbye
Forrest Kline (hellogoodbye)
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

An acoustic cover of Peachcake’s “Stop Acting Like You Know More About The Internet Cafe Than Me” was recently released by Kline’s band.

Producer Jeremy Dawson, one of the founding members and keyboardist of Shiny Toy Guns, took the stage next to DJ the songs from Pruett’s solo career. In the middle of the set, a small crowd took to the floor in front of the stage to dance – the first of many moments that brought the joy back into focus. At long last, this is now, the album Pruett and Dawson completed shortly before his passing, dropped on January 14th – the day before this memorial event. How bittersweet it was to hear the culmination of all of their efforts – never able to tell him how incredible the album is.

Jeremy Dawson (Shiny Toy Guns) DJs just-released music of The Guidance
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“As a means to honor his life and all the work spent on the creation of this stunning album, together Dawson, Pruett’s family and Handwritten Records decided to continue with the release. This Is Now, is the first and last album from The Guidance.” – FindYourSounds

After Dawson wrapped up, and as the stage was being transformed for the final set of the night, a video played of McHale, A Clarie Slattery and others talking about the impact that Pruett and his music had on them. The consensus – both in the video and from everyone who spoke at the show – was that he made life fun. He reached into people and pulled out the person they didn’t realize they were, and he showed them that anything really is possible in life. There was also a short clip of Pruett talking about 4 heart surgeries he had, and his pacemaker, speaking on the congenital heart disease that would eventually claim his life – but he did not let that stop him from living life to the fullest.

“If you ever think you can’t do something, and I know everyone in this room has their obstacles and stuff they’ve gone through… don’t let that shit hold you back.” – Stefan Pruett

“He was living on borrowed time his entire life. He knew that from the time he was very, very young. He didn’t think he was going to make it out of being a teenager. Every minute of every day was bonus points. He knew it and he lived in such a way that he never made you forget it.” – The Entertainer! Magazine

There was also an anecdote from his brother’s memorial service, which was an experience described as profound. Pruett played the song “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem in memory of Alex Pruett, who passed away in 2007. With his “unique ability to bring people together”, he encouraged people of all walks of life to close their eyes and share “in this beautiful musical moment… creative moment with Stefan.”  His aunt beautifully encapsulated who Stefan Pruett was, speaking of him as a honeybee – something his mother called him. He was, as she put it, “a builder of dreams,” in the same way a bee builds a hive.

Steven Pruett, the father of Alex and Stefan, spoke after the video ended; the pride he felt for his son and the pain of losing him evident in his voice. He spoke of the amazement he felt regarding his son becoming a singer, saying that Stefan did not even like singing in church. Calling Peachcake an iconic band, he reflected on the journey his son had taken, from MySpace, to a touring group, to an internationally known band.

It was a reunion of sorts for Peachcake. Guest singers performed in Pruett’s stead, with the first being Jessica Biaett, who was his girlfriend, singing “Hearts Can’t Lie.” Normally a peppy, yet wistful song, she gave it a hauntingly beautiful quality, making an incredible tribute to the man she lost.

Jessica Biaett
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

McHale (vocals, guitar, keys, percussion) became frontman for a few songs, and just as Pruett wore a shirt that said “NOT A DJ” at this venue 9 years prior, he wore one that said “NOT A SINGER”. Other guest vocalists included: Chris Babicke, Damien Salamone, Mickey Pangburn (The Prowling Kind, MRCH), Jake Greider, and Jason Catlin

Mike McHale ( Guitarist) – Peachcake
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 had been blazing its way through friends and family prior to the show. As such, a balance had to be struck between the crowded nightclub-like environment of a typical Peachcake show, and social distancing. Throwing back to staples of Peachcake shows, the crowd was encouraged to crouch down and spring up during the climax of “Welcome To The Party To Save The World”, and later formed a circle for mirror dancing during “Souls Have No Drum Machine”.

Crowd anticipates springing up
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Mike McHale, Peachcake
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Peachcake closed by accompanying a video of Stefan singing “We Never Pretended To Know Anything, Why Would We Now?” in at Modified Arts (Phoenix) in 2009. It was a moving, perfect way to end the night, allowing a man who touched so many lives to posthumously perform for us one last time. With that, Peachcake ended their set, and Jes Danz took to the stage to DJ some of the songs Pruett loved and was inspired by as the night faded out.

Stefan Pruett’s “final performance”
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

McHale later told Burning Hot Events, “Everything I did with putting together the memorial show for Stefan really helped me get through a lot of emotions that I had with hearing of Stefan‘s passing... Stefan‘s mom, Paula, had mentioned to me how much that show meant a lot to the people that had come to it and how much it helped her and her husband as well. To me, that was the most rewarding thing about doing this show for Stefan. I wanted to give some sense of closure and celebrate him properly when we were able to.

It has been said that Stefan Pruett left this world on June 14th, 2020, but I would argue that Kline was correct when he said that “no one really goes anywhere. We keep them in our memories and in our hearts. He lives on through his art and the connections he made.” Pruett burned brightly and fiercely, a force for good to be reckoned with, in the best way possible. He made the most of every day of his 35 years on this planet, and those he met had their lives changed for the better.

To quote the band Sleeping At Last’s song “Saturn”:
You taught me the courage of stars before you left, how light carries on endlessly, even after death.

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

Open Album in a New Window

A Night Celebrating the Life and Music of Stefan Pruett of Peachcake and The Guidance 1-15-22

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

The Guidance Online:

Peachcake Online:

REVIEW: Motion City Soundtrack Turn Up The Charm at The Van Buren (1-22-20)

PHOENIX — Imagine you’re in your teens during the early 2000’s, public school is the definition of a living hell, and one of the only things keeping you going day after day are the sweet sounds of whining pop punk vocalists leaking in through your earbuds. Sound familiar? This was a very real scenario for many people back in the days when Motion City Soundtrack were first gracing the music scene with their lyrically intelligent and synth-laden brand of pop punk. Many of those same people, among legions of others, were in attendance at their show in downtown Phoenix, supported by Doll Skin and Mom Jeans, and they were still as young at heart for their love of pop punk as they were back in the good old days.

Doll Skin

Kicking off the night were the incomparably talented band, Doll Skin who got their start right here in Phoenix. What they lack in size they most certainly make up for in aggressively inviting energy and excitement that most bands could only dream of achieving on their own. The charisma pouring from each member on stage, especially lead vocalist Sydney Dolezal, is something that cannot be easily described without witnessing it for yourself first. Doll Skin is a band that knows how to kick off a party and with songs like “Love is Dead and We Killed Her” and the excellent Florence + The Machine cover of “Shake It Out”, it’s very easy to see why.

Sydney Dolezal (Vocals) & Nicole Rich (Bassist), Doll Skin
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Mom Jeans.

Given the unenviable task of having to follow Doll Skin, Berkeley, California band, Mom Jeans took the stage with an undeniable sense of pure joy erupting from their faces. This is a band that truly loves what they do and that love is very contagious to members of any audience lucky enough to catch them. It’s incredible watching a band with only two studio albums to their name pump up a crowd so much with instant classics like “Now This Is Podracing”, “Death Cup”, and obvious crowd favorite, “Shred Cruz”. The mood was set for an exciting night ahead but no one could’ve prepared themselves for what came next.

Mom Jeans
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Motion City Soundtrack

By the time Motion City Soundtrack took the stage, one might assume that most people would’ve been easily exhausted from dancing to all the other great music preceding them. This was definitely not the case though considering the audience full of that many diehard fans crammed to capacity inside The Van Buren’s acoustically pristine walls. Motion City Soundtrack sounded more energetic and polished than ever by the time their turn to play came along. This is a band that has truly come into their own over the years and there’s no sign of them losing that momentum for the remainder of their reunion tour.

Justin Pierre (Vocals, Guitar), Motion City Soundtrack
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Lead vocalist Justin Pierre’s quirky and painfully honest lyrics still continue to ring true for the armies of screaming fans who have had them committed to memory for over a decade at this point. The loyalty of their fan base is certainly not to be underestimated; as with the help of Justin’s beautifully gifted voice, it’s highly likely that many of the audience members were able to train themselves to sing in key along to the band’s music over the years — a truly incredible feat that made the concert experience all the more enjoyable and fun.

The rest of the band had no shortage of energy either, and anybody who struggles with maintaining optimum energy levels during their 9-5 desk jobs would benefit greatly from learning their secrets. This was especially true for keyboard player, Jesse Johnson, who would regularly thrash around on stage at his own wild pace. At one point that daredevil even held a handstand on top of his instrument for no less than 5 seconds. The movements were as fluid, crazy, and natural as they’ve been since the inception of the band and it was a beautifully refreshing thing to behold.

Jesse Johnson (Keys), Motion City Soundtrack
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Justin graciously thanked the audience for attending and supporting live music more than once throughout their set. This was another highlight of the show because he came off like an approachable, friendly person, which only confirms everything most people have already heard about him. Throughout the show he’d go back and forth with audience members shouting random things at him like “I named my dog after you!” which prompted him to ask, “Is your dog HERE? I’d like to meet him!” It was incredibly endearing and is something that other bands should definitely take notes on. After ripping into timeless classics like “Everything Is Alright”, and “L.G. FUAD”, the band continued tapping into people’s nostalgia with perfect renditions of “Hold Me Down”, “Make Out Kids”, and “This Is For Real”.

Capping off the night with an encore of “The Future Freaks Me Out”, this only solidified their legacy as an endlessly fun, receptive, and crowd-pleasing band.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

Motion City Soundtrack, Mom Jeans., Doll Skin – The Van Buren 1-22-20

Photography © Andrea Stoica.
All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Authority Zero Celebrates 25 Years with Friends at the Marquee (12-28-19)

Tempe, AZ — Authority Zero has reached a milestone that all bands aspire to: a quarter of a century of putting out incredibly great music — in their case, punk rock. To celebrate 25 years, they threw a bit of a party, inviting their fans as well as four local bands to join them in celebration. Madd Dog Tannen, Skull Drug, Black Mountain Moonshine, and ZeeCeeKeely all preceded Authority Zero, playing to a rowdy and energetic crowd.

To the uninitiated — those who have never had the joy of attending a punk, ska, or reggae show — it would be easy to be a bit puzzled as to how all three are related. The first wave of ska formed in the 1950s, and reggae evolved from ska in the 1960s. Punk’s roots are also in the 60s, stemming from the garage band scene, and was focused mainly in England and New York, while ska and reggae got started in Jamaica. Ska punk, closely associated with third wave ska, blossomed in the 80s and 90s. The punk scene from the start was anti-establishment, and that carries into today. There is a sizable underground punk scene in Arizona, with smaller venues such as Yucca Tap Room, Pub Rock, Chopper John’s, Last Exit Live, Rebel Lounge, The Underground and others playing host to some loud and fun concerts on a weekly basis.

This underground scene does not get the recognition it deserves; there are many massively talented local bands and artists that play every week, but they rarely rise to the level of national stardom that some ought to. This show was a duality of a celebration of a band that rose to fame, and the introduction and showcase of local bands that are hidden gems.

There was a buzz around Marquee Theatre as the crowd started to trickle in with eager anticipation of the night ahead and the experience of Authority Zero. This is a band who has worked hard to get where they are and appreciate the fans and those that come behind them.

ZeeCeeKeely

The first band was a reggae band from Tucson: ZeeCeeKeely. They were the perfect choice to start the night off. Their music is excellent, albeit a bit calm compared to what the rest of the night had in store. But they are still a loud, energetic, and fun reggae band to watch.

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

The short 7-song set included a very nice surprise: a reggae version of “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd. With great vocals from Zachery Keely and a group of talented musicians that will soon include horns, this band is one you should catch if you enjoy reggae. They will perform on February 23rd, 2020 at Rawhide during the Arizona Roots festival.

ZeeCeeKeely Online:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify

Black Mountain Moonshine

After a quick stage change, the second band, Black Mountain Moonshine, took the stage. Shortly after they started, a staple of a punk show formed: a mosh pit — a unique and nearly sacred place where total strangers can run into each other and pummel one another, and at the end of the night, hug each other and leave exhausted and elated.

Ethan Minney (Vocalist, Mandolinist), Black Mountain Moonshine
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

The lead singer Ethan Minney plays an electric mandolin, a piece that is not often seen in a punk band, and plays it very well. Their sound is also unique: at points it sounded like they were about to launch into a country song, while at others, you would swear that Flogging Molly was on the stage. Currently, they have no shows showing as scheduled, so following them on social media is a must to find when and where you can catch this unique, talented band.

Blue Mountain Moonshine Online:

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

Skull Drug

Skull Drug was up next, and it immediately became apparent that we were in for an incredible set. When asked before the show how to identify lead singer Evan Williams, the band manager described him as looking like he had murdered a muppet. This was accurate, as Williams had bright red hair, a green shirt and blue plaid pants. 

The set unfortunately did not start smoothly, but this did not keep them down. While working through technical issues with Williams’ guitar, the guitarists Justin Waldrop and Roger St. John kept the crowd entertained and bantered with them until everything was worked out, including asking the crowd, “Are you ready to party?” Party they did, launching into the loudest and most entertaining set of all the openers. 

Evan Williams (Vocalist, Guitarist), Skull Drug
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

All three are amazingly talented guitar players, backed by an incredible drummer in Wyatt Clark. They also have a stage presence and can get the crowd involved to work them into a frenzy. The set felt extremely short, even though it was over 30 minutes long. The style is loud, in- your-face, and impossible to not want to move to it in some way – either by bobbing your head, by running into your neighbor in the mosh pit, or by dancing. All three of those scenarios played out that night. Williams and Waldrop danced around the stage nonstop during this set, and kept the party going after their set ended. Waldrop was spotted crowd surfing during the Authority Zero set while Williams was in the crowd next to the mosh pit. 

Together since 2010, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to see Skull Drug headlining their own tour at some point in the very near future. Their set, from their stage presence to the music, was every bit as memorable as Williams’ hair. You can catch them on January 4th at Yucca Tap Room. They also have an album coming out sometime next year called Your Government and God Won’t Save You.

Skull Drug Online:

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |
Bandcamp | Spotify

Madd Dog Tannen

Madd Dog Tannen took the stage next as the final opener. For those who think that the name sounds familiar, it should if you are a Back to the Future fan. All members were a bit of a contrast to the previous bands: well-dressed, looking more like they were about to close a business deal with you than melt your face off with some amazing punk music. As they did a quick sound check before their set, Brian Willey (lead singer) comically tried to lead the crowd in a rendition of “Deck the Halls”. 

Brian Willey (Vocalist), Madd Dog Tannen
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Willey and his band quickly jumped into a fantastic set, at times bringing out a younger guitar player as their fifth band member. They are veterans of the music scene, playing since 2006, and have opened for Authority Zero in the past. Willey is an imposing figure on the stage as he puts everything he has into the performance. He is entertaining to watch and produces great power with his voice. While mainly a punk band, there was some ska mixed into the music. As they wrapped up their set, they played a cover of “When I Come Around” by Green Day. They, too, are a band that should be followed on social media to hear about their next dates. You won’t regret tracking them down to see their shows.

As Madd Dog Tannen left the stage, the anticipation built for Authority Zero. The chant “We want Zero!” started right before the band took the stage, growing in volume until they got what they wanted. 

Madd Dog Tannen Online:

Facebook | ReverbNation | Spotify

Authority Zero

To the delight of the band, the crowd exploded as they walked onto the stage. Lead singer Jason DeVore greeted the crowd with a grin and launched into “A Passage in Time,” from their first album. The opening bands had slowly cranked the intensity up to 10, then Authority Zero quickly cranked it up to 12 and never slowed down. DeVore seems to be utterly indefatigable, a force to be reckoned with after nearly a quarter of a century as the lead singer of Authority Zero. He delivers each line with fury and passion, and yet looks out at the crowd awestruck that he’s lucky enough to keep doing this.

Jason DeVore (Vocalist), Authority Zero
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

While DeVore is keeping the crowd pumped up with his incredible delivery, drummer Chris Dalley is tasked with keeping the beats going in the unimaginatively fast songs that are the staple of Authority Zero’s catalog. He seems to do this effortlessly. Rounding out the band are guitarist Dan Aid and bassist Mike Spero, both of whom are incredibly talented and fun to watch. 

Dan Aid (Guitarist), Authority Zero
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

As the set progressed, the mosh pit showed no signs of slowing down and the crowd surfing started. DeVore repeatedly reached out to the crowd surfers to help them as they were being set down, giving a couple of high fives, pointing to crowd members and acknowledging them throughout the night. He announced that they were going to use that night as a New Years Eve party, which hyped up the rambunctious fans. DeVore has apparent and enormous appreciation for the fans and the bands who opened for them. 

Jason DeVore (Vocalist), Authority Zero
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

It would be fair to say that this was not just an early New Years Eve party, not just a celebration of the 25 years of making music, influencing and inspiring the Arizona and national music scene — it was something more. It felt like a love letter to the fans, the people who have faithfully shown up even when the venues were tiny, when the sound wasn’t great, when the band was struggling. DeVore held the mic out to the crowd, asking them to sing lines in the song, gesturing for them to be a bit louder, and all in all, making sure that every single person walked away from that show happy. He also repeated “Thank you Arizona!” more than once, obviously meaning it from his heart every time.

Mike Spero (Bassist), Authority Zero
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

As the night drew to a close and after returning to the stage for the encore, DeVore called out onto stage a young fan, one who is known for his incredible music talents. His name is Recker Eans, a name that I believe we will hear many more times over the years, and he played the drums for the song “Mesa Town”. It was a great way to end the night, almost the passing of the torch to the next generation, though I believe we will have many more great years to look forward to with Authority Zero.

The night was one for the ages. It is also a night that happens weekly around the valley, albeit on a much smaller scale than what was at the Marquee on Saturday. The punk scene is alive and thriving, and there are many, many great bands out there who deserve to have you stop by and listen to their music, to watch their shows. There are hidden gems playing in small venues, bands that love their craft and love their arts. The appreciation that these bands all have for each other is clear, and the love for Arizona and the punk scene that Authority Zero has was on full display on a magical night — a celebration of the upcoming new year, and the birthday celebration of an influential and great band.

Authority Zero Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately:
Authority Zero | Madd Dog Tannen | Skull Drug
Black Mountain Moonshine | ZeeCeeKeely

Authority Zero 25th Anniversary – Marquee Theatre 12-28-19

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Lindsey Stirling Enthralls in Hometown Show at Comerica Theatre (11-23-19)

PHOENIX — There is an age-old argument over when exactly the Christmas season starts. Some would say that the day after Halloween is the official date that you can start preparing for Christmas, and others argue that the day after Thanksgiving, and not a day before, is the proper date to throw some Christmas music on and start feeling festive. It should be postulated that neither of these are correct: The first day that it officially feels like Christmas is the day of the first concert in Lindsey Stirling’s annual winter tour.

The tour is in its third year now, first named “Warmer in the Winter” in 2017, “The Wanderland Tour” in 2018 and now “Warmer in the Winter” again. Stirling, an Arizona native, noted during the show that the name came from all of the warm winters she spent here in Arizona. “The Wanderland Tour” bypassed Arizona, which may possibly explain why the tour changed names last year.

Arizona winters are indeed warm, and this one was no exception up until earlier this week. As the doors opened and the public began pouring into Comerica Theatre in Downtown Phoenix, there was a chill in the air, one that announced that winter actually does come to Arizona. In the moments leading up to the first wisp of smoke from the machine on stage, the audience filtered into the theatre and found their seats with a growing buzz of anticipation, as excited conversations built toward a crescendo as showtime drew closer. All ages had come out to see Lindsey Stirling, from the wide-eyed young girls who wore dresses that looked much like the dresses that Stirling wears in her music videos, to the older fans who looked like they were ready for a Sunday morning church service. For the young, they had come to see their hero. For the older, to see an artist who has redefined what it means to be a violinist. No one left disappointed. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The “Warmer in the Winter” tour was a delight in every way possible. From the first few moments after the smoke machines kicked on to announce the start of the show until the final notes of the last song, “I Wonder While I Wander,” each and every second was packed with magic. Stirling and her dancers moved effortlessly through incredibly difficult maneuvers, drawing the crowd in. She is well known for her violin skills and her dancing, but she is also an incredible singer with a wicked sense of humor. Backed by a talented band including Kit Nolan on the keyboard and Drew Steen on the drums, Stirling danced, sang, and cracked jokes throughout the night. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The production includes special effects, props, and costuming that inspire awe and joy. The backdrop was a massive screen, which was one of the key elements to the show. Throughout the night, it would be used to show a clip of Stirling’s alter ego Phebla, become a backdrop of the universe while she played “Between The Twilight” from her newest album Artemis, and finally to have us fly through a field of mushrooms as a nod to Alice In Wonderland during “Carol of the Bells.” She explained that she named the album after Artemis because Artemis is the Goddess of the moon, and the moon brings light into the darkness. 

Her concerts are always an inspirational and moving experience because heartfelt speeches in between songs are a regular part of the show. She told the audience, “I want you to think about how amazing you are, because I think that’s something you may not tell yourself enough…every single person in this room is incredible and powerful…as I play this song, maybe even close your eyes and see yourself for how beautiful you are and for your own light, because the world needs every single person to shine.” As she started to play “Between The Twilight”, the spotlight turned off, and the screen behind her showed the universe, or the stars in it at least. The ethereal sound took the audience on a journey of light, of sound, of beauty.

Stirling is also a fierce advocate for her fans. After a visually stunning “We Three Gentlemen,” She gave an emotional speech, talking about her journey to get where she was. She then told the audience “Nobody else can write your story. Never let anyone else tell you what you can do, what you can’t do, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at — because you’re the only one who knows what you can do, what’s inside of you.” She admitted that her insecurities had not changed from before she found fame until now. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Stirling spoke at length, her voice quivering a bit as she talked about losing her best friend to cancer 4 years ago, and her dad 3 years ago. It was an emotional, vulnerable speech. She spoke about angels and how she felt they surrounded her. This led into “Angels We Have Heard on High,” during which she stood at the top of the stairs in front of the screens with a mesmerizingly beautiful light that followed her every move with her bow. It was the most impactful song of the show. 

She spoke with gratitude of how much she appreciated the shows in Arizona, saying that she looked forward to them because, “I feel like this is my family.

“Thank you guys so much for coming! It’s only because of you guys and the support I had from home from the very beginning that I am here. Thank you.” 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

During Stirling’s “favorite song to play,” “Hallelujah,” the tone switched away from happy, jovial, and infectious. The entire venue was utterly captivated by the otherworldly beautiful sound of the violin and backing guitar. There were some in the audience wiping away tears as the last notes faded away and Stirling again thanked everyone.

There are those that dedicate their life to the mastery of the violin, and others who train to lead the dance troupe at the theatre. To be able to do both at once – and do it well – is rare indeed. As the show started it became apparent the immense amount of planning and attention to detail that went into each and every step of this spectacular display. Each costume change was so well-planned that it would not be noticed or delay the show, and each dance move was tightly choreographed. Stirling has a zest for performing, a love for the fans, and a respect for her craft that lends itself to a show that would be hard to equal. 

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Everyone had gathered for a concert, but those in attendance received so much more than that. Viewing the show through the eyes of one who has seen many, it was an incredible, exciting show — one that lingers in the back of the mind. She is a wonderful role model to the young that view her as a giant. They aspire to one day reach her greatness after witnessing the impact of her beauty and grace.

Lindsey Stirling
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Stirling has a self-awareness that gives strength and power to those around her, saying what people need to hear before they even know they need to hear it. She is, in a word, rare. She is a once in a generation talent who has captured the imagination of the young, inspires the broken and gives peace to all who hear her. As the show ended and we walked into the cold night air of her hometown, it was hard not to feel refreshed and ready to celebrate the season. And that, in the end, is the magic of Lindsey Stirling.

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-23-19

Photography © Mark Greenawalt
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: The Building Brings Soothing Vibes to Downtown Phoenix Bar (11-13-19)

PHOENIX — In the middle of downtown Phoenix is a nondescript alley with a door halfway down it. Over that door is a neon sign with the words “Valley Bar” spelled out. It casts a stark and yet warm glow into the alley. It is not an easy venue to find, but it is absolutely worth the trek if you’re looking for great music. For this particular event, Heather Woods Broderick and The Building was playing on a Wednesday night.

Valley Bar entrance sign
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

The Building is fronted by Anthony LaMarca, a talented and accomplished music veteran. He is currently the guitarist for the band The War on Drugs, and has played drums for St. Vincent on tour. He also has his own record label, named Primary Records. Broderick has toured with Sharon Van Etten as part of her backing band and has also played in bands such as Horse Feathers. To be able to see musicians as talented as these two in a venue as intimate as the Valley Bar is indeed a treat.

By the time the show started just after 8:00pm, the entire audience had shown up. There were fewer than 20 people in attendance — likely due to a somewhat hard to find venue and a midweek show. For those of us fortunate enough to be in attendance, we were treated to a downright solid show.

Heather Woods Broderick (Vocals, Guitar, Keys)
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Heather Woods Broderick

Broderick took the stage first with Andrew Carlson on the bass guitar, and Dean Anshutz on the drums. Carlson and Anshutz would be on stage for most of the evening, since they play in The Building as well. Broderick started with an acoustic guitar. Her fingers flew across the strings as a nearly ethereal sound came from the guitar — a sound that would be present for much of the evening. Her otherworldly vocals are enough to find your mouth agape. There is a beauty in the melancholic, enthralling tone of Broderick’s music.

While most of the songs are slower, she turned up the tempo with “Quicksand” from the album Invitation, which is a song that is rather drum heavy and a very nice change of pace. Anshutz was a joy to watch during the show because of his precision on the drums and how much he gets into it, but he was even more so during this song. Broderick also played “I Try” and ended the show on “Invitation”. With the voice of an angel and impressive control, Broderick yodeled through the closing notes of the final song, which is a delight that can only be experienced live since these fluctuations are not heard on the studio recording of the song.

Mid-show, she mentioned that she was surprised at how warm it still was outside and what there was to do in downtown Phoenix. Later on, she also spoke about touring with The Building, and said “They’re very sweet people and I love hearing them play their stuff every night.” It was also mentioned that there was a week and a half left in the tour.

The Building

The Building took the stage shortly after 9:00pm, and LaMarca greeted the audience with “We’re called The Building, we’re from Youngstown Ohio, thanks for being here!” and launched into the first song. He seemed to forget the lyrics after the first line of the song, but instead of powering through and going to the next line, he stopped the song and cracked a joke about the mistake. He noted that it was better to acknowledge the mistake and fix it, saying “It’s like when you go to a sandwich shop and you order turkey on a sandwich but instead they give you fish and it’s just not as good.” The song was restarted, and the night was back on track.

Anthony LaMarca (Vocals, Guitar) & Dean Anshutz (Drums), The Building
Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

There is a bit of a wistful feeling to these songs, perhaps owing to the fact that the drums were rarely used throughout the set. Watching Carlson play the bass grants a new appreciation for how precise each note needs to be. There is also a mellowness to the songs that feels a bit like quiet reflections in musical form. The soothing mood of the music would pair well with The Paper Kites on a relaxation playlist. 

Midway through the show, LaMarca stopped to chat with the audience. He noted that this was their first time in Phoenix and then asked if anyone had any dogs. Surprisingly, only one person indicated she did, and they had a conversation about the three dogs she owned. The latest album is named after LaMarca’s dog Petra, a German shepherd. There is a story on their website about the name of the record and his dog Petra, and it is one we highly recommend reading.

As the night drew to a close, LaMarca announced the final song as “Peace’s Eternal Truth Renews All,” or “PETRA”. Each of the songs off of the latest album are quite personal, as he has battled Multiple Myeloma twice in the past few years and this was written and recorded during his latest battle, but PETRA feels more personal than the others. As the last notes faded, the show ended, and the few of us fortunate enough to be there made our way up the stairs and back into the alley in downtown Phoenix. Watching LaMarca and The Building in such a small venue is not an opportunity that should be taken for granted. All members of the band are extremely talented, and as such, the music was excellent.

The Building Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

The Building & Heather Woods Broderick – Valley Bar 11-13-19

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Tool Prove to be Sharp as Ever In Latest Comeback (10-23-19)

Glendale, AZ — Tool stopped in Glendale night to play the Gila River Arena to an ocean of patiently adoring fans that could not have been more excited to hear the band rip into their ear drums. However, little did everyone in attendance know that what transpired next would be far beyond even what their lofty expectations could prepare them for.

One might think after a 13-year hiatus from recording new music, that a band might be well past their prime but fortunately for Tool, they’re clearly an exception to the rule. With the release of their latest album, Fear Inoculum, this is a band that has proven they won’t compromise their artistic vision for the sake of putting an album out every two years or so. They take their time perfecting a raw, mysterious sound that fans have come to revere over the years.

UK veterans Killing Joke kicked off the night and proved to be an excellent opening act, getting the crowd pumped up with their whiplash-inducing brand of quasi-metal and goth rock sounds. They were definitely an interesting choice for the opening band, but Tool has always brought their friends and greatest musical influences along with them on tour. It was fascinating to observe and clear how Killing Joke’s unique take on music clearly influenced Tool’s own iconic sound as their set went on. Notably, Killing Joke has had many lineup changes throughout the years. But recently, all of their original members are officially back in the band. This brought an inspiring energy to the night that would only flourish in intensity as the time grew closer for Tool to take the stage.

Tool fans awaiting the band’s entrance.
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Fans of Tool know very well the law of the land at their concerts: no photos or videos. One might find this to be disappointing, but in many ways, it enhances the concert experience as people allow themselves and others to become fully engaged in the moment. As the lights fell to black, the sounds of cheering cut in front of the ambient noise with the swiftness of a starving octogenarian jumping to the front of the line at an early-bird dinner buffet. You could reach out and touch the energy in the room, and just when it seemed like the arena would burst from the crowd’s anticipation, guitarist Adam Jones played the opening swells to the new album’s title track, “Fear Inoculum.”

Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

This was a very good choice for the opening number, not only because it’s the first song on the new album, but also because it represents the first example of new music they presented to the world after a 13-year drought. The song was recreated beautifully in the live setting, and it was accompanied by some of the most impressive Alex Gray-inspired visuals to date. Incredibly long threads formed around the stage in a circular formation as intensely colorful images were projected onto the screen towering behind the band. These threads also allowed the images projected on stage to glide across them in a pseudo-3D effect that was nothing less than spectacular for  lucky enough to capture it firsthand.

Danny Carey (Drums), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Familiar clay aliens and faceless men in business suits adorned the screen as fans were treated to the corresponding music videos for each of the band’s older songs. One particular highlight included a full live rendition of “Parabol/Parabola” in all of its 9-minute glory, to the uncontainable delight of many fans in attendance. The drums punched through the mix with a primal fury not seen from many other bands around today, thanks to the incomparable Danny Carey behind the monstrous kit. His effortless playing and ad-libbing enhanced the songs without it sounding too busy or as if he was showing off. Every single drum strike was as tasteful as the last, which is no small feat when you have such a large kit at your disposal to tempt a less stoic individual into overplaying.

Adam Jones (Guitar), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor were also both in exceptional form throughout the night, proving their playing only continues to improve. The ear-piercing squeals of Jones’ dark Les Paul mixed with Chancellor’s thunderous yet melodic bass lines are truly a match made in heaven.

Justin Chancellor (Bass), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Other notable highlights of the night included the second song of the set “Ænima”, introduced by singer Maynard James Keenan happily declaring “Alpha Omega. AZ. It’s good to be home. We just got back from LA.” Immediately followed by the familiarly breathy “hey” repeated throughout the intro of the song about a great flood of biblical proportions consuming the entirety of Los Angeles in all of its perceived decay and decadence. This was followed by excellent performances of “The Pot”, “Jambi”, and “Schism”, with the latter incorporating an unexpectedly sped-up bridge section that had to be heard to be believed.

Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Tool have achieved what so many other bands who have been together for as long as they have only dream of doing successfully: standing the test of time. So many bands of yesteryear lapse into obscurity or worse yet, self-parody, as they make their comebacks. Tool is not one of them. They continue to deliver unprecedented, phenomenal live shows and mind-blowing visuals that only get better as time flows onward. If you get the chance to see them live, do yourself a favor by not missing out, because they deliver every single time.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Tool – Gila River Arena 10-23-19

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved


REVIEW: AWOLNATION Conquers the Coliseum at AZ State Fair (10-23-19)

PHOENIX — AWOLNATION returned to Phoenix after a nearly year long absence, playing at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum for the first time. The energy and the noise that AWOLNATION brought with them felt like it would bring down the Coliseum. AWOLNATION took a bit of a break from touring in 2019, only playing a total of four concerts all year thus far. This does not mean they sat back and took a year off; rather, they used this time to record. A teaser clip of “The Best” was released on social media on October 15th, and it will be released on November 5th. Next year’s tour dates should be released soon, and per frontman Aaron Bruno, will include another stop in Phoenix. (UPDATE: Despite Bruno’s comments during the concert, Phoenix was not included when the tour dates were announced.)

The Arizona State Fair concert series are unique in that they are shorter, are often only a single band and under an hour and a half in length. AWOLNATION only needed 70 minutes to nearly shake the roof off the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. There was a small crowd on hand when the lights dimmed and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” started to play. Halfway through, it was cut short by the start of “Run”, creating a juxtaposition of the peaceful and the loud, of the lyrics, “And I think to myself what a wonderful world,” and, “I am a human being, capable of doing terrible things.” It was attention-grabbing. it was jarring. It was fantastic.

AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

There are very few artists who can control the energy of an audience like Bruno does. He spoke to the crowd throughout the show, inviting them to dance right before launching into “Hollow Moon (Bad Woof)”. Right after finishing up “Kill Your Heroes”, he announced that he, “Came to party with you tonight!”, as the first notes of “People” were being played. It was indeed a party, a dance party to be precise: “We’re trying to throw a dance party tonight! I’m looking for the best dancer in the building, someone doing something I’ve never seen before!”

If one were to scan the crowd while “Not Your Fault” was playing in the moments after that pronouncement, they would find the old and the young doing everything they could to show him something that he had not seen before. He slowed the dance party down from an all-out frenetic dance to what he called a “perfect opportunity to have an old school slow dance” with Table for One” — a slower track that lends itself to just that.

Aaron Bruno (Vocals), Michael Goldman (Bass), Isaac Carpenter (Drums), AWOLNATION
Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

AWOLNATION did not keep the energy down for long, quickly bringing it back up with “Miracle Man”. Bruno had another request midway through this song: “I want everybody to jump with me. You don’t have to, but it’d be a lot cooler if you did.” In a matter of seconds the stands were shaking.

Zach Irons (Guitar), AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

While much of the focus is on Bruno and his ability to connect and energize the fans, it is very important to note that the rest of the band is incredibly talented. In fact, Bruno seemed to insist that we recognize this, stepping out of the spotlight a couple of times so the entire focus was on the band. The first was “The Buffoon”, a song that starts slow and works the tempo up until one must wonder if it is humanly possible for Isaac Carpenter to play the drums much faster. The second was for a cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, with Zach Irons absolutely shredding on the guitar, leaving many mouths agape.

The show ended with “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!”, played for the first time in concert since mid-2017, and finally Bruno looking out at the crowd and saying, “So. What should we do now?” “Sail”, of course. The song that really introduced the world to AWOLNATION closed out this incredible show.

If you missed out on this concert, fear not. AWOLNATION made it very clear that they will be back next summer, and you will not want to miss this one. Keep an eye out for the tour announcement, and buy your tickets to see this amazing band as soon as they go on sale.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

AWOLNATION – Arizona State Fair 10-23-19

Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved